Saturday, December 21, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
One of the things I've done every year is list all of the Taiwanese holidays. 2014 is the Year of the Horse. Most of Taiwan’s traditional holidays are marked through the use of the Lunar Calendar. Modern Holidays are marked through the Solar Calendar. Let’s take a look at the Taiwanese Holidays:
Chinese NewYear: 春節Lunar Date is January 1. (January 31, 2014) This is the most important holiday of the year. It is celebrated much the same way that Christmas is celebrated in the west. Families gather for 3-15 days. Traditional meals are served on Chinese New Year’s Eve. People are given gifts of “Hong Bao” 紅包 These are gifts of money in a red envelope that are a wish of prosperity for the recipient.
The LanternFestival: 元宵節 Lunar date is January 15. (February 14, 2014) This is the first day that a full moon can be seen in the New Year. People celebrate by lighting and launching sky lanterns. There are also huge venues where people go to see artistically made lanterns and watch them launched. People often write prayers and wishes on the side of the lanterns before they are released. The traditional food for the Lantern festival is the tangyuan 湯圓 (soup circle.) These are balls of gooey, sweet rice gluten.
Qingming Festival: 清明節 Solar Holiday: April 5, 2014. During the Qingming Festival families gather to sweep the tombs of departed ancestors. It is a day to honor the dead. Many people use this day to burn incense and worship their ancestors.
Dragon BoatFestival: 端午節 Lunar date is May 5. (June 2, 2014) This festival honors Chinese Poet Qu Yuan. It is celebrated with the racing of the dragon boats. People eat a special sticky rice pyramid called a zongzi.
Night of Sevens: 七夕 Lunar date is July 7. (August 2, 2014) This holiday celebrates the legendary love of Niulang and Zhinu. According to legend they are forever separated, but are allowed to unite on July 7. The Taiwanese view this as a romantic night celebrated much like Valentine’s Day in the west. It is sometimes called Double Seven.
Ghost Festival: 中元節 Lunar date is July 15. (August 10, 2014) The festival honors the departed ancestors. People commemorate this day by placing offerings of incense, food and beverages outside their homes and the burning of spirit money for the family members who have departed the world. This is the most important date of Ghost Month (The whole month of July on the lunar calendar. July 27 – August 24, 2014)
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival: 中秋節 Lunar date is August 15. (September 8, 2014) This is the day when most people get together with friends and family and barbeque. Look for an in-depth post on the Moon Festival in September. A gift is given to friends and family of moon cakes. Circular cakes made with egg yolks and other things inside. The shape represents the moon and the cakes themselves are good wishes for the recipient.
Double Ninth Festival: 重陽節 Lunar Date is September 9. (October 2, 2014) People usually celebrate this holiday by climbing mountains or visiting flower shows.
Xia Yuan Festival: 下元節 Lunar date is October 15. (November 17, 2014) During this festival people pray to the water god for a peaceful year.
Winter Solstice: 冬至 Solar Holiday (December 21, 2014). This corresponds to the Winter Solstice in Western Countries. Families gather to celebrate on this day.
One final note is that the Chinese Zodiac is broken down into 12 years. Each year corresponds to a particular animal. It is believed that people born in a particular year will share the traits of the animal mentioned. The following is a breakdown of the Zodiac and the corresponding years from 1924 through 2031. See if you can find yours.
Rat 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020
Ox 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021
Tiger 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022
Rabbit 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023
Dragon 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024
Snake 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025
Horse 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026
Sheep 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027
Monkey 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028
Rooster 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029
Dog 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 2030Boar 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031
Other posts you may be interested in:
Holiday names in yellow are links to in depth posts.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Those of us from places like the U.S. think of gongfu as Chinese Martial Arts: Twirling kicks, forceful punches, boards breaking, opponents being tossed across the room, defying the laws of physics you get the idea. But once again you’re asking the question what does all this have to do with tea? The term gongfu, as used in China and Taiwan, really refers to any skill that is achieved through hard work and practice. Gongfu tea doesn't have anything to do with breaking the teapot or anything like that.
Gongfu tea is a method of serving tea in Taiwan. It is something you do to show hospitality and care for guests in your home or business. When we bought our car and were waiting for the paperwork to be completed the salesman/dealership owner served us tea, in the gongfu way. If you have a company that does business with Taiwanese businessmen it would help your relationship with them to learn to perform gongfu tea. It would also help to have a high-quality Taiwanese grown tea available. Taiwanese tea is some of the finest tea available in the world.
Probably the finest aspect of the tea culture is Gongfu Tea. Tea Masters understand how tea is grown, when it’s best to pick, what age of plant produces the best tea, how to brew each type of tea for the best result, brewing temperatures, brewing times and how to serve tea in a way that makes people feel good, and highlights the flavor of the tea. All of these things and much more contribute to the Gongfu tea experience.
Being relaxed is helpful in experiencing the subtle differences between the tea flavors and fragrances. A friend who took me to a tea shop for the first time is a somewhat high-energy person, who has kind of a nervous personality. He constantly fidgets and talks fast. His hands have to be doing something at all times. As we were talking about the tea, with the owner, my friend remarked that he couldn't tell the difference between the different teas we were drinking. The owner told him, “That’s because you’re heart beats too fast, you have to learn to relax to appreciate the tea.” That, in essence is what the gongfu tea method is supposed to do, relax you so that you can enjoy the different teas.
The conversation centers on tea. Talk flows around the growing location, altitude and temperature variations, all of which affect the flavor of the tea. It can also touch on processes and oven temperatures, which are contributors to the color and flavor of the tea.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
|It's an inflatable duck, but not a big inflatable duck.|
I've been reading about this giant rubber duck for a while, now. I first heard about it when it was in Sydney, Australia. That was in 2007. It looks just like the rubber duck you played with in the tub when you were a kid. Well, some of you, I know you still play with that thing.
I was pretty excited to see it. The duck, created by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman made it’s first appearance in 2007 in Sydney Harbor and its been in a number of places since. Recently, it was in Southern Taiwan in the city of Gaoxiong, but now it’s right here in Northern Taiwan in a little place called Xinwu. The duck will be there from October 26 (2013) until November 10.
According to things that I've read, the artist doesn't send the duck but sends plans for the duck, which are then implemented in the host country. The duck in Taiwan was inflated in just seven minutes, thanks to technology developed here. When the duck was in Hong Kong harbor it took an hour to inflate. Can you imagine the volume of air that had to be moved to inflate a duck that’s 58ft by 58ft by 81ft that’s 272,484 cubic feet (83,841 cubic meters) in seven minutes? I’m guessing they didn't just use the vacuum on blow.
|The duck peers out over the crowd.|
We decided that we couldn't let the duck be this close and not go see it. Even my teenage daughters were kind of excited about it. Of course, they have fond memories of their little rubber ducks. When they were babies I would play with the ducks with them while they soaked in the bathtub. In fact, their first word was duck. Most parents get “mama” or “dada,” we got duck.”
This duck is a bit bigger than they’re used to, though. The duck is 18 meters high, that’s 58 feet for you on the English measuring system, and 25 meters long (81 feet). That is one big duck, so you would need a big, big tub to play with it in.
We also got on the news as being the only foreigners in the place. There were probably 10,000 people who went to see the duck today, which is pretty surprising for a work/school day. The first day it was opened was a Saturday and 100,000 people passed by and gazed upon the duck in all its hugeness and glory. In fact, they opened the art festival an hour early, because by 8:00 am, they already had a line more than three kilometers long. They’re expecting 1.5 million visitors before the end of the run. Xinwu is a small rural community, especially by Asian standards; only 48,000 people live there.
It was a great trip. There was a great carnival atmosphere, with food vendors and souvenir vendors and other artworks on display. People were happy and enjoying the autumn weather. This is the absolute best time to be in Taiwan weather-wise.
Access for handicapped people was provided, but you couldn't easily get too close to the duck. There was an area that was like a deck that was reserved for elderly and handicapped people. there were also volunteers and staff to enforce that it wasn't packed with able bodied people, so there was actual room for the elderly and disabled
If you live in Northern Taiwan, take some time to visit Xinwu while the duck is there. We had a wonderful time. Admission to the Taoyuan Land Art Festival, that’s where the duck is, is free. I’d pay at least twice that for the opportunity to see it all again.
|They've got all their ducks in a row.|
|Delicious Squid on a Stick.|
Other posts you may be interested in:
Local Color: A Winter Trip to Danshui
Local Color: Ju Ming Museum in Taipei
Photos by Emily Banducci
Photos by Emily Banducci
Saturday, October 19, 2013
|Have Wheelchair will Travel|
To be perfectly honest, I'm not that good a photographer, basically because I'm lazy. I have a small digital camera and mostly take snapshot like photos. I'm wanting to get a really good, digital camera, like a canon rebel with a 55mm to 128mm lens or some other technical stuff. I had a nice SLR film camera, but film is a pain when you're using it to blog. So, I guess I'm not too technical when it comes to cameras. I have a friend who's so technical that he uses only numbers when he talks. Anyway such as they are, here are my photos and a brief description
These three photos above are a a large Taoist temple. I found this temple by following a line of lanterns hung from the telephone poles. The lanterns are red and spherical. They're the common lanterns that are sold in Chinese gift shops across America. They have a purpose beyond decoration and that purpose is to point out the location of a temple. If you see lanterns strung down the side of a road and follow them they will end at a temple site.
This is a photo of the garden in front of my apartment community. Many apartments have a beautiful park like Garden for the residents to enjoy. My daughter Elizabeth loves to take her laptop down to the garden to do her schoolwork. I have on occasion sat down there in the morning to pray. It's really very beautiful.
This stream seems to appear out of nowhere. On one side of the road is the pond in the picture above where the temple roof can be seen and on the other side of the road is this stream. But I can't see what feeds the pond. It's just there, then this stream. But the stream isn't a trickle it's a pretty good sized creek. In order to find the source, I'm probably going to have to get off the bike and explore, but I think it would be hard with a wheel chair. You can see the brush is fairly thick. So...I guess I'll have to make Emily and Elizabeth do it.
You can see how close I am to the city right here. This is about three quarters of a kilometer from my apartment. Elizabeth found this place while walking her dog.
This is the same field as the one in the picture above. The birds are called Egrets, in English, I don't know what they're called in Chinese. These are the birds that are often depicted in Chinese art. Usually they're called Cranes, although, I don't believe they are Cranes in a taxonomic sense.
After I left this road, I circled back and went about 2 kilometers down another road, which leads to a city called Ping Zhen (Ping Jun). As I came out of the city I came across another stream and found this guy fishing.
A little farther down I came across this apartment community. the interesting thing here is that this community has a private temple for worshipers living in the community. I haven't often seen that.
Finally, as I turned toward my own community, I came across this cool little car. This car is run by a dog grooming company who apparently comes to your house to groom your dog. You see a lot of these little "VW buses". They're made from a kit. I've seen a number of them outfitted for serving hot food off the back. the panels fold up and in to reveal a propane grill and preparation table. I've even seen one made to be a small van. They used a pink one as a van in an Idol Drama, starring Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin called, "It Started with a Kiss." I like the little paw print shaped vents on this one.
Photos by Chris and Emily Banducci
Other posts you may be interested in:
Clearing Out the Camera: Random Shots of Taiwan
Local Color: The Color is Green
Local Color: The Colors of Kenting
Local Color: The Temples of Taoyuan City
Monday, October 7, 2013
The word Wulong (Oolong; in Chinese 烏龍) is literally translated as black dragon. So what we call Wulong tea means Black Dragon Tea. I've pondered this many times. Wulong tea is closer to a green tea type tea. It looks like a green tea when brewed as it has a beautiful clear golden yellow color. It also looks like a green tea in its prior to brewing. So why call it Black Dragon Tea.
Because the origin of Wulong tea is shrouded in the mists of antiquity there are three theories about how Wulong Tea came to have that name. But in my mind, one seems more likely from a historical perspective.
The first theory is that it was first cultivated in the Wuyi Mountains(武夷山) of Fujian Province in China during the Ming Dynasty. Evidence comes in the form of two poems published during the Qing Dynasty which followed. The Qing Dynasty started in 1644 and ended with the Xin Hai revolution in 1912, when the empress dowager abdicated the throne on behalf of her son the emperor.
The first is called the Wuyi Tea Song by Yi Chaogun
In the fifteenth century
Tea fields were abandoned
As some of the rock tea starts to grow
The love it when the North wind
Starts to blow on a sunny day
But not the South wind or rain
The fragrance dissipates
The beautiful Plum and Orchid Aroma
Come from the final baking process
The second is called Tea Tale by Wang Chaotang
Wuyi Tea is left to sun in a bamboo basket
Then roasted and baked
Longjing tea is pure because it is roasted but not withered
Only Wuyi tea is roasted and withered
Half green and half red
Roasted green and withered red
Left to wither then shaken
When the fragrance emerges; it is roastedThe timing has to be precious
This theory seems most plausible to me as these poems seem to chronicle the processing of Wulong Tea. The process for preparing Wulong Tea is still the same today:
- It’s picked by hand.
- Left in a basket in the sun to oxidize.
- It’s rolled into balls
- Baked in an oven
|Black Tea (front) is in leaf form, the Wulong Tea (rear) is rolled into balls.|
The second Theory is based on the Tribute Tea. This is tea that was grown and processed for emperors, and dates back to the Song Dynasty. The emperors of that time set up the Beiyun Tea Garden again in Fujian Province. The tea produced there was in the form of a hard cake called the Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake. But as the Song Dynasty became the Ming Dynasty this teacake fell out of favor. The Beiyun Gard changed its process to loose tea. The result was a glossy, dark loose-leaf tea. Called Bvlack Dragon Tea.
This version seems less likely to me as Wulong tea is not a dark colored tea leaf, the color is a green that turns to a yellow color as it brews.
The final theory is based on a legend as are a lot of Chinese Traditions. According to the legend a man named Long, who was particularly dark skinned and called WuLong (Black Dragon) was hunting. He was distracted by a deer and followed after it. By the time he had returned to the tea stored in his bag it was halfway oxidized. The tea became popular and was called Black Dragon Tea after this man.
This legend while an interesting story seems the least likely explanation for the name. In any case I drink Wulong Tea far more often than any other kind.
Other posts you may be interested in:
Taiwanese Traditions: the Selling and Brewing of Tea
Taiwanese Tea: The Union Tea Company
Thursday, September 26, 2013
As in all urban areas there is graffiti. I worked in South Central Los Angeles as a young(ish) man. I was blown away by the amount of graffiti. The graffiti, which was everywhere, was basically only two colors, Red (signifying the Bloods) and blue (the Crips). There were gang names or tags of color everywhere.
It wasn't the kind of wall art that we've seen in movies and on the sides of subway trains. It was just messy, territory marking. As I worked there, I would look at what color the graffiti was and choose a tie accordingly.
Taiwan, though, is interesting. I can’t remember a single instance of that type of graffiti here. I’m sure there must be some of this somewhere but I've never seen it. There is graffiti here, but it isn't what I’m used to.
Public utilities in Taiwan, like public utilities everywhere have sidewalk boxes. For telephone companies these boxes are switching boxes. They’re the place where the phone installer ties the wires from your phone to the phone company equipment. In the case of electrical companies they have big sidewalk boxes, too. I have no idea what they’re for. Electricity as far as I can tell is magic, so I don’t know what is in those boxes. I’m sure it is some sorcerer’s tools or something.
You don’t see that in a blog very often: A blogger actually highlighting his own ignorance. I just know that when I plug something into the socket electricity comes out. When I unplug it the electricity stays in, just the opposite of a champagne bottle.
So much for that, back to the sidewalk boxes. When the company installs them they are sort of a light gray, like they must have gotten some deal on that color. Then they take a stencil and stencil the power company or phone company logo and a number on it.
Because of the color and the flat sides they are just graffiti magnets. You see graffiti all over these things. The interesting part is no one ever complains. The utility companies don’t spend a cent on cleaning them and I’ve even seen people standing there admiring them. Here’s Why:
L. A. Gang Graffiti: Streetgangs.com
All other photos Ken Jiang and Chris Banducci
Editor's Note: Most of these boxes are found in Taipei, with the exception of the last photo. That box is in Taoyuan City.
Local Color: The Colors of Yingge
Local Color: A Winter Trip to Danshui
Local Color: The Taoyuan City Ghost Festival Parade
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The Game of Chess is very popular in Taiwan. However, it’s a different game than is played in other parts of the world. I have yet to master the skill required to play the game, which isn't surprising because I've played the other chess game since high school and I’m a lousy player at that, too. I know what my problem is, it’s the same problem I had with games like Asteroids, but I don’t know how to correct it. I don’t seem to be able to focus on the whole board.
In Asteroids, for example, the asteroids are coming at the ship from all directions. In order to successfully evade all the asteroids, you have to be able to see the location and direction of all the other asteroids coming at your ship, so you don’t dodge one and crash into another. I was never able to do that well.
|How the board is set up|
In Chess, I have the same problem; I can form a strategy for several moves ahead. "If I go here, he will go there, then I can go up here, etc." The problem is that when I make the move I didn't see the opposing bishop, all the way across the board, that immediately swoops down and kills my piece.
In Chinese Chess or 象棋 (xiangqi) the board is set up differently. First, there is a river that cuts through the center of the board dividing the armies. The river is important because there are certain pieces, which cannot cross the line. The soldiers actually increase in power as they cross the river. There is also the “palace,” which is the square that's made up of four squares, with crossed diagonal lines located on each side of the board. The pieces line up on the intersection of the squares not centered like in “international” chess. A piece is captured when an opposing piece is placed on the same intersection.
Placement of pieces: The soldiers line up on the front line on the designated intersections. The cannons are on the next line on the designated intersections. Finally, the power pieces are in the back, with the General in the center and his guards on each side, within the “palace.”
Red moves first to start the game. As in “international” chess each piece or character has it’s own directional moves. The pieces move like this:
The General: 將, or 帥: This piece may only move one square, right or left and forward or backward. It may not leave the Palace. You will notice that the opposing generals are opposite each other on the board. They cannot be opposite without another piece between them. The player that causes them to “meet” automatically loses the game. (“Meet” means that they do NOT have a piece between them.)
|The way the horse can move|
The Guards: The guards can only move one space horizontally, but they cannot leave the palace.
The Chariots: The chariots can move any number of spaces, either horizontally or vertically across the board. He may not move diagonally.
The Horses: The horses are equivalent to the knight in international chess. They may move one space horizontally or vertically then diagonally one space. However, the horse may not jump over a piece. If there is a piece on the next intersection, either vertically or horizontally, then the horse may not move in the direction of the blocking piece.
The Elephants: Elephants can move two spaces horizontally, in either direction. However, the elephant cannot move across the river. In addition, if there is a piece between the starting point and ending point of the move, the elephant cannot jump that piece, so it is prohibited from moving in that direction.
The Cannons: Cannons essentially moves in the same ways as the chariot. However, in order to capture an opposing piece the cannon must jump over another piece. The piece that’s jumped over can either be a friendly piece or an opposing piece. The chariot does not have to jump in order to capture.
|The cannon must jump a piece to capture|
The Soldiers: Soldiers are only allowed to move forward vertically one space until they cross the river. After crossing the river the soldier is allowed to move both vertically and horizontally, but can only move one space in either direction. The soldier cannot move diagonally or backward vertically.
In Taiwan, it’s very common to see older men sitting at the park playing chess throughout the day and into the night. There are usually a number of others watching and “helping.” The game seems to be pretty loud, with pieces slapped down and banging against the chessboard. You play, taking on new opponents until you lose, then the winner takes on others. The park across from my apartment is equipped with chessboards and benches that can be utilized for the game. I've seen men out there playing until very late at night. Someday I want to be good enough to challenge and hold the board for a while.
Other posts you may be interested in:
Monday, July 22, 2013
|Typhoon Soulik on a collision course with northern Taiwan|
Usually, the nations of South China, Viet Nam, The Philippines and, of course, Taiwan are the places where typhoons hit. The most recent typhoon to impact Taiwan was called Typhoon Soulik.
I always look forward to typhoons with a kind of excitement. We’re not used to extreme weather in Southern California. But mostly I’ve been disappointed by the actual blandness of the typhoons. Once, my daughter Emily and I took the car and went looking for the typhoon, but we were disappointed. We never even found evidence that much of anything had happened. In fact, we came across a bridge that was loaded with tourists at the very time the typhoon was supposed to be wreaking havoc on our lives.
So we were expecting more of the same with Typhoon Soulik; maybe a bit of rain, some scattered winds, hot humid air. That was our experience with a typhoon, but this one was different. This was the first time we’d experienced a “Typhoon Day.” That’s when the government closes down work and school and tells everyone to stay home. Of course, people leave work and drive immediately, uh to the mall where they hang out until the storm passes. They were expecting landfall about three o’clock actual landfall was closer to six pm. Then the winds started to strengthen and gust. It started to rain and the typhoon roared into town.
According to the Central Weather Bureau website, cwb.gov.tw, the winds were expected to reach speeds of 186 km/hr (114 mph) with gusts up to 226 km/hr (140 mph). In fact for a time the typhoon was classified as a “Super Typhoon.” I’m not sure what the actual wind speeds were because our power went down during the typhoon and stayed down for about seven hours.
The winds were so loud that it was unbelievable. It was like living at the airport as the winds gusted up and literally screamed past the window. My window was on the backside of our building, away from the wind. My daughters’ rooms were facing the storm and the winds actually drove water through the tiny spaces between the windows and the walls.
2:51 am. Huge winds, lightning, torrential rain, and power outages. Whee. #typhoonsoulik
— The Taiwan Adventure (@cbanducci) July 12, 2013
It was massive it even caused our apartment to rock, a bit. It was wild. My thoughts are okay, now I’ve experienced one. I can go back to bland weather. Yeah, right…I have to say, IT WAS COOL! Taiwanese people are pretty relaxed about typhoons. I heard scooters going by in the wildest moments of the typhoon. Amazing!
Other posts you may be interested in:
Here it Comes: Typhoon Conson
Taiwanese Weather: Monsoons and Typhoons
Storm Chasers: Driving into the Belly of the Beast
Photo Credit: Satellite Photo: cwb.gov.tw