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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See

A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page a picture of the embassy of the Republic of China to the Vatican (Holy See), which got more likes and viewers than I'd expected. So I decided to write a short blog post about this, in which I will show you the location of the embassy and briefly talk about the history of the relations between the Vatican and the Republic of China.
The Vatican is the only state in Europe that still recognises the Republic of China and not the People's Republic of China. As a consequence, Rome is the only city in the world where you can walk from the embassy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the embassy of the Republic of China (ROC). The first is in Italian territory (Italy recognises the PRC but not the ROC), while the latter is in Vatican territory (the Vatican recognises the ROC, but not the PRC). Rome is the only place on earth where the ambassador of the ROC and the ambassador of the PRC could bump into each other on the street, din…

Sexuality in Taiwan and the Objectification of the Female Body

As I have mentioned in my previous post, we cannot understand the peculiar - mostly negative - way in which the Taiwanese public perceives women who go clubbing, if we do not examine the historical development of the position and self-perception of women in the Chinese-speaking world. In this post, I would like to attempt a very brief analysis of this issue.
In traditional Chinese society, women enjoyed a low position in the familial hierarchy, which was structured on the basis of inequality: the older came before the younger, the male came before the female. Therefore, in traditional Chinese families there was a distinction between superior, inferior and complementary social roles (see Lang 1946, p. 24).
As Patricia B. Ebrey explains: Confucianism, including classical and Han Confucianism, provided a view of the cosmos and social order that legitimated the Chinese patrilineal, patrilocal, and patriarchal family system. Confucian emphasis on obligations to patrilineal ancestors and Confu…

Taiwan's Nightlife and Male Chauvinism

A recent article by the popular Taiwanese tabloid Apple Daily reveals a dark side of the island's nightlife: the phenomenon of men who sexually assault drunk women.
I myself witnessed something that did not but could have ended in sexual assault. I was in a club in Taipei (it was the first of the only two times I've been to a club here) and there was a girl whom I couldn't help noticing, not only because she was very young and pretty, but also because I saw her kissing at least six men, one of whom was way older than herself. The problem is that she was obviously completely drunk; so drunk that she could barely stand on her feet. Some guys approached her, told her something, and then began groping her. I don't know if she was consenting, or if she simply did not understand what was going on. 
This article is particularly interesting because, for once, it does not serve the stereotype of the bad Western guy who goes to Taiwan to find easy girls in nightclubs, but it focus…

Sun Yat-sen Memorial House in Taipei

Just a few metres away from Taipei Main Station there stands an interesting building which is easy to overlook in the urban jungle of the city. Surrounded by whitewashed walls and by a small park, it is a prominent Japanese-style construction that differs markedly from the prevailing modern architecture of the area. It is the so-called Sun Yat-sen Memorial House, which is a fascinating testimony to the history of Taiwan and the complex relationship between Taiwan and China. 



Sun Yat-sen Memorial House was originally built by the Japanese during their colonial rule on the island (1895-1945) and it served as a high-class hotel; it was the most exclusive and elegant guesthouse in the neighbourhood. Its guests were mostly visiting Japanese government officials, but also the Japanese governor-general, who used to hold banquets there (see Zhuang Zhanpeng et al.: Taibei Gucheng Shendu Lvyou. Taipei 2000, p. 123). 
The name of the hotel was at that time Umeyashiki (梅屋敷). The characters 屋敷 (pron…

Taipei Futai Street Mansion (撫臺街洋樓)

While at first sight the area around Taipei Main Station may seem modern and of little historical interest, if you take a closer look at the facades you will discover surprising remnants of the urban landscape of Japanese colonial Taipei. 
A few days ago I was walking from North Gate along Yanping Road, one of the most historic parts of the city. The appearance of the street seems to conceal its significance. After the Guomindang's retreat to Taiwan, Taipei became the provisional capital of the Republic of China. As the economy of the island and the population of Taipei grew fast, new buildings inevitably sprang up everywhere, and the old ones were often sacrificed. However, sandwiched between new grey constructions one still finds houses and shops from the Japanese era. One of them is Taipei Futai Street Mansion.



5 Unusual Things That Greece and Taiwan Have in Common

Greece and Taiwan are two places that seem to be totally different. I think that no one I know has ever used the names of these two countries in the same sentence. They indeed appear to have nothing in common. Taiwan is an island with around 23 million people, located in Asia and with a population mostly made up of Han Chinese. Greece is a peninsula, in the Mediterranean Sea, and it has just around 11 million inhabitants. Its culture is a mix of ancient Greek elements, Christian civilisation and Balkan culture.
Nevertheless, the first time I went to Taiwan my first impression was: "Hey, this place looks like Greece!" Over time, I noticed some weird similarities between the two countries, some of which are entirely subjective and perhaps make no sense at all. However, I decided to list them off in this post.


1- Streets and Buildings:
Before going to Taipei I had expected to find clean streets, neat houses, traditional architecture or super modern glittering buildings. But while …

Religious Beliefs and Superstition in Taiwan

A few weeks ago I was watching an Italian news channel. I was not paying much attention to it, until the anchorman introduced a report: "Since the beginning of the economic crisis, the number of Italians resorting to fortune-telling has increased". 
According to recent statistics, more and more Italian people take refuge to the occult as a means to overcome personal hardships. During the first six months of 2013 alone, the revenue of the fortune-telling and occult business has increased by 18,5%. Around 13 million Italians resort to fortune-telling, and the topics that interest them most are career, health, and love. These services can be very expensive, and while the crisis rages and impoverishes the population, fortune-tellers' and magicians' earnings grow: a consultation can cost around 50 euros, and a "job-finding lucky charm" up to 200 euros (note).
As I was watching this report, my mind travelled back to Taiwan, where fortune-telling is not only widespr…

Number of Foreign Residents and Foreign Teachers in Taiwan

How many foreigners are there in Taiwan? How many of them are from Western countries? And how many are teachers? The statistics may surprise you.
According to the National Immigration Agency of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan), as to 31/12/2013 there were 525,109 legally registered foreign residents. The by far largest number of them come from the following countries:

Indonesia: Male 40,481; Female 151,859Philippines : Male 33,688;Female 53,384Thailand: Male 52,424; Female 14,341Vietnam: Male 64,413; Female 57,233
The total number of foreign residents from these countries alone amounts to 467,823.
How many foreign residents from English-speaking countries are there? Here I will list off only those countries whose passport holders are usually considered by Taiwanese schools eligible for becoming English teachers without having a professional teacher's degree. These countries are: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Lunar New Year in Taipei

I do not know how other foreigners spend Chinese New Year in Taipei, but as far as I am concerned, this year has not been much more exciting than the last (which I mentioned in another post). I think that if you have no family or girlfriend / boyfriend in Taiwan, it is quite hard to find something to do during the Spring Festival. The city seems to come to a standstill. Even some coffee shops, restaurants and Eslite bookstores are closed. 
Yesterday evening I took a walk around to see if there was something going on. I have to confess that I was quite disappointed. Perhaps I went to the wrong places; but I knew of no others. 
There was no particularly festive, special atmosphere, no excitement in the air, no happiness emanating from the people, and there were not even remarkable street decorations. How comes it that during the most important festival in Taiwan, everything seems so somber, and a veil of melancholy descends on this city? Or have I just imagined all this?
Maybe I am indeed …