Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quoted in a Taipei Times article

Taipei Times, Taiwan's main English-language newspaper, devoted a whole page to Life of Taiwan, the recently-launched travel website to which I contributed about 27,000 words of text. I'm quoted in the second half of the article. Unfortunately, the email address provided at the very end of the piece - in both the print and online versions - is wrong. It should be "contact" not "contract."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Painstaking pace of recovery (South China Morning Post)

Taiwan, an archipelago with 70 percent of its land area covered by mountains, is a paradise for visitors who enjoy the natural scenery of the mountainous areas and the culture of tribes living there. Some of Taiwan's most beautiful mountainous areas are in the southern part of the island, such as Maolin and Namasia near Kaohsiung...

This article was written for a special Taiwan supplement planned then cancelled by the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's leading English-language newspaper. In the end, the newspaper used it in another section of the newspaper.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

South Taiwan's Hakka bastions (Unity)

Taiwan's south is a stronghold of Taiwanese Holo culture, yet it also has some of the island’s most intriguing pockets of Hakka culture. Small towns and villages dominated by Hakka clans are close enough to Kaohsiung's urban core to make for easy day-tripping, yet distant enough to present scenes of bucolic tradition.

Southern Hakka often say their ancestors arrived in Taiwan during the reign of Qing Emperor Kangxi (1661–1722). Dating the migration in this way is fitting, as many early settlers joined militias which not only defended Hakka communities from rebels but also helped imperial troops put down uprisings. These loyalist bands formed six units (六堆, liu dui in Chinese). Later, the term Liudui came to mean not just the fighting men but also the six zones of Hakka settlement in Kaohsiung and Pingtung.

Men from Meinong fought as part of the Liudui’s Right Unit. This town of 43,000 is still more than nine-tenths Hakka, and hundreds of residents live by making and selling handpainted oil-paper parasols or thick noodles.

Long before they became choice souvenirs, the former were popular gifts when couples married, and not only for their beauty. Auspiciously, the Hakka word for paper sounds like the word for children. Also, the word used to describe a parasol’s roundness has the same pronunciation as the word for completeness, so they came to symbolize family unity.

In souvenir stores miniature parasols decorated with images of birds and flowers can be bought for less than NT$500. Painted-to-order versions are also available.

Meinong’s most famous specialty dish is ban tiao. These thick white noodles are made from rice flour, unlike most of the noodles eaten in Taiwan, which are made from wheat. Typically fried with slivers of pork and carrot, or boiled and served in a soup with a little pork and a few greens, they go down well before or after exploring Meinong’s quaint neighborhoods...

This is part of an article which appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of Unity. I took the photo on the outskirts of Meinong a few years ago.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

'Life of Taiwan' website launches

On February 24, Taiwanese people around the world celebrated when Ang Lee, who was born in Taiwan 58 years ago, won a second Best Director Oscar, this time for Life of Pi.  
Now, on May 7, 2013, comes a new website introducing the scenery, cultures, history and cuisines of Taiwan. Life of Taiwan has more than 150 pages of information about the East Asian island.

“International arrivals have been growing for the past decade, and we think Taiwan's tourism industry will enjoy a big lift thanks to the success of Life of Pi, which was made right here in Taiwan” said Mark Sinclair, founder and CEO of Formosa Services, the Taiwan-based startup behind Life of Taiwan.

“We’re providing high-end tailor made tours targeting professionals and their families. There is no safer place to travel than Taiwan and as everyone who has been here knows, the Taiwanese are a very special people.”

The website covers everything from Taiwan's aboriginal tribes and their festivals to the island's diverse and vibrant religious culture. Gourmands can read about Taiwan's tastiest foods, while outdoors types will discover that Taiwan has more than enough mountains, rivers and dive sites to keep them busy, plus hot springs where tired muscles can be soaked at the end of a tiring day. And if they're not already aware of Taiwan's treasures, birdwatchers and other kinds of ecotourist will find the website's description of Taiwan's spectacular natural diversity engrossing.

The website is gorgeously illustrated with photos taken by Michelin and Asian Geographic photographer Rich J. Matheson. Rich specializes in images of religious events and Taiwan's aboriginal groups; his work can be seen at

The text was written by Steven Crook, author of three books about the island – Keeping Up With The War God (2001), Dos and Don'ts in Taiwan (2010) and Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide (2010). Steven is currently updating his Bradt guide for publication in spring 2014.

For further information feel free to contact us on or call +886 6 2088173.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Two articles, 100,000 readers

None of the articles I've written in the past three years for Culture.Tw, a government-funded website, has notched up more than 3,000 page views, and the four most recent pieces have been read online less than 1,000 times each, so far. However, two of my older pieces for the website - Many seams, far from exhausted: David K. Jordan on anthropology in Taiwan (from 2008), and An island under the microscope: Taiwan Studies in academia (from 2007) - have in total been viewed over 105,000 times, the latter being almost twice as popular as the former. It's very gratifying to know some people enjoy what I write and encourage others to read articles of mine.