Tag Archives: culture

Visiting Taiwan – Experiencing Hakka Culture in Beipu

17 Oct

Beipu Old Street (北埔老街)offers visitors a collection of local Hakka delicacies.

Although the vast majority of Taiwan’s population is Han Chinese (indigenous people make up only about 2% of the population) there are still many sub-divisions of this group living on the island.  One of the biggest groups is the Hakka people.  Hakka people represent about 20% of Taiwan’s population and although you will find them all around the island, the majority still live in the hills of Miaoli, Hsinchu and Kaohsiung Counties.  The Hakka people are believed to originally be from the Central Chinese mountains, but the emigrated south to the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, and from there some made their way to Taiwan.  Although, they are similar to the Hoklo people who make up 70% of Taiwan’s population, they also differ in many ways and have very distinct clothing, architecture and cuisine as well as their own language.

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Taiwan Stories – What is in a name? The etymology of Taiwan’s towns

28 Sep
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When I first arrived in Taipei I had a terrible time with place names, often a complete inability to pronounce certain places in a way that a Mandarin speaker could understand. Many places have very similar names (Shulin 樹林 and Shilin 士林 confused me for a long time) and the complete mess that is the Romanization system makes it a nightmare for many a new arrival. But, of course, after a while I got used to the names and now the likes of Ximending or Zhongxiao Dunhua are as familiar to me as Piccadilly or Greenwich.

A few years after I arrived as I begun to push my Chinese studies beyond being able to order a bacon danbing (a kind of bacon and egg pancake) for breakfast, I began to become quite intrigued by the names given to towns and cities. Most people here have probably pondered why there is a Taipei 台北 (North), Taidong 台東 (East) and a Tainan 台南 (South) but no Taixi 台西 (West).  Well, actually there is a Taixi (in Yunlin County) it is just not as big or famous as it’s brothers.

At the time I was living in Xindian, which means new store in Mandarin and this seemed a really bizarre choice of name for a city. So I asked my Chinese teacher and a few local friends without much luck, so I decided to do some research. At first, I was a little disappointed to find out that the name Xindian was actually because a new store was built where the city is now and the name just stuck. However I kept looking through for other place names and what I found was fascinating, and I ended up spending hours on end reading up about these stories. Whenever I found somewhere new that had an interesting name I would go back and check up to see where the name originated.

Here are a few of the more interesting ones that I have come across…

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Taiwan Stories – Coffin-hunting in Tainan

6 Sep
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“When you go there, you absolutely must try (insert local delicacy)” is a phrase that every foreign resident in Taipei must have heard countless times. A few years back the Taiwan government came up with a new idea for promoting travel within the island. As such, each county promoted a snack for which it is famous for – a self-fulfilling prophecy thanks to the government promotion. Nowadays, whenever I mention to a Taiwanese co-worker that I am going away for the weekend, they will insist that I try out these famous snacks. I usually scoff at the idea (mostly because similar products are available everywhere) but perhaps I have underestimated the power of food! On this particular weekend I was heading for a long awaited trip to Taiwan’s former capital, Tainan, and the snack I was searching for – the less-than-enticingly named Coffin Bread.

Coffin Bread

Basically, coffin bread is a very thick slice of bread that is coated with egg and then deep-fried. Then the coffin-like case is cut open and filled with a kind of seafood chowder. Tempted?

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NaMaXia (Formerly known as Sanmin)

17 Nov

Tea Mountain - Sea of Clouds

This is an excerpt from “Two Weeks Around Taiwan” a motorcycling trip around the island that my brother and I did in the Winter of 2008.

 After quite possibly the worst drive of our lives the previous day, we arrived at Sanmin township in surprisingly good spirits. This was mostly down to the best hot spring of our lives that we had at the end of the drive! I don’t know if there is something special about the hot spring water in Baolai or if it was just the sheer pleasure of finally being out of the cold and driving rain that made the hot spring incredibly relaxing and satisfying. Whatever it was, we were both pleased that we could feel our extremities once more and as if to emulate the perk in our moods, the sun finally decided to come out to play, too!

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