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?
Taiwan is chock-full of local cultural treasures and monuments to local history. But perhaps no part of Taiwan takes pride in its local history quite like Yilan County- a triangle that makes up Taiwan’s northeastern corner. Here, you can find the Institute of Yilan County History, a place where local people can research their genealogy, admire special artifacts of local significance, and go to exhibits and lectures on life as their ancestors would have known it. There’s nothing quite like this institute anywhere else in Taiwan, and here this week to talk with us about it is institute head Liao Ying-chieh.
It isn’t often that Taiwan’s national museum gets a new branch, but this year, it’s getting an entire new complex in Taipei. This was long the center of Taiwan’s railway network, and so fittingly enough, it is to be home to a new museum dedicated to Taiwan’s rail history. After nearly 30 years in the making, the new museum is set to open in late April. As final preparations for the opening of the Railway Ministry Park Museum get underway, I’ve reached out to its parent body, the National Taiwan Museum, for a sneak peak.
When people in Taiwan hear the name "Mailiao", those who know the place immediately think of the township's industrial park, oil refinery, and coal-fired power plant. But when locals hear the name, they instead picture the historical treasures found all around their home. The town now known for its smokestacks was once instead a thriving port with international trade, and beautiful historic buildings still recall that bygone age. The town's money back its heyday even attracted the best artisans and craftsmen from across the Taiwan Strait. In temples and old buildings, the were commissioned to leave behind carvings, and this is the only place in Taiwan where you can appreciate the work of these masters. Ms. Wu of the local cultural preservation society guides us through the town's past and its heritage in this week's edition of Curious John.
In Taiwan, the Lunar New Year holiday is a time for family and celebration- but for many, it’s also a time with a special religious significance. The calendar around this time of year is filled with private worship at home as well as special public events at temples, all designed to ensure that the year ahead is peaceful and prosperous. Some of these customs are common to ethnic Chinese around the world, but as we’ll find out this week, there are some New Year religious practices that are unique to Taiwan. Here this week to tell us about the beliefs surrounding the New Year is Professor Lin Mao-hsien, an authority on Taiwanese folklore.
Happy New Year! Across Taiwan this week, fireworks and firecrackers are filling the air as revelers celebrate the start of another year in the traditional lunar calendar. As you listen to this program, we have just left the Year of the Pig and entered the Year of the Rat. Both pig and rat are part of the traditional Chinese zodiac used to track the passage of years. There are twelve animals in this system, each in charge of a year in a predictable twelve-year cycle. Maybe you’ve heard of this zodiac before, and maybe you’re the sort of person who looks at zodiacs as simple superstition. But did you know that the Chinese zodiac has tangible, real-world effects on people’s lives? On the line with us this week to explain the zodiac and its impact is Professor Lin Mao-hsien, an expert in Taiwanese folklore.