Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Foguangshan's founder, was born in mainland China in 1927. A monk from the age of 12, he arrived in Taiwan in 1949, and has been spreading his version of Humanistic Buddhism ever since. It's said he was the first Buddhist in Taiwan to propagate the religion through radio programs. In keeping with the times, Foguangshan now runs its own TV station, publishes a daily newspaper, and has an informative and bilingual website.
Foguangshan's base in Kaohsiung City's Dashu District is within sight of the Gaoping River and the Central Mountain Range. Over the years it has grown into a complex of shrines, dormitories and museums, and currently more than 100 monks and around 200 nuns are resident. Large numbers of lay followers stay for short retreats and courses.
Long an excellent place to learn about Buddhism as it's practiced in 21st-century Taiwan, tourists now have another reason to visit Foguangshan. Buddha Memorial Center, which formally opened on December 25 last year, is a new architectural and religious landmark...
Written before my other article about the center, but published later, the complete text of this piece can be found in the January/February issue of Travel in Taiwan. The photo here shows one of the eight pagodas.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Although detailed statistics are hard to come by, the Ministry of Education says that 250 non-ROC nationals were studying in public senior high schools and vocational schools in the 2009-2010 school year. The ministry did not provide numbers for earlier years, nor indicate the students’ nationalities.
When this writer, following the ministry’s suggestion, began asking local governments how many foreign citizens are enrolled in their elementary and junior high schools, a civil servant explained why such tallies may not mean much. Speaking anonymously, the official pointed out that some youngsters in local schools reside in the ROC on foreign passports, even though both their parents are Taiwanese, and “no one” regards them as foreigners. Also, under Taiwan’s Nationality Law as amended in 2000, children born to foreign fathers and local mothers after 1988 were permitted to take up ROC citizenship. As a result, many “ex-foreigners” became local students.
Local schools have been attracting an increasing number of foreign families living in Taiwan for two reasons. The first, a consequence of China’s rise, is that many parents hope their children can master Mandarin Chinese. The second is that some international companies operating in Taiwan no longer offer their foreign staff such generous expatriate packages.
Sending a child to TAS costs at least NT$532,000 (about US$17,700) per year. There is also a one-time capital fee of NT$200,000 per student. Now that many of Taiwan’s cities and counties have abolished lunch, textbook, and other fees, local public elementary and junior high schools are effectively free.
“We think it's important for all children to have the opportunity to learn a second language, and Chinese is the obvious choice given where we live,” says Morgan Everett. Her youngest son, Lucas, has been attending a private, church-affiliated Chinese-language preschool since the American family relocated from Thailand to Taiwan three years ago.
“It’s important to us that our children are given the opportunity to learn the language of the culture around them. We want them to feel they’re part of the community they live in, and be able to develop friendships with children in our neighborhood,” says Morgan. “We also feel that learning Chinese will benefit their future, as we think that China will continue to become more influential in business and on the world stage...”
The complete article is online here, and also in the December 2011 print issue of the magazine. The photo here, courtesy of the Everett family, shows Lucas Everett and one of his kindergarten teachers.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
The complete article appeared in the January-February issue of Unity. The gorgeous panorama above, was taken from the tourist town of Jiufen by Taipei-based Craig Ferguson, whose photos accompanied the print edition of the article.