Tag Archives: Premier Liu Chao-shiuan

Taiwanese dialect revitalized through films

Culture and language are closely intertwined, and it is no different in Taiwan. Mandarin is the official national language on the island, but large segments of the population speak Hakka, Holo or indigenous languages.

In celebration of Holo language and culture, the first World Min-Nan Culture Festival was organized by the Taipei-based General Association of Chinese Culture. Chaired by former Premier Liu Chao-shiuan, the festival was held throughout Taiwan this April and May. In Tainan City (southern Taiwan) activities included academic forums and a film expo.

Holo people in Taiwan are descended from immigrants who moved from mainland China’s southern Fujian province from the17th to the 19th century. In Mandarin, Fujian province is also referred to as Min, while nan is the word for south, hence while it is officially called “Minnanese,” many local language proponents consider it more than just a Minnanese dialect and prefer to call it Taiwanese.

Regardless of how the language is written, Lin Fang-mei, a professor at National Taiwan Normal University, believes that the decision to term it Minnanese or Taiwanese is significant. “If you call the language Minnanese, it can be seen as a cultural force that crosses national boundaries,” she told Taiwan Review. “If you call it Taiwanese, then it represents local cultural development in its highest form. That’s because the nuanced expressiveness of Taiwanese makes it suitable for everything from grassroots to highly elitist cultural productions.” At the high end, Lin points to the language’s use in kua á hì, or Taiwanese opera, as well as in other performing arts that have ancient Chinese roots.

Nowadays, Taiwanese is frequently used in the more commercially oriented production of pop music and television shows. Lin says the language’s suitability for everything from highbrow art to mass-market fare has helped Taiwan develop a cultural complexity that stands out prominently among the world’s Minnanese-speaking societies. As language and culture are inseparable in film, a major part of the World Min-Nan Culture Festival was devoted to cinematic works from Taiwan and other Minnanese-speaking societies in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The festival’s film expo, featuring a mix of older and more recent movies, was organized by the College of Sound and Image Arts at Tainan National University of the Arts. According to Ray Jiing, dean of the college, the event was held to show the market potential and cultural reach of Minnanese films, as the language is spoken by around 60 million people worldwide, reported Taiwan Review. Jiing is the former director of the Chinese Taipei Film Archive (CTFA), which is now operated under the Ministry of Culture, which plans to turn the archive into a national film center.

The total number of Taiwanese-language films made to date is estimated to be around 1,000, of which about 10 percent still exist. In the late 1980s, Jiing began heading a project devoted to restoring Taiwanese-language films made in the genre’s heyday during the late 1950s and 1960s. Toward the end of 2006, the CTFA’s restoration efforts resulted in the screening of 25 Taiwanese films in conjunction with the Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan’s top prizes for films from Mandarin-speaking societies.

The restoration of Taiwanese-language films is aimed at recovering a largely forgotten piece of Taiwan’s cultural heritage, Lin said, pointing to the example of the horror movie The Bride from Hell (1965) by Xin Qi (1924–2010), a Taiwanese-language film director and Japanese-trained playwright. Xin was interviewed in the early 1990s as part of a CTFA project on Taiwanese-language filmmakers working in the late 1950s and 1960s and received the Golden Horse Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. The story of The Bride from Hell was adapted from Victoria Holt’s (1906–1993) novel Mistress of Mellyn (1960). Xin’s film version was made in the German expressionist style and evokes a subtle, mysterious ambience through techniques such as emphasizing the contrast of light and shadow, Lin notes.

Making Taiwanese-language films in the late 1950s and 1960s was difficult because the Chiang Kai-shek government focused its efforts on Mandarin. The then state-backed Central Motion Picture Corp. (CMPC), focused only on producing Mandarin movies. For instance, the Golden Horse Awards, founded in 1962, was established to honor and encourage the making of Mandarin films.

As such, Taiwanese-language films were forced to give way to Mandarin films. Director Lee Hsing, for example, made the hit 1959 Taiwanese-language film Brother Wang and Brother Liu Tour Taiwan—one of the restored movies screened at the recent Tainan exposition—before going on to become a heavyweight in Mandarin films. In 1964, Lee co-directed Oyster Girl and directed Beautiful Duckling, both of which used Mandarin dialogues, were filmed in color and became quite popular.

Taiwan Review noted hints of a renewed emphasis on Taiwan’s native roots began surfacing in the late 1970s in written works focusing on the lives of ordinary local people, said Ray Cheng, a film critic and university lecturer. That emphasis on Taiwanese grassroots extended beyond the literary domain when the New Wave Cinema movement began in the early 1980s. Many of the movement’s films were based on the locally oriented novels of the 1970s and some featured a mix of Taiwanese and Mandarin dialogue.

Oyster Girl and Beautiful Duckling were part of a drive by the CMPC to produce “healthy, realistic” Mandarin-language films, most of which centered on the themes of civic virtue and morality. Such films departed from reality, however, when they portrayed ordinary residents in rural communities speaking fluent standard Mandarin, which was highly improbable. Lin points out that true “language realism” did not take shape until the 1980s with the rise of Taiwanese identity when the Golden Horse Awards started recognizing films with dialogues that mixed Mandarin with local languages. That move encouraged the making of movies that reflect the everyday environment shared by many people in Taiwan today.

The dialogue in the old Taiwanese-language films was in a more formal or affected style, whereas the latest works speak colloquial, lively Taiwanese and present a much wider perspective on social reality,” Lin says, referring to hits like Cape No.7 (2008), Monga (2010), Seven Days in Heaven (2010), Night Market Hero (2011) and Din Tao: Leader of the Parade (2012).

Although speaking Taiwanese is back in style, Mandarin still plays the dominant role in Taiwan, both in the film industry and in Taiwanese society in general. To give Taiwanese its due, Lin calls for greater institutional support for the language and the culture behind it. One way of doing that, she says, would be by establishing a Cabinet-level unit charged with overseeing Holo affairs that would be parallel with the existing Hakka Affairs Council or the Council of Indigenous Peoples, reported Taiwan Review.

Taiwan embraces wind and solar power

Following  the nuclear catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima power plant after the country’s devasting earthquake in March, anti-nuclear groups in Taiwan asked the government to suspend operations at No. 1, 2, and 3 nuclear plants, pending a full safety inspection and assessment. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs responded by saying that to close the plants would result in the shut down of one-quarter to one-third of the island’s manufacturing sector, according to Taiwan Panorama. The two sides remain in disagreement over Taiwan’s current power capabilities.

Does Taiwan have enough power?

In disputing the Ministry’s claim, the groups have said that the electricity operating reserve margin was 24.3 percent in 2010. If all three nuclear plants stopped operating, the reserve margin would still be at 10 percent. Supply would be more than enough and there would be no crisis, they claimed. Environmental groups have noticed there has long been a disconnect between economic growth and energy consumption in advanced industrialized countries. With policies promoting clean energy, research into energy technologies, energy conservation, and industrial restructuring, economic growth no longer aligns with restricting greenhouse gas emissions.

Former Premier Liu Chao-shiuan has concurred by stating that plans for developing alternative energy sources should always be adjusted to include the latest technologies. Over the next 15 years, he hopes Taiwan’s renewable energy capability will grow to more than 10 GW and that industries will become more energy efficient.

Upping wind power to 10 percent of total electricity production

As for alternative energy, wind power is currently the most mature of the renewable energy technologies. It is also the most price-competitive with fossil fuels, being both clean and cheap. As of 2010, there were nearly 200 70-meter tall wind turbines in Taiwan. With a combined capacity of about 300 megawatts, or about 1 percent of the total power produced in Taiwan. The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and Germany’s InfraVest Wind Power Group forecast a growth potential of at least 10 to 16 times, reported Taiwan Panorama.

In addition to its onshore capacity, Taiwan also has the potential for offshore wind farms. Some 18 firms involved in wind farm development, turbine component manufacture and maritime construction have formed a Taiwan Offshore Wind Alliance to develop three offshore sites, the first of which will set up 60 giant wind turbines. Because offshore winds are stronger than those onshore, the government plans for an installed capacity of 3GW by 2025, accounting for about 10 percent of Taiwan’s total power generation.

The Penghu islands, located in the Taiwan Strait, possess excellent wind resources which can transform them into a “low carbon emission” group. The local government plans to form a joint venture with the private sector to develop a four-stage wind turbine installation program that will install 124 MW of capacity by 2015, enough to provide for the needs of its 50,000 residents. Once the program is complete, the Economics Ministry will build a 60-kilometer high voltage undersea cable to connect the wind farms to Taiwan’s grid.

Germany’s InfraVest jumps ahead

Since 2000, InfraVest has invested tens of billions of NT dollars importing large turbines to set up wind farms in Taiwan. As the first company to develop wind farms in Taiwan, InfraVest’s facilities far outperform those of Taipower and helps to drive positive competition in the island’s wind power sector, according to Taiwan Panorama.

Though many are looking forward to the development of wind power with great anticipation, environmental groups are cautious about the rollout of large turbines. Taiwan is the stopping-off point for many migratory birds from Siberia and the Southern Hemisphere. The air currents created by rows of giant turbines along the west coast could potentially disrupt the birds’ transit and rest, besides threatening the already endangered Chinese white dolphin.

Germany’s technology and expertise with giant turbines far outpaces Taiwan’s, although Taiwan hopes to compete by producing small and medium-sized wind turbines, which it sees as the future direction for wind power. Taiwan’s Hi-VAWT has received the world’s first international certification for a vertical-axis wind power system. In addition, it owns patents on many small wind technologies and has a solid supply chain.

According to Taiwan Panorama, solar power is well suited to high population density areas like Taiwan. As technology improves, the conversion rate of solar cells – the percentage of sunlight converted to electricity – has also improved and driven down costs. Currently, Taiwanese-produced monocrystalline silicon solar cells have reached a conversion rate of 19-20 percent, an admirable figure, while polycrystalline cells are at 16-18 percent and thin-film solar cells are at 10 percent.

Power diversification essential: economics minister

In addition to improvements in the conversion rate, the variety of options for solar power generating equipment has continued to grow in recent years. When Kaohsiung National Stadium opened for the 2009 World Games, it became well-known for being the island’s single largest generator of solar power. The stadium can seat 40,000 people, while its 20,000 square-meter roof – almost 70 percent of it made from 8,000 solar panels – can generate 1.1 MWh of electricity annually. When the stadium hosts events, these panels can supply as much as 80 percent of its power needs, and when not in use for events, the stadium is completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity. With its solar panels designed and built by Delta Electronics, the stadium is the world’s largest sports facility powered by renewable energy.

Taiwan leads the pack in terms of solar energy innovation. The problem is the next step, promoting and developing the domestic market for the technology. Solar power is well suited to small-scale generation of renewable energy, and Taiwan not only has the edge in terms of production technology and sunlight hours, but also laws and incentives that are already in place.

Electric power is the foundation for economic development. After decades of construction, Taiwan has a very complete electricity transmission and distribution system, and power facilities are quite diverse. In general, there are three types: thermal, nuclear, and renewable. Each has its positives and negatives.

Because each type of energy has pros and cons, it is necessary to maintain diversification and the proper composition of the structure of power supply to ensure a safe and reliable supply, lower carbon emissions and competitive prices, said Shih Yen-shiang, the Minister of Economic Affairs, in an interview with Taiwan Panorama.

He added, the composition should be adjusted over time. In 40 to 50 years, when the technologies for storage of renewable energy and smart power grids are mature, the proportion of renewable energy will increase to around 20 percent of Taiwan’s total power generation.