The naming of "New North City"

On 25 December this year Taipei County will be upgraded to a special municipality. The Chinese-language name of the new municipality will be Xīnběi Shì (新北市). About a month ago I sent an e-mail to Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei enquiring about the official English name of the new municipality but received no reply. A story in today’s Taipei Times provides some answers though.

According to the article Yang Yi-te (楊義德), the Commissioner of Taipei County’s Department of Civil Affairs , said the County Government chose “Xinbei City” as the official name because “New Taipei City” would be too similar to Taipei City.

The Taipei Times also reported on a group of Tongyong Pinyin advocates protesting against the use of the Hanyu Pinyin “Xinbei”. Chang Shu-feng (張淑芬), director of Taiwan Pinyin League, said the government should use “Sinbei City” or “New Taipei City” as the English name. The article also says a final decision on the English name of the city will be made by the Taipei County Council in September. Continue reading “The naming of "New North City"”

International students in Taiwan


Two articles recently published on contain some useful information and advice for foreign students studying in Taiwanese universities.

Jeana Jack, a student at NCCU, has written a survival guide for international students that is full of good advice. She discusses choosing a university, learning Mandarin, finding a place to live and other important things.

I had lived in Taiwan for several years before I became a full-time student here so this made adjusting to university life quite easy. I imagine it must be more difficult for people who have just arrived in Taiwan and have to simultaneously deal with adjusting to life in a foreign country and starting a university course.

The second article was written by me. I interviewed three students from different backgrounds about their experiences studying Mandarin in Taiwan. They talk about the positives and negatives of language learning in Taiwan as well as giving some advice about learning Mandarin. The most common advice for successfully learning Mandarin is that you need a lot of patience.

*photo from used under Creative Commons licence.

Promoting Taiwan's tourism potential

Lonely Planet author Robert Kelly has written a great article about Taiwan’s tourism potential in the latest Taiwan Journal. He notes the increasing number of tourists to Taiwan, mainly from Asia. He also points out that niche tourism such as hiking and bird watching is attracting more visitors.

Another interesting article, from Reuters correspondent Ralph Jennings, reports on the promotion of bicycle tourism on the east coast. It is a good example of the things Kelly writes about being put into action.

Kelly concludes his article by noting that there is still room for improvement in promoting Taiwan to Westerners.

the 2008-09 report states that international travel bloggers will be invited to Taiwan to write about its attractions. Yet Taiwan already has many dedicated and highly informed foreign bloggers. On their own, these people are getting the word out about Taiwan’s appeal to thousands. Harnessing their enthusiasm, and giving them a little official boost, can only help to spread the message even further.

It is an important point because the English language websites and web based promotion of the tourist industry is often poorly done. As far as I know there have never been any attempt by the Tourism Bureau to engage with local English-language bloggers. Kelly’s own blog, Pashan, does a far better job than any government website for promoting hiking in Taiwan. The same could be said for a number of other Taiwan bloggers who communicate their passion for the island through writing and photos on their blogs.

Anecdote from APEC

I have mentioned on this blog a few times before that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks Mandarin and once studied in Taiwan. This interesting little anecdote comes from a Taiwan News article reporting on Lien Chan’s trip to the APEC Conference in Peru.

On a side note, Lien mentioned that he noticed Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd being asked by Chinese President Hu Jintao why he chose Taiwan rather than China to study Chinese.

Rudd replied that China did not offer scholarships to foreigners to study the language while Taiwan did.

I am very curious to know whether Kevin Rudd also chatted with Lien Chan at the meeting and what was said.

ChinesePod goes to Taipei

ChinesePod has just published an intermediate lesson about Taipei. 

The conversation talks about Taipei 101, the National Palace Museum and night markets. John and Jenny then discuss some key points of the conversation and also point out some differences in usage between Taiwan and China.

I don’t subscribe to ChinesePod but occasionally listen to their upper intermediate and advanced lessons. I think their content is quite good especially for providing comprehensible listening input. The podcast mentions that they have many listeners in Taiwan.

If you are observant you may also have noticed a link to the Mandarin Chinese iPod phrasebook at the bottom of the posts. This is free content published by World Nomads Travel Insurance which is one of the affiliate programs I have on this blog. The files are configured for iPod. I don’t own an iPod but if you have one and have downloaded the phrasebook let me know what you think.

On the campaign trail

Ma and Siew campaign poster with interesting use of Chinese characters for the 2008 election

Today I went to check out some of the campaign activities for the 2008 Taiwan Presidential Election. My first stop was the tent which had recently been set up on a vacant block near Xindian City Hall to promote Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the KMT candidate. I was told KMT Vice-Presidential candidate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) will attend a rally there on Saturday morning.

The photo above makes an interesting play on words. 馬到成功 (mǎdào-chénggōng) is an idiom meaning "to achieve success". 馬 (Mǎ) is also the family name of Ma Ying-jeou. Hence it gives a meaning of something like "Ma will be a success". Another slogan making a similar play on words being used by the KMT is 馬上救經濟 (mǎshāng jiù jīngjì) meaning "rapidly rescue the economy" or as they would like to suggest, "Ma will rapidly rescue the economy".

Taiwan definitely wins Ma vs Hsieh 2008

Another interesting use of Chinese characters is Hsieh and Ma both using the same slogan. The image on the left comes from Ma's campaign poster, while the one on the right is a screenshot from Hsieh's website. Both say 台灣一定贏 (Táiwān yīdìng yíng) meaning "Taiwan definitely wins". However Hsieh's version has substituted the 一 () in 一定 (yīdìng) with the number one representing his number on the ballot paper. Ma is number two on the ballot.

Frank Hsieh DPP 2008 Presidential campaign centre in Taipei

Next stop was DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's campaign centre on Chang'an East Road in Taipei, which was also recently visited by blogger Prince Roy. The centre has a full range of merchandise on sale. After purchasing a cap I was invited to sit down for a cup of tea. 

David at a DPP rally in Taipei, 21 Feb 2008

A little while later I was asked to join a rally at Yuanhuan (圓環) and we went there by taxi. The rally was only small with a few hundred people and as all the speeches were in Hoklo Taiwanese I didn't really have much idea what was going on. I am in the picture above with Taipei City Councilor Li Wen-ying (李文英). 

image of Freddy Lim and Frank Hsieh in the DPP’s youth campaign headquarters in Taipei City

On the way home I stopped by the DPP's youth campaign headquarters near the Taipower Building on Roosevelt Road. The youth campaign is being led by Freddy Lim, leader of the band Chthonic, whose UNlimited Taiwan music video was previously featured on this blog. There weren't many people there when I visited but they have activities on most evenings. You can check for more information.

Prince Roy established the Taiwan Presidential Election 2008 group at flickr which has more photos from the campaign. The election is on 22 March and there will be plenty more campaign activities before then. 

Freedom at last

Freedom Square - four characters just installed on the gate of Taiwan Democracy Hall, 8 Dec 2007

I saw the characters of 大中至正 taken down from the main gate of Taiwan Democracy Hall last night. Then tonight at 6:30pm the final one of the four characters 自由廣場  meaning “Freedom Square”, was put in place. They seemed to spend a lot of time adjusting the right hand part of the 場 into position. It still looks a bit wrong to my eyes.

Expect further controversy about this issue. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with aesthetics. I have already heard several people criticise the choice of script. I am no expert on this, but I welcome other’s comments.

A few other bloggers have also published their opinions and photos. Alton writes about the change. Poagao also has his say. And there were plenty of comments on my post about the issue yesterday.

Four characters removed from Democracy Hall

Main gate of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, 9:37pm 6 Dec 2007

9:37pm, 6 December 2007

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 4:52pm 7 Dec 2007

4:52pm, 7 December 2007 

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 5:26pm 7 Dec 2007

5:26pm, 7 December 2007

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 5:28pm 7 Dec 2007

5:28pm, 7 December 2007

Just before darkness fell on Taipei City this evening two workmen completed the removal of the four characters 大中至正 (dàzhōng zhìzhèng) from the main gate of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (國立臺灣民主紀念館). It was the latest step in the renaming of the Hall. Back in May the central government changed the name from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念館) to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. The four characters on the main gate also refer to Chiang Kai-shek. The government plans to replace them with 自由廣場 (zìyóu guǎngchǎng), which means Freedom Square.  

Lines of media satellite news vans at the main gate on Taiwan Democracy Hall on 7 Dec 2007

A crowd of a few hundred people and a huge media contigent gathered to watch the historic occassion. There was a small number protesting the change, while the vast majority were either in support or just wanting to witness the moment. There was also a large police presence and they formed a wall across the middle of the area in front of the gate. The red and blue protesters were kept on one side and the green supporters on the other.

A few other bloggers have commented on the name change. Michael Turton has written about AFP reporting on the issue. At Taiwan Matters Feiren has a post on the incident yesterday were several people were hit by a truck and one person was seriously injured. Spinning the Globe witnessed the incident. Tim Maddog also has some comments about this and other issues. 

Earlier this year I wrote about some of my ideas for transforming the space around the Hall. However, I know that many people in Taipei have a sense of attachment to the Hall. While I support the removal of the references to Chiang Kai-shek, I think more thought could have been given to the new names and there should have been some sort of process of consultation. Your comments and opinions are most welcome on this blog!