4/28/2012

Information for Travellers to Formosa.


I took this picture ages ago in Hualien, Taiwan. It's a shot of train from the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945). In a carriage further down, there is, I think, a sleeping car, something you don't see a lot of in Taiwan these days. I was thinking about it because I came across a rundown of tourist information in the British consular report submitted January 17, 1937 from Tamsui, Taiwan by C.H. Archer, who was the consul at the time:


INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLERS TO FORMOSA.

 Best time of year for visit.-- April to June or September to November.

 Best Steamship Routes.--(1) Kobe to Keelung via Meji, three times a week, (2) Shanghai to Keelung direct, and Hongkong to Keelung direct once in four weeks, (3) Hongkong to Keelung via Swatow and Amoy, weekly. (N.B. -- These vessels are very small and (2)is to be preferred [no parenthesis and is how suggestion reads].

 Steamship Companies.--(1) Osaka Shosen Kaisha and Kinkei Yusen Kaisha. Single fares: First class, Yen 65, Second class, Yen 45. (2) Nippon Yusen Kaisha European Line. From Shanghai: First class, Yen 67, Second class, Yen 47. (3) Osaka Shosen Kaisha: Single fares: First class, Yen 51, Second class, Yen 36. 

 Air Route.-- Three times a week from Fukuoda, Japan. (Note. --Under favourable conditions, passengers can go from Osaka to Taihoku within the day, and vice versa.) Fares: from Osaka, Yen 145, from Fukuoda, Yen 110. Free baggage allowance -- 10 kilogrammes.

 Touring Arrangements and Towns to Visit.--Full particulars can best be obtained from pamphlets issued by the Japan Tourist Bureau, Taihoku. Principal towns are Taihoku, Tainan and Taichu, and the most important ports are Keelung and Takao. 

 Internal Communications.--A good railway express service (two trains in 24 hours) is maintained between Keelung and Taihoku and thence to Takao in the south. A portion of this line has been double tracked, and dining and sleeping cars are available. Other lines give inferior service. Transport by motor car or motor bus is usually possible, but the road surfaces are often poor.

 Railway fares, etc.:--
                                                        Yen.
    Taihoku to Takao (1st class)    ... ... ... ... ... 15.17
    Taihoku to Takao (2nd class)    ... ... ... ... ... 10.52
    Express supplement (1st class)  ... ... ... ... ... 2.10
    Express supplement (2nd class)  ... ... ... ... ... 1.40
    Sleeping berth (1st class)      ... ... ... ... ... 7.00
    Sleeping berth (2nd class)upper ... ... ... ... ... 3.00
    Sleeping berth (2nd class)lower ... ... ... ... ... 4.50
 Tram fares, etc.:--
    Rikisha: About 50 sen per hour under normal conditions.
    Taxi: From 50 sen upwards.
    Motor cars: Yen 4 to 8 per hour, according to class of car.

 Cost of Subsistence:--The only foreign-style hotels of importance are the railway hotels at Taihoku and Tainan. Rates are:--
    Suite room: Yen 16 and upwards.
    2nd floor: Yen 7 and upwards.
    3rd floor: Yen 3 and upwards.
    Breakfast: Yen 1.5. Lunch: Yen 2.5. Dinner: Yen 3.
    Japanese Inns: Lodging and two meals from Yen 3.5 to Yen 10.  
  Lunch: Yen 1.5 to Yen 3.

 Entertaining Expenses.--As in Japan.

 Commercial Travellers, Samples, Passports, etc.--Regulations as in Japan. It should be noted that tobacco and alcohol are Government monopolies, and may not be imported without special permission. 

 Climatic Conditions.--The north is wet at all times but especially so from December to March; the centre and south are dry in winter and wet in summer. Tropical clothes are usually worn form May to October, light spring suits in November, March and April, winter clothing from December to February.

 Public Holidays.--As in Japan, with the addition of 17th June and 28th October.

*****
I should point out Taihoku was the Japanese name for Taipei seventy-five years ago while Taichung was called Taichu. Takao is the old Taiwanese (Hoklo) name for Kaohsiung. It is based on an aboriginal word. Its meaning, I think, has been forgotten. A rikisha was a rickshaw while sens were Japanese cents. I have no idea about the holidays of June 17 and October 28 and am hoping someone can tell me. 

I ran the converter: 67 Yen in 1937 is equal (let's do it in American dollars) $1006.35 (first class on a steamship from Shanghai).  The cheapest way to get to Taiwan would have still ran you $540.72, no bargain by anyone's standard. In other words, tourism wasn't being promoted here. I will get to that in a moment. 

You could have gone first class from Taipei to Kaohsiung for $227.85 in today's money. I take the high speed rail pretty regularly. It's going to run you for about $50 to do the same route. A suite in Taiwan's finest hotel started at $240.32, which is actually pretty fair. You can get a normal room, not suite, in a five-star hotel for about the same these days. The cheapest you could have gotten a taxi would have been $60 an hour. In 1937, you could have had dinner in an elegant hotel for $45 in modern terms.

If you read through the British consular reports from early 1937, you will come away with this impression: tourists were not welcome in Taiwan. If you had shown up here, you would have been tailed by the police. Photography was prohibited (except for portraits taken indoors) and you were expected to stick to an itinerary. You wouldn't have wanted to browse a local newspaper as foreigners were being attacked on a daily basis. The consuls were so fed up with the harassment of visitors they created a section in their  reports entitled "Spy Fever," just to account for the difficulties Westerners faced. Under such circumstances, the consuls regularly referred to these individuals as "odd" or "eccentric" because, simply put, you'd have to be a little off to want to make a go of a trip here. I think I should mention another kind of tourist to Taiwan, the accidental tourist, namely, sailors whose ships were blown off course or those forced to take safe-haven at ports to ride out storms. The ill-treatment they received at the hands of local authorities was exasperating. The Keelung Incident of '36, when the captains of three unexpected warships from Britain were jailed, is a pretty good example of the kind of hospitality I'm bringing up. Their release took several days and one captain came away from the experience with a broken jaw, which resulted in international condemnation and the cancelation of a British diplomatic mission to Japan. 

Of course the reason for the tension surrounding Spy Fever is clear in hindsight: Japan was gearing up for the Second World War. I'll bring up the Keelung Incident later because it is a good story. 

4/26/2012

Global Primary in Taiwan

I received this information on the upcoming global primary in Taiwan from John Eastwood. I told him I would put it up. Here's what he told me (I will attach some of the points he brought up below, in italics):

Democrats Abroad's global primary is going to be May 1 at Carnegie's, a chance to cast your vote for the delegates from the Asian Pacific region to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in September 2012. There are going to be voting centers around the world from May 1 to May 6. DA Taiwan's is going to be held on May 1, from noon until ten o'clock pm. If you cannot make it, you can request an absentee ballot from vote2012@democratsabroad.org up until April 30.


***** 
Democrats Abroad is treated like a 51st state within the Democratic Party, which means that we get to send delegates to the Democratic National Convention. It also means that we have eight seats on the Democratic National Committee (the "DNC" that's chaired by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz). Participation in these routes is a key way by which we can push for legal/policy issues that affect Americans living overseas -- foreign income exclusion, healthcare coverage, bringing spouses/kids with foreign passports home to America, voter rights, etc.
*****
In 2008, Democrats Abroad got to hold its first ever global primary, and in 2012 we're doing it again -- just like a state party. However, our ballots are pretty simple this time around because there is only one Democratic presidential candidate on our ballot. What we're really voting on is the Asia-Pacific delegates who get to attend the Democratic National Convention -- the people who live out here who we'll be able to put right on the floor there. People who can help advocate for Americans living overseas, etc.
*****
Voting in the global primary is open to all members of the Democrats Abroad -- U.S. citizens who will be 18 or over as of the November elections who did not already vote in their home state's presidential primary. The benefits are as follows: 
a.) You get to participate in choosing who goes for us to Charlotte. You'll have a chance to review the candidate statements. In other words, you will have a voice in who speaks for us on the Asia-Pacific.
b.) If all of the Asia-Pacific has a good turnout in the global primary, then that will affect the number of people the Asia Pacific gets to send. If we do badly, then might get only one out of the eleven regionally elected delegate slots -- if we do great, we might get three or four.
c.) If DA Taiwan has a good turnout, that also affects our voting rights for choosing the additional delegates to be elected at the May 19-20, 2012 Global Convention in PV, Mexico.

4/25/2012

Racist T-Shirts? I Still Don't Get It



Carlo (right) put this collage up on Facebook. On the left, Shane is pointing at a T-shirt for sale in a Taipei market. The Chinese on the T-shirt reads "White people can't understand this." Meanwhile, Carlo is holding a shirt that reads "Black people also can't get this." 

Obviously both Carlo and Shane can read the T-shirts, or they wouldn't have taken the pictures (Shane is just pretending to be perplexed, that is all). Why anyone would assume another person couldn't do something based on the color of their skin isn't funny, like I'm guessing the T-shirts are supposed to be. There must be a market for these shirts though, or they wouldn't be on sale. 

Henry V: Shakespeare



Henry, the Fifth, getting ready for battle in Agincourt, France in 1415 in Kenneth Branagh's 1989 production of the drama Henry V. There's a lot of propaganda going on here, but it is still a brilliant scene.

4/23/2012

Hengchun (恆春) Incident

I came across the Hengchun (恆春) Incident of 1894 in the British Consular Reports on Taiwan. Here is R.W. Hurst, the British Consul, giving a play-by-play from his office in Tamsui, Taiwan on April 11, 1894:

"It appears the officials at Heng Chen commissioned one Beiukiet [Pan Wen-jie or 潘文杰], the chief of the the Teirasock tribe [part of the Paiwan] to invite a certain of the chiefs of the Bootaugs [Botans, I think, as they gained a reputation for their tenacity fighting the Japanese during the Mudan Incident and as it is the closest pronunciation match I can make in terms of aborigines in the area], the most warlike and powerful tribe in the South to meet them at an interview, a safe conduct being guaranteed. Four of the sub chiefs accordingly came, but no sooner were they within the walls of Heng Chen, than notwithstanding the promised safe conduct they were summarily beheaded. The Chinese claimed that this was a justifiable act of retaliation for the wanton murder of some wood cutters two or three months earlier, but the Bootaugs were so exasperated by the treachery that they turned out in force the whole length of their frontier, extending over some twenty miles of the sea coast, raiding several villages, killing a number of soldiers and peasants, and effectually blockaded the high road. However by some means the Chinese managed to entrap two more of the tribe but dare not kill them for fear of the consequences, but sent sent [Hurst wrote this word twice] to the aborigines that any further aggressiveness would result in the death of their captives. The aborigines on their part sent a counter threat, to the effect that if a hair of their men's heads were injured, they would ravage the whole country up to the gates of Heng Chen. Consequently a state of armed truce exists at the present moment and the road is open to traders and others."

First off, I doubt the four sub chiefs were executed as a retaliation for the "wanton murder of the wood cutters" because the Chinese didn't care a fig for the well-being of their citizens in 1894. I don't think I need to back this up either. The chiefs were most likely executed because the Chinese were looking to weaken the Bootaugs and shift the balance of power. Look at how they responded when the Bootaugs went ballistic, "killing a number of soldiers and peasants." To tell the truth, I don't really have much to add to this story as Hurst did such a great job calling the action (I just wanted to share it). I'm guessing that the Bootaugs eventually came out on top in this matter. In less than four months, China would be at war with Japan. This kind of disturbance would have been something they wanted resolved. Hurst does not bring up Hengchun in later reports either, other than to state 600 Chinese troops were moved to the town. As Hengchun was walled at the time, it could serve as a fort and base in securing the southern coast against invasion. BTW, it's interesting here to see him calling the Paiwan (排灣) aborigines and not savages. 

I also wish I could find something regarding Pan Wen-jie (潘文杰), as he is a fascinating character. There's a little bit online in Chinese. Like so many of us in Taiwan, Pan was of mixed blood. His father was of Chinese ancestry while his mother was of the Paiwan. Pan was adopted by his mother's little brother Zhou Qidu (卓杞篤) and as a boy witnessed his uncle's great soldiering and diplomatic skills, especially during the Mudan (牡丹) Incident of 1874, when Japanese troops landed to exact revenge upon local aborigines for killing citizens shipwrecked on the southern coast of Taiwan. Besides serving as a negotiator between the Chinese and Paiwan when he grew up, Pan also acted as a go-between for the Paiwan and Japanese after 1895, when Taiwan became a colony of Japan as well as the Taiwanese and Japanese. I can't find much more, other than to say he lived from 1854 to 1904 (or 1905) and that he was originally surnamed Lin (林).   

I probably don't need to point out that Hengchun continues to thrive. As the southernmost town in Taiwan, it has great weather and lots of beaches. It was also the location for the popular Taiwanese movie Cape No. 7. The walls mentioned above are gone, but the gates are still intact and worth checking out. I'll put up a link to a post by The Daily Bubble Tea, because he has some great shots of them: http://goo.gl/PP1oL.

4/22/2012

Portrait of a Dictator and a Dictator-to-Be




I took this shot inside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial (AKA National Taiwan Democracy Hall) the other day. The explanation underneath read as follows:

"After resumption of his office on March 1, 1950, President Chiang Kai-shek has never since forgotten the task of attempts to recover the mainland China from the communist control. He thus made frequent trips to the Kinmen Island inspecting defense facilities and overseeing military operations. In 1958, shortly before Communist-controlled China began its heavy bombardment on August 23rd, President Chiang risked his life to visit the Kinmen island and to finalize military preparations, thereby enabling the Island not only to withstand but also emerge victorious despite horrendous bombardment. This painting depicts President Chiang and his son Chiang Jing-guo looking afar at the mainland China during one of their inspection tours of the Kinmen Island - Roberto Liang, 1975." 

Just a couple of quickies:

"After resumption of his office on March 1, 1950, President Chiang Kai-shek has never since forgotten the task of attempts to recover the mainland China from the communist control." Does this "resumption" mean here in Taiwan? If so, China washed its hands of Taiwan in 1895, ceding the island to Japan as one of the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. At the time, Chiang was seven years old and not occupying, as far as I know, a position of power. The "resumption" statement therefore baffles me. Chiang did show up in Taiwan after being forced out from China and he did clean house, whacking thousands of local elites. But let me reiterate: he never came to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945) or prior to this period.

So, how are we supposed to read this? He didn't actually appoint the people he had murdered during 2-28 (1947) or the White Terror campaign in the fifties. Chiang inherited them when Taiwan fell into his lap following the Second World War; they were in place long before he thrust himself upon the island. It is worth pointing out that one of the incompetent governors he assigned to Taiwan in the late forties, namely Chen Yi (陳儀), was indeed executed in Taiwan on June 18, 1950, but Chiang wasn't resuming power from him. Chen had been canned prior to this time and had relocated to China. Chiang simply had him dragged back to Taiwan because he suspected Chen was up to something.

I have to say this though -- the above painting is pretty good.

4/13/2012

Jinguashi, Taiwan


POW Camp Memorial, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
I wrote this story about Jinguashi (金瓜石) for Culture Taiwan. My family went there a couple of weeks ago. Here's the link: http://goo.gl/9N78u

4/09/2012

Wenzao College Student Protest Is Misguided

Last week, the Taipei Times ran a story on the dress code of Wenzao College, which is situated in Greater Kaohsiung, Taiwan: http://goo.gl/uOXAX. In it, the writer addresses the frustration of local students with the code but ignores their prejudice towards foreign students and ethnocentrism in taking a stance. So, I will briefly address these issues for him because I think his piece is problematic.

The report starts by covering the reaction of students at Wenzao to these words, posted on the school's front gates:  "The campus is a formal location [whatever that means] of learning and we [who?] ask that students comply with the following rules -- Please do not wear flip-flops, hot-pants, or revealing clothing on campus." It seems Wenzao's students, at least some of them, do not like being told how to dress. This is understandable. What should be important is that students do their homework, participate in classes, show respect for their teachers and peers, etc. Who gives a crap if they're wearing flip-flops or hot-pants? If anything, the school is showing disrespect to them by questioning their fashion sense and making a statement about their attitude.

Here's where the story gets annoying: "However some students complained that the school was being selective in its target audience, pointing out that the notice, written entirely in Chinese, was targeted at Taiwanese students rather than accompanied by an English version for foreign students, who some students said are the main culprits when it comes to violating the dress code." Really? I just don't get it. Where in this notice does it say that? Furthermore, where does it say "foreign students do not read this and do not heed this?"

Actually, I do get it. The protesters are assuming if you are not Taiwanese, you cannot read (or speak) Chinese. That is misguided because it shows prejudice -- a judgment we pass on another without first knowing them -- and ethnocentric behavior. I for a fact know it's ethnocentric behavior because I just went down to Greater Kaohsiung this morning and interviewed the same students as the Taipei Times. They reiterated their complaints that "the school was being selective in its target audience." Then they told me Chinese is the most difficult language in the world and only Chinese and Taiwanese people (like them) were smart enough to learn it.

While I was in Greater Kaohsiung, I stopped by the admissions office to get the school calendar. On page 2,553, I read the following:

II. Center of Chinese Language
Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages is Taiwan's only college of foreign languages. We have Taiwan's most advanced audiovisual center, equipped with instructional videos and audio tapes, and multifunctional language labs. The Center of Chinese Language is one of the newest divisions in Wenzao, focusing on language and cultural exchange between the Chinese and peoples from other nations. Our instructors are speakers of Mandarin, well-trained and highly experienced in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. With the guidance of these teachers, students soon master practical Chinese, adapt to life in Taiwan and are able to appreciate the many aspects of Chinese culture.

In other words, the next time you want to assume somebody can't do something based on the color of their skin, protesters, please don't. And stop talking trash about the teaching abilities of the instructors at your school.  BTW, good job, Taipei Times. Nice little piece of race-baiting in the "foreign students get away with murder and don't understand our ways, so we're angry" angle.