Ketagalan Media Ideas and Trends Between Asia and the World Sun, 20 Aug 2017 15:18:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ketagalan Media 32 32 63910900 Summer Universiade, Indigenous Rights, Paralyzed Painter: Taiwan Uniquely Sun, 20 Aug 2017 15:18:35 +0000 This week: Summer Universiade games, recognition of pingpu indigenous peoples, and a paralyzed artist. Plus, a love note to Tainan's "nightlife."

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Summer Universiade Gets Underway in Taipei

  • The long-anticipated Summer Universiade 2017 finally gets underway in Taipei this weekend. With over 8000 athletes from more than 140 regions and countries participating, Summer Universiade marks the biggest international event that Taiwan has ever hosted.
  • As the host country, Taiwan put together a delegation of 371 athletes, its biggest ever, and Lin De-Fu, the Director General of Taiwan’s Sports Administration, estimates that Taiwan could win around 11 gold medals, a record-breaking goal.
  • More than 320,000 tickets to 22 different sporting competitions have been sold, and all opening and closing ceremony tickets are sold out. Can Taiwan break its Universiade record this year at home?

Recognizing Indigenous Rights or Making Them Second-Class Citizens?

  • The Presidential Office announced on August 17th that the Executive Yuan has proposed amendments to the Indigenous Rights Act, extending the recognition of indigenous identities to the pingpu indigenous peoples, roughly meaning people with indigenous ancestry but has been assimilated by Han migrants long ago .
  • The Presidential office claims the draft bill fulfills President Tsai’s promise to respect pingpu indigenous tribes’ self-recognition and is a significant progress towards historical justice.
  • However, pingpu indigenous rights groups pointed out that while the draft bill creates a new legal category for the pingpu peoples, it does not detail the rights for this new category. This, the groups argued, could spark potential conflicts and fears between indigenous peoples of different categories.

An Artist’s 45 Degree View of the World

  • A paralyzed artist finally fulfilled his lifelong dream when his art exhibition kicked off in Taipei on August 15. A car accident 23 years ago changed Jin Gen-Hong’s life forever. Apart from his wrists, he was paralyzed from the neck down. After his parents came across the story of a paralyzed painter, they decided to encourage Jin to learn painting. After unsuccessful attempts in the beginning, Jin was introduced to artist Shen Ting-Wei, and began to learn painting with him.
  • After years of hard work, Jin finally masters the art of painting and is now about to introduce himself to the world through his exhibition. According to an interview he gave in 2016, he plans to keep painting until he can no longer move any part of his body.

Tainan’s Night Time Glamour

  • We took a tour through Tainan’s historic sites and learn about why Tainan is the perfect place to witness Taiwan’s architectural traditions. This week, we take a trip through Tainan’s glamorous nightlife with Taipei Love Notes.


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Injustice Anywhere Threatens Justice Everywhere: Charlottesville, Hong Kong, Taiwan Thu, 17 Aug 2017 23:25:13 +0000 Does Taiwan, a society still trying to make sense of its past violence and intolerance, have something to offer to the world as a light in these dark times?

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The past week has been devastating for those of us who support freedom, equality, and tolerance around the world.

The renewed brazenness of violent white supremacists and neo-Nazis in America was on full display in Charlottesville, Virginia, enabled by an ignorant and crass President Trump leading the country. An out of control protester rammed his car through a crowd of counter demonstrators, killing the 32 year-old Heather Heyer.

In Hong Kong, political activists and a duly elected representatives of the people were sentenced to prison for “unlawful assembly” in connection with their involvement in the Umbrella Movement in 2014, protesting Beijing requiring pro-China views from candidates for Hong Kong’s top executive. Nathan Law, Joshua Wong, and Alex Chow had already been sentenced to community service, but the court re-sentenced them on the grounds that the “original punishment was too light.”

Not that much longer ago, China’s first Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died of cancer while on medical parole; he was still under arrest by the Chinese government as a political prisoner for promoting the 08 Charter, a document advocating for basic human rights in China.

Seems, somehow, that everything we as a collective civilization has decided was undesirable, the darker and more selfish reflexes of the human nature, steadily grew fangs and are itching to poison the world as we know it. Although in one case the poison comes in the form of individuals and organizations within a democratic system and in another case it is the state holding all the means to military might, the desire for power is analogous. Intolerance and hatred towards people who are different led to self-superiority; subjugation and authority over the governed turned into senseless oppression of dissent. 

All this will be familiar to those in the Taiwanese society who remember the Formosa Incident of 1979 and the ensuing court trial. Taiwan was then ruled by the Chinese Nationalist Party, whose leader Chiang Kai-shek instituted martial law in Taiwan after World War II, creating an authoritarian regime with himself as dictator. By the late 1970s, grassroots opposition to the regime had become more vocal, culminating in a demonstration on Human Rights Day, 1979, in the port city of Kaohsiung.

The military police and armed forces cracked down on the march, and its leaders as well as marchers were arrested. Eight prominent organizers, including Annette Lu, Chen Chu, and Shih Ming-te, were tried in military court and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 years to life; 37 other participants were also locked up in prison. They were beaten and tortured, deprived of sleep, or had water injected into their veins.

To everyone living through those times, it must have also seemed that there was no hope for the fight against oppression. The trial was put on public display, as if the ruling class was telling everyone: “we won, and this is what happens when you dare defy us.

Right now, looking at what’s happening in Hong Kong and Charlottesville, we can’t help but feel the same chill down our spines. We are headed for darker times, people say.

But that’s not what happened in Taiwan. By 1987, in a short span of eight years, Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Ching-kuo announced the end to martial law. In the years that followed, Taiwan took great pains to create a new democratic society, through non-violent protests without a military coup or a bloody revolution.  

This would not have come about had it not been for the persistence of the opposition movement—once the Formosa Incident leaders were jailed, their spouses stepped in and fought to run for local office. After that, their defense attorneys joined the cause and ran for office themselves, which inspired more people to join their cause. 

Just as importantly, increasing foreign pressure also pushed Taiwan’s leaders, in the form of action by United States senators and the work of advocates for Taiwan’s democracy in the US, among them Taiwanese Americans who organized to raise awareness of the issue. The United States took a stand then, and helped the course of a nation struggling against injustice.

Look at the people standing at the podiums today, espousing the most shameless statements with straight faces. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on June 30 that the treaty signed with Great Britain over the future of Hong Kong “no longer has any practical significance,” outright belittling a formal contractual promise it made to the international public. Similar in its brazenness, the president of the United States said this week that the people who associate themselves with the tradition of mass murders are “fine people.”  

The struggle for democracy and equal rights is different in each situation, but to all of the people fighting injustice, either in America or in Hong Kong, I will say: we are all fighting limbs of the same monster. It’s time for American equality activists to be more vocal about the abuses of China, and it’s time for democracy advocates in Asia to denounce what is happening with racial injustice in the United States. It’s time to take a stand again. 

And amidst all this, Taiwan, as a society that had experienced violence and intolerance, and still just beginning to make sense of it all, does it have something to offer to the world as a beacon of light in these dark times? I believe the answer is yes.  

(Feature photo of Mong Kok “Fishball Revolution,” by Donald Chan, on Wikicommons)


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Scavenger Hunt for the Truth: Taiwan National Treasure Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:09:11 +0000 Taiwan National Treasure (TNT) is a free database where people can access a wealth of US federal documents relating to Taiwan's history.

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When we think of history, perhaps we think of hard, plastic seats and cutting board-sized desks from high school history class where we were taught the legacies of winners, bloody revolutions, and those who have wrangled fate and wrung out a future for a mass of land and its constituents. History affects what we take pride in (and what we don’t). And it tells us who we are and maybe even who we’ll be. At the end of the day, history is an undeniable part of our identity.

Well, what if one day we found out that the history we knew was flawed, wrong even?

It’s a question that has Hsin Hsiao, a New York City-based software engineer, sifting through federal documents four hours away from home in the depths of Washington D.C.’s National Archives Building. The building is a colossal, 757,000 square foot information vault and designated depository for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), an independent agency created in 1935 with the task of preserving and publicizing formerly-classified federal documents and records. It’s the same white-marble edifice where Nicholas Cage once famously pocketed the Declaration of Independence in the 2004 Hollywood heist, National Treasure.

And coincidence or not, Hsiao is also here in search of a “National Treasure.” Literally.

He’s one of the leading minds behind Taiwan National Treasure (TNT), a non-profit with a mission to fill in the gaps missing from Taiwan’s told history. TNT has created a free database where people can access a wealth of federal documents from the American government relating to Taiwan. Foreign commentary on Taiwan, if you will.  

With the help of a dedicated volunteer base and technology that Hsiao helped integrate called optical character recognition or OCR (think Pleco or Google’s augmented reality-like reader), TNT has amassed nearly 10,000 primary source documents from the National Archive Building.

Born and raised in Taiwan, Hsiao spent his entire childhood and much of his young adolescence there, where he sat in plastic seats with cutting board-sized desks, listening to teachers explain the island’s tumultuous history. It wasn’t until Hsiao immigrated to the States in his late teens that he realized those teachers explained everything except the tumultuous part. The revelation that his Taiwanese education omitted events like the 228 Massacre in 1947, a bloody suppression by the Chinese Nationalist government against a revolt in Taiwan, was a shocking one.

“Taiwanese people in America have this progression of increasing self awareness the longer they are in the US because they realize something is missing in their country,” Hsiao said.  

“Although Taiwan is under the rule of the Republic of China, the rest of the world does not recognize it. Being away from Taiwan, [Taiwanese Americans] feel like the Republic of China is a nonexistent government,” Hsiao continued. “[Through TNT], we are trying to figure out what Taiwan is, what our history is, and what is the history that wasn’t taught to us when we were in school.”

The information Hsiao and his team of volunteers has amassed is both political and nonpolitical. It ranges from documents detailing Taiwan’s soil content to President Kennedy’s worries of an imminent Communist overtake in Taiwan. “We’re trying to unearth the truth, not to rewrite history,” said Hsiao. “Our intention is to expose history through primary source materials so that people can actually view and form their own opinions on what Taiwan’s history is.”

Hsiao’s identity as a “1.5 generation” (a term used to describe individuals who immigrated to the States as a child or adolescent) Taiwanese American solidifies his passion for TNT. It’s also a key advantage in drawing parallels between different histories and governments. According to Hsiao, his background made him the perfect candidate for the project because he knows enough about both Taiwan’s history and US history to piece together a coherent storyline. “So, whenever I find a document, say in 1945, I know exactly what was going on in both places because I’ve been educated in both countries,” he explained.

So when Hsiao or one of TNT’s volunteers go to the National Archives on their monthly trips, they go in search of themselves. That’s perhaps the beauty of TNT: the “National Treasure” is not a sole document or anything necessarily groundbreaking. It is up to the individual to define.

This is how TNT has drawn its core group of volunteers dedicated Taiwanese nationals and Taiwanese Americans who donate their time and energy to the cause. TNT means something different to the Taiwanese national who has experienced censorship, the 1.5 generation Taiwanese American who has seen both sides of history, the second generation American-born Taiwanese who is struggling to understand what Taiwan even is, and so forth. Everyone is in search of their own Taiwanese national treasure, and everyone is committed to helping their peers uncover that discovery.

Moving forward, Hsiao hopes to continue his treasure hunt through other archives in the US like the United Nations Records Management Office in New York City, and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on the West Coast (which is known to have documents pertaining to Chiang Kai-Shek’s era). He also hopes to eventually access primary sources abroad in Japan and the Netherlands, countries under whom Taiwan has endured a complicated history of colonization.

(Feature photo of the US National Archive)




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Water, Marriage, Angel: Taiwan Uniquely Sat, 12 Aug 2017 20:36:13 +0000 This week on Taiwan Uniquely: higher water prices, same-sex marriage lawsuit, and the story of a child singer. Plus, a love note to Tainan's old buildings.

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Each week, we tell you just three things from Taiwan. It’s a quick and unique way to connect with the society and culture of this quirky and cozy little spot in Asia, featuring our News Director William Yang with a showcase of his project Taipei Love Notes.

The World’s 3rd Lowest Water Price Is About to Increase

  • Taiwanese people have long enjoyed the world’s 3rd lowest water price, but that is about to change after the Chairman of Taiwan Water Corporation, Kuo Chun-ming, announced this week that the company plans to propose a water price increase in September, with the plan to introduce a “regional drought water price” based on the amount of water storage in reservoirs or major rivers during peak water seasons in the summer.
  • According to Kuo, the tactic is not designed to benefit the Taiwan Water Corporation, but to prevent the widespread problem of wasting waters while helping to fund  the necessary facility upgrade projects.

Marriage Registration May Soon Become Something Real for Same-Sex Couples

  • Same-sex couples may soon be able to register as married at household registration offices across Taiwan, as Taipei High Administrative Court reopened hearing of a case regarding marriage registration for same-sex couples on August 9th. If the court ruled in favor of the petitioners, same-sex couples could begin to register at local household registration offices before the current legislative process completes.
  • Although judges consider that the Zhongzheng district’s household registration office has violated the constitution by refusing to register for the petitioners, the Ministry of Justice emphasized that since legislative amendment to the marriage law is still underway, people should not overinterpret the status for same-sex marriage.

Heavenly Voice Shines at Summer Universiade 2017

  • As Taipei gets ready to host the Summer Universiade 2017, Angel Tseng, a cleft lip and cleft palate patient since birth, is the singer behind Summer Universiade 2017’s official theme song, Embrace the World. Having experienced more than 20 facial surgeries since she was just four month old, Tseng’s passion for singing never wavers despite the constant negative comments and questioning she receives at singing contests through the years.
  • After countless attempts, she finally came out on top at the audition for Summer Universiade 2017, and her heavenly voice has the chance to be heard by the world in just a few days.

When Taiwanese Architectural Traditions Come to Life

  • You may have known Tainan as the food capital of Taiwan, but there are in fact so much more to it that makes Tainan one of the top destinations for tourists. This week’s Taipei Love Notes will help you understand how Taiwan’s architectural traditions come to life in Tainan and why this model is worth adopting by other cities in Taiwan.


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Sampling Taipei’s Dining Diversity: Taipei Feast Week Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:23:05 +0000 Taipei Feast Week hopes to combine unique Taiwanese culinary experiences with Taiwanese history, culture and entrepreneurship.

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Taiwan’s food culture has long been celebrated by those who are familiar with the island nation, but events like restaurant week somehow hasn’t been able to caught on much here. Thanks to a passionate entrepreneur from Chicago, Taipei will be host to a curated restaurant week, Taipei Feast Week, in less than two weeks.  

Inspired by his interest in trading food and drink recommendations with friends, Kevin Wolkober, creator of the cuisine app Eat Drink Taiwan, decided to turn this personal habit into a city-wide event that aims at introducing five restaurants catering unique Taiwanese cuisines to people around Taipei.

“I think Feast Week is a fresh take on highlighting new restaurants, giving people a curated set of options in an affordable price range and a nice group of people with whom they can share new dining experiences,” said Wolkober. “For businesses, I feel this is a chance to share their stories and talents with new audiences while letting them experiment new ways to offer up their cuisines.”

Entering into his third year as a full-time resident of Taiwan, Wolkober emphasizes that the restaurants participating in Taipei Feast Week can help Taiwan cuisine and culture shine through their stories and special characteristics.

“My hope is Feast Week can serve as a reminder to help people stay curious about food and culture,” said Wolkober. “Connecting with people from different backgrounds over a great meal can be very powerful.”

Taking place from August 22 to 26, the list of participating restaurants include, Feng Sheng, Yunshan tea shop, Tai Ho Dian, and La Maison de Meisung. Each night offers different unique Taiwanese cuisines, along with local craft beers or wines from other places.

In partnership with FutureWard Central and Travel Local Taiwan, Wolkober hopes to combine unique Taiwanese culinary experiences with Taiwanese history, culture and entrepreneurship. Wolkober is optimistic that Feast Week Taipei will be the beginning of something greater.

“I hope to do this event series again in the future with a whole new and larger set of restaurants, over perhaps a couple more days as well,” said Wolkober.

(Feature photo courtesy of Taipei Feast Week)



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North Korea and Taiwan’s Readiness Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:34:46 +0000 As a nation sitting right in the center of East Asia, Taiwan will undoubtedly be profoundly impacted by the rising tensions between the US and North Korea.

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This is a translation from the Chinese original “北韓局勢:關我們什麼事?” originally published in SOSReader. Translation by Chieh-Ting Yeh.


After North Korea successfully tested the KN-14 intercontinental ballistic missile last month, the threat to the US mainland became much more of a reality. Just last night, President Trump said that the US will meet North Korea’s threats with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” adding fuel to a fire that looks to be quickly escalating.  

However, there seems to be little interest in this rising tension within Taiwan, even with possible armed conflict right in Taiwan’s neighborhood. Taiwan is perilously sandwiched between US and China, both of which are under threat from North Korea.  

For the US, North Korea’s current capabilities have likely reached a tipping point. If the US does not take some kind of action to stop North Korea’s progress, it is only a matter of time before American cities on the west coast are plausibly threatened.

Even worse for China, North Korea’s current ballistic missile range covers most of China’s territories. It is not in the interest of China’s national security for North Korea to continue to stockpile its nuclear arsenal.

While China and the US have overwhelming incentives to act before North Korea conducts the next nuclear test, it is yet uncertain what their actions will be. Regardless, as a nation sitting right in the center of East Asia, Taiwan will undoubtedly be profoundly impacted.

For which areas should Taiwan be ready in the face of further tensions?

  • Financial measuresWhether targeted strike or widespread conflict, we need to assess the impact to Taiwan’s financial markets in both scenarios, and prepare measures to stabilize the markets if necessary.


  • Key industries: Assess how Taiwan’s key industries will be affected. Many of Taiwan’s industries, such as in the global hardware supply chain, are both competing and complementing with counterparts in South Korea. In the event of conflict, how will South Korea’s economy change, and how should our industries respond?


  • Metals and energy supply: Taiwan relies on imports by ship for its metals, raw materials, and fossil fuels. Our state-owned enterprises, like China Petroleum or Taipower, should have plans to ensure acquisition and shipment of energy sources.


  • Biological weapons defense readiness: North Korea also has an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and is likely not shy about using them. They can be launched using existing traditional delivery vehicles and ballistic weapons. Is Taiwan ready to at the very least supply and assist regional allies?


  • Humanitarian aid: Taiwan has made a reputation for itself internationally as an active and capable provider of humanitarian aid. In the case of violence, does Taiwan have enough food, medical supplies, and capacity to deploy humanitarian aid to conflict zones right in our backyard?


  • Communications with the US, South Korea, Japan, and China: A conflict in North Korea would certainly involve Taiwan’s closest military partners, the United States and Japan, not to mention South Korea. Taiwan should actively propose working plans to facilitate closer working relations and better lines of mutual communication with these regional partners. With China, Taiwan should also find a way to communicate and reduce the risk of miscalculation.


  • The executive: President Tsai’s national security and intelligence advisors need to prepare the president with speeches, directives, and readiness plans, instead of trying to simply react to the changing situation outside of Taiwan. Government ministries must not be left to act separately, but there needs to be a comprehensive plan from the leadership.


The rising uncertainty in East Asia has, for better or worse, drawn the United States back into the region. Taiwan cannot consider itself an uninterested bystander.

(Feature photo by (stephan) on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)




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Typhoon, Citizenship, Microbeads: Taiwan Uniquely Fri, 04 Aug 2017 19:05:13 +0000 This week on Taiwan Uniquely: flight attendants versus typhoons, clergy gets citizenship in Taiwan, and ban on plastic microbeads. Plus, a love note to Taipei's cafes.

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Each week, we tell you just three things from Taiwan. It’s a quick and unique way to connect with the society and culture of this quirky and cozy little spot in Asia, featuring our News Director William Yang with a showcase of his project Taipei Love Notes.

Do Flight Attendants Deserve “Typhoon Holidays”?

  • Last weekend, typhoon Nesat swept through Taiwan with gusty winds up to 137 km/ph, and caused serious flooding in southern Taiwan. Due to severe weather conditions, more than 500 flight attendants from Taiwan’s Eva Airline requested for “typhoon holiday,” and caused the cancellation of more than 50 flights, stranding over 10,000 passengers at airports across the world.

  • Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-Tang openly criticized the move, and vowed to direct prosecutors to investigate the cause of this request. However, his comments immediately backfired when several attorneys asked him to retract his decision. Which should come first, labor rights or customer service?

Naturalization as a Token of Appreciation

  • As a token of appreciation to their decades-long, selfless dedication to Taiwan, four catholic priests and nuns were awarded Taiwanese identification card this week. Following the footsteps of other religious individuals, they were naturalized after the government recognized their dedication to Taiwan through basic healthcare and education.
  • While the decision to naturalize these selfless priests and nuns is certainly laudable, I do hope this trend can go beyond the religious community and benefit more qualified individuals who have been making positive changes across Taiwan.

Say Bye to Plastic Microbeads

  • Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration announced this week that all cosmetics and personal cleaning products containing plastic microbeads will be banned for import and local production starting next year, while six major microbead hygiene products, including toothpaste and soap, will stop being sold in Taiwan starting in July, 2018.
  • This announcement came as Taiwan joins several countries’ efforts to stop the flow of plastic microbeads into oceans, as microbead are undissolvable and often too small to collect.

Cafes in the Alley

  • Taipei’s cafe scene has been witnessing a rapid growth in the past few years, as several interesting cafes sprouting up across the city. As a frequent visitor to different cafes, I find this particular one down the alley near Regent Taipei especially soothing. Learn more about Mys Kaffe through this week’s Taipei Love Notes.

(Feature photo of Mys Kaffe, by William Yang)




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Red Yeast Rice Wine to “Tinder in Taipei”: History of Drinking in Taiwan Thu, 03 Aug 2017 21:20:45 +0000 Taiwan has always been connected to the the world through its alcoholic beverage culture, freely taking trends from abroad and even more freely transforming them into something uniquely Taiwanese.

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Alcohol has always been an irreplaceable part of the Taiwanese diet. Indigenous tribes have been making millet wine (小米酒) for more than 400 years and Fujianese immigrants to the island started to make red yeast rice wine (紅露酒) in the 17th century.

Millet was considered the major food source for Taiwanese indigenous peoples, and during harvest festivals, most tribes would prepare millet wines as an offering to the Millet God, who was thought to have blessed them with a successful harvest. While the details of the stories may vary, each tribe in Taiwan has mythological stories about millet wine. Millet wine is always the beverage of choice during festivals, weddings, coming-of-age ceremonies, religious festivals, and often considered a special treat only for honored guests.

As Chinese immigrants began coming to Taiwan in the 17th century, they brought red yeast rice wine with them from Fujian. During the Japanese colonial period of the early 20th century, Taiwanese gentlemen who frequented restaurants in Tua-tiu-tiann (大稻埕, also known as Dadaocheng) preferred red yeast rice wine over sake from “mainland” Japan.

At the same time, beer also began to gain popularity among local Taiwanese drinkers.The colonial government established the Takasago (高砂) beer brand, and built the first and only beer factory in Taipei in 1920. After the war, Takasago became Taiwan Beer. The beer is an amber lager with ponlai rice added during the fermentation process. After the war, the influx of Chinese immigrants and soldiers brought along with them the baijiou (白酒) culture, where gaoliang (高粱) became a staple during military outings.

The drinking scene in Taiwan has also always been influenced by Japanese, European, and American cultures. When the United States army was stationed in Taipei, there were bars all along Shuangcheng Street (雙城街) in the northern parts of Taipei, close to the US army base. At these bars, American music was played, American food was dished up, and of course popular American cocktails were served. It was also this bar scene which led to the establishment of the restaurant Shin Yeh (欣葉), which got its start by selling midnight porridge snacks to the bar hoppers.

Moving southbound on Linsen North Road, just south of Nanjing East Road is the area that Japanese businessmen referred to as tiaotong (條通). During the Japanese colonial period, most of the people who resided in the area were upper class Japanese bureaucrats, hence when Japanese companies returned to Taiwan after the war, their businessmen chose to dine and wine in the same, familiar area. Unlike the bars near Shuang Cheng street, bars in the tiaotong area served mostly beer and sake along with Japanese delicacies.

A Slice of the Drinking Scene in Taipei Today

Fast forward to the present day, a series of lounge bars began opening up on Anhe Road in the late 90s as the cocktail culture began to pick up in Taiwan. There were lounge bars all over the city serving Long Island Ice Teas and a wide variety of signature cocktails.

In 2005, the nightclub Barcode Taipei invited Pete Kendall from the bar Milk and Honey to serve as a consultantMilk and Honey was consider one of the bars that revolutionized craft cocktail worldwide. Similarly, Barcode revolutionized the bar scene in Taipei. In 2009, one of the world’s largest multinational alcoholic beverage company, Diageo, established World Class Competition, where bartenders around the world compete for the title of Bartender of the Year. The competition pushed Taiwan’s cocktail bar scene to a new high as renowned bartenders like Angus Zou, Nick Wu, Mark Huang, Kae Yin, among others, represented Taiwan on the world stage.

In 2012, a new kind of cocktail bar began to impact Taipei’s bar scene: the speakeasy. Located in the residential Da-an district within walking distance from Anhe Road, a speakeasy named Ounce sat quietly behind a hidden door within a cafe. A group of college friends who are cocktail enthusiasts from New York decided to create a proper speakeasy in Taipei. Their idea was to bring established mixologists from the US into Taipei and show off popular craft cocktails to the local audience. A proper old fashioned, Manhattan, Ramos gin fizz, and others can all be found at Ounce.

Since its establishment, Ounce had brought numerous bartenders to Taiwan and even invited world-renowned bartender Jeff Bell from PDT for a guest event, which widened local bartenders’ breadth of knowledge about the art of mixology. Unlike local cocktail bartenders, whose palates tend to be on a sweeter side, Ounce introduced Taiwanese bartenders to a popular flavor in the craft cocktail worldbitterwhich has taken the beverage world by storm just as buzz around the taste umami has in the culinary world.

A few alums from Ounce have since then established their own cocktail bars around town, most notably R&D Cocktail Lab. Situated in a quiet alley within walking distance from Taipei 101, this spacious bar restaurant offers authentic western food with an Asian twist, such as duck tacos, beef short rib with shaoxing wine (紹興酒) and seared tuna with yuzu sauce. Their cocktail menu is as adventurous as their food menu. On it you will find ginseng-infused moscow mule, smokey plum whisky sour, kumiso sour (rum with kumquat and shiso leaf), hawthorn apple, among other drinks.

Another interesting bar open by an Ounce alum is Tropical Itch, a tiki bar located in the heart of traditional Taipei lounge bar scene on Anhe Road. It is the first of its kind in Taipei serving tiki drinks such as three dots and a dash, pina colada, dark and stormy, and of course, tropical itch. There are always special fun drinks from the genius behind the bar, for example the “Tinder in Taipei”, which consists of pisco brandy, aphrodite bitter, lime, passion fruit, egg white, and aperol. Foodwise the menu is not as comprehensive as the menu at R&D, but there is also plenty of finger food for one to nibble on while enjoying the tropical ambience.

Taiwan, Drinks and the World

In a way, we have come full circle in Taipei. The streets of 1920s Tua-tiu-tiann were filled with new and exciting music, fashion and culinary culture changed by the wave of modern Western influences. In Tua-tiu-tiann’s bars, Ravel’s “Bolero” played while men sipped on red yeast rice wine and read Karl Marx or Edgar Allan Poe. Nearly 100 years later, we again sit in a chic Taipei bar on Anhe Road, waiting for the bartender to make Ramos gin fizz while she explains her take on this 19th century New Orleans cocktail.

Taiwan has always been connected to the the world through its alcoholic beverage culture, freely taking trends from abroad and even more freely transforming them into something uniquely Taiwanese.

(To be continued: Next, cocktail bars with significant Japanese influences in Taipei)









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Teaching Creativity in Taiwan: Skyrock Projects Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:03:25 +0000 Skyrock Projects is a new school for kids to learn technology creatively. We talk with the founders about their concept and experience as entrepreneurs in Taiwan.

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There is a lot of talk going around for quite some time about how Taiwan’s test-driven education is not benefiting its youth, but efforts to innovate the system are scarce. Two British educator-turned-entrepreneurs decided to take a shot at solving the problem with the power of creative technology. They believe Taiwan is the right place to start their private academy as a way to test their new concept.

Situated at the heart of Tianmu, an upscale neighborhood in Taipei, Skyrock Projects is an educational technology startup that aims to accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies in mainstream education.

Originating from a conversation between Simon Thomas and Tony Cornes, two former high school teachers at the Taipei European School, Skyrock Projects aim to help students learn different skills and discover the creativity around them.

“Initially, we thought we would teach science and math in the most innovative way possible,” said Thomas. “But the more we looked into it, the more we saw a need for creativity. We hope to give students the tools to think creatively, and we saw it could include all of the fun stuff, the technology, art, and engineering. Science and math were just the core principles.”

Triggered by the lack of room for creative projects within Taiwan’s conventional education system, Thomas and Cornes said they have no choice but to look into the private sector for creating this model.

“One of the reasons why we are doing this is because we couldn’t do it within mainstream education,” said Thomas. “There is no room to maneuver within conventional education. Someday, we hope to create something that can be applied to conventional education.”

A Training Ground for Creative Technologist

Skyrock Projects offers a variety of creative technology courses through three different programs: Skyrock Mini, Skyrock +, and Skyrock ++. Each program exposes students to a range of core technologies, such as 3D printing, internet of things, as well as sensors and robotics. Right now, Skyrock Projects is running free summer programs for each of the core technologies for students aged 12 and up, as well as for adults and college students.  

The courses not only introduce students to the basics of each core technology, but also allow them to develop their own projects based on the technological skills they have acquired. According to Cornes, the courses are meant to inspire students to combine art and design thinking into their technological projects.

“Students can build up a digital learning toolkit through the core technologies, which they can then apply to other projects,” said Cornes.

Thomas believes that after completing a series of creative technological programs at Skyrock Projects, students can achieve some fluency in the core technologies, and possess a creative portfolio featuring the projects that they have created. In other words, the experience will give students a more competitive edge and better ideas about their interests and potential in the future.

A Supplement to Education

To create a model that offers learning that is lacking in conventional education, Skyrock Projects designs their curriculum with the goal to accelerate the adoption of creative technology and interdisciplinary learning. To achieve that, they gathered a team of trained teachers, prepare curricula that are designed from scratch, and create the right learning environment that is optimized for creativity and original thought.

Even the classroom is designed as an open space, so parents can be part of the learning experience, and students are not confined into tight spaces looking up at the teacher at a traditional cram school in Taiwan.

“At the moment, our dream is to create this kind of micro-school, which is very different from the day to day school,” said Thomas. “It is a supplement to someone’s education, but not a substitute.”  

With their model gradually coming together, Cornes thinks that Taiwan can benefit tremendously from a type of education that puts emphasis on creativity and critical thinking, instead of spending time in cram schools relearning the same material as during the day.

“Lots of students can be exposed to some cool creative thinking by doing, making and experiencing different parts of creative technology,” said Cornes. “With the exposure comes the skills and ultimately, they will learn about how these skills can really be applied.”

Thomas and Cornes plan to focus on community outreach and building partnerships with local schools during Skyrock Projects’ phase 1 development. They hope to drive the discussion about the future of education through regular meetups or breakfast clubs, while holding workshops with public schools to help them understand Skyrock Projects’ model.

“Schools can see how we do it and judge for themselves whether they think this is a model that they can adapt or not,” said Thomas. “We would like to show them what we can do instead of just telling them why they should do it our way.”

A City for Entrepreneurship

For entrepreneurs like Thomas and Cornes, Taipei is a city that allows them to grow their dreams while not having to worry too much about running out of resources. The affordable nature of Taipei gives them the space and time to think creatively, which is what they need to create the right model for Skyrock Projects.

“I think Taipei is great for entrepreneurship,” said Thomas. “It allows us to plan for the intermediate term and long term, instead of having to adopt short term thinking. Besides, nobody in this city is ever too busy to meet, whereas in other big cities, an appointment can be pushed back for weeks.”

For an entrepreneur who is building his second startup in Taipei, Thomas is glad to see Taiwan’s growing interest in building an ecosystem for startups.

“When I started my Dachi Tea Co. three years ago, the support system or events weren’t really there,” said Thomas. “There are now lots of media attention surrounding startups, and I hope all of these early stage efforts can come together to create a mature ecosystem.”

For now, he and Cornes will continue to focus on strengthening Skyrock Projects, while starting to think about their next step.

“We want to make sure that this center and the team we have here are absolutely perfect,” said Cornes. “And maybe we can think about the possibility of expanding to new markets, but for now, it is all about perfecting the model here. We will work very hard to make this an outstanding micro-school.”  

(Feature photo of Skyrock Projects, by Ta Yang Hsu)


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Malaysia’s Different Opinions Towards China and Taiwan Mon, 31 Jul 2017 21:18:34 +0000 The perception of Taiwan and China in Malaysia is divided along lines of ethnicity, influenced by cultural exposure and historical memory.

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Malaysia is a multi-ethnic society composed of Malay as the majority ethnic group (50.1% of total population according to 2010 census)[1], followed by ethnic Chinese of various origins  (22.6%). Ethnic relations in Malaysia has been a contest of identity lasting for decades since British colonial rule.

The perception of Taiwan and China in Malaysia is divided along lines of ethnicity, influenced by cultural exposure and historical memory.

Malaysian ethnic Malay’s perception of China

Malaysian Malays consider China an important diplomatic ally dating back to the era of the Malacca Sultanate, when China was ruled by the Ming Dynasty. The Ming played a pivotal role in fending off threats from Sumatra and Siam. Malaysia is one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to switch diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the Republic of China (ROC) government ruling Taiwan.

Today, Malays in general welcome the benefits of diplomatic relations with China; nevertheless, they are remain largely unconcerned with Chinese strategic intentions [2,3]. Malays are generally more concerned with domestic politics.

The Malays reluctantly accepted ethnic Chinese as citizens of their own country as part of the social contract to form the independent nation of Malaysia from British colonial rule. Staunch Malay nationalists resent the presence of ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, as they have regarded ethnic Chinese as foreign squatters on their land [4,5], further driven by the higher socioeconomic standing of Chinese than Malays at large [6].

Malaysian ethnic Chinese perception of China

Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, on the other hand, has vehemently resisted acculturation by the Malay majority. They trace their ancestral origin from southern China. To escape political turmoil in the late Qing era and the early Republican era, they came to the Malay Archipelago in search for a new life, when Malaya and Malaysian Borneo were ruled as British colonies.

Despite settling on a new land, first-generation immigrants prefer to retain their identity as Chinese nationals. They retain the memory of Taiwan as part of China and the era of humiliation at the hands of Western powers.

The Second Sino-Japanese War spilt over to the ethnic Chinese in British Malaya. Ethnic Chinese were frequent victims of Japanese war atrocities, but Malays were treated better by the Japanese [7]. Up to a limited extent, distinct Malay and Chinese wartime experience influenced ethnic relations today.

Current Sentiments

Education in post-independence Malaysia is divided along vernacular lines, to meet the preference of various ethnic groups. The Chinese educationist, Lin Lian Yu (林连玉), is credited for his efforts to fight for the retention of Chinese vernacular schools from the hands of the Malaysian government.

Over time, ethnic Chinese in Malaysia become divided into distinct clusters according to their educational background and cultural influence. The 90% of the Chinese community who take heart in traditional Chinese values opted to send their children to Chinese vernacular schools, others choose to send their children to national schools which Malay is officially the medium of instruction. Schoolchildren attending Chinese vernacular schools are exposed to elements of history of China. Reading Chinese ancient texts is taught at the secondary level. With their knowledge of the Chinese language, they went on to receiving Chinese propaganda through local Chinese language newspapers and Chinese TV channels available via satellite and internet [8]. This cultural cluster is breeding ground for Greater Chinese nationalists.

It is reported that up to 10% of Malaysian Chinese are English speaking, concentrated in affluent Malaysian urban areas of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Penang, Ipoh and Malacca [9]. They lack Chinese education, and do not hold cultural affinity for China. Instead, they are exposed to Western thought through reading in the English language, and likely to receive Christian influence. They are unlikely to subscribe to the narrative of China’s humiliation at the hands of Western imperialists, and do not consider Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.

In the hearts of Greater Chinese nationalists, however, China holds an important emotional place of identity rather than their actual country of citizenship. They place greater emphasis on their ethnic Chinese identity over their civic Malaysian identity, and take notice of their ancestral identity to the provincial and city level in China.

After World War II, Greater Chinese nationalists in Malaysia considered that Taiwan has been returned to Chinese rule, regardless of the actual reality of separate rule. The Chinese Civil War was a division within China between the Nationalist and the Communist factions, resulting in the retreat of Chinese Nationalists to Taiwan, with the ill-informed assumption that Taiwan has reverted to Chinese identity.

Furthermore, Taiwan is considered to share cultural roots with China, notwithstanding the political division. According to this group of people, Taiwan independence is treated as a traitorous attempt to cause permanent division to the Chinese nation, especially with  the association of the movement with Japanese influence. Prejudice and grudge against the Japanese, part of their harrowing memories of Japanese occupation of British Malaya, in part shaped their anti-separatist stance.  

Greater Chinese nationalists take pride in the rise of China. Given the vast population of China, they see this as an economic opportunity especially after reform and opening up by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s. They value the newfound strength of China, having chosen to largely ignore humanitarian concerns posed by the current Chinese government, even gone as far as discrediting the success of democratic transformation in Taiwan, citing that Taiwan’s influence is waning despite its successes.

Despite this, they are very likely to have grown up listening to Taiwanese pop music in the 80s and 90s!


  1. Malaysian 2010 Census, Department of Statistics Malaysia,
  2. (Malay) It’s Dangerous being an economic slave to China, Sinar Harian, 21 May 2017.
  3. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, “Is China a good investor?”, The Edge The Edge is a English publication aimed at urban businesspeople. Most Malays habitually use Malay for communication and less confident of speaking English, despite learning English in schools.
  4. ISMA Chief fined RM 2000 for sedition, The Malay Mail Online
  5. Like it or not, Chinese are ‘pendatang’, says PERKASA, Malaysiakini
  6. Sources of income grow and inequality across ethnic groups in Malaysia, World Bank
  7. The Japanese Occupation and Post-War Interregnum
  8. For news involving China, Malaysian Chinese newspapers carry news syndicated from Mainland Chinese scripts without rewriting. Taiwanese pro-unification TVBS-Asia, Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television and Mainland China’s CCTV4 are listed on Astro, Malaysia’s satellite TV service. Otherwise, Mainland Chinese channels are available using apps downloaded for Internet set top boxes in high quality, free of charge.
  9. Chinese, and truly Malaysian, The Star



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