Category Archives: Local News

UC Berkeley scholar traces Taiwan’s journey since martial law

In November, Professor Thomas Gold gave a talk at Stanford University about “The changing field of power in post-martial law Taiwan.” Taiwan Insights caught up with Gold to ask him more about his research for his next book Remaking Taiwan: Society and the State Since the End of Martial Law.

When Gold first visited Taiwan in 1969, the power structure was clear and centralized under martial law. It rested on Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang (KMT). However, with the ending of martial law in 1987, a different set of rules, positions and players on the field began to emerge. “After lifting martial law, every power tried to get their voices heard,” said Gold. The shift meant that the status quo and emerging parties struggled to figure out the relevance of their forms of capital.

The lifting of martial law was a game changer since results were no longer predictable. Instead of a centralized form of government, the fields were more autonomous and horizontal, Gold commented. For so many years, people in Taiwan knew the rules and the “punishment” under martial law. However, starting from the 1970s, the punishment became unknown, leaving more uncertainty about how to strategize behavior to achieve desired results.

In the mid-1970s, Chiang Kai-shek passed away, and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, assumed the leadership. Many have credited Chiang Ching-kuo for being a wise leader who abolished martial law because he realized that the system his father had built could not be sustained or reproduced by his successors. Others believed that the lifting of martial law was a direct result of the socio-political movements mobilized by the Dangwai (outside the party), the forerunner of the Democratic Progressive Party, which prompted Chiang Ching-kuo’s actions. Most agreed it was a little of both, concurring that if not for Chiang Ching-kuo, the transition would not have been peaceful and smooth.

Gold credits Taiwan’s institutions as the reason for no one saying they wanted martial law back. “One of the strong things is the institutions that have taken shape since the end of martial law.” He referred to Egypt’s recent multi-party elections and its quick change of leadership, only for some of the same protesters to overthrow its own elected president and turn its back on the newly established system. The consequence is violent civil uprisings, with neither side acknowledging the legitimacy of the other side.

Also, the reality of the cross-strait relationship is different. The China factor was cautiously controlled by the KMT in domestic politics before the lifting of martial law. China used to be an outsider in Taiwan. Nowadays, people from the mainland, from government officials, business people to tourists, interact with Taiwanese citizens directly or indirectly. And given that Chinese President Xi Jinping is still fairly new, there is still uncertainty about how much the China factor will further affect Taiwan’s domestic politics, according to Gold.

Stanford holds seminar on Taiwan’s trade liberalization

The Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University held a conference on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Taiwan’s Future Development Strategy on October 11 and 12.

Larry Diamond, director of CDDRL, invited scholars from the US, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and other countries to participate in the event.

Six issues addressed were: 1) the evolving structure of the economic and trading environment in East Asia; 2) the history and geopolitics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); 3) the challenges of free trade in Taiwan; 4) perspectives of East Asian countries with regard to the TPP; 5) Taiwan’s development for the next phrase; 6) Taiwan’s strategy and the future of the TPP.

Scholars attending the conference met to exchange views about Taiwan’s participation in TPP issues. They generally agreed that the TPP is the best choice for Taiwan to participate in regional trade and economic integration. Further agreeing that the island should take advantage of this opportunity to promote economic structural reforms and industrial upgrading, demonstrating its determination to liberalize and reform so as to solicit the support of the US and other TPP negotiating members.

As an important economic power in the world, Taiwan should not be excluded from Asia-Pacific regional economic integration. Taiwan needs to ratify its free trade agreement with New Zealand, and the trade and services agreement within the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, and conclude the free trade negotiations with Singapore as soon as possible.

Taiwanese scholars attending the event included Tien Hung-mao (president of the Institute for National Policy Research), Hu Sheng-cheng (fellow at Academia Sinica), Chen Tain-ji (economics professor at National Taiwan University), Ho Szu-yin (professor at National Cheng Chi University), Mignonne Chan (adjunct associate professor at National Cheng Chi University), San Gee (vice chairman at the Taiwan External Trade Development Council), Chu Yun-han (professor at National Taiwan University) and Lee Chun (deputy executive director at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research).

The participating scholars’ reports have been published on CDDRL’s website:¢er=cddrl&x=-1100&y=-133&doctype =.

Taiwan Film Days, Nov 1-3

The 5th annual Taiwan Film Days (TFD) begins with Zone Pros Site: The Moveable Feast on Friday evening, November 1. This year’s films will all be screened at the Vogue Theatre on 3290 Sacramento (Presidio/Lyon), San Francisco. The initial showing at 6:30 pm will be followed by the opening night reception at the Paul Mahder Gallery on 3378 Sacramento Street, just a block away. The San Francisco Film Society will be hosting the opening reception with light appetizers and wine to kick off this three-day festival.

With eight films in this year’s line-up, it is a robust exhibition of Taiwan’s filmmaking talents. Among the directors and producers scheduled to appear at the 2013 TFD are Mimi Wang, the producer for Ripples of Desire, Hsieh Chun-yi, the director of Apolitical Romance, and Hou Chi-jan, the director of When A Wolf Falls In Love With A Sheep. Be sure to catch their films this weekend and learn more about their filmmaking process during the Q&A session that follows.

Zone Pro Site: A Moveable Feast (November 1 at 6:30 and 9:30 pm) – The film gets its name from a “zone pro site” chef – someone who shows up at a banquet with nothing but their skills and the tools of their trade – before coming up with an impromptu menu from the given ingredients. The film introduces several struggling chefs as they come up with winning recipes to advance themselves to a national cooking contest. It’s a romantic comedy, heavy with physical humor.

A Time in Quchi (November 2, 2 pm) – The story centers around Bao, a boy suddenly sent to live with his grandfather in rural Quchi, unplugged from his technology infused, bustling city life, he is left adrift in a slower and quieter pace of living. There he begins to find the simple pleasures in connecting with those around him. The film has drawn favorable comparison to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s classic film A Summer at Grandpa’s in its pacing and plot.

Taipei Factory (November 2 at 4:15pm and November 3 at 1:30 pm) – A collaborative effort between the Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight and the Taipei Film Commission, the project pairs eight emerging filmmakers from Chile, France, Iran, and South Korea. Each pair then writes and directs a 15-20 minute short film based on their collaborative efforts.

Forever Love (November 2, 6:30 pm) – Growing up in Taiwan’s Beitou district, Hsiao-Jie is skeptical of her grandparents’ claims to cinematic fame until one day her grandfather tells her of the legendary love story that took place in the 30s in Beitou, then considered to be Taiwan’s Hollywood. The film infuses 1930s classic film genre in the retelling.

Soul (November 2, 9 pm) – Following a breakdown, A-Chuan is released from the hospital into his father’s care and taken to their home in the mountains. It soon becomes clear that A-Chuan is deeply disturbed, and his body might even be possessed. This darkly violent psychological thriller was a Toronto International Film Festival selection.

Ripples of Desire (November 3, 3:15 pm) – Set in 17th century Ming Dynasty, this movie enters around the life of two beautiful sisters who are courtesans at the Flower House. Deeply devoted to each other, their closeness begins to splinter with their differing attitudes toward love and illness. A darkly erotic and tragic film.

Apolitical Romance (November 3, 6 pm) –  A-Zheng, is a young bureaucrat with Taiwanese civil affairs. Charged with producing a manual on Taiwanese-Chinese cross cultural etiquette, he gets far over his head. He meets Chin Lang, a hip young woman from Beijing whom he charms into helping him with his assignment. In return, A-Zheng promises to use his connections to help Chin Lang to find her grandmother’s lost love. From there, a shaky partnership is formed with hilarious results.

When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep (November 3, 8:30 pm) – Derived from a Taiwanese pop fable, it’s an unfolding romance amidst anonymous notes, animated doodles and community organizing. When Tung awakes to read a Dear John post-it note from his girlfriend, he is determined to win her back. He takes a job at a nearby copy shop, where he begins to come across intriguing drawings on the exams, and leaves a few of his own in response, thus beginning an unusual “pen pal” courtship.

To purchase tickets or to read more about the films, please visit: .

Taiwan’s “Touch of the Light” screenings throughout Northern California

Coming soon to Bay Area venues is Taiwan’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards, Touch of the Light (Ni Guang Fei Xiang). This film is based on the life of Taiwanese child prodigy Huang Yu-siang, a pianist who is blind. More amazingly, Huang plays himself in this beautifully produced movie.  Touch of the Light is so popular that it is being screened in three locations this fall.  This Saturday (9/28) at the Wine Country Film Festival in Kenwood and then at Antioch’s El Campanil Theatre and Orinda Theatre in October.

Born to a rural family in Taiwan unprepared for the birth of a blind son, Huang was a curious and precocious child. With the love of his mother and support of his family, he grew up with few barriers. Difficulties come when he leaves home to attend university. There he competes with sighted students and learn to find his footing in his new environment. He soon crosses path with Jie (Chang Rong-rong), a beautiful but frustrated cold drinks vendor who dreams of being a dancer, but feels helpless when faced with the realities of life. She draws inspiration from Huang’s fearless determination, optimism and inner peace, to hold on to her dream.

The movie is part of the 27th Wine Country Film Festival taking place at the Deerfield Ranch Winery (10200 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood). It is scheduled to screen in the cave on Saturday, September 28 at 8pm. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy the special cuisine, live performance by San Francisco Guzheng Music Society, sword dance by Kung Fu Master Justin Eggert and an interactive Tai Chi experience starting at 7. Tickets may be purchased by visiting

The movie will also be showing at part of the International Showcase on Friday, October 18 and Sunday, October 20 at the El Campanil Theatre (602 W. 2nd Street, Antioch) at 7:30pm and 2pm respectively. You can find more information on the theatre’s website. Touch of the Light will also begin a one week run starting October 18 at the Orinda Theatre (4 Orinda Theater Square, Orinda) with four screenings scheduled during the weekends and three during the weekdays. For specific times, please visit

For a trailer of the film, please visit:

Go Grandriders, Taiwan’s top documentary film at Santa Rosa’s Finley Center on Oct 17

Some dreams never become stale and that was the case for a group of octogenarians who undertook to motorcycle around Taiwan. The documentary Go Grandriders follows the group’s 13-day journey in the fall of 2007, sharing their individual stories, their camaraderie and the hurdles they faced along the way. The film will screen at the Finley Community Center Auditorium (2060 W. College Avenue, Santa Rosa) on Thursday, October 17 at 2pm. The free screening is sponsored by the City of Santa Rosa, Redwood Empire Chinese Association and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco.

Completing the trip around the island did not come easy.  All of them were in decent health, for octogenarians, but all were suffering the consequences of old age and its inevitable aches and pains.  Among them, two had survived cancer, four were hearing aid dependent, five had high-blood pressure and eight were suffering from cardiovascular disease. The participants came from all walks of life, with varying reasons to undertake the journey.

The ride was initiated by Taiwan’s Hondao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, with the goal of promoting a positive image of the island’s aging population. The zest for life shown by the grandriders is important, especially given the aged society of most developed countries. In Taiwan, the elderly population (65 and over) will outnumber the young by 2016.

The film was produced by CNEX’s Ben Tsiang and directed by Huan Tien-hao. In October 2012, Go Grandriders was released in Taiwan and soon broke box office records for documentary films in Taiwan. It was selected for the 2013 CAAMFest in San Francisco and has been shown in selected venues throughout the Bay Area.

As a follow-up to their initial trip, in August, ten members of the original group decided to visit California. During their visit, they also motorcycled from Santa Clara to Los Angeles, riding in tandem with American volunteers from the BMW Club of Northern California. The group completed their three-day trip safely on August 23.

AAA offers trip to discover Taiwan’s culture

Much ado is made about Chinese Lunar New Year, with most Taiwanese workers getting a week off to celebrate. However, Taiwan also has two other festivals that are quieter, more sedate celebrations of Chinese culture. Both use the contrast of darkness and night to highlight the beauty of light. One is the Moon Festival (aka Mid-Autumn Festival), which takes place during the autumn full moon. The other is the Lantern Festival, which follows immediately after Chinese New Year.

This year’s Moon Festival falls on Saturday, September 21. Already, Chinese bakeries and supermarkets are fully stocked with an array of decorative mooncake boxes. A popular gift during this festival, businesses give mooncakes to valued clients, while families give boxes to each other.

Mooncakes are typically round, but they can also be square. They are usually filled with red bean or lotus seed paste. In some, the cakes might have a preserved egg yolk or two in the center, symbolizing the full moon. The outer pastry is usually decorated with an intricate design of Chinese characters before being baked to a glazed golden brown. Due to the richness of each cake, they are usually enjoyed in slices.

During the full moon, family and friends gather to celebrate the festival by gazing at the moon while enjoying mooncakes. Today, this centuries old custom is continued in Taiwan and pockets of Chinese/Taiwanese communities worldwide.

Another festival popular in Taiwan is the Lantern Festival, which is held on the 15th day of the new lunar month. In the past, families might have taken the time to stroll near Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, to see the colorful light shows of giant lanterns and floats derived from Chinese zodiac animals or animated characters. These days, the festival is celebrated across the island.

In the 1990s, Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau decided to promote the festival worldwide. Since 2001, many major cities around the island have held special events linked to the Lantern Festival. Nowadays, the Tourism Bureau compiles a long list of activities for local and international visitors. The festival has become so popular it is now a part of Discovery Channel’s “Fantastic Festivals of the World” program.

Taiwanese people still celebrate by making paper lanterns, writing their wishes on them before setting them adrift into the night sky. The sight of hundreds of lanterns floating towards heaven is truly breathtaking.

This year, Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, along with AAA Sojourns and television personality Liam Myclem, are offering a trip to see the Lantern Festival next year. The 10-day trip will depart on February 10 for Taiwan and Hong Kong. The bulk of the trip will be in Taiwan, discovering the island’s renowned food culture, famous night markets and taking specially arranged trips to Taiwan’s scenic countryside. Excursions to Sun Moon Lake, Antique Assam Tea Farms and other relaxing experiences will enliven the senses. The 2014 Taiwan Lantern Festival and Hong Kong Experience with Liam Mayclem starts at US$3,899.

More Bay Area students take Taiwan’s Mandarin Chinese test

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the 2013 Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) was offered twice this spring in Bay Area schools. The TOCFL is Taiwan’s Mandarin Chinese test. It is administered under the direction of the island’s Ministry of Education. In all, 78 American students participated in the first testing of their proficiency in elementary, intermediate, advanced and proficient Chinese during the April 5 testing at the University of California, Berkeley. In the second exam, 31 students took the test at the International School of the Peninsula on May 9.

In recent years, Chinese language education has thrived in the Bay Area. In an effort to prepare students for the challenges of an increasingly connected world, American schools are standardizing Chinese language courses as well as Chinese immersion programs. To evaluate a student’s ability, a Chinese language proficiency assessment system was needed. This has made the TOCFL very useful for Chinese-language educators to gauge their students’ performance.

Since 2008, the Education Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco has promoted TOCFL among local American schools and universities offering Chinese language and East Asian studies. The test is widely recognized by many teachers as a useful assessment instrument. Students who take the test not only get a sense of their proficiency, but it also gives them added motivation to advance their language skills to the next level.

In October, another TOCFL will be administered at Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah. Given the steady growth in the number of Chinese language students at BYU, it is estimated that more than 90 students will take the test.

Taiwan’s Meimen Kungfu Art Troupe performs at SF Main Library

Taiwan’s Meimen Kungfu Art Troupe has high aspirations. They don’t merely wish to entertain with stellar martial arts, acrobatic, sword play, music, song, dance and magic, but they also want to teach their audience how to cultivate inner harmony. Their July 22 performance in the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Main Library was a thrilling feast for the senses, while the second part of the program was more reflective, offering a brief course on the practice of Qigong.

Yemila Alvarez, the library’s director of programming, welcomed the troupe and the 400-plus audience, which also included a kindergarten class as well. Manfred Peng, the director of the Press Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco, also welcomed the audience. On behalf of TECO, he introduced the troupe and talked briefly about the practice of Qigong.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese health-preserving exercise that has existed for at least 2,000 years. As practitioners of Qigong, all the performers in the Meimen Kungfu Art Troupe at one time or another have experienced ailments that were helped by Qigong.

Founded by Master Lee Feng-san in Taiwan, he and his troupe dedicate themselves to spreading the beauty of martial arts and to achieve harmony between external form and internal energy (aka chi) through the practice of Qigong.

Besides San Francisco, the troupe’s tour includes Orlando, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.

Taiwan’s Grandriders tours CA in August

Starting August 15, ten of the original grandriders from Taiwan will be touring California to promote their movie Go Grandriders and also to ride with their American counterparts. In November 2007, 17 octogenarians motorcycled around Taiwan on a grand tour organized by the Hondao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation. Over the course of some 730 miles, through foul weather and health challenges, they prevailed. Go Grandriders is a documentary about their journey. First screened in Taiwan in 2012, it quickly broke box office records for a documentary film in Taiwan.

Next month, the grandriders from Taiwan will join American seniors and ride in tandem, from Northern California to Southern California. The group’s kick off ceremony will take place in front of the Santa Clara County Hall on August 20. They will ride to Cambria, Santa Barbara before arriving in Arcadia, Los Angeles.

On August 16 at 4:00pm, The Sequoias, a senior community in the heart of San Francisco, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco will co-host a reception for the group at the Art Gallery in The Sequoias.

In an effort to match like-minded seniors who are not letting age stop them from living a full life, these seniors will have a chance to meet at the reception before the screening of Go Grandriders at 5:00pm in the Community Auditorium.

Taiwan’s teachers’ exchange program benefits Bay Area colleges

With so many budget cuts to American schools, one way to get a quality Chinese language teacher is through Taiwan’s Ministry of Education (MOE) overseas teacher exchange program. Spearheaded and subsidized by the MOE, selected teachers are offered a monthly stipend of US$1,200 for up to two years and their international university partner provides matching funds for the teachers’ remaining salary and benefits.

In addition to salary assistance, the MOE also offers the teachers a round-trip international airfare and US$300 teaching material subsidy. The program is a win-win for all parties involved, giving Chinese language teachers a chance to broaden their teaching experience and also allowing American schools an opportunity to continue offering Chinese language classes in an atmosphere of huge budget cuts to schools. Additionally, the selected overseas Chinese teachers play a crucial role in the promotion of Taiwan’s Chinese education in the world.

One such teacher is Lee I-chia. A graduate of Taiwan Normal University, she was recruited by the East Asian Language and Cultures Department at the University of California at Davis last year. As a visiting lecturer, Lee was assigned to teach two to three courses per quarter. In each of her courses, she was passionate about enhancing her students’ language proficiency as well as equipping them with in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture and society.

Inside and outside of the classroom, Lee kept boosting her students’ confidence by encouraging them to use Chinese as much as possible. With her patient one-on-one guidance in script writing and speaking, this past April, six of her students won prizes at the San Francisco Bay Area’s 38th Mandarin Speech Contest organized by the Chinese Language Teachers Association of California. While at Davis, she also became actively involved with campus activities, helping to coordinate the UC Davis Chinese Student Day and its long list of activities.

Impressed with Lee’s efforts to interest her students in Chinese language education, Davis was pleased to renew her teaching contract for the upcoming 2013 school year.