Cycling in Taipei? Yeah, Right

I was just about run over by a cyclist yesterday as I crossed the street near my office (Dunhua and Bade) because I hadn't noticed this new bicycle lane had been put in. As a person who's worried about pollution, which is intolerable in Taipei, and an interested cyclist, I'm all for the promotion of bikes as an alternative mode of transportation. But I can't help feeling this is lame. Actually it pisses me off. If Ma (Taiwan's president) is going to advocate we use bikes because they are not: "fuel consuming vehicles" or that we can "help protect the Earth" by riding them, then he should back it up with bicycle lanes that thread along the city's streets, with cops on every corner to ensure the maniacal drivers of Taipei stay out of them. I mean, what the heck are we supposed to do once we cross the street? Should we get up on the sidewalk and weave through the pedestrians, ringing our little bike bells? In the papers, there have been lots of shots of Ma on his bike, but these are obviously for PR, because if he's ever ridden in Taipei he'd know how useless his ideas, or these new crossings, are. Cyclists are NOT worried about dealing with pedestrians on the streets. They're afraid they'll get creamed by one of the many drivers who have no clue how to drive. Here's something on Ma in the China Times: "The [president] said he was happy to see more and more bike lanes being built in every county and city in Taiwan to promote biking as an alternative means of transportation, and he expressed the hope that local governments will introduce sound and more comprehensive biking-related laws to protect the safety of cyclists" http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national%20news/2008/05/05/154911/Ma-touts.htm


My colleague asked me where "Manka" was in Taipei. When I read the Chinese underneath, I discovered that it referred to Wanhua (萬華), also the name of my blog. I thought this was pretty amusing, as Manka, or Monga (艋舺) is a transliteration of Taiwanese. The rest of the map has transliterations of Chinese (Mandarin). This map is part of the Periplus Editions series out of Singapore, which seem to be highly regarded.

Coincidentally, I had just explained to another colleague (the map's owner) that I am one who usually stays out of the ongoing pinyin debate - Wade-Giles (威妥瑪拼音) is better than Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) or whatever - as a.) I don't give a crap and b.) I first learned Chinese using the bopomofu (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) or the Chinese phonetics symbol system, the only one offered to students in Taiwan back in the nineties when I started out. My colleague was in blogland, viddying the intense arguments on the subject, and trying to figure out why anyone cared. Most of the Taiwanese I know speak pretty good Mandarin, and they understand neither Wade-Giles nor Hanyu Pinyin.


Anonymous said...

Yes stupid because we can only cross the street.

Anonymous said...

"Manka" was also the name the Japanese called the area. According to the Rough Guide to Taiwan, Manka (or "Bangka") in Taiwanese comes from the Ketagalan word meaning "canoe". The Japanese in 1920 chose a couple of characters that were also pronounced "manka" in the Japanese language, 萬華, which of course is "wanhua" in Mandarin. Incidentally, the Japanese now write the name of the district as 万華 (but still pronounce it as "manka") .

Don't let Ma Ying-jeou find out, otherwise he might try to give the area a name that is more "Chinese"!

Patrick Cowsill said...

It's interesting to see the evolution of place names here - from an Aboriginal language to Taiwanese to Mandarin to Japanese and then back to Mandarin.

I was reading a Dec. 12, 1637 account of an Aboriginal village called Mattau, near Fort Zeelandia: "With the approbation of our council. we left on Nov 17 last for the villages of Soulang and Mattau, in company with the two clergymen Junius and Livius, and with an escort of 75 soldiers as a bodyguard. For it had been the urgent and repeated requests of the inhabitants of these villages that we should be present and witness the casting away of their idols [an odd request], whereby they testified that they would then begin to serve the only true and living God" (Campbell, 165).

I see there's still a Mattau, only it's spelled Madou or 麻豆, meaning sesame bean. I've also noticed a Sigang on the map, or 西港, meaning east harbor. It's probably Sinkan, one of the eight villages in the vicinity of Zeelandia in 1637.

A long time ago, the Taiwanese found words in Chinese to match the Aboriginal names for villages in terms of pronunciation. If you point this out to someone living in Taiwan today, they probably won't know what you're talking about.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I mean West - I'm spatially challenged.

Anonymous said...

The original Taiwanese of Manka is 艋舺 - before it degenerated into 萬華.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I'd be curious to see how many people, especially elderly, still call it Manka 艋舺. Degenerate is an appropriate word here. I'm going to test this out, and get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Manka is more taiwanese than mandrin. So I guess most taiwanese speaking people still call it manka in Taiwanese. But I have yet to find someone refer to it as 艋舺 in mandrin

Anonymous said...

The times that I have mentioned that area with Taiwanese aquaintances in Taipei, I have used the pronunciation that I have heard people in 艋舺 use (which to me sounds more like Man-ga), and so far, they always know what I am talking about.

Re: 艋舺, here's a link to the 艋舺flickr group-- several dozen photos of the area. You're welcome to add your own photos to the group.


--scott in 台南

Patrick Cowsill said...

Thanks Scott. I've added a couple of shots to 在艋舺看到獨特的景觀 The Manka area of Taipei, of Ma Teng Cheng (馬町場) or the KMT killing fields: http://www.flickr.com/groups/619891@N25/

This is an interesting flickr group.

Anonymous said...

That is only one killing field. There's others all across Taiwan.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Yes, I know. Could you give me some specifics on locations? I would post them up if I had them.