Category Archives: Taiwan

Happy Chinese New Year’s Eve 2018!

What a beautiful dawn and sunrise this morning, viewed from the 8th floor of St. James’ Church, Taichung!  The start of a day of gorgeous weather!

One of the great traditions of Chinese New Year is catching up with old friends, often those not seen for a whole year or even longer.  I’ve been riding around Taichung on a u-bike all week doing this – and today was special, because I visited Fr. Toon Maes, CICM, at St. Paul’s RC Church, Taichung, where he is enjoying the sun after all those cold, wet and windy years up near us on the northern coast in Jinshan!  He’s 86, and in charge of a church which has about 120 people in the mass on Sunday.  His church is beautifully decorated for Chinese New Year…

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On Tuesday I visited another RC priest friend, Fr. Joy, MM, based at Tanzi Migrant Church, just north of Taichung and working with the Filipino migrant workers, who are mostly employed in the nearby export processing zone.   He has a huge church of thousands, and lots of outreach and social programmes….

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In case you’re wondering, both Fr. Joy and Fr. Maes did actually hold small Ash Wednesday services yesterday.   But in fact, Joy told me that Lent has been postponed in the local RC Churches, due to Chinese New Year coming this week.  After all, it’s really quite extraordinary to have Ash Wednesday – all that fasting and ashes – one day, followed the next day (tonight, Chinese New Year’s Eve) by the biggest family feast of the whole year!  So I think it really makes good sense to delay Lent for a week.  Not just delay Ash Wednesday, but actually Lent itself.   I know it’s supposed to be 40 days, but hey, a few less really won’t make much difference.  Otherwise people won’t know whether they’re supposed to be piously fasting, thus annoying all their family or friends by not participating in the New Year celebrations, or the alternative – eat, drink and be merry and then feel guilty afterwards! And we really don’t need any more guilt in this world and in the church, in my humble view at least.  In the Taiwan Episcopal Church, it’s been left to individual churches to decide, and in St. James, the church council decided not to hold a service – as everyone was so busy getting ready and travelling.

And of course, having no Ash Wednesday left us all free to focus on Valentine’s Day instead ~ and in connection with Valentine’s Day, you must read this BBC News report about how some of Taiwan’s little green traffic light men down in Pingtung have got girlfriends in time for February 14….

Taiwan’s pedestrian crossing men get girlfriends – BBC News

Isn’t that wonderful?!

Red is the colour of Chinese New Year ~ and isn’t this doorway beautiful?  Saw it in Taichung yesterday.  And so, wishing you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!

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Have good celebrations, wherever you are – we’re off on a little trip ourselves tomorrow.  See you in a few days ~ but for now I’m off for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner ~ yippee!

Hualien Earthquake, Taiwan’s East Coast

Please pray for Hualien on the Taiwan’s east coast, battered by a legion of earthquakes, starting with a magnitude 5.8 earthquake on Sunday February 4 that peaked with the main quake, magnitude 6.4 (registered as 7 in downtown Hualien) at 11:50 pm, last night, Tuesday February 6. Between those 2 major earthquakes, 94 shocks were recorded, with five of them reaching magnitude 5.0 or higher. Since last night, there have been seemingly non-stop aftershocks. Many of these have been felt throughout Taiwan. So although last night’s earthquake was not totally unexpected, the fact that 4 major high-rise buildings in Hualien collapsed as a result is a huge shock and major disaster, with the death toll rising by the hour and many still missing. The weather has been very cold, with snow on the mountains, but now there is heavy rain, which together with the instability of the tilting buildings is hampering rescue efforts.

The Taiwan Episcopal Church has one church in Hualien, St. Luke’s Church, and the vicar, Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu posted photos of the damage to the building (see below – click on each photo to enlarge). The church altar table, made of glass, was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Like many church buildings in Taiwan, the church is actually the ground floor of a high building, with apartments above. Fortunately, the building did not sustain any structural damage.

Bishop David J. H. Lai has today transferred an initial NT$ 200,000 (US$ 6,850 / GB£ 4,915) to St. Luke’s Church for repair work, and is encouraging all our church members throughout Taiwan to donate to St. Luke’s Church for relief and repairs. All church members are reported as safe, but many with damage to their homes and businesses, and of course shock and concern about ongoing aftershocks. Mr. Yang, chair of the St. Luke’s Church council, runs a guest house in Hualien directly opposite the multi-story Marshal Hotel, which collapsed in the earthquake, yet his building only sustained minor damage in comparison. Power and water cuts are an ongoing problem, and drinking water is in very short supply. Hualien has a high number of people belong to the indigenous people groups, and many are Christians, belonging particularly to the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches. Their faith and church community support will be a great source of strength to them at this time.

This earthquake comes exactly two years to the very day since Taiwan’s last major earthquake, in which another high-rise apartment building collapsed in the southern city of Tainan resulting in 117 deaths. That earthquake occurred during the Chinese New Year festival. This earthquake occurs one week before Chinese New Year, and people are obviously busy in preparations. Hualien is a major tourist city, due to the nearby scenic beauty of Taroko Gorge and the east coast, plus the indigenous cultures. Roads, infrastructure, hotels and scenic spots are badly damaged. Many people will now be putting their travel plans on hold, and sadly this will have a major effect on the economy of the region.

Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you.

Updated on Thursday February 8: For latest news, check out these 2 reports both from the Taipei Times website:

Seven dead, hundreds injured in temblor

Building rescue efforts continue – about the way the leaning angles of one of the tilted buildings increased from 30° to 45° through the day, then at 3 pm, the building “visibly moved 4 cm within 10 minutes”….

Update from Bishop Lai’s office: The Rev. Joseph Wu reports today that the church is already cleaned up, and repairs are starting.  Joseph has sent these 2 photos of the church today.  Doesn’t it look different from yesterday?!

He also says that money donated by our churches in Taiwan or overseas will be used in possible relief work in the local community, but all relief will be done in and through cooperation with the Chinese Christian Relief Association (中華基督教救助協會) in Hualien, who are on the ground with experts and resources in place, and are coordinating relief ministry in that area. Joseph is still in the process of getting in touch with them and offering his help.

Updated on Monday February 12: Rescue work ends as quake toll hits 17

Updated on Wednesday February 14: Article from the Anglican Communion News Service: Church aids relief effort after 6.4 Magnitude earthquake strikes Taiwan’s Hualien county

Thank you all for your concern and prayers.

YIPPEE, SNOW!

Yes, finally, at long last, after 10 days of non-stop rain and more rain, and getting colder by the hour, today the rain has finally stopped, people’s moods have lifted, the skies have sort of cleared and in the far distance on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山, just above Taipei City, there is SNOW!  YIPPEE!  The grey snow-laden sky is kinda merged with the white snow, but hey, check it out.  Ha ha, it’s there, honest. And just in case you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be looking at – check out the arrows below!

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There’s no snow down here at sea-level of course, but still it’s freezing cold and we’re all bundled up with gloves and scarves and hats and coats etc etc.  Been dressed like this for several days now, it’s cold cold cold.  But today’s different, cos we are all so excited to see Real Live Snow! YES!  Albeit in the distance, 15-20 km away, but visible to the naked eye, even if not very clear on any camera.  So we’ve all been up on the 8th floor library building rooftop at St. John’s University gazing endlessly out at that distant view.  FYI, the altitude up there is about 1,000 m.

The last time this happened was exactly 2 years ago, and the time before that, well, was about a decade ago.  Before my time.  Hey guys, this is supposed to be a subtropical country.  We don’t have no central heating.  Or any heating come to that.  Only hand warmers, hot water bottles and extra layers of clothes.  And a few have those small electric fires in home or office, although there’s none here – our SJU chaplaincy opens onto the outside, where the wind howls and blows in all directions.  Ah, we just grin and bear it!  But forget the cold, today we’re all super-excited.  Just look at us all standing up on that 8th floor rooftop….  even though actually the photo doesn’t even show any snow!

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And in case you really want to see what it’s like up there in those mountains, these 2 photos below were taken yesterday up at Erziping 陽明山二子坪步道, by our good friend, Mr. J. C. Chen, who has kindly let me share them with you….a bit slushy by the looks of it, but oh so beautiful.

Yippee,  SNOW!  Happy Snow Day everyone!

And this is the view from Sanzhi late this afternoon!

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What a great view eh?!  And yes, plenty of snowmen being built up there, but so far, none down here!

Sanzhi 三芝 Matzu Temple Centenary Celebrations, 1917-2017

Today is THE day, the climax of 5 days of celebrations, and as I write this, events are ongoing, with firecrackers and drums and trumpets and singing and offerings and all sorts of activity, and being attended by nearly everyone in the whole town.

And all in the rain and cold!  It’s been like this all weekend, but hey, when there’s a festival in town, a bit of rain and cold won’t stop anyone.

But this was the scene on Thursday, the last time that the sun appeared in Sanzhi!

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Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the preparations for the centenary celebrations of the Sanzhi Matzu Temple (honouring Matzu / Mazu / Matsu, Goddess of the Sea), officially named 三芝小基隆福成宮 Fu-Cheng Gong.  The 5 days of celebrations officially started on Wednesday, and today is the new moon, the first day of the 10th lunar month, so it’s the big day today!  See all these people? And their umbrellas….

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There’s been a lot of preparation, red lanterns strung all around the town, large gateways on the main roads leading into town, and for these 5 days virtually the whole town has gone vegetarian.  Market stalls selling meat – and butchers shops (there’s at least 10 in total) have closed down completely for the 5 days, including the famous 三芝老地方 Lao Di-Fang Steamed Baozi Restaurant, and plenty of others where the main specialty involves meat or fish.  Others are open, but only selling vegetarian food.  Even the huge Farmers’ Cooperative Supermarket has all fresh meat removed from the fridges.

All the roads leading to the main temple have been closed today and large tables set up on the roads, on which people are making their offerings, and each local village is assigned a different table area….

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Some of the tables near the temple contain what is more like an exhibition, including one of an amazing dragon ice sculpture (yes, honest, it’s all ice – with real dripping water!)…

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There’s lamps carved out of water melons….

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And there’s plenty of offerings of dead animals, including pigs….

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Goats (spot the lit cigarettes)….

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And geese…

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The lady at the bread shop told me that this was the place to see all of Taiwan’s folk culture on display all at once, and once only in 100 years.  It certainly is, and so in that spirit, I share with you the photos, firstly of last night at the main temple area….

And these of this afternoon…

And now this evening, as I passed by……

Really quite something eh?!

Pop idols @ Taiwan-Style!

Been doing a bit of research among some of our students in the 15-17 year age group to find out who their pop idols are ~ part of my English conversation classes, so bringing you up to speed, here goes!

Top of the list by far for everyone are the boy bands from S. Korea – all brought together on TV talent shows and promoted by the mega-entertainment industry that is so big in S. Korea.  And currently top of the list of all of them is BTS.  Super Junior is long over, now it is BTS.  Our girls say the BTS group of 7 are all SO handsome, and their singing and dancing are all SO amazing.  To excel at all those 3 things is what qualifies them as No. 1.  And they are the reason for half of all Taiwan girls aspiring to learn Korean language.  Forget English, Korean language is the way to go!  They told me to check out the BTS You Tube video ‘DNA’, so here it is – I particularly like their use of colour – how’s this eh?!

For the boys, the equivalent is the Korean girl band, Sistar, all so ‘sexy’, and their singing and dancing are all so good.  They recommend you check out ‘Shake it’, and you’ll see why they’re so popular.

The other popular Korean male is Lee Jong Suk, actor and model who comes in the category of ‘very handsome’ as well as for his acting ability.

So is it all Koreans?  Not completely, but largely, well, yes!

Chinese idols are Jing Boran –  apparently a ‘cute’ and ‘handsome’ singer and actor; Kris Wu – ‘handsome’ actor, singer and model, and Andy Lau from Hong Kong, famous for singing and acting and for being ‘handsome before’ (when he was younger, that is!).

Then there’s American and Canadian idols, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Bon Jovi, The Chainsmokers.

There’s a Malaysian singer Shila Amzah who has an amazing voice, I’ve checked out her videos – she sings in Chinese, and yes, she’s good.

So what about Japanese idols?  Japan is famous for anime (computer animation) videos, and the most famous idol of that genre seems to be Hatsune Miku, a fictional anime character of a 16-year-old girl with ‘long turquoise twin-tails’ and an amazing singing style – ‘a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application’ – her official video is here… check it out!

And so what about homegrown Taiwan idols?  Are there any?  Our students have a really hard time thinking of anyone famous in Taiwan who they regard as an idol!  So finally, dragging it out of them, I have finally found four:  J J Lin 林俊傑 (based in Taiwan, but actually comes from Singapore!) whose singing is great but he is apparently neither cute nor handsome, Show Luo 羅志祥 whose singing and acting are good, but also apparently not very handsome, the group S.H.E whose 3 girls all sing and dance – and apparently beautiful too, and finally, Julia Wu 吳卓源 who has an amazing singing voice, and sings in Chinese, but turns out to be from Australia, and lives in the USA – anyway, here she is!

So what makes a pop idol? Looks is the big one, followed by skills in acting / dancing / singing – the more skills the better.  And if you write your own songs, well that’s an extra idol bonus!  But idols all come to an end, either fading with age or misdemeanor, or for Korean boy bands because they have to go off to military service, and while they’re gone, along comes another boy band to take their place.  But for the time being, it is BTS.  When I ask if these BTS boys have girlfriends, I am assured that they wouldn’t dare, because all the fans would be so upset – they can get girlfriends later, after they stop being so popular!

Anyway, hope I’ve brought you to speed a little with what’s going on in the world of pop idols, Taiwan-style!