Tag Archives: Taiwan

The Old Lady, and the Siblings

Background: This story was told to the informant by his parents.

Context: This tale was performed in the Architecture studio, for an audience of two, in
order to pass time while working on projects.

“So when kids don’t want to go to sleep in Taiwan, their parents tell this to them. A brother and a sister when their parents left for the night hear a knock on the door. An old woman comes in. At night the old woman eats one of the siblings. One night the old woman woke up and ate the brother. The sister hears the sound of chewing, so she woke up and asks the woman what she is eating. The old woman says, “Oh, I’m eating peanuts” and then she just throws the sister one of her brother’s fingers, “Oh, here’s a peanut”. The sister freaks out because of this, and says “Oh, I need to go pee” and then she goes outside and climbs a tree. The old woman comes out and says “I want to eat you too.” The sister tells the old lady “First I need a pot of hot water.” So the old lady takes the hot water outside, and brings it to the sister. The sister says, “Ok, Im going to jump.” The woman opens her mouth so that she can jump in, but the sister pours the hot water into her mouth instead. “

This tale is likely a cautionary one told by parents to convince their children not to trust strangers, and let them into their house. It also encourages creative thinking on the part of the sister to get out of a sticky situation.

The Girl with the Red Dress

Background: The informant learned this ghost story in Taiwan, his home country.

Context: This story was performed in an Architecture studio, for an audience of two, in order to pass time while working on projects.

“You drive or walk around in this mountain and you see a small girl with a red dress walking around. The first time that you see the girl is if you are recording a video while hiking, and you go over the video you will see the girl with the red dress in the video. If you look closer, the girl has the face of an old woman. In Taoism there is a belief in reincarnation, so people believe that she died in an accident and is looking for someone to replace them so that they can be reincarnated.”

I believe this ghost story is told by people as a way of affirming Taoist beliefs, and shows a curiosity towards what happens in the afterlife, and how the process of reincarnation in Taoism might work.

Tsatsapipianu (Grain Harvest Festival)

Sophie is an international student from Taiwan. She is pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. She hopes to find a career in computer security and plans to stay in the United States, specifically Los Angeles, to work. She enjoys watching anime and learning; from USC-sponsored workshops, she has learned how to code and create chatbots.

Original Script

So, in Taiwan in this Aborigine tribe, we have this—no, not we—the Aborigines have this tradition that, uh, they create this giant swing. And then, um, so the princesses will be princess-carried into the swing. And then a guy will swing her up into the air and the higher she swings, it means the more possible she’s going to get married. And when she goes down the swing, a guy has to carry her and go around the swing for one round so her feet doesn’t touch the ground before going around the swing.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

One of the informant’s friends belongs to the Rukai tribe of Taiwan. In high school, the informant attended the Tsatsapipianu, or the Grain Harvest Festival, with her friend. She witnessed the Rukai perform this tradition around a large swing, called talaisi, and found the practice romantic.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

One of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples, the Rukai, view swings as representations of love, similar to that of a red rose. During the Rukai’s Grain Harvest Festival, a giant swing is used to present an opportunity for young single people to get to know one another. Due to its size, the talaisi requires two men to operate the swing, allowing the young maiden sitting on the swing to meet the men who wish to court her. Swings, known in the Rukai’s language as tiyuma, function as an effective method of communication for romance and possible marriage.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I thought this tradition of the Rukai is quite romantic. Marriage is a holy ceremony found in most, if not all, cultures around the world. It is a symbolic representation of commitment that binds two partners together as a family. In the culture of the Rukai people, this universal rite is seen as a time for friends and relatives from both partners’ families to unite as one large, extended family. Therefore, the talaisi, as a representation of romance, is surrounded by the village chief and all members of the tribe, who observe young men push the woman they wish to court on the swing. I admire how this practice does not involve merely two people; it encompasses everyone and brings them together as a community.

Taiwanese Summer Tradition

Text

During Summer, which is usually August, there’s this thing, which is.. Um.. we believe that the doors between Ying and Yang, which is between heaven and..um….. Earth and hell will open, so all the three, um…. worlds will open together and become one on Earth. So it’s like, it’s kind of the concept of purgatory opening on Earth.. It’s kind of weird. But then, at this time, usually ancestors will come back, ghosts will come back, and especially those who has no relatives or those who does not have people…. to respect them after their death. So, those are ghosts with bad intentions, and people do fear them and respect them at the same time. So, during this whole month, usually people go to temples. They pray for them. They pray that one day they can leave purgatory and go up to heaven. And they’ll bring food and, um, basically.. pray for them. So, that’s what we do during the whole summer and, at the end of August, the door will close again and we hope that those that we prayed for, and we gave food for, will go up to heaven.

Background

The informant said that she learned Taiwanese traditions from her grandparents, or it was talked about at her school (there would be stories in their textbooks about them). She emphasized that it is very important to her that she learns these traditions and keeps them up, even though some of them conflict with her own religious beliefs, because they are part of her cultural heritage. She said that it makes her sad when she sees Taiwanese-Americans who do not know or practice any Taiwanese traditions, because they are missing out on something that is a part of who they are and helps to define them.

Thoughts

Outside of simply being widely practiced in Taiwan, this tradition seemed deeply rooted in Chinese and Taiwanese beliefs about ancestors and respect. It makes sense, then, why this tradition is so important to the informant, who is from Taiwan, but is currently going to school in the U.S. and plans to live in the U.S. in the future. Carrying on this tradition seems to be a way for her to keep her connection to her Taiwanese identity, even though she now lives outside of that country.

Chinese Valentine’s Day in Taiwan

Background

The informant said that she learned Taiwanese traditions from her grandparents, or it was talked about at her school (there would be stories in their textbooks about them). She emphasized that it is very important to her that she learns these traditions and keeps them up, even though some of them conflict with her own religious beliefs, because they are part of her cultural heritage. She said that it makes her sad when she sees Taiwanese-Americans who do not know or practice any Taiwanese traditions, because they are missing out on something that is a part of who they are and helps to define them.

Context

The informant told this story to a group of female friends, while out to dinner one night. She had a smile on her face the whole time and the audience reacted with coos and aww’s, eating up the romantic parts of the story.

Text

During July, we have our Chinese Valentine’s Day. So, Chinese Valentine’s Day, it’s — it’s really cute. It’s more of a.. It’s more of a Taiwanese and Chinese tradition. So, the story is that there’s these two…um… there’s this one couple. One of– the female– is one of.. She’s a goddess. The male is just a normal peasant. And one day, when the goddess comes down to earth and, uh, take a shower at one of the.. um.. fountains and stuff. This peasant saw her and fall in love with her. And, uh, in order to attract her, he stole away her clothes. So, she has to go after the peasant and she– they fall in love. But, then you can never — a goddess cannot fall in love with a human. So.. um.. they can’t be together. Uh, the main gods, they separate the couple. So, um, during July, the goddess just.. Um.. oh, wait, wait. Oh! The gods do pity them, so they decided that they only meet once in a year, which is Chinese Valentine’s. So, on Chinese Valentine’s, there will be birds, there will be, um, celestial creatures that will build a bridge between heaven and Earth, so they can walk onto the bridge and meet each other at the middle of the bridge. So, that is Chinese Valentine’s.

Thoughts

I thought it was interesting that the informant was talking about a holiday that she participated in her home country, but she discussed it in a narrative form. It seemed that the story behind Chinese Valentine’s Day was more significant or interesting to her than the holiday itself. This might have something to do with tendency for humans to relate more to something when it’s told as a narrative. The reason she discussed this holiday using a narrative might also be because of the audience. She was talking to a group of her girl friends, who she probably  thought were more interested in hearing a compelling love story than hearing about Taiwanese traditional holidays.