Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

Lots of urban farming going on right now in Taipei, Taiwan. I took this shot just east of Warner Village, in the Hsin-yi Distict (信義區). A friend told me today that it's the most expensive real estate in Taiwan. It's going for NT$6,000,000 a ping (meaning close to US$200,000 per tatami mat of space). 

I think I should follow up on urban farming, seeing that I've taken hundreds of shots of how it has occurred around Taipei over the years. One of the reasons that property in this district has shot up in price is related to the MRT line, going down its main vein, that is going in as I write. The MRT line'll be up within the next couple of years. This land was once zoned as "agricultural." It's value obviously went up once it was relabeled as residential. 

Taiwan Has Spoken?

Today the people of Taiwan voted. To me, it seemed like a referendum on our President, Ma Ing-jeou, and his China leaning policies (some have even called them appeasement). I am not very politically minded. I will say I'm glad it's over. The loudness of the extravaganza has been unbearable. Here in Monga, we've been putting up with loud speakers that intrude into our homes deep into the night, smarmy palm-pressing politicians at every MRT station (in the mornings, no less) and all kinds of annoying chest beating. Last week, I had to, get this, listen to how Taipei IS Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌) and that Chen Shui-bien is still corrupt. The rally actually took place on the common grounds of my apartment building, and lasted until around eleven o'clock. (Hau Lung is the son of 郝柏村, Taiwan's premier 20 years ago who fought tooth and nail against democratic reform.) Later that night, when my wife sent me out on a beer run, I couldn't help but notice all the garbage left behind. This garbage was cleaned up by janitors employed on my, and other occupants of my apartment complex, dime the next morning. 

Anyway, my wife was simmering tonight because Taipei, where she and her ancestors going back 300 years have lived, is still KMT-land. I rented "Formosa Betrayed," an interesting new film about how Taiwan and its inhabitants have been colonized and controlled by invaders from China the last 60 years. After watching "Formosa Betrayed," she was on low boil. She told me that she was once educated to revere the KMT, that she had been taught to see the Japanese, who built Taiwan into Asia's second most economically powerful place, as scoundrels. She had even gotten into arguments as a young girl with her grandma. According to Grandma, the KMT were not saviors but rather "beggars and thieves." Later, when my wife learned about the 2-28 Massacre, when the KMT murdered 30,000 Taiwanese intellectuals in an early power grab and the 38 years of martial law that ensued, she came around to a new way of thinking. 

I don't think all is lost. There are some interesting statistics emerging from tonight's election. The most telling is that the DPP, the pro-Taiwan party here, has actually won the popular vote. Here are the latest tallies: 

中國國民黨:795,403 (55.65%)

民主進步黨:626,075 (43.81%)

Xin Taibei
中國國民黨:1,115,536 (52.61%)
民主進步黨:1,004,900 (47.39%)

中國國民黨:730,284 (51.12%)
民主進步黨:698,358 (48.88%)

But, in Gaoxiong/Tainan DDP pulled ahead:

民主進步黨:821,089 (52.8%)
中國國民黨:319,171 (20.52%)

民主進步黨:619,897 (60.41%)
中國國民黨:406,196 (39.59%)

I pulled these totals off Michael Turton's comment section. Michael also has some interesting insight into the KMT-related gangster shenanigans that led to the shooting in Yong-he last night of a KMT official's son: http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2010/11/sean-lien-shot.html

On a different note, David on Formosa is promoting blogs for a "Best Blog of Taiwan" contest. I think it's cool to promote Taiwan related blogs. I should probably read up more on this subject. If I were to vote, I think I'd give the nod to http://danshuihistory.blogspot.com/. Eyedoc, the curator, runs a terrific history-based site. David put up his mentions here; I'll give the link: http://blog.taiwan-guide.org/2010/11/some-great-taiwan-blogs-in-2010/


Historical Cheng De (承德) Road

I took the above shot today on Cheng De (承德) Road in Taipei's historic Dadaocheng (大稻埕) District. I strolled the length of the street, from the Keelung River (基隆河) in the north down to Taipei Main Station, and this was the only place I saw that seemed to predate the 1960s. These days, Cheng De is lined with gaudy, glassy, grimy 1960 and 70-ish architecture. 

If you take the stroll, you will of course come across Cheng Yuan (成淵) High School. Established in 1898, just three years after the Japanese colonial possession of Taiwan began, Cheng Yuan was once a rustic double-story, A-frame schoolhouse, much like you might have seen in the American Mid-west at the turn of the 20th century. I think the school was in fact funded by an American Christian group from thereabouts, but I'll have to follow up. Cheng Yuan was blown up on May 31st, 1945 by the US Army (the Air Force didn't exist in those days) on probably the single most devastating day of bombing Taiwan saw during the Second World War, and that is saying something as 75 percent of her infrastructure was wrecked in around a year's time. For those of you that are familiar with Taiwanese history, you'll recognize this date. Both the Presidential Building and Lungshan Temple (龍山寺) were also hit on May 31st, 1945. 

As Cheng De used to be the eastern-most thoroughfare in Dadaocheng before, and after, the city was walled, it once was an energetic center of commerce and culture. In the 1860s, Formosa was internationally renowned for its tea. And Dadaocheng was her foremost packaging and shipping center. Hundreds of companies, many of them located on Cheng De, operated out of the neighborhood to serve this purpose. Times have changed. Technology and finance are now Taiwan's bread and butter. Most of its small, though still renowned tea industry, is based elsewhere. No shipping takes place from the wharf of Dadaocheng anymore, as it is now too silted up for ships to arrive anywhere in her vicinity. 

This is the mailbox of the place mentioned above, which I am guessing is the oldest remains of a store or business along Cheng De Road.  Notice how the mailbox is taped up.

When I dipped into an alley running off Cheng De (承德), near Ming Chuan (民權) MRT Station, I found lots of quaint buildings. In this structure, a tree had taken root in the roof.

An old building in an alley off Cheng De.


Righteous Temple in Monga, Taiwan

A picture of Righteous (集義) Temple in Monga, Taiwan

I live in Monga, one of the three oldest neighborhoods in Taipei. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that we have many places of historical note in our midst. Having said that, I should point out that we really don't have much in the way of classical architecture. Until the 1990s, there was no emphasis on historical or heritage preservation in Taiwan. It was all development, with lots of speculation sprinkled on top. Thus a lot of Monga's, and Taiwan's for that matter, most precious streets and buildings were scraped off the landscape. I will say this though: there is no shortage of old and beautiful temples in Monga. Off the top of my head, I count half a dozen within walking distance of my home, like the Righteous Temple (pictured above), which my daughter and I pass almost every night on our way home from school and work respectively. Righteous Temple was built 110 years ago. 

Inside Righteous Temple, you'll find the statues of three Tao figures, the righteous men from which the temple draws its name: Messrs. 朱, 池 and 李, who lived during the Tang Dynasty (607-917) in China. According to my wife, our daughter likes to "make wishes" at the alter when she and my mother-in-law go by, something she doesn't do when she's with me. I don't really have a problem with this though. I do think it's an interesting way to describe praying. I'm pretty sure that Grandma is behind the "wishing," as she's tried to make me do it a time or two (which I don't as it makes me feel self-conscious). Nevertheless, if my daughter wants to "wish," I'm cool with it -- that is, if she enjoys doing so. My daughter can make up her mind own about religion, whether that happens to be now, 10 years from now or whenever. 

I'm afraid I digress: If you want to visit Righteous Temple, take the MRT to Longshan Temple. Leave the station from Exit Two. Go straight, passing the fire and police stations, for about a block. You'll see it at the first intersection. 


Dan Jiang (淡江) Gym

Dan Jiang (淡江) Gym, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

I put up another post at the Taiwan News' Web site, following the presence of Dan Jiang (淡江) High School here in Taiwan. I've been running out to Danshui (淡水) pretty regularly. A couple weeks ago, I took in a terrific re-enactment of the 1884-5 Sino-French War, which unfolded on Danshui's very banks. For more information, check out this blog: The Battle of Fisherman's Wharf. Eyedoc, the site's generous and informative curator, has posted on the goings-on of this conflict several times. Run over his posts and you'll be rewarded on this count, and other details of the community's development as well. Here's a sample, a post called The Execution of French POWs 1884: http://danshuihistory.blogspot.com/2010/08/execution-of-french-pows-1884.html

I've put up a picture of where the school's most famous alumus, Lee Tung-hui (李登輝), practiced martial arts in his youth. I promised it in the article; alas, it was not delivered.

Here is my article on Danshui's historical Dan Jiang (淡江) High: http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1938&Itemid=156