Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: taipei
Monday, 27 October 2014 00:00

The Second Life of the “Grand Ricci”


At the end of August 2014, Beijing Commercial Press (or Shangwu, one of the biggest Chinese publishing house, owner of the Xinhua Dictionary, the world's most popular reference work) launched a volume more than 2,000 pages: The Ricci-Shangwu Chinese-French Dictionary, a revised and shortened edition of the "Grand Ricci", the seven-volume dictionary published in 2001 by the Ricci Institutes of Taipei and Paris. (Since then, the two Institutes have entrusted the Ricci Association with moral and financial rights over the work.)


Wednesday, 17 September 2014 00:00

A Night Out

The following is a short story from eRenlai Paul Jacob Naylor, who spent time in Taipei last year learning Chinese and researching the role of Islam in Chinese and Taiwanese history. Paul has a blog were you can read more of his short stories and journalistic pieces from his time spent in Syria.

Bright flashing lights and loud music. Neon tops, cleavages, baseball caps, muscles, hair gel, tattoos, sweat and smoke. Bottles of beer and cocktails glow under UV lights. Sticky floor. A loud voice tells us to put our hands in the air. People collapsed in corners holding their head in their hands, people making out, a sign that says 'If you need to throw up please use the bathrooms.'

It has happened. I have frozen. The night started off very well. We went for rechao, drank plenty of tai pi, went to a bar. Got talking to a film-maker who was making a documentary about an orangutan sex slave in Borneo. Then someone – was it Kirsty or was it Steve?- decided we should go to Babe 18 and now I have frozen. I have no idea how long I have been standing here but I can't seem to do anything else. I was having a good time in the line outside, making jokes, trying it on with the girls, but as soon as I walk down the shiny metal staircase and have to think about cloakroom charges and drinks tickets I just zone out, become an observer.

A table full of discarded champagne flutes, a girl wearing a hat that says 'boy', a man with spiky hair, a chewing gum wrapper on the floor. Scanning the room looking for a familiar face but when I see one I don't go over, just keep scanning, looking busy, trying not to look like I am standing in the middle of the dance floor for no reason. Nobody else is looking around. They are all in their own worlds, doing their own thing. Why can't I do my own thing? Maybe this is my thing.

I look at the dance floor, imagine there's no music and think about why all these people are crowded into this small space and why they are moving around so much. I am in a silent disco with no headphones. I try to get into the mind of each person- 'Why did you come here tonight?' 'What is it you want?' 'Why do you have a hat that says 'boy' on it?' I reproach myself for being so arrogant and superior, but I don't feel arrogant and superior standing here. I just feel confused.

A western girl with a flower in her hair comes over to me. 'Just imagine it's your living room.' She says, dancing and looking straight into my eyes. 'Do you think these people realise there are other people around them? No, they come here to look at themselves in the mirror, to wear nice clothes, to show off their bodies.' She dances off.

An old man wearing a long-sleeved silk cloak is swaying to the music, holding his walking stick in the air. As he sees me standing there, a broad smile spreads across his face. 'A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.' He says, guffawing, showing the depths of his toothless mouth.
I should drink some water.

'You've gotta finish what's in your glass before I make you another one.' says the bartender.

'But I don't want this one.'

'You gotta finish it.'

'I just want some water. I don't want another drink.'

'Finish it or charge is 200NTD.'

I head to the toilets to get rid of my drink and come back with an empty glass. Easier than arguing.

'No drinks in the toilets' says the bouncer.

I walk back to the dance floor. The old man is gone. I put my half-finished drink (I think it is a gin fizz) under my jumper and walk back to the toilets, folding my arms to hide the bulge. I get to the urinal, take out the cup and quickly empty it out.

'Hey, I saw that.' The bouncer is behind me.

'I just threw up.' I say, wiping my mouth.

'Come with me, now.' I follow the bouncer, still holding my cup. We arrive at the cash desk.

'Pay 200NTD or leave'.

It's cold outside and I realise I have forgotten my coat in the cloakroom, which also has my mobile phone in it. I turn round to go back down the stairs but the bouncer is still waiting there.
'Don't let that guy back in' he says to the security guard at the door as I approach.

I back out into the square, go across to the 7/11 to get a coffee. Nobody is there, not even the attendant. I look across to Babe 18. The queue has gone, the security guard is not there, and the main doors are shut up. The whole square is deserted apart from a scooter parked up in the middle of the square with the engine running and the lights on. The lights cut across the dark of the square, making the small thin trees send out wild shadows in all directions. I wait in the 7/11 and look at the clock on the wall. If it gets to half past twelve and nobody comes back to the scooter, I will get on it. The hum of the engine is the only sound I can hear, it fills my whole head.

By 12:35 I am on the Xinyi express road heading south east. A few solitary taxis pass by, the faces of the drivers hidden in shadow. The sounds of the city are soon lost completely as I leave the highway, pass shuttered noodle shops and the dim red glow of temples. The road climbs and the shops and dwellings get sparser until they stop completely, giving way to trees and bushes and the occasional tudigong shrine.
The drone of the scooter lowers and is replaced by a whirring, then a clattering, then silence. No more fuel. I pull into the side of the road as the headlights slowly dim, leaving me in total darkness. As the cooling engine crackles, the air becomes full of cicadas, the ping of bats and the nocturnal rustlings of unknown creatures.

But among the persistent drone of the cicadas, there is a more human sound. Somebody is singing in the forest. Pushing away branches and fending off clouds of mosquitos I leave the road and climb down a steep incline, towards the noise. The forest turns into a clearing. At the end of the clearing there is a small brick house. In front of the house is a low-walled courtyard. A small naked light bulb hangs above the entrance. Sounds of the accordion and keyboard accompany an echoed gravelly voice, singing in Taiwanese. A group of old men sit outside, smoking and chewing betel nut. They cannot see me approach. In the middle of the courtyard I can see the accordion player, a blind man with a beret, sitting on a chair. The whole crowd joins in the chorus, their cans of beer raised in the air.

I leave the clearing and continue climbing down the slope. In no time at all the music has disappeared. The incessant chirping of cicadas and humming of mosquitos returns. A light breeze shakes the leaves of the trees above, faint traces of incense. At the bottom of the valley is a small temple, lit by the lights of a hundred flickering candles. Monks in red kneel before a statue, hidden in darkness, rhythmically chanting to the quick beat of a drum. I walk past them, following nothing in particular as the long night draws on.

The flat ground comes to an end and starts to rise. The other side of the valley perhaps. It seems I have been walking for ages but impossible to tell. Here there are rocks and boulders, slippery with moss. I begin to scramble up them. A snake slithers across my path, pale and ghostly in the moonlight. I stop for a minute to negotiate my way through the boulders when I hear the snap of a twig close by. I freeze. A rustling of leaves behind. Out of the forest comes a man wearing only a grass skirt. In one hand he holds a spear, in the other a dark bundle that seems to be tied with string. I breathe out too loudly. He hears me and shouts in an unknown tongue to the forest behind, gesturing in my direction. A voice replies. As he comes towards me he is lit up by the moonlight. He is carrying a bunch of human heads, knotted together by their thick black hair. Our eyes meet.

I scramble up the boulders, slip and fall several times, never looking back. The day begins to break and the top of the valley above is outlined on the pale blue sky. Breathless and covered with sweat, covered with grazes and scrapes, I pull myself up the final rock and surprise a few keen photographers. Taipei 101 blinks red in the dawn. I walk down the stone steps and reach Xiangshan MRT in time for the first train of the day.
Steve sits in the living room of our apartment in Taipower playing Fifa, a half-eaten happy meal lying on the table in front of him. 'How was your night?' says Steve. 'You disappeared.'

Photo credit: Amina88


Monday, 07 July 2014 00:00

Internet as Body Focus Response: Has technology changed the way we date?


When I first started to toss around the idea of exploring the stories of the gay male community in Taipei I'll admit I was a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was attempting to narrate. How could I tell the varied and diverse stories of these men living, working, and loving in such a large city and focus the narrative enough to make something of the multitude of anecdotes I was hearing? Trying to weave together a thoughtful, honest, and accurate portrait of such a large, diverse community while doing justice all points of view within the group seemed almost too large of a task to take on within a single piece and threatened to kill the project before it even started.


Monday, 05 July 2010 18:09

Tea break with Taipei's only Rabbi

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1918, Rabbi Dr E. F. Einhorn has witnessed huge global change throughout his 91 years.  He moved to Taipei in early 1975 where he has since served as Rabbi.

Belying his age, Rabbi Einhorn is the Chairman of Republicans Abroad Taiwan; Honorary Representative Asia and Pacific Region for the Polish Chamber of Commerce; and Honorary Secretary of State for Montana, USA, among several other roles.

Here Rabbi Einhorn discusses his role as Taipei's Rabbi and shares some insights on how he remains motivated after so many years of dedicated activity.


Friday, 08 March 2013 13:19

A visitor's glimpse into life in Taiwan

Maddy King, a Pacific Studies student from ANU learning Chinese in Taipei gives her opinion on a variety of topics related to her stay, such as what she has learned from it, how experiencing Taiwan has shaped her view of the Pacific, and what she misses most about home.


Monday, 01 October 2012 23:36

Revising Reality Through Sound

A Review on Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project

TheCube Project Space is in the Gongguan area of Taipei, near the Cineplaza theatre, hidden on the second floor of an obscure apartment building. Although National Taiwan University lies just across the street, the atmosphere nearby bears no trace of scholarly temperament. A strange mixture of traditional Taiwanese food stalls such as stinky tofu and Taiwanese fried chicken and a peculiarly large amount of sport equipment shops dominate the whole block. The asphalt is always stained with oily muck and the myriad of bicycles and motorbikes makes it hard for one to maneuver about.

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I was thus amazed when a small flight of stairs revealed an entirely different world: The dusty fragrance of wood and dried hay immediately shot through my olfactory nerves at the slide of the glass doors. A spacious white room was decorated with rectangular wooden boards and people were arranging themselves comfortably upon the beige tatami mats spread across the floor. Intently, they were listening to the booming of tractor engines, the murmur of old farmers in Taiwanese dialect and the crackle of feet stepping on dried hay that were sent across the room through eight devices: two pairs of stereo speakers hanging on both sides of the wall, and four other sound devices that were placed on the tatami or hanging from the ceiling. These devices came in different sizes and shapes. For example, the sound device placed on the ground was an electric megaphone, and the device hanging from the ceiling was an old radio. One speaker was even hidden inside a wooden box, in which the reverberation and vibrations of the box created a peculiar acoustic effect.

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Wooden boards were placed across the room to absorb echoes

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A speaker is placed inside the wooden box, creating a peculiar acoustic effect

The exhibition piece was a montage of sounds recorded from Chiayi, a large agricultural area in southern Taiwan. Sounds were arranged according to different themes, such as aboriginal tribes, religious ambience, agricultural activities or ecological surroundings. They were broadcast in a fashion that recreated our general perception of aural space. For example, the grinding noise of an ancient tatami machine was presented through stereo surrounding speakers, creating a sense of immediate, enveloping presence. The sounds of people speaking, on the other hand, were broadcasted through monophonic sound devices, such as the radio or the electric megaphone, which denoted the sound object’s specific position in space.

While the montage may seem random at first, it doesn't take long to perceive a certain order. For instance, the religious section at first featured the clatter of the divination blocks, signaling God’s will as they fall to the ground, followed by a mother’s clicking high heels and a child’s nagging whines. The soft chanting of Buddhist nuns emerged, shifting towards the grunting of men which in turn acted as a prelude to the festive religious music filled with gongs and suona, the Chinese oboe. Finally, the section was finished off with the loud explosions of Chinese firecrackers, intensively broadcasted through different speakers in an alternating fashion.
 

Aside from the main installation, two smaller pieces were also present in the gallery. One is a sound recording of a tour guide in a sugar factory, the other a thematic presentation of various aspects of Chiayi, such as the lost art of Beiguan music. These were accompanied by slides containing dictations from interviews with the locals.

 

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Album cover of Sounds of the Underground

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Album cover of Taiwan Sound Archive, Religious Music Vol. 1
(tai wan you sheng zi liao ku quan ji bian qian ji si wu dao pian
台灣有聲資料庫全集《變遷祭祀舞蹈篇》), produced by Hsu Tsang-Houei.

 

The “Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project” is a collaboration between Yannick Dauby, Yen-Ting Hsu (許雁婷) and Wan-Shuen Tsai (蔡宛璇). In 2008, poet Chung Yung-fung (鐘永豐), the then Director-General of the Cultural Affairs Department commissioned Dauby and Hsu to collect sounds from the eighteen townships of Chiayi County, in hopes of building a sound archive that could one day be shared with the citizens of Chiayi. Had it succeeded, one could say that it would be a project of great historical significance, since the only notable works in Taiwan that were close to field recordings were the folksong collection movement carried out by musician Hsu Tsang-Houei (許常惠) and Shi Wei-Liang (史惟亮) and the ethnomusicology studies of Liu Bing-Chuan (呂炳川) in the 60’s and 70’s, followed by the more recent Sounds of the Underground (lai zi tai wan di ceng de sheng yin來自臺灣底層的聲音) compilation by Crystal records during the 90’s, all of which were still situated within the song-based musical realm and not field recording, strictly speaking. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic reasons, the project came to halt after one year. The artists, however, having already built tight bonds with the locals, continued to collect sounds. Three years later they selected several sounds from their archive and composed the “Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project.”

“Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project” is the 6th installment of the Re-envisioning Society series curated by TheCube art gallery. According to their website, the goal of this series was to uncover an authentic relationship between human beings and their surroundings; a relationship which is hidden beneath the layers of artificial constructs that govern modern society. Furthermore, they sought to “construct a new vision for society” by observing the transformation of individual and collective experiences in specific aspects of contemporary life.
 
 

So how can a sound exhibition live up to such a grandiose purpose? We could say that humanity in modern society is dominated by images, or rather, that human civilization has always been preoccupied with sight. The saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul” is self-evident. Sight is the organ that determines boundaries, the boundaries upon which interpretations are made. One can say this is the initial step towards an abstract, conceptual world that is the premise of a society of spectacles. Sound, on the other hand, is more ambivalent. During the exhibition, it is often hard to make out the original sources of the sounds. Bird sounds that come from grainy radio speakers have a metallic quality that resembles a machine, thus the boundaries between organic/inorganic are blurred. Attention is given not only to the sounds presented but also to the media through which that sound is represented, which in this case is the radio speakers that convert melodic bird chirps into abrasive mechanic noises. In other words, sounds retain the noise of the media, the qualities that are generally filtered out/ignored/neglected by sight. Through close listening of sounds, attention is lowered to the materiality of things, and not the abstract concept it represents. From this site it is possible to start something new, to view our surroundings in a new light.

 
 
It is also from this site that a new construction of identity is possible. The clue may lie in the Chinese title of the exhibition: “Sheng Tu Bu Er” (聲土不二). The phrase is a word play on the phrase “Juan Tu Bu Er” (身土不二), which originally was a Buddhist phrase that explains karma, but was appropriated by Japan and Korea for its literal meaning, namely that body (身) and soil (土) cannot be separated (不二), in order to promote local food movements. The exhibition’s substitution of the word “聲” (sound) for“身” (body) can thus be interpreted that sounds cannot be separated from the soil.

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Orientation of Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project

In the orientation following the exhibition, Chung Yung-fung gave an illuminating example of this concept. He mentioned how he couldn’t recognize the Hakka singer Lai Pie-Hsia’s (賴碧霞) voice in Hsu Tsang-Houei’s recordings, because the sound quality was too clear and lacked the noisy ambience that usually accompanied the singer’s performance. That was when he realized how crucial the recording environment is to preserving aural memory. It is thus reasonable to say that the identity of the sound is inseparable from the environment that produced it, whether in a noisy night market or in a church full of echoes. The awareness of the importance of noise, that which was initially considered as a threat to the recording of “pure” sound, evokes a categorical redistribution of how we perceive the world.

Furthermore, as our perception of the world changes, so our perception of ourselves transforms. During the orientation, Dauby explained how a man from the countryside might move to a big city and attempt to forget his memories of the countryside, perhaps ashamed by the hegemonic developmentalist ideology that defines the countryside as a backwater, inferior place. Chiayi, in many ways, is precisely such a place. However, if these field recordings are presented to him, perhaps he will be able to pick up messages that lie beyond the limits of the developmentalist discourse. He will perceive the different nuances of Chiayi, nuances that were not captured by a developmentalist interpretation of Chiayi, and subsequently discover the different nuances concerning his own identity. From this perspective, it is indeed possible through field recording to discover genuine relationships between men and other men, as well as men and his local environment; to surmount the spectacles of society and to arrive at new conclusions.

Written by Julia Chien with further editing by Daniel Pagan Murphy. Photos by Julia Chien.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011 17:58

Flâneur Daguerre: An Alternative to Modern Jazz

Formed in June 2009, the group brings together some of the island's finest improvisers from diverse musical backgrounds, both foreign and Taiwanese. Flâneur Daguerre was founded on the belief that modern music, especially that which is so-called "avant-garde," can be enjoyed and accessed by the same audiences that find comfort in today's mainstream pop. The band explores free jazz, Eastern European and Balkan music, but they often subject pop and rock + roll forms to the improvising methods of jazz and Indian musicians.

Sunday, 01 December 2013 21:03

Journey to the Karaoke Temples

In Taipei the mountains are never far away. How easy it is to escape from the city and discover a different pace of life.  Human voices rise above the roar of the traffic, and in the safety of the mountains people form communities and express themselves in ways that could not happen in an urban setting, for all its apparent conveniences and freedoms. Filmed around Tiger Mountain, 2013.


Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:15

Will my Friends come out Today?

 The old men at Huanmin Village have lived there all their life. Every day, they meet to chat about things, as old friends often do. Their peaceful existence, however, is being threatened by the plans to demolish the houses which hold so many memories for them.


Sunday, 01 December 2013 20:58

Tiger Mountain and the Miculture Foundation: Transforming Spaces

 


Overlooking the Xinyi district, home of Taipei 101 and Taipei's financial and commercial hub, are the Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山) : Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Tiger. The image of four wild animals-embodying raw nature- dominating the urban metropolis below is a powerful one. Elephant Mountain has largely been tamed-it is now a must-see on the Taipei tourist trail and also popular with photographers wanting to get the perfect night-time shot of Taipei 101- but Tiger mountain is more elusive.


Sunday, 01 December 2013 00:00

Toad Mountain Edge Effects

For students of NTU, Gongguan's café hipster youth and the high density of foreigners and government officials in the surrounding area, Toad Mountain (蟾蜍山) is merely a beautiful mountain ink landscape backdrop as one walks down Roosevelt Rd, as that painted by the traditional oil paint artist He Cong (何從):


Monday, 03 September 2012 08:39

History of the Shida Controversy

( Mandarin Training Center in NTNU)

Unlike in most in most Western countries, the mixture of residential and commercial areas is a significant characteristic of Taiwanese Cities. Most foreigners who have lived on this island for a while are sure to have discovered this charm and convenience already. How should people live and work together in this kind of lively sleepless streets is another question.

The well-known Shida Road and surrounding areas probably are the first stop for many foreign students in Taipei City. Since the war between a residents’ group and businesses began, rumors and mistrust have spread through the area. Shidahood Association (師大三里自救會) seems to be trying to shut down every illegal shop in the area, the illegal status of is often attributable to a rather complicated history.

The story continues still, and no one can be sure how this chapter will end. We try to locate the actual historical casual relationships of this controversy, starting in the 1960’s.

 

The timeline of the Shida area controversy

9102_3Going back to the 1960’s, the origins of the Shida night market area can be traced back to some lower class Mainlanders who came to Taiwan with the KMT. They occupied the open spaces between Jinshan South Rd., Heping east Rd. and the north part of Shida Rd. It was known as “Longquan night market” because Longquan Street was the main street at that time.

In 1967, the government expelled all squatters, knocked down illegal buildings in the area and built Shida Rd. Some businessmen moved to the Nan Ji Chang night market (南機場) and the Zhong Hua business Center (中華商場, in the Ximen area), other trader and food stalls gathered on Shida Rd (now the park).

In 1987, due to urban planning and requests from local residents, Taipei City Major Hung decided to expel vendors and built a park on Shida Rd. A few stall-keepers moved into the lanes and alleys on the east side of Shida Rd. The businesses requested to keep their house numbers and continue running their businesses.

From the 90’s, because of NTNU Mandarin Training Center and the academic background of many local residents, new cafes and international restaurants became more and more common in the area.


(Every shop in Lane 13, Pucheng St. is closed now)

 

Enlarging the scale of business area

2007

Boutique shops began opening in the area. The number of clothing stalls was growing.

2008

A famous writer, Han Lianglu (韓良露) introduced and promoted the “Kang-Qing-Long” life area concept as a tourist attraction. This area stretched from Yongkang Street (永康街) to Qintian street (青田街) and Longquan street (龍泉街). The media began to promote culinary delicacies in the Shida area. The Longquan neighborhood tried to attract attention by holding a “shopkeepers’ beauty contest and a “best shop in Shida” contest.

2010

In January the Longquan neighborhood began cooperating with the Taipei City Market Administration Office and the Taipei City Office of Commerce. Under the guidance of the city government, they planned to found an autonomous night market committee, to redesign street signboards and undertake an environmental cleaning program. They were forced to postpone parts of their project due to the objections of local residents.

The Taipei City Office of Commerce promoted Shida as one of the top five business areas in Taipei. Local shops enrolled in the “Beef Noodles Festival” and other official tourism events. The Shida area became a new tourist spot.

In September, the Tourism Bureau and the South Village company which belonged to Han Liang Lu (韓良露) launched the “Spotlight on Taipei” program to attract international tourists.

SIGN

(Shida "night market" was only on the sign of MRT exit for months,
it has now been reverted to the original name.)

2011

The Longquan neighborhood office founded an association of businesses in the Shida area and built a billboard, “Welcome to the Shida Business Area”. They even changed the formal name of the bus stop from “Shida 1” to “Shida Night Market” and began indicating the night market at the MRT Taipower Building Station. This move enraged local residents.

At the end of 2011, the Shida business area won the ‘most popular award’ in a Taipei City Office of Commerce contest. Meanwhile, the number of shops had increased from 200 to 700 in just two years and extended further into nearby residential districts. There was a rapid deterioration in the surrounding living environment with pollution from overcrowding, smells, noise and rubbish.

On 26th October, due to the increase of clothes shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, residents from Taishun St. (east of the night market area) organized a public hearing to ask Taipei City Hall to ban illegal shops in residential areas, and formed the Shidahood Association (師大三里里民自救會). In response, Taipei City government formed a Special Shida Taskforce (師大專案小組) headed by deputy mayor Sherman Chen (陳雄文) and involving a wide array of government departments. They first banned all foreign restaurants on Lane 13, Pucheng St.

2012

In February, some shops organized the “Shida Business Area League” petitioning to the government for their right to work, through different forms of protest such as stand-ins, kneel down and turning off all the lights on the street for 30 minutes.

In May, the Shidahood Association posted an article on the blog criticizing that Shida Park had been left abandoned as a dangerous and licentious zone.

On July 15th, the legendary live house Underworld was forced to close under pressure from the Shidahood Association.

In August, Roxy Jr. Café which had been running for 18 years on Shida Rd. hung a first banner to counter the protest banners of the Shidahood Association. Yet, on 19th August they nevertheless decided to close up temporarily.

 

JR

("Legal businessman against fake neighbors' persecution" wrote by Jr. Cafe)

References

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B8%AB%E5%A4%A7%E5%A4%9C%E5%B8%82

David Frazier, Dodgy dealings, TAIPEI TIMES, 2012.07.25

找出師大商圈四贏的藍海,聯合報社論,2012.02.27


Edited by Nick Coulson

 

 

Published in
Focus: Living Together

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