June LEE (李禮君)

June LEE (李禮君)

Former Managing Editor of Renlai Monthly (2004-2009). Board member of the Taipei Ricci Institute.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 17:40

Pacific History Association Conference

The 21st biennial conference of the Pacific History Association (PHA) will take place in Taipei and Taitung, on December 3-6, 2014. We will convene at Taipei for the first part of the conference, and then travel to Taitung to be more engaged with indigenous communities for the second part of the conference. Tours to Austronesian villages, archaeological sites and the Prehistoric Museum will be arranged.

For more info and registration, go to: http://pha2014.erenlai.com/


Tuesday, 13 July 2010 14:27

All species are not equal



In our modern societies, appearance and beauty is hugely important. Women always think they should be prettier and men worry about baldness. While this is sad, it is not the saddest aspect of the beauty dictatorship. Even animal species are subject to our aesthetic whims and some risk disappearing because they are not attractive enough.


If you connect to the WWF or IUCN websites you will see pictures of well known and charismatic animals such as tigers, whales, polar bears and pandas. Of course we all admit they are beautiful and all need our protection, but these animals eclipse other lesser known species. Have you heard about the almiqui or the turkey vulture? They are threatened species too but they have a huge handicap when seducing potential supporters: they are ugly.

Scientific studies have shown that a few charismatic and cute species command a great portion of our attention. Specially, threatened large mammals such as elephants or chimps monopolize the attention of conservation organizations and people. Certain groups are overrepresented so the endangered species protection is skewed. To be honest, we are less aware of a small lizard that dies because of deforestation rather than the orangutans that share the same jungle. Most people do not care about the fate of a small, seemingly insignifiant reptile.

For many years now only, a few species have had our attention and donations but maybe it is time to focus on less charismatic species. Thus, the EDGE ( Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) of Existence program, part of the London Zoological society, was founded in 2007 and focuses its efforts on unheard-of species. The work of this program is totally different to how other conservation organizations work. A lot of organizations think that saving charismatic species will benefit every species in their ecosystem. But this theory is too simple: for example, the worldwide protection of whales has no positives consequences for sharks. Even small or ugly species have their role to play in the ecological chain and their extinction is very problematic as well, despite their unfortunate appearance.

Interistingly, the most famous protected species all have common features: most of them are mammals, they are big ( or if not, they are at least cute) and they are considered as active and intelligent. Of course all the famous species do not have all these specificities - pandas are cute but they are by no means active.

Besides this beauty/cuteness criteria, the fact that most popular animals draw in more research funding to scientists is another factor that explains why they are better protected and have a high visibility. Who can blame a scientist for seeking funds to continue his or her research? Another important factor is to offer a chance for species to become popular is the commercial potential of these species. For example, thanks to the recent movie ‘March of the Penguins', the Emperor penguin became very famous in the United States and one can now find various products such as coffee mugs, books or notebooks emblazoned with pictures of this cute penguin. We can not deny that if we want to buy a coffee mug for mothers’ day we will choose the one with a lovely picture and not the one with some ugly, weird animal. After all, we are human: we prefer beauty to ugliness.


But in this beauty contest of endangered species if the winners are mammals, the losers certainly are snakes, insects, arachnids and amphibians. Because most of the time they are ugly and small - and sometimes very poisonous - people do not tend to consider them as useful species. Thus in the protection of threatened species we should start considering ecosystems as a whole and not only the most charismatic species in an ecosystem. If we want to protect our beloved tiger or our cousin the chimp, we have to protect their whole habitat. Once again, there is a long ecological chain which needs all of its links to work: from the smallest, most ugly insect to the cutest, the most appealing mammal.

Among some of the most ugly species on earth, the eRenlai team elected the purple frog and the almiqui as the ugliest endangered species. According to the EDGE top 100 of most endangered amphibians, the purple frog ( which can only be found in western India) is at third place with a limited conservation attention. The almiqui, which can only be found in Cuba, currently has no conservation attention.

While you are reading this article you can look at some photos that could scare children, or even you! But please do not look away from these species, it is time to face the ugly part of our ecosystem and maybe even to appreciate it.

So from now on, when you watch a cute baby tiger on a wildlife TV show, I hope you will also think about all of the small and ugly threatened species that the cameraman was not willing to show you.



From left to right: Helmeted hornbill, long-beaked echnida and turkey vulture.

Thursday, 05 August 2010 00:00










Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:49






今年六至七月間,斐濟航海家Setareki Ledua和薩摩亞舞蹈家Tupe Lualua應利氏學社及台灣太平洋研究學會之邀,來台進行交流活動。他們走訪了花蓮、台東、蘭嶼、屏東等地原住民部落、團體及各級學校,回國前,也在耕莘文教院舉辦發表會,分享台灣之行的點點滴滴。

來自斐濟的Setareki Ledua出身於航海家族。2011年,他加入了以復興太平洋傳統航海文化為宗旨的團體「太平洋航海者」(Pacific Voyager),開始為期兩年的海上航程。Setareki是船隊中最年輕的大副,他的船名為"Uto Ni Yalo",意為「神靈之心」(Heart of Spirit)。此行共有七艘玻里尼西亞大帆船從紐西蘭啟航,途中停泊大溪地、夏威夷,以及美國西岸的舊金山、聖地牙哥等地,他們以傳統航海術航行了將近21,000浬,最後回到南太平洋。

Tupe Lualua則是一位薩摩亞籍的舞者、編舞家,目前在紐西蘭擔任表演藝術講師,她從事舞蹈創作及教育已超過十年。由Tupe擔綱編導的舞劇"Fatu Na Toto"(薩摩亞語,意為「栽下的種籽」)是以她的原生家庭為藍本,具體而微地呈現移民紐西蘭的薩摩亞家庭的故事。這齣舞劇在紐西蘭公演後,被評為「成功地將傳統薩摩亞舞蹈文化和現代表演元素結合,透過嶄新的編舞,擴展了故事的視界。」





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12月 - 紀念日:特別的一天



Tuesday, 27 August 2013 16:16

Embrace the Pacific

During the months of June and July 2013, the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies held a series of forums on Fijian navigation culture and Samoan Dance, lead respectively by the young Fijian navigator Setareki Ledua and the Samoan dancer Tupe Lualua. Together, they participated in various educational and cultural exchanges, mostly with students on the East Coast of Taiwan. Thus they visited schools and villages in Hualien County, Taoyuan County, Taidong County and Orchid Island. For example, they met with the Formosa Aboriginal Song & Dance Troupe (原舞者舞團and Tao writer Syaman Rapongan.

This month's Focus gives you an overview of their trip in Taiwan as well as an insight of the way the two young pacific islanders carry and reinvent their heritage.

seta dulan knot

Sunday, 27 March 2011 00:00

Learning from Ryukyu

Selecting from over 30 years of research, from a huge collection of archives all over the world, Hamashita Takeshi was to be one of the most distinguished speakers at the conference. His speech, The Formation and Transformation of the South Pacific Sea Zone from 14th to 18th Centuries, covered a wide range of Pacific History and gave innovative suggestions for the future. In the video interview below Hamashita focuses on the history of the Ryukyu Islands and South China Sea maritime culture while suggesting that in contemporary times, Japan has much to learn from Ryukyu and the wider Pacific.

Alternative (for readers in China)

Way before the maritime space of the South Pacific was frequented and formed by the Spanish in the 15th century, the Ryukyu tributary trade network has taken shape in between the East and South China Seas starting from the first half of the 14th century. Sulu (Archipelago) also sent tributary envoys to Xiamen, forming an interactive network between the South China Sea and South Pacific maritime spaces. Then Manila began to attract Chinese immigrants from South China in late 15th century after Portugal and Spain had signed a treaty that divided the oceans of the world. The 17th century saw the era of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch), who began to engage in connecting the maritime space of the South China Sea with that of the South Pacific. At the speech Professor Hamashita Takeshi discussed the connection and disconnection between the South China Sea and South Pacific maritime spaces around Taiwan Island through a comparison between the maritime space of East Asia and that of Western Europe. Furthermore he uses his historical knowledge to propose solutions for a peaceful engagement of East Asia in the Pacific.

Alternative (for readers in China)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 14:01

Kyoto: an inspiring muse


The Japanese poet Ariwara No Yukihira wrote: “Spring wears a cloak of mist. A thin fabric, that the mountain breeze would, doubtless, disarray.” Undoubtedly, Kyoto is never more beautiful than during spring and its poetic side is never more obvious than under a snow of blooming tree flowers.


Throughout its history, Kyoto has underwent many trials such as fire and wars but the city always recovered its splendor and never lost its poetic aspect. Today, Kyoto is considered as one of the best preserved cities in Japan and I would say its is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.

When the city was founded in 794, it was named "Heiankyo" which means "the capital of peace" and this name has not been usurped in the years since. Indeed, one of the things that surprised me the most when I visited Kyoto was the peaceful atmosphere.

I remember that the weather was hot, the sun was shining and I could hear birds in spite of the traffic.
I also remember the strange feeling I had when after walking five minutes through the city, I saw two maiko (young geisha). At this moment I felt like I had jumped back at the Heian era! The Heian era (794-1185) is known as a golden age for Kyoto: temples and palaces were built with an extreme refinement and the art of poetry dominated others kind of art.

[inset side="right" title="Matsuo Basho, 1685"]            Another year is gone                a traveler’s shade on my head,         straw sandals at my feet [/inset]

The poetic side of the city immediately appears to me in the shape of all these amazing temples and palaces. Though I am not familiar with poetry, I really felt something in the air that touched me deeply. The beauty of these old buildings, the well-maintained gardens and the persuasive quiet, all invite you to stop for a while and think. Kyoto has the opportunity to preserve this environment, one that made me feel like I was not in a city of one million inhabitants. After arriving in Kyoto, I first visited a private Zen garden and spent more than one hour listening to a Japanese man telling me how men used to hide their sabre in each room of their house, how the emperor encouraged artists to write poetry and other stories about the lifestyle during the Heian era. After this first stop, I was totally charmed by Kyoto and absolutely wanted to continue my discovery of the city and its history.

Japan is well known as an old country with a tradition of considerable refinement and despite its modernity, refinement is still a big part of Japanese culture. Culture and art have always been an important part in the Japanese life and during the Heian era, poetry was the most appreciated art and developed consideraly. But the most popular form of Japanese poetry appeared later ,in 1500, and is called Haiku. Haiku is a short poem in 17 syllables, composed of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Most of the time the Haiku is use to describe a feeling, beauty or an atmosphere. The master of Haiku poetry was Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and like a lot of artists at this time, he lived in Kyoto. His famous style of Haiku, called Shofu, is still appreciated because of his sense of humour, his sense of simplicity and his sense of suggestion. His most famous Shofu is:

[inset side="middle" title=""]The old pond;          A frog jumps in —               The sound of the water.[/inset]


Visiting the Kinkaku, or Golden Pavilion, I came to know what "refinement" and "peaceful" really mean. This temple is made with real gold and sits in the middle of a pond inside a lovely garden, it is truly enchanting. I also visited different temples and palaces, like the Silver Temple (which is not made with real silver) and the Shogun house. All these places have a strange atmosphere that moved me. In spite of my non-Japanese culture, the impression of purity mixed with the smell of the nature made me feel like I was in a safe place out of civilization. As well, when I visualized Matsuo Basho writing his Haiku, I could see him in a Zen garden on a sunny day, sitting on a bench, contemplating a cherry tree with the sound of a small fountain for music. With this image in my head, I understood why the city and its thousands of temples have inspired poets so much. With so much beauty around and the peaceful atmosphere, Kyoto is a gift for who want to create poetry.

I only spent a few days in Kyoto and did not have enough time to visit the 2000 temples ( a lifetime is not enough to see all the beauty of the city) but I feel like I understood the poetic side of Kyoto. Because I visited in September, I unfortunately did not have the chance to see Kyoto in spring when all the cherry blossoms are in flower.

The next time I will go there it will certainly be in spring so I can appreciate even more the spirit and the beauty of this amazing city.





Wednesday, 31 March 2010 00:00





Friday, 26 March 2010 10:39

Tianmu’s ‘Jungle’ is in danger

Located in the north west of Taipei city, Tianmu is a pleasant quarter: a quiet and calm environment quietly bisected by the Huangxi River with Yanming Mountain rising at the back. Tianmu has become one of the favourite places for foreigners to live in Taipei and is well known as a pleasant place for a stroll. In Chinese ‘tian’ means ‘sky’ and ‘mu’ means ‘mother’ but I would say that more so than the sky, it is Mother Nature who has given Tianmu most of its beauty. Now development plans threaten to destroy much of this.

I have been informed by a resident of Tianmu that a huge real estate project is to replace the green space along the river. This green part of Tianmu, called ‘the Jungle’ by some residents, extends for 5,000 square metres. A big part of the space is a private ground owned by an old woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is not able anymore to fight for her land rights. Because she likes trees so much she protected this area all her life. Thanks to her acts, today this ground holds more than 30 different kinds of tree such as cotton tree, flamboyant tree and the money tree. Furthermore, 26 special trees are protected by the law due to their environmental value (most of these trees are more than 100 years old). You can also find squirrels, frogs, the blue magpie and a species of eagle (the Crested Goshawk) that cannot be seen anywhere else in Taipei. In concrete terms, if nothing is done to protect ‘the Jungle’ then it will be the end of this amazing green space along the river.

A very concerned resident of the Tianmu west road received me in his house and showed me ‘the Jungle’. In order to have the best view, we went on the roof of his building and from here I saw: a ground covered by trees with the river running in the middle and the Yanming Mountain in the back , what an amazing landscape! I also could hear birds and the sound of the river. For one second I forgot that I was in a city that has more than 2 million inhabitants. On these grounds, you will also find three rare traditional houses. The famous movie director Li Han Xiang, who directed more than 80 movies and won the best director award at the Golden Horse Awards in 1965, lived in one for 8 years. Less than 6 months ago, an old man who was still living in one of those three houses was asked to leave to allow the grounds to be cleaned. Since that day nobody knows where he now lives.

Tianmu8The lose of this rare green area will be a pity for all and because they are the most directly concerned by the situation, residents of Huangxi river area decided to gather and fight. They started a petition against the real estate project that has already been signed by 2,500 residents, or 95% of all Tianmu west road residents.

But it seems that the fight is unfair: residents on one side against banks and powerful companies on the other. The project that the Shilin Kaifa ( branch of the Shilin Dianxi Company) wants to build is a $2 billion NTD project, financially large enough to sweep environmental considerations aside. A first project was rejected by the competent authorities because of environmental consideration but another project that ensures the conservation on site of the protected trees was approved and the construction should start very soon. What does the approved project means by “preserve trees on site”? It does not mean that trees cannot be moved, it just means that you can uproot a tree and plant it again at a different place inside the ground. But according to research most of the trees die 2 or 3 years after replanting. When applied to century old trees, this process is even more delicate.

In April 2009, the building company destroyed 5 protected trees without authorization before a neighbour stopped them from destroying more trees. How much does the destruction of a protected tree cost? The price of the fine is only $70,000NTD per tree. Definitely not heavy enough to dissuade real estate companies. Having to pay $70,000NTD per tree is nothing compared to the potential gains of a $2 billion NTD project.

There remains time to get in on the act and defend the green around the Huangxi River. These kinds of ground are getting more and more rare inside cities and should be protected. Are we really to let this real estate project ruin the heritage of this old woman, a heritage that is enjoyed by the residents of Taipei? Banks and big companies surely have a huge influence but it is time to gather and show them that for some people preserving nature and a certain way of life is priceless.


More information can be found at: http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/oldtree-911/archive?l=a

Or contact Anne ZHOU: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Photos provided by Marie Delaplanche and the Old Trees association

Thursday, 04 March 2010 00:00

Taipei Ricci Institute: shifting its focus

On January 30, the Taipei Ricci Institute has signed an agreement with Taiwan National Library creating a "Matteo Ricci - Pacific Studies Reading Room" within the premises of the library. At the same time, with the support of the library, the Council for Aboriginal Affairs and individual scholars, the TRI is working towards the creation of a "Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies" that will become its main research outlet and focus.

New research into language evolution suggests most Pacific populations originated in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. The Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, they paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across the 7,000km from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island. This cultural and linguistic history opens up compelling perspectives on the globalization process and on the challenges that humankind confronts nowadays.

Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00

Idols and sutra-chanting in churches

We asked the Archbishop Shan-Chuan Hung S.V.D. about examples of religious dialogue in a local setting; after mentioning the meeting between a Taiwanese Cardinal and the Dalai Lama, where Catholicism was creating space for dialogue where the Dalai Lama had otherwise received a cold reception. This is Catholicism’s dialogue with the world.

Indeed dialogue does not come without difficulties. In August of last year his church in Yilan was celebrating its 50th year, the local temple’s sutra-chanting troupe brought some Tudigong idols to the pay their respects to the church. The following day there was accusations that we had been worshiping false idols. However the troupe had first joined in singing some hymns and indeed left before mass formally started. Cardinal Hong was very upset about them being criticised in the media and by some members of the parish as he felt that the sutra-chanters had genuinely wanted to congratulate.

If a Buddhist monk was sat calmly at the back of the room and we forced him to leave, that would mean that the church still didn’t treat all as equals. Jesus said: ‘I love benevolence more than sacrifice’. If they are willing to take part in our ceremonies, who says they won’t be capable of hearing the voice of God, of knowing him.
For me this situation is not a crisis, but a turning point, an opportunity for Christians to be re-educated. To appreciate the good hearts of others is a valuable life lesson. So Catholics should not try to cleanse the church of this type of activity and instead reflect and discuss, as this could be the match that lights the fire, releasing the flame of truth.






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