Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday night short shorts

I got a set of 3 Meike extension tubes (NT$2100) today. Fried tofu, up close.

Don't forget, tonight is the Perseid Meteor shower. It seems here in the Chung we are under clouds all night. In all my years here this has been the crappiest summer ever: cold, wet, and cloudy. I guess Taipei is getting revenge on us for enjoying good weather all those years....

I stumbled across this interesting post on religion in Taiwan. It has some good discussion of the way religious believers are counted in Taiwan -- did you ever hear of BAROC? -- and then talks about institutions:
Although Catholicism [天主教] is a minority religion in Taiwan, it is massively institutionalized: in 2011, Taiwan was home to 9 Catholic Hospitals, 7 Catholic Clinics, 16 Catholic Middle Schools, and 142 Catholic Kindergardens and Nursery Schools (exceeding the number of Buddhist institutions in every category mentioned; see the charts for some other examples). This type of institutional depth probably produces paperwork documenting the membership of a larger proportion of their followers. Religions, also, will vary as to their requirements for people to "enroll" to receive various rites of passage (and, again, the litigious nature of baptism, marriage, etc., in the Catholic tradition is a point of contrast).

The raw data for the number of religious institutions (shown here as eight pie-charts) can be misleading in many ways: there is no correlation between the number of institutions and their number of beneficiaries. 10 small schools may have fewer students than 1 large one, and so on for the number of patients in hospitals, or the number of homeless people assisted by a shelter. There are nevertheless a few interesting facts that seem to leap off of the page here. The focus of Catholicism on early childhood education is an interesting contrast to the emphasis that Taiwanese Daoism (apparently) places on retirement homes for the elderly, and "welfare foundations" (presumably for the poor?). The underwhelming performance of Buddhism in all categories is self-evident.
I got to wondering about the numbers. There are 6 Tzu Chi hospitals alone but I couldn't think of any other "Buddhist" hospitals in Taiwan. Then I got to thinking about how "religious hospital" is defined in a way that benefits Christianity here -- after all, many Chinese medicine clinics apply spiritual principles in their healing practices. So are we really looking at a performance of Buddhism that is underwhelming, or a performance of Buddhism that is so completely diffused that we can't see it?

Le Monde has a pretty good article on Taiwan's fading Chinese identity.... with a couple of nice quotes:
For Wu Chi-chung, professor in political science at the Soochow University in Taipei: "after every presidential election, the feeling of Taiwanese identity becomes stronger. It's as if the act of voting, even for a candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT; the party in power), pushes the Taiwanese people to feel even more Taiwanese." In the eyes of younger generations, Taiwanese democracy, which has been reinforced by five presidential elections, has contributed to creating a common identity.
The reality is that the "Chinese" identity that overlaid the identities of the locals was a faux creation of the KMT, just as fakey as its mock Ming architecture. It could never last because it was founded on nothing but political propaganda. But this quote above nicely illustrates how Taiwanese have incorporated democratic practices into their evolving local identity, how valuable democracy is. The real "Chinese" identity of Taiwanese -- languages, religious practice, arts, cooking -- these are alive and well and also evolving. Which is another reason the KMT "Chinese" identity faded -- determined by diktat, it contained neither potential nor provision for its own authentic evolution at the hands of the people.

The staidly Establishment TISR, the old social survey unit of Global Views, allegedly shut down after KMT pressure in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election when it reported that Tsai was leading Ma, reports that independence is the long-term goal of a majority, 55.4%. These numbers are probably too low....

FocusTaiwan has an article on a call from the European Chamber of Commerce for Taiwan to make itself more attractive to foreign investors. The ECCT had some good suggestions for the island to go low carbon...and then:
The ECCT also said that although Taiwan provides a standard of living, the availability of English and other foreign language channels on cable TV is very poor.

For example, James said the local cable TV company servicing Taipei's upscale Xinyi District, where he lives, produces a limited number of English language channels, compared with cities in Malaysia and Singapore, where he lived previously.

Over the past 12 months, James said he has lost Star World, Universal and Diva Universal TV, which carry many popular English language TV shows, such as "American Idol" and "Law and Order."
Heartbreaking, eh? We haven't had cable TV since the 1990s. In those days it was illegal and service was excellent and the number of channels offered was enormous. Anyway, try the internet, it has a much better selection than your cable company....
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

Foreigners need to understand that when Taiwanese speak of independence or identity, we are speaking about political identity. Many white people I’ve spoken to are shocked to learn that TI folks send their kids to weekend Chinese school, that two longtime FAPA board members run Chinese language schools, that the current most widely used primary Mandarin curriculum was commissioned by Chen Shui Bian, and that even arch-Japanese collaborators like the Koos studied the Chinese classics during the Japanese period. Just as you have to walk a fine line to make sure criticizing the policies of the Israeli government does not become an anti-Semitic attack, you also have to be careful in making sure criticism of the PRC or the KMT does not become an anti-Chinese rant. I know well meaning foreigners who try to ingratiate themselves with TI folks by bashing all things Chinese. Taiwanese are by nature too polite to tell you that you are an ignorant fool that believes the pan blue bs about desinification, but I can assure you that you won’t win many TI friends by doing that.

Anonymous said...

Many Taiwanese may have a better understanding of who they are now. But often they still speak and think from kmt Chinese perspective not from Taiwan perspective. I think in order for this to change it is going to take a lot of work from school, media and family.

Anonymous said...

I always come for the Taiwan commentary and find the photography to be a useful bonus.
Can you comment on your new Meikes? Are they entirely plastic? Do they support autofocus? Any general advice on choosing a set of extension tubes?

LoveTravelingTaiwan said...

En Chu Kong(恩主公)Hospital is a Taoism hospital which is built by Hsing Tian Kong (台北行天宮)

Michael Turton said...

Can you comment on your new Meikes? Are they entirely plastic? Do they support autofocus? Any general advice on choosing a set of extension tubes?

yes and yes on AF. But I find that they focus so close that I end up focusing simply by moving the camera back and forth. They are almost too powerful with all three tubes on. So with all three tubes in AF is basically useless anyway. DOF is a tiny slice even at very high F. Also, you'll need to get a flash, like a ring flash. I'm working on a bullshit flash diffuser involving paper towel roll tubes. Expect photos here soon.

The build is light but precise, they pop on and off the camera without hesitation but there does not seem to be slump or sag at all. So I am quite happy with the build quality.


Anonymous said...


Would you term families like the Liens as Chinese collaborators? Why or why not?

Anonymous said...

Good points about religion. I would point out that the notion that a religious group ought to found such things as hospitals or schools, is specifically a Christian tradition (which influenced Master Zhengyan, by her own admission). The figures would look very different if we were to examine, for example, the number of fortune tellers in each religion. Your remarks about Chinese medicine touch upon the theme of what is known as "implicit religion."

The MOI does publish figures for the different religions, which I would take with a grain of salt. For example, many of the "Buddhists" and "Daoists" turn out to be following the same religion, i.e. the Chinese folk religion. Meanwhile, the figures for Catholicism are (I am informed) about twice as high as the effective participation rates. I assume something similar is true of Protestantism.

There is also a regular survey of religious experience and practice (Zheng Da is one of the sponsors), which is generally more prevalent than religious affiliation. In other words, many people who profess to be irreligious, but report various religious experiences and practices.

Tim Maddog said...

One reason the TISR poll number is too low is that it still divides "independence" into too many slices, and it ignores the fact that the "status quo" is (de facto) independence.

Here's a 2011 Taiwan National Security Survey, which made something clearer:
- - -
Q2. If the act of declaring independence will not cause Mainland [sic] China to attack Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan independence?

Not Favor: 18.4%[;] Favor: 74.1%[;] NA: 7.5%

- - -

Tim Maddog

Jerome Besson said...

Anon, your obvious slant on things and people Taiwanese or Japanese betrays your origins. I assume from your tone that as the offspring of 1949 refugees, you were shielded from the real Taiwan, that mere stepping stone to a green card.

As a Caucasian who lived in Martial Law Taipei, I can testify to the Japanese heart of the Taiwanese. Their pining for Japan - their mother country they were so gruesomely estranged from sixty seven years ago - was real and touched my heart deeply.