Erenlai - Women in Asia 亞洲新女性
Women in Asia 亞洲新女性

Women in Asia 亞洲新女性

How do Asian women challenge their continent’s model of development? Sharing stories and analyses about traditional societies and contemporary ways of life.




Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Cross Cultural Romance and Nationalism in Taiwan


The term Xicanmei [lit. Little sister who eats Western food], refers to women, born and bred in Taiwan, who have a preference for partners from Europe and America in terms of sexual relationships and dating.

I'm not denying that this phenomenon exists, however, I'd like to take it to a deeper level. Why, for instance, haven't we come up with terms such as Xicandi for younger men, or Xicanjie for older women or Xicange for older men? We shouldn't limit our gaze to younger Taiwanese women, we can widen it to other groups, there are lots of people who want to date foreigners, whether it be young women or young men and they don't necessarily have to be young either, maybe they're older, or maybe they're gay.

The reason that there is this focus on young women goes back to manipulation by the media, what the media have created is the image of a Taiwanese girl who is more open, who lives a little more unrestrained life. There are also implied stereotypes surrounding the foreign men with whom they form relationships.

When faced with this kind of manipulation by the media we should touch upon a certain issue and that is nationalism. The reflections on the issue they make, such as asking why Taiwanese women don't love Taiwanese men, basically puts private relationships into a nationalistic light, wherein the private relationship no longer belongs just to you, it belongs to your country, belongs to this or that community or group, so, you have to view your own relationship through the eyes of others.

So a big part of the reason we talk about Xicanmei and nationalism is because of media manipulation, however, if we look at those people who refer to themselves as Xicanmei, as we do come across people on the internet who refer to themselves as Xicanmei or they say that they're dating a foreigner, that they're engaging sexual relations with women or men, we can discover two things. The first is that a lot of it seems to be simply for dramatic effect, in the story they tell to validate themselves, they'll say, I liked dating foreigners from when I was young and which parts of the body is stimulated during intimate contact with the foreigners they dated, what nationalities they've been with – German, American, Italian or French – and how many people they've been with. They can often list them at will, every one. A woman might say she's been with 6 handsome men or pretty girls, for example, where each event happened, in what bars, or in what villas. I think that the Xicanmei phenomenon, first of all is a media construction that was later fleshed out by internet users, but we don't really know if their experiences are real, maybe they are. I've seen some blog posts online, and my feeling after reading a few of them is that, the idea of Xicanmei was a media creation, and this was interpreted in two ways by internet users. The first interpretation was to dramatize it, as I just mentioned. The second was to eroticize contact with foreigners. Why is it that we only ever talk about sexual contact? Can't we talk about negative aspects, like misunderstandings thrown up by language barriers and cultural differences? Or how these differences can be resolved, and friendship can be formed?

Xicanmei are representative of a phenomenon in Taiwan. When we talk about Taiwanese people making friends with foreigners, we always view it through a lens of eroticism. We should broaden the way that we see the interaction between Taiwanese and foreigners, for example, we can talk about business people from America or Europe who come to Taiwan to work for multinationals, those who come to Taiwan to learn the language or on exchange programs, or those who meet their Taiwanese partner abroad, whether it be their wife or their husband, and subsequently comes to live in Taiwan. This will give us a chance to reflect on the idea of Xicanmei, and maybe approach the issue from a different angle.

I did research into cross cultural weddings and romance between Taiwanese and French people, and what I discovered was that they're not as great as we make them out to be. Feelings start to develop between a foreigner and a Taiwanese man or woman, and perhaps the Taiwanese person will marry the foreigner, but I wanted to research how they make the relationship work once they are in a stable relationship. That's why I think that we shouldn't see relationships between Taiwanese and foreigners as one-night-stands or as short term sexual intimacy; but rather, we should look more deeply at how they negotiate longer term relationships and friendships.

The terminology used to suggest these relationships, with an image of girls who eat 'Western food' being used to represent Asian girls who date Western guys or the image of girls who eat 'Chinese food' being used to represent Asian girls who date Asian boys employs food as a metaphor for a country or a culture.

In Taiwan Western food is used to refer to food and drink habits that don't come from Taiwan's indigenous food culture itself, and through these food and drink activities, Taiwanese people come into contact with the world outside, so the idea of Western food can be interpreted as referring to this, and of course the idea of Xicanmei exists in other countries too. Abroad there are several terms for people who like Asians, by saying they like Chinese food, or rice. In Asia and the US, if someone is said to like Chinese food, or rice, it can mean in some contexts that they particularly like Asian men or women, and that they like to date Asian men or women. So the concept behind the term Xicanmei – literally 'Western food girls,' is not unique to Taiwan.

As to whether the idea of 'Western food' in reference to sexuality has any relation to nationalism, I would like to give a bit of background on Taiwanese politics in the past decade or so. We all know that, from 2000, when Chen Shuibian got into power, Taiwan's academic and political circles have been looking to take part in academic and political movements to build up Taiwanese nationalism. The political movement aimed at broadcasting the name "Taiwan" to the world, that is to say, not a desinification exactly, but just that the word "China" wouldn't be brought up as often in rhetoric. They tried their best to use the name "Taiwan" in all arenas, like food and drink, culture, or in terms of politics and diplomacy. You can see that even our passports, Taiwanese people's passports, emphasize the name Taiwan. In this context, over the last ten years or more, there's been a growing atmosphere in Taiwanese politics, so that the time has come where we can talk about Taiwanese nationalism. Of course, academic circles have also had a contribution, particularly in research in the social sciences. A common term that often comes up is national identity, in other words, if you mention anything to do with Taiwanese history, sociology or anthropology, I can guarantee, that the words "national identity" will appear very frequently. So why is this? It was the fruit of this atmosphere, this political climate, which formed under the name Taiwanese nationalism. After this nationalism arose, a binary opposition was produced as a result, that is Taiwan was posed against foreign countries. This kind of contrast is often oversimplified. The first simplification is of Taiwan itself, Taiwan is not just Taipei, it also comprises Taizhong, Gaoxiong, aboriginal cultures, Hoklo and Hakka. The other simplification was the idea of foreigners, "the West" so to speak, which is not just made up of the US. Even when talking about the US, there was a tendency to overlook the diverse range of communities there, the urban rural divide being just one example. A lot of "the West" would actually include Europe too, but in this kind of political climate, things often get simplified, in order to make Taiwanese nationalism seem more profound, or more influential, we simplify it to "Taiwan" and ignore the diversity of communities therein. If viewed through this lens, the implications of the term Xicanmei takes on a clearer image.

As to why we praise foreigners who eat food Taiwanese people don't normally expect them to eat. I have to say this has already been discussed a lot in anthropology. In anthropology, if an outsider, when eating with the tribe, doesn't like their food, this is of great significance, it's not just practical, but metaphorical too. The practical meaning is, that you accept someone else's invitation, and that you should put a bit of effort into accepting the kindness of other people, because other people have given you something, so you can't refuse it, that's the first thing.

The second aspect is, the metaphorical layer of meaning, and that is why food and drink affect such a large range of transactions. You accept other people's food, and you eat it, when you eat other people's food, it signifies that your body is taking the good will into your bloodstream; it's a symbol in anthropology. What's it is really saying, is that when you eat food that others offer you, it's a way of accepting something they've made an effort to prepare for you, to accept their good will. When they see that you've eaten what they offered you, they'll think that you're accepting their good will, and that will signify that you're a person that they can interact with successfully.

And if we go back to the Taiwanese media, and why they put so much effort into reporting when foreigners eat Taiwanese foods that they don't necessarily like, stinky tofu for example, or Taiwanese black pudding, or chicken feet, or any of the innards of pigs and chickens, it's because the media want to say, "Look! This foreigner is willing to try something that's not part of their food culture," and they'll interpret this as the foreigner making an effort to understand Taiwanese culture - not just paying lip service mind, but actually eating it.


Hot dog stand picture by byronv2.

Interview translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart with further editing by Daniel Pagan Murphy.

Also refer to eRenlai past Focus on Women and Nationalism, featuring this interview with several women and one men about the expression "xicanmei".


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Tale of Two Syrias

The Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival is a biannual festival, organized by the Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography and held in Taipei. I was very glad to attend this year’s festival, and over the five-day event I saw many interesting and inspiring films. One that immediately stood out for me was the documentary A Tale of Two Syrias.  I studied Arabic in Damascus, and later returned there for work, so for me the film had a very personal appeal. Nevertheless, A Tale of Two Syrias makes interesting viewing for anyone who wants to know more about the region.

The film switches between two locations and two people.  In Damascus, we follow the story of Salem, an Iraqi fashion designer who fled from Baghdad during the Iraq war and hopes to seek asylum in America.  In Mar Musa, a remote hillside monastery in the Syrian countryside, we follow Botrus, a Syrian monk.  The film weaves between these two stories to paint an intimate portrait of a country that despite the recent media coverage, most people know very little about.   By capturing the difficulties faced by ordinary Syrians in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and also their vision of a better, freer life in the future, in some ways the film pre-empts the current conflict.  However, through the beauty of Mar Musa and its inhabitants’ belief in inter-religious dialogue and mutual respect and tolerance, it also shows a vision of what that future Syria could be like.

I caught up with the director, Yasmin Fedda, whom I first met in Syria during my time there, and this is what she had to say:

eRenlai: It was great to see a film with a Middle East focus at the Taiwan Ethnographic Film Festival.  How did it happen?  Did they approach you?  Did you approach them?  What was the deal?

YF: I had heard of the Taiwan Ethnographic Film Festival through the Visual Anthropology networks that I am connected to, so I applied to them. They accepted, which was great!

eRenlai: Aside from your family links to the region, what was it that drew you to make a film about Syria?

 YF: At the time of filming, in 2010, there were still a very limited number of documentaries made in Syria, both by Syrians and internationals. I felt that it was important to make a film about regular- but unique- people's lives in a country that was largely misunderstood by the world's media.  

 eRenlai: "A Tale of Two Syrias" is an intriguing title. What are the "two Syrias" you tried to capture while you were filming? 

YF: I wanted to reflect the 2 stories of 2 individuals, the city and the country, the official and the unofficial, the before and the after.

eRenlai: Your film shows Syria through the perspective of two very different people, but nevertheless your two interviewees are both male, both Christian, and one of them is an Iraqi only recently arrived in Syria.  Why did you choose these two people in particular to represent the Syria of 2010?  Some people may question why you did not choose a Muslim or a female voice for example….

 YF: Good question. I realised after finishing it that some audiences have assumed that Salem, the Iraqi, is Christian, but in fact he is Muslim, but not very religious. At the time of editing I decided I didn't want to spell out what religion he is because he didn't either.  The only person's religion I did mention is that of Botrus. In Syria it wasn't strange for people of different religions to visit the shrines of other religions. I also think it is important to see that people’s religious beliefs and practices can be expressed in multiple ways, and being Muslim or Christian is not just done in one particular way that defines it for the rest. I also chose to have a story of an Iraqi refugee because up until 2010, up to 1 million Iraqis had gone through or settled in Syria and I wanted to humanise one of these experiences.

As for a female voice, I did try to find a female story, but after several different leads the stories didn't work out for various reasons (either bureaucratic, or difficult access to their particular stories). So yes I did intend to have a female voice.  But ultimately I was attracted to both Salem and Botrus’s stories as neither of them are your typical person in Syria and I think that gives an interesting perspective on life there at the time.

eRenlai: It was surprising that you managed to capture so many Syrians expressing their political opinions on camera (I am referring in particular to the discussions at Deir Mar Musa).  Was there any suspicion on their part?  Did you have to do much persuading? 

While people were discussing in Mar Musa I was allowed to film, due to being accepted by the community and also because I think people felt safe to speak there, so I didn't need to do any persuading. However the two discussions I filmed there now seem to reflect not only a different time, but also the issues that are pertinent today, like what does freedom look like and how do you share that and accept others?

eRenlai: Has the film ever been screened in Syria or the Middle East?  If so how was the film received?  What kind of comments did people have?

No, I haven't screened it in Syria or the Middle East, as it is difficult to do so at the moment. But many Syrians have seen it and have given me great feedback, which has been valuable to me. 

eRenlai: Could you talk about your changing emotions as the revolution in Syria started, then after a few months when it became clear there was going to be no quick toppling of the regime as in Libya or Tunisia, and finally when the revolution became a bloody civil war.

I was, of course, excited by the potential in Syria for change from dictatorship, and I still support this change. It became clear that this would not be easy as soon as the regime’s forces started killing people at protests and funerals, imprisoning and torturing thousands and using indiscriminate force in various parts of the country.

It is very sad and distressing to see the violence and destruction occurring in Syria today, and a strong solution to end the violence is needed as soon as possible, and then a transition to a different system of governance needs to be built.

Because of events in Syria today, the whole film has a sense of irony, tension and impending disaster it might not have had otherwise.  Had there been no conflict in Syria as you were editing the film, would you have made your film differently? What would you have changed and why?

I am sure it would have been edited completely differently, and my perspectives would have been different. It is difficult to know what would have been different as making a film is also very instinctive, and I was editing whilst the revolution was gaining ground and there was increasing repression and violence. I could not separate those things from editing. But in saying that, the Syria I filmed in was run by an authoritarian regime with much structural violence, rising poverty, crony capitalism, and many other problems. It was far from being a non-conflicted country even then. So I feel that this sense of disaster was there, even in 2010, but it wasn't clear where it was going exactly. The tension was there and I re-found it in the footage as I was editing.

eRenlai: At what stage of the editing process did the revolution start?  How far had you got with the film?

The revolution started just as I started editing, so it was difficult to see the footage of a few months before with the current news of what was happening in Syria. It took a while for me to edit after that as I could not edit the film easily due to these changes in Syria and the effects these were having on friends and family there. I took a few months off from editing, and then returned to it, knowing that the situation there had changed dramatically.

eRenlai: Before the conflict, Syria was not often talked about in the media.  Now, because of the conflict, Syria and films about Syria are getting far greater public attention.  As a film-maker, could you describe your feelings when faced with this reality?

While there is a lot of media attention about Syria I feel that there is not enough that deals with it more deeply, as most of the work is about war, which can be quite frustrating. That being said there are more and more great films being made there and they are slowly being filtered out into the world.

eRenlai: With the escalation of the conflict into a civil war between a multitude of actors, some of whom have shown themselves to be just as brutal as the regime, can we still call the conflict a "revolution"?  Can we still say that all factions of the rebels in Syria are fighting for freedom?

I think we can say that there is a lot happening in Syria and one of those things is a revolution. There are many other conflicts and fights going on at the same time but that does not mean we must sideline those that work non-violently or who focus on a change from dictatorship or for democracy. Silencing or ignoring them is dangerous, as is understanding the conflict in Syria in narrow terms, such as a conflict made up only of fighting factions, or of extremists, or full of brutal leaders. In reality there are many opinions and approaches.

Also it is important to keep things in perspective. The regime has, and still does, have majority of control of violence. The majority of destruction has been due to the regimes shelling and attacks, as have been most tortures, arrests and killings.

What is happening in Syria can also be called 'uprisings', a set of political processes that are occurring at the same time, trying to work out what they are and where they are going.  Also the term 'Freedom' depends on your definition of it, so yes, many factions may be fighting for that, and the challenge is reconciling those different interpretations of the term.

eRenlai: What do you think when you hear what some Syrians interviewed in the media –both in Syria and outside the country- are saying; that they preferred things as they were under Bashar al-Assad to the chaos reigning in their country today?

I hear a variety of opinions coming out of Syria but I cannot say that I have heard this opinion very often at all. On the contrary, I hear the opposite much more. Many people ask for an end to the chaos and violence but recognise that the regime has been the driving force for this chaos from the start in order to win popular support and to become even more entrenched. 

Some people do say they prefer Bashar al Assad, and others that they support someone else or some other group, and many others still that they prefer neither of these options.  I think this reflects the diversity of experiences and opinions across the country and I think this variety needs to be acknowledged and a space for it created in the future.

eRenlai: Christians in Syria today- and the village of Maaloula in particular where some of your film was shot- are not being persecuted by the regime, but rather by Islamist factions of the opposition. How does this affect Christians' place in the struggle against the regime?  They must be in a difficult position now...

I think the premise of this question is wrong and you cannot assume that Christians as a whole are being persecuted.  Many Christians have been persecuted by the regime pre and post conflict. At the same time there were individuals that were close to the regime and have favourable positions because of this. Sectarianism was used by the regime as a tool to consolidate power, both before and during the uprising against it. So this is a very complicated situation, as it is for Syrians of all backgrounds, including for Muslims, Druze, or atheists.

I think it is important not to see Christians as one homogenous group of people. There are many differing opinions and experiences which affect people's decisions so I don't think it makes sense to phrase the issue as the 'Christians' place in the struggle against the regime. It is about Syrians as a whole, people all over Syria are being targeted.

eRenlai: What is the best scenario for religious minorities in Syria?  At the moment things do not look good either way for them...

I don't believe this is a healthy way to see this issue. I think the best thing is to treat everyone as Syrians, as this is isn't a sectarian conflict, and is still one based on power struggles.  By saying that religious minorities are having a hard time, you are ignoring that the fact that the 'majority ' of Syrians, many of whom are Sunni Muslims, are also having a very hard time.  Everyone is affected by the conflict in deep ways and this must be recognised for everyone.

 It is important to point out that the regime has aimed since the start to make this a sectarian conflict, and this kind of narrative supports their aim. Sectarianism exists, but the uprising did not begin as a sectarian uprising.

eRenlai: Going back to your title, “A Tale of Two Syrias”, what "two Syrias" (or more than two) can you envisage in the future when this horrible conflict has come to an end?

It will take a long time to rebuild Syria but I hope it will be just one Syria after the conflict. One that is based on dignity, equality and able to accept diversity of opinion, whatever it might be. 

eRenlai: Will you be returning to the Middle East for another filming project soon? 

I am going to be working in Jordan very soon, filming a theatre production of The Trojan Women by Euripides, set in the modern Syrian conflict and made with Syrian refugees who now live there. 


For more information about Yasmin please visit her site,


Wednesday, 02 October 2013

The Disturbing Worlds of Kaya Hanasaki

Kaya Hanasaki is a Japanese artist who mainly works in the performing arts. Her artwork takes a critical view of social, political and cultural issues. She embarked upon her carreer about 7 years ago and her works generally consist of a combination of video art and photography.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Getting Hanoi-yed on the Beaten Track

The first mistake I made was choosing Jetstar. After a nine hour delay in Singapore I arrived at Hanoi Airport, at 1am, completely alone and very reassured by signs everywhere warning "Beware of taxi scams!" The second mistake I made was having an address but no phone number for my hotel. After being the parcel in a game of pass the taxi passenger, my third, seemingly mute driver took me towards Hanoi. There is a certain amount of paranoia I always carry with me when first arriving in a new country alone. So when my driver pulled off the highway I thought "Curses! I don't even know how to say Hello in Vietnamese, let alone, please don't rape me!" In fact he was just picking up another driver from under a darkened bridge (an obvious location in which to find him.)

Little was I to know I would fall victim to a different kind of assault, that of the tenacious Vietnamese peddler. "Hey, where you from?", "What's your name?", "How old are you?" are sounds that are just as ubiquitous in Vietnam as the congested chatter of the choked streets. Slouched against motorcycles, reclining in rickshaws, squatting in doorways, balancing baskets, tugging on your arm, solitude is not a valued commodity. Curious, though they may seem, these barrage of questions belie their true intent: commerce. "You want shopping?" Me? No. But tourism has provided them with easy quarry. One who comes ready to fill their bags with communist kitsch and other cheap and pointless bric a brac. They descend upon the streets in privileged packs with packs, mixing dollars with dong.

As I cruised through Halong Bay, limestone cliffs sticking up from the water like moldy, broken teeth, I began to get tourist fatigue. It's great to be a traveler, it's not so great when everyone else is too. Hundreds of boats disturbed the peace of the water, the low hum of their motors creating a discordant chorus. They churned through the water, determined sperm ready to impregnate an egg, or, in this case, converge en masse at the "Amajing cave". This brobdingnagian wonder stretched far back into the cliff, but its beauty was hard to appreciate with conveyer belt tourism in full effect. "Don't stop the train to get off and look, the view from inside is just as good. And, hey!, later we can all swim in petrol infested water, the rainbow swirls sure are purdy!"

I watched a Chinese mother, teeter in her heels, on the edge of our junk, forcing her daughter to take her an album's worth of identical portraits so she could later look back and say she was there. Moments such as these generates an unavoidable self loathing for you and your traveler ilk. You satisfy a desire to see the world, while, at the same time have to share it with other, often ignorant souls, who come to tick a country off the list, shoot an AK-47 and claustrophobically giggle as they try and squeeze into Viet Cong tunnels.

I thought I would find the Vietnamese more congenial. (Because Western faces hold such fond memories for the people of Vietnam surely). But so far my interactions with the locals had amounted to bartering, retail terrorpy*, and a romantic encounter on a train, where a plucky local decided to see if I had anything interesting hiding in my crotch (Just his fingers it would seem,) I had almost given up, and then I met Soom.

I had taken an overnight train to Sapa with the Vietnamese version of the Von Trapp family singers sharing my cabin. Here in the mountains and close to the Chinese border, the H'Mong and Tsao tribes would converge daily, ready to do business. The Vietnamese cat call had found its way to the mountains and in a short trip you could have told 6 different girls, fingers stained indigo, your mini life story, before parting with your money, for some beautiful yet ultimately useless local trinket.

SoomandDuWalking around taking pictures I struck up a conversation with Soom and found myself the next day, trekking through the rain to her village. We passed other groups. Some, like us, braving the rain, others, sequestered away within shiny, silver vans. Most of the indigenous tribes will never see any of the money that tourists pay to go on these air conditioned village visits. As Soom cooked me lunch, I sat outside surrounded by the warped corduroy lines of rice paddies. The frenetic pace of Hanoi and the over-run waters of Halong Bay seemed far away. This was the calm spot in the chaos.

A gloomy hut on the side of a mountain, with no running water and dirt floors was the best place I visited in Vietnam. The lunch, cooked over a smoky fire, was the best meal. And the conversation I had with Soom, was the most genuine and eye opening. Because it was real. And I didn't have to share it with anyone else.

Yet it also made me realise that I wasn't really any better than any of the other tourists that made their way to Vietnam. Although I wanted to connect with the Vietnamese, I really only achieved this with one person, who, in all likelihood, I will never see again. I was a passive traveller. Just passing through, stopping to take some photos and avoiding the calls of the street sellers, who needed my money a lot more than I did. I can see the problems that tourism has brought to the country but in the end I get to escape, hop on my delayed plane and leave. Another backpacker on the travel factory floor, making their way along the assembly line and spat out the other end, just like the rest.

*A fear of being forced into a shopping situation as you make your way along the street.

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All photos by Kayt Bronnimann, visit her photo website:


Monday, 16 April 2012

Pinti Zheng discusses her movie 'Deflower'

After releasing the trailer of her last film, Pinti shares with us her experiences when showing her movie in theaters and art festivals in France and in Korea.

Thursday, 07 July 2011

A review of the play 'Take Care'

Directed by HSU YEN LING
Taipei Blooming production
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes

‘Take Care’ is the first production of TAIPEI BLOOMING, a theatre group founded by Hsu Yen Ling last year. The show will be performed at Guling Avant Garde Theatre from July 1 to July 10 2011. The main question raised in this new production deals with abandoned and injured animals through the story of a lesbian couple; one is a veterinary surgeon, the other a teacher. Italso raises the question of the complexity of the relationships between human beings, between human beings and animals, and between animals.

Hsu Yen Ling, well known as an extra gifted performer, presents her fifth show as art director: “I tried to find a new way to write a script. Before, I was used to writing it first and then ask my actors to perform it. For this production, we started from improvisation and wrote the script together; talking about the issues we wanted to focus on, and cutting or rewriting some parts.” This collective work is based on the main characters’ lives: the vet, the teacher, the businessmanand the student. She aims to show their relation to their particular jobs and to one another, usingvery ordinary dialogue, classical stage design and everyday life costumes to stick to the reality she wants to portray.

“How can we take care of the other?” This is the underlying question in the story told by Hsu Yen ling. “I wanted to talk about the animal issue too. In the big cities, many abandoned cats and dogs can’t take care of themselves alone. We have to pay attention to them and take care of them.” This issue leads her to think about animal relationships more based on touch. “I also ask the actors to play the animals in order to focus more on the touching; work on the emotion, the movement and gesture. We often pay too much attention to the sight or the talk. But there are other senses we can use to have contact with the other and in Taiwan, few people touch each other; Taiwanese are not used to physical contact.“ For example, when we say "goodbye" in Taiwan, we never kiss the other on the cheek. In this show, the animals talk and could be seen as examples that the main characters could follow in their own life, they even advise their masters when they face difficult situations in everyday life and relationships.

To embody one of the animals, she asks Fa Tsai to join her production: Fa Tsai, a famous talented artist had already played with the most famous art directors in Taiwan and we can assure you that his performance in this show is excellent and very detailed. Hsu Yen ling, in her role as art director, works on every detail with her actors, even with the non-professional ones such as Liu Nien Yun. She used to be Hsu Yen ling’s producer in ‘Sister Trio’ and ‘A date’, two successful shows she presented a few years ago in Taiwan.

“When Yenling asked me to be her actress in ‘Take care’, I could not refuse it: I was reallyinterested in the topic and wanted to support her production. I’ve known her since I was in senior high school, before I began to study women’s working conditions at university: she was the teacher in our theatre club. I also wanted to try to be an actress even though I sometimes feel alittle scared. For me, it is difficult to act a relationship, but I really want to work more on theatre projects, because since I began working for the labor organization* I have not had much time for theatre.” Her role is to be the vet and take care of the injured animals and the people who bringthem to her office.

“When Yen Ling told me the story she wanted to write, I found a connection between my actual job and the character of the veterinary. In my job, I have to take care ofinjured laborers – women who used to work for RCA (Radio Corporation of America), an American electric company sold to Thompson, more than 20 years ago and who later got cancer.They have been fighting for 10 years to get compensation. Many questions come to my mindwhen I am tired: why do I want to be an organizer? My character has the same questioning andfeeling.” One may have seen Liu Nien Yun on TV, the morning the Legislative Yuan passed thebudget for Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant; she was one the persons thrown out by thethstpolicemen in front the Legislative Yuan. As an activist, she is involved in the anti-nuclear andlabor movements, yet, all the while she is deeply implicated in her work, listening to the harmedpersons and helping them as best she can.

So, if you want to know what lies behind ‘Take Care’, we recommend you have a look at the show, partly presented as a ordinary life comedy we should say.

* Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, based in Taipei City.
(Photo courtesy of  D. Vandermolina)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

化小愛為大愛 ---「法扶志工」柯媽媽的故事


她摯愛的大兒子,今天早上出門前,不是還開心地向她微笑揮手道別嗎?上個星期,這個貼心的孩子 ,不是還興高采烈地跟她分享學校生活的點點滴滴嗎?


Friday, 25 February 2011




Friday, 25 February 2011





Monday, 21 February 2011

Playing the drums of life

Ibau of the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan comes from Tuvasavasai (Qingshan), Pingtung. Field studies from her early research experiences have became important inspirations for her writing.

In 1999, Ibau started studying theatre performance. She practiced drumming, martial arts and meditation at Laoquan Mountain’s U-Theater in Muzha.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lady Flower of the mountain

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14 years ago, Bethany Peng married a man from Guangfu Township, and thus became a daughter-in-law of the Amis people. This was the moment she fell in love with the honesty and innocence of the community's children and teenagers and took it upon herself to gradually understand their needs.

10 years ago, as a volunteer storyteller, she visited local schools every week recounting tales to the schoolchildren. From this, she eventually establish an association for training people in storytelling - the Wood Pecker Life Association.

In seven years, the association has transformed from having one desk, one old computer and one volunteer, to an association that has an office, a reception and a second-hand charity shop. Having a dream to fulfill is the most wonderful thing in life; if you have intention, nothing can stop you.

After Bethany entered the community, she looked after the local children as they grew up, and as she interacted with them, she was always thinking about what was most important for these children.

To give the disadvantaged youth from this remote mountain area a wider variety of study options, the Wood Pecker Life Association began to form volunteer groups and training classes to teach youngsters to save up their spare time and use the extra time as capital for learning and service to the community. The Hualien and Taitung Teenagers Time Bank was established as a result.

Hopefully more people can join in, looking after the disadvantaged minorities of the Hualien and Taitung regions, bringing them hope, dreams and love…

Friday, 15 October 2010

The master at home

A recent survey conducted by the Research development and Evaluation Commission in Taiwan gave some ‘positive’ results regarding the progress of gender equality in Taiwanese society: for example, approximately 86% of respondents said that men and women should share equal responsibilities at work and at home while 80% “disagreed with the idea that men should be the master at home and women should obey them”.

To what extent are these opinions reflected by reality? Actually, the 2010 figures published by the Service of Accounting and Statistics of the Executive Yuan are not so bad: they show improvement in the decreasing of inequalities between men and women in the work environment in terms of salary difference as an example or even unemployment rate. But in 2009 there were also 1.5 more women working in a part-time job than men and only 17% of the parental leave allowances were taken by men.

So how much real improvement do these figures really show? In a context of economic recession, it doesn’t seem so surprising that the majority of people would think men and women can do the same amount of work. In the West, women only obtained the right to vote after having shown how necessary and efficient they were to keep the society and the economy functioning in the absence of the men (out on the front line). It is often in times of crisis that a society is pushed to find solutions and adapt. But shouldn’t we be looking for more preventive solutions than just patchwork?

Furthermore, polls are interesting themselves in the terminology they use. I was actually more surprised by the questions than the results, as the way the questions were asked are quite indicative of how conservative Taiwanese society still is in 2010:

In regards to traditional perception of social roles, 80% of the people surveyed disagreed with the “men should be the leader in the home, and women should try their best to obey their husbands” concept. Moreover, 68% of the interviewees disagreed with the “to carry on the bloodline, one must give birth to a son” tradition, and roughly 60% of them disagreed with the notion of “it is men’s responsibility to bring in income, and women should stay home to take care of the family.” Concerning the idea of “calling both sides of grandparents as ‘grandparents’ in the future,” 50% of the respondents approved while 44% of them disapproved.

Here is the survey in Chinese
The Report on Women and Men in R.O.C. (Facts and Figures)

(Photo: C.P.)

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