A tale of two nations

It might seem hard to imagine now but 20 years ago there were many similarities between the political situation in Taiwan and China. Both countries had an authoritarian polity with strict controls on freedom of speech. On university campuses the party-state (KMT or CCP) maintained tight control over student organisations and political activities. The situation in Taiwan was less repressive and there was a formal opposition movement in the DPP.

In The Perils of Protest, Teresa Wright makes a comparative study of the 1989 student protests in Beijing and the March 1990 Wild Lily Student Movement in Taipei. She examines in detail the organisational and decision making behaviour of the students. The actions taken by the students in Beijing and Taipei had many similarities including the launching of hunger strikes and separation of students from non-students during protests. Continue reading “A tale of two nations”

Book review: Framing the Bride

Cover of Framing the BrideFraming the Bride: Globalizing Beauty and Romance in Taiwan’s Bridal Industry by Bonnie Adrian is a fascinating anthropological study of Taiwan’s wedding photo industry. It also takes a broader look at the rites associated with marriage in contemporary Taiwan and the roles of women in society.

The author first became interested in the bridal photos while a language student in Taipei in the early 1990s and researched the book while on a Fulbright scholarship.

Most people in Taiwan will have at least some familiarity with the wedding photo industry. For those that have been married then that understanding may be quite intimate from having had wedding photos taken of themselves. For others then there would at least be a passing familiarity through seeing friend’s photos or watching couples being photographed in parks or other locations. No matter what the readers level of familiarity with the subject this book will reveal new insights. Continue reading “Book review: Framing the Bride”

Some more books about Taiwan

cover of Democracy\'s Dharma by Richard MasdenDemocracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan is a new book by Richard Madsen. Madsen was formerly ordained in the Maryknoll Order which brought him to Taiwan in the late 1960s. He later left the order for an academic career. He is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of California.

Democracy’s Dharma studies four religious groups in Taiwan. Three of them are Buddhist: Fo Guang Shan (佛光山), Tzu Chi (慈濟) and Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山). The other is the Taoist group of Xingtian Temple (行天宮). It is based on the thesis that these groups have contributed to the development of democracy and civil society in Taiwan. Robert Green has reviewed the book in the July 2008 Taiwan Review. Continue reading “Some more books about Taiwan”

Tony Wheeler in Taiwan

Tony Wheeler speaks during a presentation at the Taipei Book Fair on 16 Feb 2008

After visiting the Taipei Book Fair on Thursday (14 February) I returned on Saturday to attend Tony and Maureen Wheeler's presentation "Once While Travelling." Tony talked about his experiences travelling and building up the Lonely Planet business with his wife Maureen.

All this is discussed in his book Once While Travelling which has now been published in Chinese (title: 當我們旅行) for the Taiwanese market. He also talked about his new book Bad Lands which has also been released in a Chinese translation (title: 險惡之旅). These are two of the Lonely Planet titles that have now been published in Chinese-language editions for Taiwan. The other eight titles are travel guides to various countries. 

A long Q&A session followed the talk and I asked Tony and Maureen how many times they had visited Taiwan. Tony replied that even though Lonely Planet Taiwan was in its seventh edition, more than twenty years since it was first published, this was his first visit to Taiwan. However, after the Book Fair he planned to stay in Taiwan to do some travelling. Tony has written about a day by day account of his travels around Taiwan on his blog. 

(If there are any more updates to Tony's blog I will add the links)

2008 Taipei Book Fair

Show me Australia Photography Competition at the 2008 Taipei Book Fair

The Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) is now on at the Taipei World Trade Centre. The theme of last year's exhibition was Russia and this year it is Australia. The exhibition is a major event for Asian publishers and there is a huge range of books on display. 

Tony and Maureen Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame being interviewed at the 2008 Taipei Book Fair

I was keen to see Tony Wheeler and lo and behold minutes after entering the hall I saw him being interviewed along with his wife Maureen at the Australian Pavillion. Other Australian authors attending the event include Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, and illustrator Shaun Tan.

Chinese-language editions of Lonely Planet books at the 2008 Taipei Book Fair

Lonely Planet now publishes Chinese-language editions of some of its guidebooks. I am sure Tony and Maureen Wheeler's visit to Taiwan will help raise the company's profile here.  

Shieh Jhy-wey the Taiwan GIO Minister in the Textbox at the Taipei Book Fair

Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) is pictured above in the Textbox. He is doing a rap in Hoklo Taiwanese (when he is not rapping he serves as the Minister for the GIO). This innovation (the Textbox not Shieh's rapping) was bought to Taipei from the Frankfurt Book Fair. It allows readers to get up close to an author. The author is in a glass box while the audience listens in via headphones. 

One book for NT$100 at the 2008 Taipei Book Fair

I only bought one book at the exhibition and it was a great bargain. It is at the bottom left-hand corner of the photo above. It is called 省錢環島遊 or Money Saving Guide Around Taiwan and cost just NT$100. It recommends lots of free and cheap things to do around Taiwan with maps and descriptions.  

Cute cosplay girl at 2008 Taipei Book Fair

Hall 2 of the TWTC is dedicated to anime and manga (comics or graphic novels). It was very lively with plenty of people buying up the latest manga. Hall 3 is for children's books. There is plenty to see and do there. 

The exhibition continues at the Taipei World Trade Centre until Monday 18 February. More information is available at the Taipei International Book Exhibition website.  

*more photos in the 2008 Taipei Book Fair photoset at flickr.  

Another Lonely Planet

cover of Lonely Planet Taiwan 7th editionWhen I first came to Taiwan back in 1999 I had a copy of the fourth edition of Lonely Planet Taiwan. I have since bought the fifth and sixth editions. The seventh edition of Lonely Planet Taiwan was published in November 2007 and I recently got a copy. 

The seventh edition was written by Robert Kelly and Joshua Samuel Brown, both long term residents of Taiwan. Robert Kelly also contributed to the sixth edition and Joshua is the author of Vignettes of Taiwan.  

Lonely Planet didn't just stick a new cover on an old book. The seventh edition has been extensively updated and includes some new places. The east coast section has been expanded with details of many of the interesting places between Taidong and Hualian as well as the expected coverage of these two cities. There is also more detailed coverage of Taiwan's islands. 

There are always a few places that will get left out of any guide book. Nanzhuang and Taipingshan were two that I thought were notable for their omission. However, I don't think this is such a bad thing. It still leaves a few interesting places for the traveller to discover and adds an element of surprise. There are also a number of places listed in the book that I had never heard of but am certainly curious to visit. The Danayigu Ecological Park is one. I suggest you read the book if you want to find out more. 

The coverage of hiking is great and there a range of hikes covered from easy walks that take a few hours to multi-day expeditions. I like the writing style of the with its many interesting little anecdotes.

There are plenty of maps, as is the standard for Lonely Planet guides. The map keys have place names written in English/Pinyin as well as Chinese characters. Names in the text also have pinyin with tone marks which should be useful for getting the pronunciation right. 

Overall, this is an excellent guide that would serve any traveller in Taiwan very well.

*purchase Lonely Planet Taiwan from Amazon.com

#also posted at Taiwanderful.  

All about Ang Lee

cover of The Cinema of Ang Lee by whitney dilleyThe Taipei Times today features not just one, but three articles about Ang Lee (李安). Bradley Winterton reviews The Cinema of Ang Lee, a new book by Whitney Crothers Dilley. Winterton calls the book "superb" and goes on to say,

This new book's essential characteristics are clarity, perceptiveness, sympathy and thoroughness. This is no coterie text for cineasts or crabbed work for academics. Instead, it's eminently clear-headed and lucid, covering all his films in detail, but also containing a perceptive and even profound overview of the inner nature of Lee's achievement.

Ron Brownlow profiles of the author of the book. Whitney Dilley is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Shih Hsin University (世新大學) and she also studied Mandarin in Taiwan for three years. Apart from her Taiwan credentials, she has another very interesting connection with Ang Lee. She grew up in the town in Connecticut where Ang Lee's film The Ice Storm was set. 

There is also an interview with Ang Lee conducted by Geoffrey MacNab of The Guardian. It focuses on the making of Lust, Caution and has some interesting comments about the different way Chinese and Western audiences might perceive and understand the film. 

*purchase The Cinema of Ang Lee from Amazon.com.