Taiwan is a very interesting place for idealists.

On the one hand, Taiwan’s political histories are full of them. Like Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), the founder of Taiwan Cultural Association and a dreamer of Taiwanese nationalism under Japanese rule in the 1920s. There was Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who directly challenged martial law by publishing politically critical magazine fighting for “100% freedom of speech.” Many people dream of nation-building projects that are yet to be finished, even Dr. Sun Yat-sen, imagined an utopian China rising out of a thousands year old imperial empire. The list goes on and on; as if Taiwan, at the frontier of empires and the crossroads of civilizations, produces men and women ready to usurp the existing order with their own ideal visions.

Yet the Taiwanese have also shown to be a very pragmatic people. The predominant philosophy is to climb the social ladder, and not rock the boat. Education is primarily a way to advance and accumulate competitiveness against others. Profit is the only worthy goal. Life is short and uncertain, so why worry about anything but survival until tomorrow?

Anyone who has lived in Taiwan, or spent significant time in Taiwan, can probably relate to this dichotomy on idealism. Today we want to talk to yet another idealist—performance artist (if we can even call him that) Huang Ming-cheng (黃明正), more affectionately known as Mr. Candle.

“Exactly because Taiwan’s society is so pragmatic, that it sometimes worry so much on what is available, and forget to see what is possible. And in a time like this when Taiwan is under pressure from all sides, when there isn’t much more available, Mr. Candle reminds us to focus instead on what is possible.”

(Feature photo of Mr. Candle’s audience, by Betty Wang)


The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.