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Taiwan captivates visiting young leaders

It is often said that the less you know about an opportunity, the more attractive it becomes. That opportunity, offered to me by Lincoln Ting, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland, enabled me to travel to Taiwan (the Republic of China- ROC) to participate in an international Youth Camp to learn about the country and experience the Taiwanese society.

Sponsored by the ROC Foreign Affairs Ministry and organised by the Taiwan Turnkey Project Association, the Camp, held from September 23 to October 2, 2013, brought together participants from South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. There were also participants from Taiwan, who benefitted from the Camp as our tour guides.

Thus, friendships fostered between these four countries were an interesting cross-cultural exchange of language and societal customs established successfully through people-to-people mediation.

Aside from being educated on the ROC’s youth policies and cultural diplomacy, the Camp encouraged us to partake in a variety of activities to be enriched by the ‘Taiwan Experience.’ To name a few, we understood issues relating to Taiwan’s development, visited numerous tourist sites, exposed ourselves to the stunning natural scenery and indulged in delicious local cuisine.

The Lectures

Eight lectures led by eminent tutors from various ministries talked about and discussed local and international issues concerning Taiwan and its position as the ROC on the world stage.

As our Camp consisted of members keen on specific aspects of Taiwan, either the political, economic or cultural side, the topics were diverse enough to satisfy almost everyone’s interests, ranging from Taiwan’s Economic Development and Foreign Aid Policy, Agriculture and Biodiversity Policy to Tourism and Culture.

What caught my eyes and ears were Democratic Politics Developments, in which we were taught about Taiwan’s economic rise under Chiang Ching-kuo’s administration, and the power transition between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Taiwan-China relations

Ironically, another lecture that caught my interest was ‘Cross-Strait Relations and Mainland Policy’, in which Taiwan’s ‘Three legs of National Security’ and President Ma Ying-jeou’s ‘Three No Policy’ were emphasised.

Drawing on the knowledge from these two lectures, it was interesting to see that there was a constant tear of identity between Taiwan as an independent nation eager to prove itself in terms of democracy and social freedom and the ROC as a nation dependent on Mainland China for maintaining cross-strait relations and status quo.

This difference is almost akin to the juggle between a Chinese identity and a Taiwanese identity. How the two can be segregated is rhetoric in itself that ultimately comes down to personal choice, language variation, or a combination of both.

Visual delights

While the lectures provided a theoretical introduction to Taiwan, it was the sites we visited that truly enhanced our understanding and appreciation of this beautiful country.

We went to 23 places during the 10-day Camp and each was unique in portraying Taiwan’s history, politics, art, architecture, science and technology, offering many aspects of the country that every visitor can enjoy.

Some of the places I enjoyed are popular tourist attractions namely, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Qingshui Zushi Temple, Taipei 101, Franz Porcelain Collection, Sun Moon Lake, Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, Lima Life Workshop and National Palace Museum.

Tradition & Modern

The classic Qingshui Zushi Temple for instance, is a wondrous representation of traditional Buddhist art in which one can admire the painstaking details that sculptors and artists had put into their stone carvings.

Taipei 101 on the other hand, is the hallmark of Taipei, representing modern industrialisation on a par with other global attractions such as the Taj Mahal in India, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Empire State Building in New York.

Inside Taipei 101, there are observation platforms, from which you can see the whole of Taipei City (particularly at night when the city is beautifully lit), a huge shopping mall featuring top fashion brands, and a number of classy restaurants.

For a tourist, visiting Taipei would be incomplete without a visit to Taipei 101 as the building itself is a work of art.

Aboriginal Culture

The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village and Lima Life Workshop are great in educating the public on the indigenous people of Taiwan, the 14 recognised tribes to which they belong, and their practices that were alien to the Han Chinese people.

Lima Life Workshop, run by husband and wife team Dingko Nan and Lisoon Chang, was especially impressive since the location is a unique amalgamation of a chinaware shop, restaurant and concert hall (in which we were treated to Dingko’s heart-felt aboriginal songs).

Another unmissable attraction was the National Palace Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Chinese cultural artifacts gathered over various Imperial dynasties. Once inside, one should make sure to catch a glimpse of the Museum’s emblem, the world famous ‘jadeite cabbage with insects.’

Though small, its masterpiece stems from the fact that it was carved from a single piece of jadeite that is naturally half-white and half-green, and its imperfections are cleverly disguised by the appearance of cabbage leaves’ veins and insects.

The National Palace Museum, along with the other sites described, were not only educational and entertaining, but also aesthetically beautiful.

Ratna Venkat was a part of a youth delegation that visited Taiwan from September 23 to October 2, 2013. She would continue with her experience in our next issue.

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