Lost in Keelung

As if the problem of romanising street signs in Taiwan wasn’t already bad enough, it seems that in Keelung (基隆) the situation is even worse. The problem is not over the use of Tongyong Pinyin, MPS 2 or any other variation that might be used in Taiwan. In Keelung some streets have their names romanised using the Taiwanese* pronunciation.

Yesterday’s Taipei Times has a story and photo. The article goes on to say:

Forget about asking the local residents for directions, though — chances are they won’t have a clue as to which road’s name you’re trying to spit out.

“I think street names using Taiwanese [romanization] are unhelpful to both foreigners and locals,” said Chang Chia-ming (張家銘), an employee at the Keelung Visitor Information Center.

“I’ve seen a lot of foreigners ask for directions [according to street signs’ Taiwanese romanization],” Chang said. “I can’t understand them. I have to think for a while before I finally guess which road they’re referring to.”

I am all for the promotion of the Taiwanese language, but I don’t think this is a very good way to go about it. The article says there are “historical and cultural factors” for using Taiwanese romanisation, but doesn’t explain what these factors are. Of course there are historical and cultural reasons why just about any street in Taiwan could have its name written in Taiwanese romanisation. However, the rest of Taiwan seems content using romanised forms of the Mandarin pronunciation. The only problem being the use of several different systems of romanisation.

What Taiwan really needs is a single standard system and ideally that system should be Hanyu Pinyin. However, it seems that every municipality seems to use whatever system it pleases without thought about how it actually works in practice.

* Taiwanese refers to Hoklo or Minnan. In Chinese 台語 or 閩南語.

Tomb Sweeping Day

Yesterday was a day when most Taiwanese packed their family in the car and headed for the hills. Tomb Sweeping Day is the day when Taiwanese respect their ancestors by visiting their graves. They will clean the grave, burn ghost money and offer fruit and incense.

Hillside tombs

These tombs dot hillsides all over Taiwan. For the most part they are rarely visited, but on this day they were a hive of activity. People clear the vegetation that has grown over the tombs and sweep out the dirt.

Keith and David with some ghost money

Later in the day we went to Nuandong Valley (暖東峽谷) near Badu. Places like this are one of the reasons I love Taiwan. This small valley was just ten minutes by car from Badu, but it could have been a million miles away from anywhere. It was late in the day when we arrived there. It was starting to rain a little and the weather had turned cold. The light wasn't very good for taking photos, but the two shots below were the best ones I took. They show where the river runs through a small gorge.

shot of nunadong valley

Nuandong Valley (暖東峽谷)

nuandong valley scenery

Nuandong Valley (暖東峽谷)

Although I went there by car, bus 306 from Keelung terminates at the entrance to the valley.