CultureCurious John

Curious John

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?

What's On

26 December, 2020
Taipei in 1928: A Guidebook

In the 1920’s, the newly born city of Taipei was a rapidly changing place. Automobiles began to fill streets where human-power rickshaws had once been the only means of transport. Telephone lines began to connect once distant parts of town. An expanding waterworks system piped in clean water into homes, and electricity lit up the night as it did in only a few other tiny slivers of Taiwan. The city was a dynamic sort of place that old black-and-white photos just don’t do justice to. And, at the same time, it was also a city subject to colonial rule, where locals and colonizers lived very unequal lives. Fortunately for us, a snapshot of this city more than any photo survives, a 1928 guide to the city that lists everything there was. Part tourist guidebook, part phone directory, part atlas, it maps out every single business, public institution, and even market stall that stood at the time, giving a valuable look at what people of the time were buying, what conditions they lived in, and what visitors to the city could expect when they arrived. Long out of print, it has been reissued this year by the Chiang Wei-shui Foundation, an organization devoted to the 1920’s-era doctor, proponent of Taiwanese culture, and leader of anti-colonial struggle Chiang Wei-shui, a man mentioned in the guide itself. Association director and grandson of Chiang Wei-shui, Mr. Chiang Chao-ken, joins us today for a look at this priceless document and a look at why his organization has decided to reprint it.

19 December, 2020
Taipei's Centenary

It’s difficult to imagine what any city in the world looked like 100 years ago without the help of photos or maps, but the Taipei of 100 years past is an especially hard place to figure out. That’s because the past century here has seen the city’s population surge, old landmarks disappear, and new districs dominated by high rises rise up from nothing. These days, lots of people are thinking about Taipei as it was a century ago. That's because this year is the centenary of Taipei's official foundation. One of the most insightful exhibits about life in 1920's Taipei is going on now at city hall.

12 December, 2020
A 165-year-old celebration

Taipei’s Wanhua District is the sort of place you don’t soon forget. It can be on the gritty side, but the area packs a punch when it comes to historic buildings, street food, and old temples full of old traditions. Among the district’s treasures is a grand temple festival and parade that has been held regularly for 165 years, commemorating the lifting of a great epidemic that hit the area's 19th century townspeople. Appropriately enough for a year filled with disease, the 2020 edition of the festival, which ended last week, was the largest yet, attracting, per local media reports,100,000 or so participants. Late into the night, over the course of three days, firecrackers lit up the streets as revelers held a procession in honor to the gods that lifted the plague all those years ago. This year, though, things are a little different. The celebration this time around started early, back on November 27. And while the streets have calmed down, it’s actually not over yet. This year, the Taiwan-based General Association of Chinese Culture has organized several weeks of events and exhibits around the big bash to attract visitors to Wanhua and bring its history, plague and all, to life. The association’s deputy secretary-general, Li Houqing,  joins us today for an overview of Wanhua’s history and all of the activities planned this year to celebrate it. 

05 December, 2020
National Taiwan University’s Museum of Anthropology

The Taipei area is chock-full of museums. But not all of the city’s good collections are advertised. Some are hidden in completely unremarkable buildings, the sorts of places that people pass by everyday without realizing there’s anything worth stopping to look at inside. National Taiwan University’s Museum of Anthropology is a good example.It’s one of a number of interesting, but barely visited displays hidden across campus. The objects on display don’t change much, but I like to go in from time to time to check in on them. Aside from an attendant or two, I’ve never seen a single other soul here. My most recent visit was this week, and I’d like to take this opportunity to let you in on this small but beautiful exhibit hall showcasing the rich variety of Taiwan’s first peoples.

28 November, 2020
Taiwan's Old Board Games

Today, at almost any family gathering in Taiwan- at least any I've been invited to- the TV is definitely on, and it isn't long before the phones come out. Sure, people chat and eat, but there is a lot besides one another's company to focus on. It seems this is remarkably recent, though, as a new exhibit at Taipei's Museum 207 reminds us. This is an homage to the board games of yesteryear, the sort of games that have lost their place in most contemporary family living rooms, but which remain in the memory as well as in the possession of a passionate group of collectors. The museum's chief educational coordinator Wang Chen-yi joins us this week for a dive into the boardgames that generations of Taiwanese people still remember today.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 57