English Service host John Van Trieste is curious. There’s nothing about Taiwan’s many cultures that he doesn’t want to know more about. Join him every week as he gets to the bottom of yet another question. What will he be curious about this time?
He was a decorated WWII general, respected by the best military minds of his age. Later, during the Chinese Civil War, he fought for the Republic of China again, sending communist forces packing. Some say he could have changed the course the war completely. But General Sun’s career was cut short, he got caught up in the politics of the age, and he spent more than 30 years under house arrest. Today, the General Sun Li-jen Residence in Taipei is keeping his memory alive. Last week, the hall’s director told us the story of Sun’s rise and fall. Today, he’s back again to tell us about the history of the building itself, and to tell us the story of the general’s final years
He was a man who helped make history. And, some believe, he might have changed it entirely, if only he’d been allowed to. He won multiple decorations, the respect of his generation’s greatest military minds, and even the moniker “Rommel of the East”. In the end, though, General Sun Li-jen spent more than 30 years under house arrest, just another victim of Taiwan’s era of authoritarian rule. He's since been vindicated, though, and he’s never been forgotten. One place where he’s remembered today is a busy restaurant and reception hall. It’s seems an odd place to remember a historical figure . But this was General Sun’s home for eight years during a fateful period of his life. The head of the General Sun Li-jen Residence joins us today for a look at the man behind the medals.
Just outside the urban rush of the port city of Kaohsiung, there’s a big patch of green unlike anything else in Taiwan. It’s a group of mountains that are ringed in cycling and hiking paths, filled with historic sites, and roamed by troupes of monkeys. The rugged landscape offers birds’ eye views of the city and the great container ships anchored offshore, and the mountains command impressive views of some of Taiwan’s best sunsets. It’s a place many have felt deserves to be protected as a national park, and yet it’s not- at least not quite. This is Shoushan National Nature Park. What treasures are protected here? What exactly is a national nature park, anyway? Here today to tell us is the park’s Mr. Lu.
In the northern Taiwanese town of Beipu, Chiang A-hsin is remembered as a renaissance man, but above all as a businessman- at one point around half the town’s population was on his payroll. In later years, market collapse would leave him bankrupt and force his family to leave the area for better opportunities in Taipei. But former employees continued to visit him on his birthday, and the children of those employees still gather in his honor. A well-appointed house Chiang built for business meetings still stands in his hometown. It’s now on the register of Hsinchu County’s historic buildings, and just last year it opened to the public. Local expert on the building Mr. Huang joins us today to discuss the building, but also the man behind it, who still evokes warm memories in his hometown today.
Summers in Taiwan are hot, sticky affairs. But Taiwanese people know how to get through them in style. Many tourists, especially those from Asia, come for air conditioned shaved ice shops and cold treats like mango ice. Guidebooks and ads aimed at tourists make it all seem quintessentially Taiwanese. But just a bit over a century ago, there was no air conditioning- not so much as a fan. There was no ice either, and even if there had been, people would have told you that icy treats are bad for the health. How, then, did the Taiwanese summer as we know it come to be? The 207 museum in Taipei has the answer in a new exhibit about the summers of years long past.