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Subject: soc.culture.taiwan FAQ (part 2/6) -- Culture

This article was archived around: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 02:35:56 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: Taiwan-faq
All FAQs posted in: soc.culture.taiwan
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Archive-name: Taiwan-faq/culture URL: http://www.geocities.com/~tyang/sct_culture.html Last-modified: 1997/06/01
_________________________________________________________________ "SOC.CULTURE.TAIWAN" FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS -- CULTURE by Tung-chiang Yang (tcyang@netcom.com) _________________________________________________________________ ***** FAQ'S OF SCT ***** CULTURE * (C. 1) What are the taboos for Taiwanese people? * (C. 2) What are the national holidays in Taiwan? * (C. 3) What are the days with special meanings in Taiwan? * (C. 4) I have a Taiwanese friend. How can I avoid misunderstandings? * (C. 5) Where can I take a taste of the Taiwanese cuisine? * (C. 6) What are the special products in Taiwan? * (C. 7) What are the special events in Taiwan? * (C. 8) What are the recommended sources for learning Mandarin? * (C. 9) What are the recommended sources for learning Hoklo and Hakka? _________________________________________________________________ (C. 1) What are the taboos for Taiwanese people? There are some taboos in Taiwan. Due to the close relationship between Taiwan and China in cultural respects, some of these taboos are common in all the Chinese societies, like Hongkong, Mainland China and Taiwan. Some of these taboos could be traced to have some legendary origins, and nowadays young people and those living in larger cities no longer adhere to them as much as in the past. Nevertheless, it is advised that you follow these guidelines unless you are quite sure your friends do not buy them. 1. Do not use red ink to write letters or notes. It is O.K. for a teacher to correct the homeworks with a red pen, but a significant amount of writing in red should be avoided. 2. Clocks should not be chosen as gifts for others. In Chinese "clocks" sound the same as "termination", which has an implication of death. As a result, giving others clocks can be considered bringing them mishaps. 3. Umbrellas are not good gifts for lovers, either. In Chinese "umbrellas" sound similar to "separation", which means "breaking up". 4. The period between July 1st and July 15th in the Lunar Calendar is considered the "Ghost Month" (Refer to "Chung-yuan Day" in question (C. 3) ). A lot of things should be avoided unless necessary, like marriage, moving, traveling and/or nonemergent medical operations. 5. Taiwanese people interpret things differently from the Western ones. That you say something implies it will happen even if you mean no offense. For instance, if you say "watch out for the knife or you will hurt yourself", it implies your friend might indeed hurt him/herself though you don't want this to happen. Such statements should be avoided especially during the Lunar New Year holidays. 6. The number "4" sounds the same as "death" in Chinese. When choosing gifts, don't give NT$400 or NT$4000, for instance. In some hospitals, you won't find the button for "4" in the elevators -- the 5th floor comes directly above the 3rd floor. On the other hand, the number "8" is considered lucky as it sounds similar to "prosper" in Chinese. 7. In Taiwan, the color "white" is related to death. It is O.K. to dress in white for ordinary lives, going to work or school, but it is not good for a joyful occasion like a wedding banquet as a guest (the bride and the bridegroom are obvious exceptions in the western style wedding banquets). (C. 2) What are the national holidays in Taiwan? In Taiwan people go to work on all days in the week except Sunday on a regular basis. On Saturdays they have their duties off at noon. Listed below are the national holidays in Taiwan: * January 1, 2 -- Founding Day of the Republic of China, New Year's Day * March 29 -- Youth Day * April 4 -- Holiday for Women and Children (Women and children have one day off) * April 5 -- Tomb-sweeping Day/Passing of President CHIANG, Kai-shek * May 1 -- Labor Day (Workers have one day off) * September 3 -- Armed Forces Day (Soldiers have one day off) * September 28 -- Teacher's Day/Confucius' Birthday * October 10 -- Double Tenth/National Day * October 25 -- Taiwan's Retrocession Day * October 31 -- CHIANG, Kai-shek's Birthday * November 12 -- Dr. SUN, Yet-sen's Birthday * December 25 -- Constitution Day In addition to these, there are also some holidays defined in terms of the Lunar Calendar, which is as follows: * December 30 -- Lunar New Year's Eve * January 1-3 -- Chinese New Year * May 5 -- Dragon Boat Festival * August 15 -- Mid-autumn (Moon) Festival If any of these holidays collides with each other, usually a make-up holiday will be introduced after that one. For instance, if the Teacher's Day is on Sunday, then the next day (Monday) will also be a holiday. Sometimes in order to introduce a long weekend, the authorities might announce a shifting of the working half-day on Saturdays. For instance, if the Teacher's Day (Sep 28) lies on Friday, then the authorities might announce that the next day (Sep 29, Saturday) is also off, while people have to work all day long on the next Saturday (Oct 6) for making up the introduced holiday. (C. 3) What are the days with special meanings in Taiwan? There are some days associated with special meanings in Taiwan, which are defined in Lunar Calendar. A partial listing is as follows. January 15 Lantern Festival, also known as Tourism Day. On this day, people will prepare for the dim sum "Yuan2 Shiao", which is a riceball with sweet stuffings (sometimes meat is used instead for a salty version) in a soup style. Kids might bring lanterns with them and have a walk in the evening. In some temples there will be a meeting for riddles. Electric lanterns built in a "robot" fashion are set up to tell some historical stories or legends. You might want to check out the Taipei Lantern Festival, which is a three-day event held at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It features thousands of elaborated lanterns, and folk art demonstrations. March 23 Matsu's Birthday. Matsu is the Godess of the sea and the great rescuer for fishermen. In addition to Chaotien Temple in Peikang, there are also major Matsu Temples in Lukang, Changhua County and Tachia, Taichung County, where Her birthday is widely celebrated. July 7 Chinese Lovers' (Valentines) Day. Once upon a time, there was an industrious cowboy, and the God made him His son-in-law as a reward for his hardworking. However, after he got married, he and his wife, the knit girl, spent less time in working, therefore the God penalized this couple by separating them across the Milky Way so that they could meet each other only once a year (this day) on a bridge formed by skylarks. July 15 Chung-yuan Day, also known as Ghost Day. Legend has it that in Lunar July, the Hellmaster will release the ghosts to the human world so they can enjoy the ghost money, incense and food provided by their families. Lunar July is also known as the ghost month . On the first and the fifteenth, people and stores usually put their offerings of food in front of their doors. (C. 4) I have a Taiwanese friend. How can I avoid misunderstandings? There are some basic cultural differences between the East and the West. Taiwan is no exception. By knowing how people in Taiwan interpret things differently from what you do, you might be able to avoid some possible conflicts and make yourself a better friend. "Face" is a very important concept in Asian culture. Sometimes people might choose to have a big car, a piano in the house (though nobody plays), and a lot of brand-name liquor in the cabinet, while living on a budget and bargaining in the markets for a discount for only a few New Taiwan dollars. Choosing a gift with a snob appeal usually pleases your host when you visit them. However, the gift business is not that simple. As a tradition, the host will usually say thanks for your generosity but refuse to accept the gift, as he is afraid of being considered greedy if he takes it easily. On the other hand, the guest is supposed to insist the host to accept the gift, otherwise he will be considered not sincere enough. Such an "argument" might last for several rounds until eventually the host happily accepts the gift. The host is not supposed to open the wrappings for the gift in front of the guest, which is quite contrary to the American style. Opening the gift in front of the guests is viewed as a greedy behavior in Taiwan. Going Dutch is something Taiwanese never learn. When friends go to a restaurant together, they usually end up with "fighting to pay for the bill". Don't feel surprised if you feel your Taiwanese friend all of a sudden seems to argue with you while one minute ago you were still happily chatting with each other. Probably this kind of behavior can also be traced up to the "Face" issue. In the West usually personal privacies are emphasized strongly and everyone is supposed to mind his/her own business. However, in Taiwan, sometimes minding other's business is used as a signal to show that you care for your friend. When your Taiwanese friend tells you, "You are overweight and you should be on a diet," don't get upset. He/she is just trying to tell you that he/she cares about you. Similarly, when your Taiwanese friend asks you questions like "Are you married?", "How many kids do you have?", he/she just wants to be friendly. You can make up a story and tell him/her whatever you feel comfortable with if you don't want to tell the truth. Speaking too frankly is also something to be avoided. In Taiwan, usually people say what they expect their friends would like to hear to preserve each others' faces. Beating around the bush is a basic communication skill in Taiwan. Fortunately, such a skill in Taiwan is not as sophisticated as in Japan, where Westerners are often puzzled by what the Japanese people really mean. (C. 5) Where can I take a taste of the Taiwanese cuisine? Due to different climate and geographical conditions, in different parts of Taiwan you can find miscellaneous food, including hot cuisines and special agricultural products. If you stay in Taiwan for a longer period, they are certainly worth trying. However, before you try them, you should keep two things in mind. First, most people in Taiwan don't have allergic problems with MSG. Therefore, by default all Taiwanese cuisines (and actually almost all dishes in Chinese restaurants) contains MSG. Secondly, for some unknown reasons, hepatitis B has a high infection rate in Taiwan. Do not visit the street vendors for cuisines if you are not satisfied with the sanity of the containers they use. Listed below is a partial list for places with high concentrations of Taiwanese cuisine vendors. Miao-ko (Temple Entrance), Keelung City There are around 200 to 300 vending sites at the intersection of Jen Three Road and Ai Four Road. Tien-fu-lou (fried item in Japanese) from No. 16 by WANG, Teh and Tou-chien-keng near No. 16 is worth a try. Shihlin Night Market, Taipei City Most vendors are located around Yang-ming Theater. Several vendors carry Tou-hua (soft bean curd). Chaotien Temple Night Market, Peikang, Yunlin County The customer base for this night market is on the believers of Matsu, who visit Chaotien Temple especially from Lunar January to March. Most vendors gather around Chun-shan Road and Chunhua Road. Hsiao-pei Night Market, Tainan City One of the major areas in Tainan where vendors concentrate, which is located on section 4 of West Gate Road. Shakaliba, enclosed by Chung-cheng Road, Yu-ai and Hai-an Roads also deserves visiting. Check out "Coffin Board" by Liu-yi Hsu in Shakaliba if you are an unsuperstitious gluton. Dan-tzu Noodle (noodle soup in Tainanese style), which lies opposite to the City Council across Chung-cheng Road, carries a special flavor. You are supposed to sit on a short bamboo chair and enjoy the noodle under the dim light. Liu-ho Night Market, Kaohsiung City This night market occupies roughly one block along Liu-ho Road from Chung-shan Road. Most Kaohsiung residents come from some other adjacent counties, which results in a great variety of cuisines here. (Reference: "Introduction to Taiwan Famous Food and Snack" by Yu-wen Chang, 1994 edition, by Outdoor Life Co. Ltd. (ISBN 957-9476-48-9) ). (C. 6) What are the special products in Taiwan? Listed below is a partial list for special products in Taiwan. Some of them are food while some others might be artifacts. Iron Egg, Tanshui, Taipei County If you think your teeth are quite robust, try it. With spices and some soy bean sauce, eggs are cooked, air dried and then cooked again, and such a process is repeated within a week, until the eggs look like a black marble ball, which bounces when dropped to the ground. Kumquat Cake, Ilan County In fact kumquat cake is a name used for all the preserved kumquat, which is good for coughing people in herbalists' view. Bean Jelly Cake ("Yokan" in Japanese), Su-au, Ilan County Bean jelly cake is not made from lamb, though it is said that originally in China bean jelly cake was prepared by cooking beans in a lamb stomach, and later Japanese transformed it into a sweet snack and introduced it to Taiwan during the occupation period. It is a kind of jelly-like snack, though much thicker. The bean jelly cake in Su-au becomes quite famous because the cold spring available in Su-au. Check out Feng-ming Bean Jelly Cake Shop at No. 18, Chung-shang Road and Su-au Preserved Fruit Shop at No. 42. Yuli, Hualien County is also famous for its bean jelly cake production. Check out Kuang-shen Store at No. 82, Section 2, Chung-shan Road. Dried Bean Curd, Ta-shi, Taoyuan County Dried bean curd is a snack made of bean curd. Dried bean curd is famous in Ta-shi because of the underground water people use in the manufacturing process. Check out the store owned by HUANG, Ju-shiang at No. 56, Hoping Road. Rice Noodle and Gong Meatball, Hsinchu Marble, Hualien County Marble is an important mining product in Hualien. In Hualien City, the bricks paved in the sidewalks are made of marble. Taro Ice, Tsouhu, Taichung County In fact, it might be better described as taro ice cream, which comes in cubes. Tai-ho Taro Ice Shop and Mei-fong Taro Ice Shop are two major examples. Wu-lung Tea, Deer Valley, Nantou County Wu-lung Tea originated from the Frozen Top Mountain near Deer Valley, which might be considered a representative model for miscellaneous teas in Taiwan. Pork Dumplings, Changhua Actually the pork dumpling from Changhua is not round, as implied by its Taiwanese name. It is like a large dumpling with wrapping made of sweet yam powder and some vegetables cooked with meat as the stuffing. Preserved Fruits, Yuenlin, Changhua County With a subtropical/tropical climate, Taiwan is famous for its diversified fruit production. Yuenlin, being adjacent to nearby fruit fields and a climate with shorter rainy season, is well-known for the industry on preserved fruits. Check out Fu-erh Preserved Fruits Company should you want to take a taste. Paper Umbrella, Mei-nung, Kaohsiung County Mei-nung is one of the Hakka towns in Taiwan, and it is a Hakka tradition to use paper umbrella as a wedding gift for daughters because "paper" and "son" sounds similar and there are five parts corresponding to "man" in the Chinese word for "umbrella", which is a good sign for "getting sons sooner". These umbrellas use materials from bamboo as the skeleton, then painted paper is used for the umbrella covering. They are much more expensive than the ordinary umbrellas, but they last longer and they are a good artistic souvenir for your collection too. Pig Feet, Wangluan, Pintung County Check out Hai-hong Hotel in Wangluan Market, which provides chewy but not greasy pig feet. (Reference: "Introduction to Taiwan Famous Food and Snack" by Yu-wen Chang, 1994 edition, (ISBN 957-9476-48-9) and "Introduction to Taiwan Special Products" by Yu-wen Chang, 1990 edition, both by Outdoor Life Co. Ltd.). (C. 7) What are the special events in Taiwan? Most of the special events in Taiwan are defined in terms of the Lunar Calendar. Listed below is a partial list of them for your reference. Rocket Hives, Yenshui, Tainan County (January 15 (L) ) On January 15 night, the small town Yenshui becomes "Fireworks Capital of the World". Rocket-like fireworks fly through the sky with a high pitch, and hence they are named "Rocket Hives". Currently this event has already been one of the major cultural events in Taiwan. Local folks believe the more fireworks they have, the more prosperous they will be in that year. Fireworks are built in a shape of a castle, and they are connected in such a way that once ignited, fireworks fly away like crazy hornets towards all the directions. Some firework castle can cost up to several thousand US dollars. It is advised to arrive at Yenshui before 16:00 on January 15 when the traffic control is in effect, so you might familiate yourself with a better orientation. Eye protection is a must, for which the helmet for motorcycles with eye shielding can be used. You should also cover all of your skin for the possible injury from the "bee" attack. On the other hand, it is a better idea to view the magnificent scene in the up-wind direction so you won't be choked by the smoke generated by the fireworks. Water Lantern, Keelung (July 15 (L) ) Originally water lanterns are used as signs for the drowned ghosts so they might find a way back to the human world for the offerings in food and ghost money. However, nowadays it has lost its significance and only Keelung together with some Hakka villages keep this tradition in the Ghost Month. On Chung-yuan eve, there is usually a parade of water lanterns. After some ceremonies, the local folks will light up the lanterns and put them on float. Legend has it that the farther the lantern flows away, the better luck the family will have which the lantern represents. In Keelung, water lanterns are usually set free at Wan-an Lane in Patoutze around 23:00 on the eve. Ceremony for Confucius (September 28) Ceremony for Confucius is held everywhere in Taiwan in the local Confucius Temples on September 28. This has been a tradition for Chinese culture for more than one thousand years. Even during the Japanese occupation, such ceremonies were still performed as Japanese culture is also affected by Confucius. The ceremony starts at around 05:00 on Confucius' Birthday. The program is conducted quite seriously, which is different from other Taiwanese events where "Renao" is emphasized. 64 elementary students will perform the "Eight Yi" Dance, which has been set up since the Tang dynasty. Interested tourists can try to visit the Confucius Temples in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung for this event. Burning of King's Boat, Tungkang, Pintung County (September (L) ) This is not an annual event. In Tungkang, such a rite is held once in three years in Lunar September, which lasts for around 7 days. The actual date will be decided by the King himself. The boat will be burned early morning on the seventh day. On the other hand, in Sikang, the rite lasts for 6 days and it will be held in Lunar April. The boat is burned at noon in the sixth day. Local people start to build the boat around four or five months beforehand. During the rite, they believe the burning away of the boat is a symbol for the leaving of all the disasters, as the "boat" is a vehicle for the local plague king. There will also be a parade before the burning rite. In addition to these, each of the nine major aborigine tribes in Taiwan also has their own rites for different occasions. If you are interested in their events, it is recommended to contact local county governments for details. Around the Mid-autumn Festival, Hualien County government usually organizes a "Harvest Festival" for all the Ami people in Hualien, which lasts for one day. Several thousands of people will work together for miscellaneous songs and dances, as songs and dances are a part of Ami people's ordinary lives. You might reach Hualien County government, 886-38-227-171 for details. (Reference: "Introduction to Taiwan Popular Special Events" by Yu-wen Chang, 1989 edition, by Outdoor Life Co. Ltd. (ISBN 957-8987-27-7) ) (C. 8) What are the recommended sources for learning Mandarin? Stanford University has a cooperative program with National Taiwan Normal University. You can reach Office of Foreign Student Affairs at 162 Ho-Ping E. Rd. Sec. 1, Taipei 106-10, Taiwan Tel: 886-2-362-5621. University of Massachusetts also has a cooperative program with the Chinese Language Center at Box 862, Tunghai University, Taichung 407-04, Taiwan Tel: 886-4-359-0259 Fax: 886-4-359-4408 There is also the very *for profit* organization, Taipei Language Institute (TLI) at 4F 50 Roosevelt Rd. Sec.3, Taipei 100, Taiwan Tel: 886-2-367-8228, 886-2-367-2112 Fax: 886-2-363-4857 TLI might have other branches around Taiwan. You can get the book "Higher Education in ROC [=Taiwan] Guide for Foreign Students" from your nearest Taiwan representative office. (Refer to (T. 7), "Where can I find the representative offices for Taiwan in other countries?" in the Tourism part for their locations). (Thanks to Dan Jacobson, "jacobson@fcusqnt.fcu.edu.tw" who contributed the information here) (C. 9) What are the recommended sources for learning Hoklo and Hakka? For people who can already speak Mandarin, you can learn Hakka by contacting Hakka Cathay News 9F-5, No. 1, Chan Chien [ (Zhan4 Qian2) "station front" ] Miaoli City, Miaoli 360, Taiwan Tel: 886-37-271-603, 886-37-271-613 Fax: 886-37-271-583 There is a Hakka Chinese Homepage with URL http://www.asiawind.com/pub/hakka/ from which you might learn more about the Hakka people and their language. Taiwan Hakka Association of the U.S.A. also has a homepage at http://www.softidea.com/twhakkausa/ where you might learn some Hakka songs and even Hakka phonetic alphabets. There are also lots of books and tapes available for English speakers who want to learn Taiwanese [ 1 Hakka book too, but only one cassette ]. Please contact Maryknoll Language Service Center P.O.Box 149 120 San-min Road Sec. 1 Taichung 400, Taiwan Tel: 886-4-371-2133 Pingtung County Government in Taiwan also has one Hakka Tape/Book and one Taiwanese Tape/Book. Please contact Tel: 886-8-736-0331, 886-8-736-0332 (Thanks to Dan Jacobson, "jacobson@fcusqnt.fcu.edu.tw" who contributed the information here and posted it in the newsgroups "tw.bbs.soc.hakka" and "soc.culture.taiwan".) (Permission to repost the finished document or make copies of it in electronic, mechanical, photocopied, or other form as appropriate will be granted provided it is not modified in any way whatsoever, and it is not used for profit purposes without prior explicit consent from the author. Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 by Tung-chiang Yang). -- Tung-chiang Yang tcyang@netcom.com