Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Preview of the Lantern Festival

From March 4..... yes, I know I am still greatly "behind" in the blog, especially since I visited Taitung, Hualien, Taroko Gorge, and Ilan on my days off in April and took photos until my camera broke. I will be posting photos of those soon. The Lantern Festival will have to come first. My job has taken priority though as I have had to give professional development workshops to Taiwanese teachers recently (and coming up). Here are a few photos from the Lantern Festival which was a major event in Chiayi County. The day I attended was the main event, but the festival went on for quite some time before and after March 4th. More photos will come soon. (or at least at some time in the future)

A Few More From the Aboriginal Village

One thing that surprised me about the Aboriginal Village was in how much it reminded me of other cultures, particularly some of the indigenous cultures of North America. It was more than a similarity in the weavings, carvings and clay pots. Many of the tools were similar, and the baskets. There are also differences, particularly in the construction of housing, which I found fascinating. There is no question that I felt a strength from this culture (or mix of cultures) that is quite separate from the culture predominate to Taiwan. It was as if I had left the Chinese traditions at the entrance to the village and now was captivated by something far more familiar and "earthy" or "of nature." By this I mean that in the aboriginal cultures here, it was common for people to be craftspeople.... to make the things they needed and to make them with great care and skill be self sufficient in such a way that they had risen above "survival" into a culture (cultures) which created aesthetic tools, utilities, clothing, housing and other items. In my way of thinking, this represents a culturally rich society that provides its people with the opportunity to learn skills and create, when this goes beyond what is needed for survival. This is not to say that the Chinese here in Taiwan do not create on a level which might be expected within all or most families, but it is my opinion that Chinese might possibly limit creativity to a chosen few. While education is almost a 24 hour a day pursuit, at least with the young, and some skills are widely learned, creativity is not valued or recognized as easily. The ability to replicate what an ancient master has created centuries ago seems to be the goal in crafts and arts. An exception is in dance, which I have mentioned before in this blog.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

February 12. Most of my life I have been fascinated by cultural history of people in general and people as individuals. I'm not sure why ancient clothing, buildings, tools, implements, or other relics and artifacts can so totally absorb my attention, but they can. My curiosity is insatiable when it comes to "knowing" about how these ancients lived. Every little knot or curve or "way of doing a thing" is a clue as to how people survived, how and what they created and who they were. It is incredulous to me that the arts are not valued in much of America when the arts of a culture are often the main, if not the "only" evidence we have of who these people were and what they knew, how they thought and lived among themselves as well as with others. So.... the aboriginal village was a delight for me. Unfortunately, it was too much to take in during the time we had allowed for the village, so I will likely need to go back one day to see more. There are two things I should explain. First, the aboriginal people only make up about 2% of the population currently living in Taiwan and of those 2% there are at least 10 different tribes of aboriginal people. Second, this IS Taiwan where they believe in going "all out" when they do anything... so the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village not only includes highly informative educational background on each of the tribes represented, but also has interwoven an amusement park throughout the area of the village. Personally, I can't quite rationalize the experience of two so completely different tourist attractions, but who am I to criticize? It works for the Taiwanese. Come to think of it, Cedar Point Amusement Park back in Ohio also has areas where frontier exhibits and simulations are given. You will see a few photos here of the village. Next post I may even give a little background on the tribes, which spoke Austronesian languages and represent Malay-Polynesian cultures physically. Several of my students have done reports for me on the Aboriginal people of Taiwan and I have learned quite a bit about the differences in the tribes from those reports. heh-heh, one of the tribes had so many more men than women that the women were able to pick and chose on a daily basis if needed. If the wife got tired of the man she just threw him out and they were "divorced." heh-heh. Those husbands didn't sit back and expect to be waited on hand and foot, either. Nor did they go off in search of younger, more attractive women. I can't imagine what that must have been like as a society, but I would like to know more. On a side note, think about this: because China has a "1 child" policy, and in China, (as in most cultures) a male child is much more highly valued than a female child, promoting abortions of females, what will this mean to the future of society in China? Because The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is located in Nantou County, on the edge of Sun Moon Lake, it is the area of the Thao tribe of indigenous people. Up until the 19th century, the Thao tribe claimed the area of Sun Moon Lake completely. Not surprisingly though, Chinese began to enter the area and the diseases they brought with them began to claim the lives and the power of the Thao tribe. (sound familiar?) Many Thao began to leave the lake area for more remote and safe areas. To make matters worse for the Thao, the Japanese found Sun Moon Lake to be a resource they wanted during their occupation of Taiwan. While the Japanese were quite industrious in Taiwan, in this case making hydroelectric development for Nantou, it did serve to disrupt more the the Thao from the area and caused a major relocation for the few remaining tribespeople.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sun Moon Lake

February 12. Oh, I did like Sun Moon Lake. I hired a taxi to take 4 of us to Nantou County and then over to Lukang. The taxi from 7 in the morning to 7 at night cost me $4500NT dollars.... around $125-$130 US dollars, less than the train fare would have been for the four of us, and certainly more time to spend in Nantou. Myra, a foreign teacher from Chiayi County joined Jennifer, RJ and I on the adventure. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned my "cab driver, Clark" before... He speaks English and is a wonderful person. He even drives defensively, a unique trait for Taiwan. He's helped me out of a few jams in the past when I was riding with other cab drivers who don't speak English and couldn't understand my poor Chinese. In early March I hired him to take me to the Lantern Festival in Taibao. I was completely impressed with the way he was able to slip through the restricted area and drop me off at just the perfect place to view the sites. He even got me a map of the area and although there was no way I could have had him come pick me up after the festival, (far too many people) he promised to come back and hunt for me if I ran into trouble. Clark's efforts definitely helped make the Sun Moon Lake memorable. The early morning scenery was great despite the overcast skies. Although it was a bit late to capture any sunrise, the valley and the mountain off in the distance tranfixed me. At Sun Moon Lake we went into a Starbucks (yes, Taiwan has many Starbucks coffee houses) and downed enough coffee to set our attention to the task at hand...a ride out to the island in the middle of the lake. By the way, this lake has quite a history behind it, including aboriginal territory rights and nearly complete devastation by the earthquake in 1999. Because the earthquake leveled most of the buildings around the lake, the government granted the area large amounts of funding to rebuild. Therefore, most of the buildings here are new. A few of the temples survived the earthquake. The quake even destroyed some of the forests, trails and roads. There is a Chiang Kai-shek museum here, but we never made it to that area of the lake.