4/27/2008

No Dog Poop in Danshui



We decided to go out to Danshui again, one of my favorite places in Taipei. We had originally planned to grab the ferry over to Bali (八里) to check out a museum my cyclist-buddy Eric visited a while back http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericdiep/2391859311/ but decided against it upon arrival. The line-up was a couple of football fields long.

I took the shot of the above sign at the far end of the Danshui strip, but noticed the same sign coming back, just outside of the Danshui MRT station. I remember in a prior post that I said that I didn't normally like to make fun of Asian signs on this blog (other people have done that to death). But I couldn't resist putting this one up. It's amusing, but not so funny at the same time. Why? Well, Danshui is a major tourist destination in Taiwan. We know that Taiwan has been trying to be more "foreigner" friendly/tourist friendly (see the US$30 million the government just invested into developing Taiwan tourism). But this sign, which is new, will bother and offend many "foreigners". Others will smirk and make fun of it. I doubt that it will impress on anyone that Taiwan is a more sophisticated place that takes its sanitation seriously.

BTW, I can't rotate the vertical pictures I upload from my Mac here in Blogspot. But I'll put a full picture of the sign up here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/2445864680/




This could be the original MacKay mission hospital clinic, from 1879. MacKay, a Canadian, set up in Danshui to try to convert the natives to Christianity. Besides preaching and converting, he also pulled teeth.

Remnants of an old building near the MacKay Church in Danshui, Taiwan.

12 comments:

EyeDoc said...

Great shots of the Mackay Clinic. Thanks.

Re the DP sign: you of course realize that eventually everyone has to learn Chinese.

And if you look over to the left panel on your site, there is a picture with a caption: Ma Ting Cheng (馬町場). It is 馬場町. Martin Cheng maybe a friend of yours?

This is commonly known as "五十步笑百步".

Patrick Cowsill said...

Martin Cheng is my father-in-law.

Oh, really on 馬場町? I guess you're right! I'm doing spoonerisms in Chinese now too.

Anonymous said...

You put up a sign in English for X amount of dollars, you should get someone to check it. We've got Chinese signs in Canada. I hope they don't just use a English to Chinese dictionary.

Some tourists won't know it's an "only word that popped up in their electronic dictionary." It will seem that Taiwanese talk like this.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Eyedoc, my wife was looking at the 馬場町. She says a lot of Taiwanese people say 馬町場, especially around Wanhua, where she grew up, and where this place is located.

For consistency's sake, I was thinking of 西門町 or Shihminting. My wife ignored this, but thought it was interesting that we were spelling "ting" with a "t" in English. According to her, fellow Taiwanese mispronounce 町, using a "d" sound when it should be a "t" sound.

Anonymous, I'd also be against putting up a sign in my country that contained foul-mouthed messages in a "foreign" language. I wouldn't think that the French or Russians visiting America should simply learn to speak English, so that they could ignore something offensive in their own language on a sign. Swearing at "foreigners" in their language on signs in the US would bother me greatly.

EyeDoc said...

It has always been 馬場町, an old name of Japanese origin. 馬場 means horse ranch or training ground for horse-riding, and 町 simply means district (as in 西門"町"). There are 30+ 馬場町s in Japan, none called 馬町場. Perhaps it is now a Wanhua local alteration. You need to ask older Taiwanese.

In Taiwan, spelling of Mandarin Chinese in English follows the lo-ma-ji tradition - reason why Cheng is pronounced Zheng and ting, ding, etc.

BTW, you are not a 鄭, are you? That happens to be my family name. Or is it 曾?

Patrick Cowsill said...

In fact, I am a 鄭, or Cheng. I had to change my name (we're allowed one legal change in Taiwan) so that my offspring could have my wife's surname in Chinese (or our surname). In Taiwan, women can only confer their surname on their offspring if they do not have a brother - my wife has one. (I'm not really complaining though because up until six years ago, they could confer nothing, not even citizenship.) I was thinking about changing my first name to 成功, but decided against it after receiving a smack to the back of the head at the government office from my better half.

My wife says her grandma calls the place, a five-minute walk from her home, 馬町場, which has got to be like you say, "a local alteration". She says that 町 should be pronounced with a "t" sound.

EyeDoc said...

Mon Dieu. An Irish Canadian Taiwanese 鄭. So you are trying to make Taiwan an even better place to live. Koxinga himself would have approved.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Not a lot of Canadian (none actually) in my blood. I lived there for a few years - that is all.

If you talked to my grandparents, they were simply American. Nothing about being Irish or German, or something like that. I've pointed this out to some of my Taiwanese friends; they got the point. A prof at NCCU told me "I had really missed the boat" for making the same point.

EyeDoc said...

My mistake: of course you are an American. However, to lump everyone together under the label of "American" is no longer the American way. The point of "I am an American" is moot.

And I believe you are equating celebrating heritage with promoting racism. This may have come across unintentionally when you interact with the Taiwanese.

I don't think there is ever an outright "my Taiwanese genes are better than your foreign genes" kind of Nazi racism.

Again, to make Taiwan a better place, you need to share with the locals your Irish-American heritage. The experience of the Potato Famine is not lost on many Taiwanese whose ancestors migrated to Taiwan for the same reasons why the Irish moved to Boston.

You have joined a clan with an illustrious past. Congrats or maybe I, as an older member, should say Welcome.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Again, to make Taiwan a better place, you need to share with the locals your Irish-American heritage."

I have done this, pointing out that we are similar in many regards. Early Americans wished to be left alone, much the same way the people in the deep south of China wanted nothing to do with Beijing. They couldn't get far enough away from the capital, and Taiwan was even further. They were also very independent, see: "Every three years an uprising, every five a rebellion." In all, Taiwan saw 159 uprisings in 212 years of Chinese rule.

I have also pointed out that the colonies were facing down the world's mightiest power 200 years ago, but many of the colonists did not think it meant they should admit: "It's very dangerous, so we should cower." I've even pointed this out to Taiwanese officers I've met who have told me:

"We will bury our guns in the ground if China attacks." What got me in hot water with my NCCU prof was that I said: "we don't see ourselves as Irish, Scottish, German or what have you. Why can't you just let [China] go?" There were parallels worth discussing; but this, coming from me, pissed her off.

The Taiwanese should celebrate their heritage. But what does that mean? You've said that "The real irritant is distorted history." Well, Taiwanese history has been greatly distorted (see Lien Chan's grandfather and his statement: "Taiwan's greatest sadness is that she has no history"), all too often because of "Chinese heritage" and what its imagined to be. That is why almost any topic we wish to pursue on Taiwan's history is a new one.

Right now, we're seeing an interesting version of Chinese heritage going on in the build up to the Beijing Olympics. Yesterday, I read an account of it in New Zealand: http://bunnyhugs.org/2008/05/01/ugly-nationalistic-chinese-demonstration-in-auckland/#more-773
I wonder what a Taiwanese individual would feel wandering into the middle of this mess?

I'm not really equating promoting heritage with racism. I meant only to point out on this blog that racism isn't an imported value, but rather that it's imbedded here (and that it blocks Taiwan from getting in tune with the more globalized version of the world). Of course, I know a lot of very nice Taiwanese people. I'm married to one and am related to others. There are, unfortunately, a few nasty individuals who won't go away. They are causing trouble for out-groups and not really helping to promote Taiwan. Some of them are in positions of power; they're teachers, bureaucrats and politicians. I will speak to the damage they're doing here in later blog posts. It's one of the things that interests me.

"You have joined a clan with an illustrious past. Congrats or maybe I, as an older member, should say Welcome." Koxinga only lived to be 38, but I'm sure he's spread his seed well. Welcome to MA too. If you like history, you've surely landed in the right place in America.

EyeDoc said...

I see there are differences in the definition of the terms being thrown about here. Your "racism" is actually tribalism which is indeed deeply embedded. And tribalism is the stumbling block to globalization. This is what you have occasionally(?) run into in Taiwan. Many Taiwanese are well-aware of this issue. Consider yourself communicating with one.

The debate of tribalism vs globalization has been done before, in the 60s, under a different guise: total westernization vs selective technological adoption. You should look it up.

The battles at Bunker Hill, Lexington Green and North Bridge are still being memorialized today. The colonists were protected by the Atlantic Ocean. The Taiwanese? Not much. That is why there will always be compromises and alternative plans. A clean break in various senses is simply not tenable.

That brings up the heritage issue. Heritage can be baggages from the past. The anti-imperialism in China has been carried over from the Qing era. It explains why a visceral reaction to anything that slights China. The lengthy blog that you have pointed me to has failed to realized this point. Probably because the New Zealanders were never part of the invading forces in China.

Taiwan has no history? True only if that refers to the official version (a lineage all the way from Huang Di to Chiang Kai Sek). Each Taiwanese family has a history that is based on blood, sweat, and tear. This is what the Taiwanese heritage is derives from. You are right: we were/are an independent lot. However, unlike the Chinese in the Mainland, our heritage is not a collection of officially-sanctioned slogans, it is for us to know who we were/are. What you are doing at the grass-root level is exactly an extension. You may have a different perspective but that is not necessarily a bad thing - for as long as you have complete information so that no distortion is possible.

One last point: Not all Chengs are descendants of Koxinga. Only his 6th son (and one daughter) escaped the wholesale slaughter and survived to carry on the family name, now into the 13th generation.

Patrick Cowsill said...

That's exactly right - it's tribalism. It goes back a long way; it's what Pickering talks about 150 years ago. Yeah, I think you've nailed it on the head. I will go off and digest it a bit more.