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Taiwan Culture

 

Apart from ethnic minorities, the lifestyle of Chinese people in Taiwan is much the same as those on the Mainland China despite very different in social system and its structure as well as education. Much of the traditional Chinese culture is preserved well on the island where there is many still believed in Confucius' philosophy and Buddhism.


Art

 

Taiwanese Opera is a sort of singing drama that its "weep accent" is the greatest different from the Western operas. The singing style of Taiwanese opera is high and sonorous. The stories incorporate traditional Chinese themes like loyalty, filial piety, chastity and justice etc.; great operatic performances that often invoke tears and sympathetic feelings among audience. 

 

Ju Ming Sculptures are the art works of Ju Ming, who has devoted his whole life to sculpture, and his Taichi Series established him as an internationally acclaimed artist. Taichi is the essence of traditional Oriental culture, through his artworks Ju Ming has successfully transformed the profundity and complexity of the Eastern philosophy into a universal language that beyond the limitation of culture and regions. In recent decades Ju has been worked on themes concerning humanity and life, in which all of the works are classified as the Living World Series. By means of philosophically thinking and keen observation, with his exquisite skills in sculpture, Ju Ming's artworks vividly sketch the daily life of common people. 

 

Glove Puppet Theater, also known as "Play in the Palm", is a traditional art that puppeteers insert their hands into wooden puppets, bringing them to life via skilled hand movements and human voices. Recently the puppet theater has undergone a modernization involving all kinds of sound and light effects, thus increasing its allure for modern audience.

 

Cloud Gate Dance Theater was established on Taiwan in 1973, which is not only the first contemporary dance company in Chinese speaking community but also the most representative in dance performing. The theater has mastered 160 kinds of dances and been invited to perform on over 1,500 occasions at home and abroad. The company is also well reviewed in numerous magazines, books, newspapers and mass media throughout the world.

 

Traditional Chinese and Western classical music are quite popular in Taiwan. There are many local artists and orchestras are engaged in performing on the island, as well as visiting international artists.

 

Reading is a very popular pastime among Taiwanese. Folk literatures, martial arts novels and romantic love stories by Chinese writers are of readers' favorite.


Language

 

As a part of Chinese culture, vast majority of the population are descendants of Han Chinese emigrants from Mainland China, so the language they are using is Chinese. Nowadays the official spoken language on the island is Mandarin, which is the same as Putonghua on Mainland China, and the main dialects in Taiwan are Min-nan (language that is spoken in southern Fujian and sometimes called as Taiwanese locally), which is used by about one-third of the population and Hakka spoken by 4.5 million, with some less used dialects (which are taking up about 10%) that brought here by Mainlanders after the World War II and aboriginal languages on the mountains.

 

The high fluency rate in Mandarin is due to the long history of close tie with Mainland China and pushed by the authority after the war, while Min-nan is originated from Yellow River regions, because chaos caused by wars in the past so people there were settled in Fujian and northern Guangdong area, and then they made new dialects in Fujian. Earliest emigrants from Mainland China were mostly of southern Fujianese that accounted for the majority of population in Taiwan.

 

The Hakka speakers are the descendants of Hakka people from Guangdong and western Fujian. Hakka people are distributed in Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, Hunan, Yunnan and Guizhou; their population is about 45 million of which 7 million living overseas that account for one-third of the overseas Chinese population. The Hakka are mostly living in northwest Taiwan.

 

The Chinese characters are used in Taiwan but they are traditional other than simplified ones. Although traditional characters are officially used but the closer cross-strait ties have made the simplified characters more popular in the province.

 

English is also quite popular due to the close unofficial relations between Taiwan and the United States, where many people go study and living there, and high degree popularity in NBA Basketball Games and R & B pop songs among youngsters in recent years.


Custom: Han Chinese

 

The traditional festivals in Taiwan are much the same as on the Mainland China like the Lunar New Year, which is to pay a New Year visit to relatives and friends; Lantern Festival that rice glue balls are eaten, playing and viewing pretty lanterns and guessing riddles written on them; Tomb-sweeping Day that people paying respect of their deceased ancestors and cleaning their tombs; Dragon Boat Festival that dragon boats will be raced and rice dumplings are eaten; Chinese Valentine's Day (on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar Month) is a romantic day that is quite the same as the Valentine's Day in the West; Mid-autumn Festival that people love viewing the full moon and enjoying delicious moon cakes, The Double Ninth Festival (Chongyang Festival)----the ninth day of the ninth Lunar Month that people are obliged to climb up on mountain to avoid evils or Chongyang Cakes are eaten; Winter Solstice that tonic food is eaten and the Chinese New Year's Eve is a family gathering to have dinner.

 

There are some local festivals celebrate in Taiwan. "Bee Cannons" should be fired during the Lantern Festival at Yanshuei Town in Tainan County, which every cannon is linked with the core of the other, so that if one cannon is fired, all cannons of the whole chain will fire altogether, thus making firework-like sparks and stunningly loud sounds. Bee cannons become a tourist attraction in Tainan.

 

"Flying Lanterns to the Sky" means to ignite on the open bottom of the lantern, by applying the physical theory of heat oxygen ascending to release it to the sky. The tradition has been more than 200 years in Taiwan; initially one of the main functions of it was to inform well being among families, and now it is an activity of recreation and praying for blessing.

 

"Begging Tortoise" is celebrated during the Lantern Festival on Penghu Archipelago, which tortoise models made of glutinous rice with sugar known as "fragrance tortoise" of praying for peace, "longevity" tortoise made of thin noodles, "cake turtle" made of flour with eggs and "golden turtle" of forged gold are placed upon the credence table inside temples throughout the archipelago. People are flocked to temples to "beg" these "tortoises", when the divine spirit acquiesced their praying, they pay money to the temple master with burning incenses, and then obtain the "tortoise" they begged, thus attaining the blessing from god.

 

The wedding and funeral customs are quite akin to those on Mainland China, which are still well preserved in Taiwan today, especially in the rural areas. Couples of the same surnames cannot be married and prohibited to do so within some surname groups that are considered as the same ancestors. Although today's local wedding ceremony has differences from the past but the traditional style is still loved by many. The funeral custom is more complicated and very superstitious in procedures like before passing away, before and during encoffin, mourning, during funeral and burying should follow certain modals. By now, inhumation is still popular among Taiwanese and they are believed in Fengshui that they much choose best geomantic location for burying their loved ones.


Custom: Native People

 

According to the research by anthropologists, the aboriginal lifestyle is highly reflected by their residential house construction, bonfire, eating Pinang fruits, face tattooing, leather coat manufacture and round dance. In the past, the native people were mostly engaged in nomad and hunting life, but in recent decades, clans who are living on low mountains their lifestyle has something the same as local Chinese yet preserved their tribal organization systems, like Bunun the strong patrilineal tradition is still maintained while the Amis is matrilineal and their clan leader has utmost authority and responsibility; Rukai and Paiwan maintained the aristocratic system.

 

The clothes they wear are woven of self-made fabrics from ramie. Male adults wear vivid colored waist skirts and women in long skirts with cocktails and feathers as headwear. Native people are still maintained tattoo tradition also.

 

Ancestral worshiping is practiced among native people, which they believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside on the mountain and they will protect and offer great harvest. Almost all clans have their annual ceremony of sacrifice offering to ancestors with different characteristics.

 

Apart from the custom, music and handcraft are very characteristic as well, like Rukai clan's pots and sculptures, Bunun's leather coats making and their polyphony chorus, kneading leather technique of the Tsou, and the five-tone music without semitones of the Amis.


Religion 

 

Religious faith is popular where the island is called as the "Island of Gods" with churches and temples throughout the province. According to Taiwanese authority's statistics in 2000, religious establishments on the island are estimated 21,186 with 49,658 clergymen and people with religious belief about 10.82 million, 1926 foreign missionaries and 84 seminaries. There are three categories of religious faith on the island: the highland aboriginal faiths, folk beliefs and religions in due form.
   
The native religious faiths are still preserved today with some influence from other folks. The annually held fete activities are including wresting festival (Amis), ceremony of expelling the evils and abundant year's sacrifice etc.

   
Matsu worship is having the most local people believed among folk beliefs today, while other kinds of folk religion like universal worshipping, deities and ancestral faith of different forms are practiced among locals. Religious ceremonies are held during traditional festivals, offering sacrifices, weddings and funerals etc.

   
There are 14 formally registered religions in Taiwan that included Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christian, Catholic and Bahaism etc. 

   
Taoism is a polytheistic religion, which is originated from Mainland China. Religious organizations were being established during Koxinga's rule, and the Church of Taoism was founded in 1951. In 2000, there are 8604 Taoist temples in Taiwan, Taoists 33850 and 4.55 million believers, which ranked first among formal religions in Taiwan.

   
Buddhism has more than 400 years of history on the island. In 1949, the KMT-controlled "China Buddhist Association" moved to Taiwan from Mainland China and officially registered in 1951. Monasteries and temples are throughout Taiwan (estimated about 4010 in 2000), monks and nuns about 9304 with 3.675 million believers, as well as many Buddhist institutions with publications circulated across the island.

   
Islam was introduced from southern Fujian Province. After Koxinga reoccupied the island, Muslim soldiers established mosques according to the style in Quanzhou, Mainland China. During the Japanese colonial rule, the Islamic faith was harshly crackdown. In 1950, the "Islamic Youth Association" founded the "Cultural Mosque" in which Muslims could read scriptures and pray. There are 6 mosques in Taipei, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung with imams to preach in Arabic.

  
The Dominican Church of the Roman Catholic was missionized on the island with the Spanish invaders in 1619. In 1952, the Vatican consulate of China was moved to Taiwan from Hong Kong, and then built churches so Catholic disciples increased. The Vatican founded an "Episcopature" on Taiwan in 1976.

  
Christianity came along with Dutch East India Company in early 17th Century. Since 1949, many Christian Churches were moved to the island. According to statistics in 2000, there are 3857 churches, more than 3000 priests including about 1000 foreign missionaries with disciples around 593,000. The Christian Church has also taken part in various educational and social welfare services.



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