Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Taiwanese Mentality: If it ain't broke, wait until it's totally run down

This is not my scooter but it is typical of many scooters here in Taiwan... very beat!

I went to get the headlight on my scooter repaired recently and I had a strange conversation with the mechanic. Stupid me, only the low beam bulb was dead. The high beam actually still worked. Didn't even occur to me to try it.

So the mechanic shows me this and asks me if I want to change the bulb, a real low expense. I ask him why not. He says I might just want to use the high beam until that burns out too. !!!

This got me thinking about people going around Taiwan with their high beams on all the time. Could they just be trying to get their money's worth, squeezing the last drops of the utility out of a light? For a Westerner, the question of whether to change it or not would not be an issue. But it is in Taiwan...

And this got me thinking about maintenance in general. It's funny that there seems to be two standards. Scooters are basically run into the ground before repairs are made while cars get (fairly) great treatment. I guess it has to do with the investment. Small ticket items are considered write-offs while big ticket items are valuable. Think about how many times someone might switch their cell-phone or MP3 player compared to a computer.

All I can say is the Taiwanese value system is completely different and places different value on things than we do. Small price items are disposable and easy to replace. Big price items are little trickier.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Showgirl Phenomena

Taiwan's exibitions and trade shows continue to push the showgirl phenomena to new heights. Even porn stars from Japan are invited to shows most likely for their obvious presentational skills (see picture). What next? How can they top this? Posted by Picasa

Military Intelligence

Some cadets enjoy some R&R.

I'd like to know what goes on in the hazing of ROC soldiers. I've heard that some activities that conscripts are subject to can get pretty raunchy (when the higher officials are out of sight).

I assume that the army is in a general mess with low morale, alcoholism on the bases, soaring suicide rates and general loneliness and unease.

I have an officer friend in the military who summed it up in one good quote. It was of a new recruit saying to his commanding officer that if China attacked Taiwan, he would kill his officer superiors and therefore merit a medal from China! This soldier was not even given a tap on the hand for this treasonous comment!!!

If you have done your service in the ROC and have any tales, send them to me!Posted by Picasa

Flirting with Nazism???

I don't support Nazis but it's amazing to the extent that Taiwanese misuse their symbols.

The swastika on the Nazi flag of course really resembles the Buddhist swastika (which goes in the other direction). On top of that it's on a field of red which is an auspicious color for Chinese.

In my ramblings I've found the pattern in many places that are temple related. There are even modern buildings with swastikas on them for fengshui purposes, mostly when facing or housing a temple.

But there's more to this strange obsession. Some Taiwanese admire Hitler and associate him with German products. At one point I remember one electric heater company, with a heater from Germany, advertising it with the slogan "Set fire the cold front!" and showed a cartoon picture of Hitler beside it. Needless to say the Jewish community launched a letter of complaint.

Another case was the restaurant owned by Jackie Wu called the Prison. The tables were placed in cells. You get the idea. What caused the controversy were the pictures of the people in Nazi concentration camps. Off went another letter.

I've heard some Taiwanese admire Hitler on occasion due to his ability to unite and lead the people. Coming from an authoritarian past themselves, I guess I can see some people's fond remembrance of that period. I mean, the KMT fashioned itself as a Nationalist party (even though it had more of a Soviet hierarchy and training).

One last note. Westerners often look down on this Asian flirtation with Nazi symbols, flags and uniforms but we are equally unaware of our transgressions as well back home. I have often seen the Japanese rising sun emblem on t-shirts and caps (it's a military flag with the rays of the sun representing the reaches of the Japanese empire). How offensive would Chinese find that if they were bold enough to complain about it?

We also have clothing, hats, banners, bandannas and mirrors emblazoned, not to mention tattoos, with Japanese and Chinese symbols and characters we don't really understand the full implications of.

So think about this the next time you see that swastika. It might be an innocent mistake. And maybe again it isn't...
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Believe It Or Not: The 1421 Theory

Just wondering how many of you have read this book and what you thought of it. I have to say I was intrigued by the theory. Some of my friends are highly doubtful.

For those of you who haven't read it, it theorizes that the Chinese visited America before the Columbus journey. There is another version of the title of the book that is sold here that 1421 was the year the Chinese discovered the whole world.

If anything, it asks a lot of questions that could really use a good answer. Maybe too broad in its scope but it nevertheless boldly asks the question 'if'.

An important thing to note is that Menzies is not a historian by profession but a former submarine captain for the British navy. He claims his knowledge of ocean travel gives him a vantage point to look at history from a perspective that no historian could, that is, how to navigate the currents using the stars.

I think a lot of Columbus historians, having staked their entire research on the validity of the Columbus voyage, will be very pissed if their research is proved incorrect. They have a lot to gain by disproving Menzies' theory. We'll see who wins the battle in the years to come...
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Yellow Emperor: History or Fiction?

Chinese worldwide claim a culture of 5000 years. However, there is little historical proof, that is written documentation, to back this up. In fact, there aren't any artifacts either that go that far back. There are only references to this period in other works.

One of the legends is of the Huang Di, the so-called ancestor of the Han people. A student asked me what he is called in English and I said Yellow Emperor. 'Why yellow?' they asked. Well I think it's just a title or the royal color. Or could it be a family name?

I think the bigger questions is did he really exist as a real person?

Well true or not, the legend casts some light on how the deities developed in Chinese religion. The Huang Di was said to have developed Chinese Medicine thus prolonging his own life to 100 and achieving immortality thereafter. In all likelihood this was accomplished by several people but over time and through word of mouth it became a legend.

When Chinese people 'pray', it is more like giving respect to the people in history that accomplished great things or that gave something to build society. This can be seen in another popular legend about the development (discovery) of tea, which although not attributed to this Yellow Emperor, it was attributed to another.

Being Han

No not Han Solo! But what the heck could I find for a picture of Han Nationality.

Now that I have your attention...

Over the years several people have suggested that there are a few genetic ways to tell if a Chinese is truly Han. Although I highly doubt these pointers work in all cases, I am still interested in where these ideas came from and if there is any truthg to them.

The first indicator was pointed out to me in my China days. People told me that a line like a crease on the forearm not far from inside of the elbow joint area (on the easy to view side). If you're Chinese then check it. It's amazing how many people have this.

The second indicator is the two nails on baby toe. I know a lot of Chinese have this too but I don't know if it's a genetic indicator of nationality.

Write me if you have heard any legends or have any credible information about being Han!


A friend of mine introduced me to Absinthe, a tasty but strong alcohol containing wormwood (yes, the one from Harry Potter).

It used to be available exclusively in what used to be called Chocolate and Love (now Bliss). However, I've even seen it on sale at places as surprising as the Formoz Festival.

I'd never heard of it back home even though it's perfectly legal there. I say this since absinthe has a history and was banned in places in Europe at times. Historically, it was the poison of choice of many artists, writers and thinkers, these included Vincent van Gogh, Édouard Manet, Guy de Maupassant, Arthur Rimbaud, Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway.

It's 80% alcohol and a bottle costs around $3200NT (the best way to buy if you are going to share; per glass is pricey). How is it served?

"Traditionally, absinthe is poured into a glass over which a specially designed slotted spoon is placed. A sugar cube is then deposited in the bowl of the spoon. Ice-cold water is poured or dripped over the sugar until the drink is diluted 3:1 to 5:1"

At the bar I drank it at, the cube once doused with absinthe was lit on fire using a lighter for extra effect. Careful with that fire if you've already drank a lot!
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Mounties in Taiwan

Saw this sight in YingGe the other day while walking down old pottery street.

It looks like the police have taken a page right out of the Canadian mounted police book, even to the point of copying the color. Well red is a striking and auspicious color to the Chinese.

Anyone have any information about these guys or about the horse police program in Taiwan?
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This one's for Taiwan's flyboys

Don't know what to write about this one except:
"Can I sit in the cockpit?" she said.

Well, I guess it's better than hanging around with a bunch of lonely guys in the South China Sea Spratly Islands. More on those later...
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So many islands, so little agreement

It may come as no surprise that Formosa isn't the only island contested in Asia. In fact, there is a complex web of political entanglements in Asia.

The Diaoyutai or Senkaku Islands are just one of several that I will try to cover now and in later posts.

They are located almost exactly 170km between Japanese territorial islands and Keelung, Taiwan. If you look at a map of the area you will notice that Japan's islands extend downwards in a line. The last big island before hitting Mainland China is Taiwan.

The Diaoyutai or "Fishing Islands" are a matter of contention between Taiwan, China and Japan. These days Japan controls them but it didn't always.

Governments and waves of protesters have tried to lay claim to them in the past. Each time they have been repelled by Japanese coast guard forces.

And why make such a fuss over the islands? Well national pride is one part. China and Taiwan don't want to give an inch of territory to the Japanese due to wartime disputes. However, there's also the question of fishing and drilling for oil. Not only this but any islands in the shipping lanes of East Asia are strategic.

Next time we'll take a look at the South China Sea and see how the situation there is even more of a powder keg...

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The Communist Party of Taiwan Province of China

Had an odd experience today. A guy came into our school for an oral test. He was pretty odd. Nerdy looking with bent glasses, wearing simple clothes and having a cane. Upon being called for the oral test he practically keeled over.

He did make it into the testing room though. It was then I noticed that he had real powerful B.O., the kind that kind of makes you want to close your eyes.

I went through my regular type questions.

Me: So what do you do?
Him: I do China politics.
Me: Isn't doing politics in China illegal?
Him: No, I use international communication service...

It was a terrible oral test. And while I was convinced that he had some ability, it was diminished by the fact that he also stuttered and repeated himself very often. What I had really to do was to get out of the reek that was filling the testing room!

Later I asked the secretaries for clarification. When he had been asked about his employment he claimed he was in politics, more specifically he was in the Communist Party.

Well, I laughed when I heard that! But it got me thinking that there had to be some Communists in Taiwan.

There might be some truth to what he said. There actually is an unofficial Taiwanese Communist Party led singularly by someone named Dai Chung. He has tried to apply to register his party several times but "these applications to the ROC Ministry of the Interior have been rejected on the grounds that Article 2 of the Civic Organization Law forbids civic organizations and activities from promoting communism."

Dai Chung brings up an interesting point. If Taiwan is so democratic then why don't its laws allow people to start a communist party? If Mr. Dai's organization gets shut down doesn't that smack against free speech?

I say let him start his party. No one will take it seriously anyway. Besides, it could add a little more color to the already colorful field of politics in Taiwan, much like the Rhinoceros Party or the Natural Law Party has in Canada.

Even Dr. Sun had a leaning towards communism: "Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) said, It’s OK to study the meaning of communism, but not to use its methods. Fair enough. Here are some more sympathizers:

"Before Song Qingling (宋慶齡), Madame Sun Yat-sen, passed away, she was allowed to become a member of the Communist Party in May 1981. Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) became a member of the Komsomol after he arrived in Moscow in November 1925. [....] Papers can also be found that state that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) became a member of the Communist Party upon his return to Taiwan after World War II. They were all attracted by ideas: capitalism conforms most with the human character, socialism strives for humanism, and communism is full of idealism."

Wow! Even Teng-hui!!!

Back to the testee. So was this guy full of it? I may find out later if he actually takes class. Either the guy was totally off his rocker or he was a genuine Communist.

I leave you with a clever quote from Dai Chung, leader of the Communist Party of Taiwan:

"Its wrong to say if I love the mainland so much, I should move there. If I do that, Taiwan will only be left with independence supporters."

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Warm Up in Winter to the Wind of Revving Engines

... at Songshan Airport in the heart of Taipei!

That's right! There's an airport in the middle of densely populated Taipei!

It's funny because there are all the usual tourist attractions in Taipei but this one rarely gets mentioned. I think it should be right there at the top of the list!

Basically you can stand at the end of the runway, just meters from the end, and watch the incoming planes land. It's a real rush! Besides you're sure to see planes. One lands practically every 5 minutes!

Only one book, 'Mapping the Culture of Taipei', published by Taipei City, mentions this attraction. It may well be because it's isolated and hard to get to. If you ride a scooter it's great. If not you're in for a little walk.

Also, it may not be mentioned because it's just plain dangerous. On busy days, many watchers stand near the busy street that passes right beside the end of the runway. The only thing between the watchers and the airfield is a simple fence too.

I can't say it's very developed either. It's actually fairly dumpy with small farmers fields spread around the area. Don't stray too far to the side either! There's a military airbase entrance there complete with armed security. They don't like visitors.

One last thing not mentioned is that this is a great thing to do in the winter. But don't go for the planes landing. Go for the planes taking off (from the same runway). They rev up at the viewing end and the audience is bathed (lightly) in the heat of the engines. There's a load of wind too so be prepared. It's the perfect cool date for a cold winter day or evening. Try it!
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Monday, January 15, 2007

Taiwan in Hollywood

Lev Andropov: Excuse me, but I think I know how to fix this.
Watts : Move it! You don't know the components!
Lev Andropov: [annoyed] Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!

My wife gets pissed off every time she hears these kinds of lines about Taiwan in movies. She can't understand how I can just sit back and laugh in movies like South Park that poke fun at Canadians. Oh well, touchy, touchy.

I remember a while back a student made reference to a Michael Douglas film that said something similar about Taiwan with regard to an umbrella he bought.

So here it is. I'm looking for input. I need more references to Taiwan in the movies. Please write to me by commenting to this entry. I eagerly await your suggestions and choices.

One Language to Unite Them ... Sort Of

Just as the Chinese people in general, the so-called national language is also fractured. Standard Mandarin or Mandarin dialects? Putonghua, Guoyu or Huayu?

The confusion may lie in the fact that language and culture are separate:

"[T]here [isn't] a common 'Mandarin' identity based on language; rather, there are strong regional identities centered on individual dialects, because of the wide geographical distribution and cultural diversity of its speakers."

You could argue: Is there really even an English culture? Well, English speakers are a lot more alike than Chinese speakers. Still, we identify ourselves as citizens of our separate countries rather than as an English speaking group.

The feeling of being Chinese, on the other hand, is a different feeling. You are still Chinese no matter where you live, in China or overseas. It is larger than territorial boundaries.

Mandarin is a Portuguese word referring to Imperial Magistrates. As such it could be regarded as a language of officialdom. But that's where the simplicity ends.

I remember traveling around China and asking people what Mandarin was. No matter what tiny village I was in, everyone thought they were speaking the 'official' Mandarin.

Also, I have heard too that some Mainlanders admire softer sounding Mandarin of the Taiwanese to their harsher sounding Beijing style Mandarin. Somehow I doubt this but it may just be due to the influence of the softer Mandarin from movies.

If you are looking for the real Mandarin, well, good luck to you my friend. Just learn some kind of Mandarin. For now, Mandarin Chinese, whatever Mandarin you choose, remains the hot language to know if you want to communicate with the most Chinese, which is hovering around a whopping billion people these days.

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The Truth about the Hakka

Some interesting facts about the often overlooked Hakka:
-They are a migratory society
-They are the source of many influential revolutionary and political leaders.
-Traditionally, they did not practice foot binding, which suggests the women had to work

Hakka or 客家 (guest families) are a sub-group of Chinese. Originally resettled by the Chinese central government, it was believed they kept the name because of being outsiders to the areas where they finally settled.

They've been described as the Jews of Asia due to their persecution in history:

"Hakkas are considered in mainstream Chinese society as a taboo caste or "the Jews of China" due to their forced migratory patterns and systematic victimization by other Chinese ethnic groups."

"[Due to persecution,] the Hakka people placed a greater reliance on the internal strengths of their own customs and cultural identity"

Also: "Hakka dissenters featured in the anti-government rebellion and subsequently were persecuted following the failure of the Tai Ping revolution. One notable feature of the Hakka culture was their marked embrace of the Christian faith which at the time of anti-Western sentiment in the Qing dynasty added more cultural impetus for their persecution."

As relative outcasts in many ways, he Hakkas have emigrated to many regions worldwide, much in line with their migratory nature, being a larger proportion of overseas Chinese in some countries.

One last interesting thing to note is, for the size of their population, there are quite a few notable Hakka. To name a few: Hong Xiuquan (leader of the failed Taiping Rebellion), Mao Zedong, Lee Denghui and Lee Kwan Yew. Others, including singers and actors, are here:

Non-Hakka in Taiwan generally perpetuate the usual stereotypes (that might have been associated to Jews in other places): Hakka are stingy people and keep to themselves, intermarrying rather than going outside their culture, and they are not to be trusted. How much this is really true remains something that is best determined on a case by case basis. It could be the typical case that other cultures are jealous of the remarkable success of some Hakka and just propagate these kinds of things. The proud Hakka that I know are friendly, open and hard-working.

One student has suggested to me that Hakka language's pronunciation most resembles the court language of the Tang or Sung Dynasty and may have been the official language of that time. There may be some truth to this but also a whole load of disagreement too:

"Actually, there is only one 'north' imperial language but this language has evolved throughout time to become the mandarin of today.

During the tang dynasty, the imperial language probably sounded closest to cantonese, during the sung dynasty probably sounded closest to hakka. My assumption if you look at the link that I provided earlier are as follows.

Qin ---> Cantonese ---> Hakka/Gan ---> Mandarin

During the progression, you notice that several mutations occur [in pronunciation]"

These days "younger Hakka speakers [also] face alienation from their own mother tongue" due to pressure from larger language and cultural groups surrounding them. Due to the numbers game they are doomed to falling into the giant vat of soy paste that is Chinese society.

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Taipei 101 still the world's tallest for a while

Taipei 101 is the pride of Taiwan, standing at 509 m (1,671 ft). Opened in 2004, it remains the world's tallest building for now. (For the record, the Sears Tower is higher with its antennae and the CN Tower is the worlds tallest non-habitable structure).

Actually having 101 floors (hence the name), it boasts of the world's fastest elevator and has an observable tuned mass damper or giant pendulum on the 92nd floor. The pendulum is made to counteract the effects of high winds, typhoons and earthquakes acting on the building and that are common to Taiwan.

Here's something that's often overlooked. 101 actually has an open air observation deck above the enclosed one. The sides are barred by a cage but the top is open and, man, is it winding up there! The wind whistles through the bars to create an eerie sound.

Visit the tower on a pre-typhoon day for the best viewing. Before a typhoon arrives, the particulate in the air gets sucked away and there is glorious sunshine! I've heard the night view is good too. Also, people try to get a good view of the moon at Moon Festival time.

New Years Eve has fantastic fireworks shooting off the building as well if you can get through the impenetrable crowds to get near the building.

On another note, Taipei residents joke about working in the tower. Deep down I think they are scared. I always joke that if my company started a branch there and asked me to work there I would quit.

Locals also complain about its shape. They think it looks ugly. I've also heard that its fengshui is bad since it faces mountains on one side. This is hard to believe since it is almost an impossibility that such a grand project would have not consulted a fengshui master before construction.

If you are a really determined visitor, you could try the annual run up the tower for charity. You won't find me there!

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Baskin Robbins Strikes Back!

I wrote about Baskin Robbins leaving the market a while ago but, as they say, ... it's baaaaaaaaaacccccccck!

Well it seems that I will have to update the situation. I went to Global Mall in Banqiao last night. Pretty impressive! Inside one of the stores, JUSTCO, I was stunned to see a Baskin Robbins 31.

Well it wasn't a total surprise since a student had tipped me off about it. We were doing an article about how Western companies were having trouble cracking the Asian markets, especially China.

Baskin Robbins left Taiwan many years ago like Wendy's, another doomed franchise (is Burger King next to leave, there are so few stores now???). The front of Baskin Robbins had a lot of Japanese branding so I guess that it is affiliated with the Japanese branches or supply chain. JUSTCO is a Japanese store so maybe they are piggy backing on its supply chain, which would facilitate its re-entry into Taiwan.

Well, it's back and it seems ok, although I don't think it had 31 flavors. I'll have to try it out when the weather gets warmer!

If you want to read the ice-cream blog entry I made earlier:

Taichung has three stores!!!

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"Firefly" and Mandarin

"Serenity" has been airing on HBO recently. What may surprise many Taiwanese expats is that the characters sometimes shout out some Mandarin Chinese here and there.

The movie is based on a TV series called "Firefly" which didn't air very long but which gained a cult following.

I'm a science fiction fan but I can't say I liked the mixture of Wild West with outer space in Firefly. I was curious, however, when the movie came out. It's actually pretty well written and acted. There are some great lines in it as well.

The creator of the series has explained that, in his future, the two remaining superpowers, the US and China, were the ones to pursue space travel. Thus, they formed an alliance and caused a fusion of the cultures.

"This future envisioned in Serenity has two political and cultural centers: Euro-American and Chinese. Characters all speak English and Mandarin, with the latter language reserved for the strongest curse words. However, the tones and pronounciation of these Mandarin words are barely recognizable to the native Chinese speaker."

It's kind of neat to try to pick out exactly what they are saying since they usually mutter the words and have terrible Chinese pronunciation. If you need some help, HBO has Chinese subtitles so knock yourself out.

More here about the movie and how it came about:
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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Is it still there?

This is a picture of a statue that is (was) near Taipei Train Station.

The caption says Love (your) Father.

Just don't 'love' him too much...

Does anyone know, is it still there??? What an eyesore! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 4, 2007

To Asia: Are you a coffee or a tea person?

These two cups may look innocuous but they are in a huge slug-fest here in Asia. More than ever, people in Asia seem to be turning towards coffee culture.

I'm not saying that tea culture will disappear completely but, if it wants to flourish again, it needs to reform and revitalize.

Coffee has a couple of really strong points going for it:

a) Coffee is the stronger stimulant. It's exactly what sleep deprived students and workers here crave.

b) Coffee exudes a modern and fresh, international image. Coffee shops have a modern feel and a business like setting, even offering Wi-Fi service for customers. Tea house are generally more traditional looking and leisurely in nature. On top of this, coffee is the new guy on the block. There's always allure to things that are new and have a more international flavor (when compared to the common, stale and domestic feeling of tea).

For now, young Taiwanese are saying "coffee" to the questions of coffee versus tea. How long it stays this way remains unsure but they are making a choice that their parents may have never made.

Let the stimulant drink war begin!Posted by Picasa

Sex ratio in Taiwan and Greater Asia

Taiwanese are pretty critical of the practices of their cross-straight cousins in China. Amazingly though, they really resemble in the sex ratio area.

This is probably going to be a little controversial but I'll wade into it anyway. It is generally accepted that a 'normal' ratio of boys born to girls born is 105:100. Scientists have used this as the basis for looking at societies around the world.

We have all heard stories about how the one-child policy has had the effect of making boys the choice of many couple in China. This may be for labor reasons but more likely due to the fact that Chinese like to insure a male heir to continue the family name.

This is where it gets interesting. Even though Taiwan (and other close Asian nations) does not have such a draconian birth policy, what isn't enforced by government controls is being enforced by economics, culture and modern technology.

"The sex ratio at birth (between male and female births) in mainland China reached 117:100 in the year 2000, substantially higher than the natural baseline, which ranges between 103:100 and 107:100. It had risen from 108:100 in 1981 -- at the boundary of the natural baseline -- to 111:100 in 1990. The coincidence of the increase of sex ratio disparity on birth and the deployment of one child policy are viewed by many as the side effect of one child policy. However, other Asian regions also have higher than average ratios, including Taiwan (110:100), and South Korea (108:100), which do not have a strict family planning policy."

As societies develop, they tend to have less children per family. But also,

"Both rural and urban populations have economic and traditional incentives, including widespread remnants of Confucianism, to prefer sons over daughters. Sons are preferred as they provide the primary financial support for the parents in their retirement, and a son's parents typically are better cared for than his wife's."


"Even in other Asian countries/provinces without population control programs, [....] the strong social preference for sons combined with the access to modern technologies such as ultrasound have resulted in increased sex ratios at birth."

It suggests that the use of new technology such as ultrasound to predict the sex of unborn children has resulted in sex-selective abortion. So the dirty secret is out...

China's one child policy and other countries in the area:

A sex ratio comparison chart by country and more theories:

Chinese loanwords in English

"Tea" (the character imprinted on the above block of tea) is the Amoy pronounciation of the Mandarin "Cha" if you didn't already know. In fact, there are a lot of loanwords from Chinese that we use in English.

Among the notable standouts:

These terms probably came into English do to contact with missionaries and traders and due to the colonization of parts of China of various foreign powers.

Visit the site below to find many more:

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

A key word to use: MONKEY

Monkeys are indeed fascinating animals. However, in my time here in Taiwan, I have found that, other than being the interesting animals they are, the word monkey is an instrumental teaching tool.

Monkeys are curious and mischievous animals. Whatever they may be, they have a soft spot in the hearts of Taiwanese. Saying the word almost immediately commands attention.

If you want to try it, say something like this to a group of unmotivated students in a first class: "Write your English names on the board. The last person to write their name is a monkey." And just watch them fly!!!

Why does it peak Taiwanese interest? Well it may be one of those key English words drilled in school. That's my theory, at least.

Let me know if you have any more key words like this to share... Posted by Picasa

99 Shen Gong 九九神功

This is really old news but I think about the day I came across this concept while teaching and want to convey the concept to people new to Taiwan.

You maybe wondering what the pic is about. In fact, this is a kind of kung fu taught by Grandmaster Tu of Taipei. He trains people in how to develop and strengthen their junk through kung fu.

He claims it can make you "big" and gives you more endurance.

The BBC did a nice piece on it here (pretty funny too):

Sign up for classes now at Tu's website:
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