3/24/2008

Historic Danjiang High School

I stopped by Danjiang High School last Monday to promote the magazines my company publishes. The teachers gave me tour of the campus. Founded in the 19th century, Danjiang High has a long and storied history. Its founding father, George MacKay, was a Presbyterian minister from Ontario, Canada, who spent the last 40 years of his life building up his flock on Formosa. Judging by what I've heard, this was no easy task. Superstitious locals actually threw rocks at him and called him "a red-haired devil." But MacKay was undaunted; he married a local woman, learned how to speak Taiwanese and also to pull teeth. A self-taught dentist, his teeth extraction services helped to lay the groundwork for the Presbyterian Church, which also has an impressive record here. (The Presbyterian Church was a cog in the underground democracy movement during the sixties and seventies and was pivotal in Taiwan's struggle against the Chiangs.) Though small and tucked out of the way in Danshui (淡水), Danjiang High School has made many contributions to Taiwan. Lee Tung-hui (李登輝), Taiwan's first democratically-elected president, was a graduate back in the thirties. There is also a commemorative plaque on the grounds for the three individuals, a principal and two teachers, who were murdered during the 1947 2-28 uprising, when Taiwan's people first asserted themselves during the KMT occupation.

Lee Tung-hui visited the Danjiang High School five years ago. He provided some old black and white pictures of himself at this building (above pic), practicing kendo. He was, according to what I've heard, pretty tough.

A view of one of the original buildings. This one is over 100 years old. The Victorian classrooms and corridors are like nothing I've seen in Taiwan, with long wooden desks and spacious dark corners. This was the first school in Taiwan that focused on topics apart from those useful for preparing youngsters for the Ching Dynasty (清朝) civil servant test.

An 85-year-old picture of the campus.

Danjiang High School has dominated high school rugby in Taiwan, and did so even during the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945). Every student who makes the team is excused from paying tuition. I (always thinking about my baby daughter's prospects) asked if they had a girls' team, but the answer was no. The land for the rugby field was donated by the MacKay family.

A shot of Canadian cemetery, out back of the school, which is maintained by the Canadian Trade Office (the polite way of saying Canadian Embassy). The MacKay family tombs are also there, with one for George MacKay, who died on June 2, 1901. MacKay family descendants still pay respects every year on this day.

3/22/2008

Kiraya or Kira 花蓮, Taiwan


I went to Hualien (花蓮) twice last week. Yesterday, I found this museum on the Sakizaya (撒奇萊雅族), the 13th Aboriginal group to be recognized in Taiwan, or "proven" as the Sakizaya guide Anew put it in Mandarin. The Sakizaya were proven on January 13th, 2007. Besides the usual Aboriginal museum stuff - weapons (above pic), sewing tools, baskets, colorful garb - there were also three big brewing vats. The museum brews its own rice wine, which is really delicious.

I learned several things about Hualien and the Sakizaya:
1. Both the Dutch and the Portuguese made contact with the Sakizaya in the 1600s.
2. Hualien used to be called Kiraya or Kira.
3. The Sakizaya called the region Nararacanan, after raracan, an edible kind of shellfish.
4. The Sakizaya were actually the dominant group in the area (this is according to the museum, so it should be taken with a grain of salt).
5. The Sakizaya were massacred by the Chinese. In 1878, a Ching Dynasty (清朝) army "burned down families [it says this]" and killed all of the young Sakizaya men, beginning "129 years of exile and anonymity".

According to Anew, there are still 15,000 Sakizaya today. She says that they don't really look like other Aborigines, but rather "kind of like Taiwanese". One thing that I found interesting about this museum was that it didn't translate any of the names of places or peoples into Chinese. I kept looking for how to say it in Chinese, but the text would use quotation marks and the romanized spelling instead. Even Sakizaya - I had to look up 撒奇萊雅族 on the Internet. It was as if the curators didn't want it spelled or recorded in Chinese.


The view, running down the street from the museum. Hualien is on a nook in the Pacific Ocean off a towering wall of mountains. To get to it, the train from Taipei traces along the coast, and is practically on the beach before it cuts into town, heading for the Hualien Train Station.

A new museum on Sakizaya culture in Hualien. This is the front gate.

3/11/2008

Cleaning Out My Cell Phone Camera


I travel around Taiwan quite a bit for work. I took this picture today in the Tainan High Speed Rail Station. The baseball thermometer is appropriate as all three of Taiwan's Major Leaguers come from this southern city. As usual, I was surprised by the range of temperatures on Taiwan. When I left Taipei, it was cool and a bit wet. In Tainan, it was some 10 degrees Celsius warmer. By the way, the high speed rail got me there in one hour and 43 minutes, thanks to speeds closing in on 300 kilometers per hour.

A strange series of white blocks that warp around the Tainan High Speed Rail Station; they only serve cut off the view of the countryside and reflect the intense sunshine back into the faces of commuters. I wonder how much this added to the construction bill, and what purpose they could serve.

A mouth-watering beer ad on the Taiwan High Speed Rail. They don't actually have beer vending machines on-board. They don't even sell beer for that matter. They just like to torture us. The campaign, needless to say, was effective. Upon disembarking, I headed to the nearest 7-11 for a crisp cold one.

A "famous" Chinese-style teahouse in the beautiful eastern port city of Hualien (花蓮), Taiwan. Coffee is not on the menu.

I asked several people working across the street at the Seednet HQ about this cool building, but not a single person could tell me what it was. The phantom building is reflecting Seednet in its soothing blue glass.

The street line painters had obviously been hitting the sauce since early morning.

3/09/2008

Baseball in Taiwan


We went to check out the baseball exhibition at the Museum of the Governor's Office (which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on October 23rd) in Taipei, Taiwan. Upon entering, we bumped into Taipei mayor Hau Long-bing (郝龍斌), who you can see in the above pic along with my wife Shufang and our daughter Ahleena. I decided to check out the mayor's English; we had a good chat about American baseball (he likes the Yankees, of course) and also that of Taiwan baseball. Mr. Hau, interestingly, made a point of mentioning the CBL and the game of baseball here on the island.

My wife is not a big fan of Hau, on account of his father, who was as premier a major democracy opponent during the early days of Lee Tung-hui. But she did think he was friendly, and was impressed by his English. (Hau doesn't speak English as well as Lien Chan or James Soong, but handles himself just fine.) I haven't been a fan of the CBL, as it bans "foreign" players from competing in its annual All-star game.


The exhibition had lots of old-time Taiwan baseball memorabilia on hand. It took us through Taiwan's five little league world championships and its silver medal showing at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 Oddly, no silver is on display. There is, however, a Chinese Taipei uniform.

The contributors mentioned that baseball was a source of pride for Taiwan during a time of increasing political isolation (starting with Canada, Taiwan lost political ties with most of the Western powers during the seventies.) I was hoping to find more on the development of baseball during the Japanese colonial era, but there wasn't much information about this either. There was a snippet on the Kaohsiung sports college (the name escapes me right now), established in 1929. Wang Chien-ming of the New York Yankees is a graduate of this school. I was also looking for a certain "switch-pitcher" my father remembers, but to no avail. My dad often wondered why the Taiwanese didn't have any Major Leaguers, especially considering their prowess in Little League. Things seem to be changing now; there are three Taiwanese pitching in the Bigs and lots more waiting for their chance in the Minors.

3/04/2008

Chiang Kai-shek's Taipei Home


My wife and daughter wanted to go somewhere different, so we went to check out one of Chiang Kai-shek's many Taiwan homes (he had five, I think, island-wide). I'd say he did quite well for himself here in Taiwan. This property must've cost a fortune. I'm curious to know the following: a.) Who lived here before b.) How much Chiang paid for it c.) Is it completely paid off. This is some seriously prime real estate in Taipei.

I'm still trying to figure this one out - a likeness of Chiang cut into a hedge thingee. There are some wings behind the face to, I suppose, to symbolize an angelic quality.

The dense hilly fringe in the background reminds me of Chiang's mausoleum in Taoyuan (慈湖). It's said to mirror that of Chiang's hometown in Zhejiang, China.

The Chiangs worshipped at this private church on the grounds. According to the blurb on the sign out front, Eisenhower and Nixon also attended services, in 1960 and 1964 respectively. Much has been written about Chiang's faith, and on how Christian groups in the States highlighted it to raise money and support for "free China". He was seen as a devout Methodist. The four red seats in the front row were reserved for the Chiangs and their honored guests.

The church's chandeliers were chosen by Madame Chiang.

A view of the front door of the Chiang palace: I took the shot from the closest series of gates. The grounds are now open to the public, but not we are not welcome inside the home.


Frontal views of Chiang's Shilin House. This is as close as you can get, unless you want to climb the fence and pretend you're a gardener. On an entirely different note, one of my favorite blogs: "Notes from a Small Island" seems to have vanished (I've provided a link on my blog to the left). I wonder what happened, and hope he returns.