MRT Poetry: ‘Planting Rice Seedlings’ by Chan Ping 捷運詩句:詹冰的〈插秧〉

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Planting Rice Seedlings

The paddy field is a mirror
Reflecting the blue sky
Reflecting the white clouds
Reflecting the black mountains
Reflecting the green trees

The farmer plants seedlings
Plants them on the green trees
Plants them on the black mountains
Plants them on the white clouds
Plants them on the blue sky

I liked the simplicity of this poem’s words and the reliance on the concept to get its message across. The childlike tone of the poem suggested something like a nursery rhyme, but I also liked the idea of the unreality of the world as seen through an agricultural viewpoint (through the reflection on the paddy field’s surface) and that though humanity might think they exert control over the natural world, this is illusory as a reflection in a mirror. One could read this another way also, as an admiration for the unending toil of a peasant-farmer’s work and the single-minded urge to survive. 

 

Chan Ping (詹冰) was a Hakka poet born in the township of Zhuolan in Miaoli, Taiwan, in 1921 and was a student of Taichung County Taichung Middle School, set up by local elites such as Lin Hsien-tang and Koo Hsien-jung – the only middle school reserved for Taiwanese students during the period of Japanese colonial rule. He went to study pharmacology in Japan in 1942 at the Meiji Pharmaceutical School in Tokyo. He returned to Taiwan after qualifying as a pharmacist. He opened a pharmacy in Zhuolan before being invited to become a science teacher. He wrote poetry in Japanese during his years as a student at the Taichung Middle School and formed a poetry society called the Silver Bell (銀鈴會) with other students, including poet Lin Heng-tai. The society issued a poetry magazine called Green Grass (綠草). After Taiwan was ceded to the Republic of China in 1945 and the Nationalist Retreat to Taiwan in 1949 use of the Japanese language was heavily suppressed and the Silver Bell was forced to dissolve. After a transitional period of around 10 years, Chan started to write in Chinese and in 1964 he formed the Bamboo Rain Hat Poetry Society (笠詩社) along with Lin Heng-tai and other poets and they published a poetry collection called Green Blood Cells in 1965. As well as being a poet, Chan was a novelist, an essayist, a lyricist and a playwright. He died in 2004. 

 

Foxconn’s Restaurant Chain? Trademark Hijacking and the Likelihood of Confusion 「鴻海燒鵝燒臘」

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It may be unlikely to cause confusion, but this Hong Kong restaurant, reportedly run by a Hong Kong couple, has used 「鴻海」(Hónghǎi ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄏㄞˇ) , the first two characters of the Chinese name of Hon Hai Precision Instruments (known by its trading name Foxconn in China) in its name, 鴻海燒鵝燒臘 (Hong Hai Roast Goose Siu Laap). Hon Hai has a trademark, but has not filed for restaurants. Previously a cement company with the name Hong Hai also held a trademark for the same two characters, but it expired in 1981 and has not been renewed.

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Hon Hai Precision Instrument’s trademark

 

The restaurant was previously called 「香泰烤味」according to the review linked to above. So the decision to change the name was clearly a deliberate choice. However, it is doubtful that many Taiwanese customers would think that Hon Hai, which is one of the biggest original equipment manufacturers for Apple, has decided to branch out into reasonably priced Hong Kong-style restaurants. In an era where corporations have many different business units, however, it’s unclear as to whether this restaurant would benefit (of suffer) due to Hon Hai’s reputation.

The characters 「鴻海」 mean  ‘large ocean’.

 

Pro-unification Signs in Ximen 西門町統一分子

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This old man holding a People’s Republic of China flag is standing next to a sign reading:

「打倒日本侵略者,南京大屠殺罪惡」 “Overturn the Japanese invaders, and the evil of the Nanjing Massacre”

This video features several posters featuring the following messages:
「反對台獨,反對戰爭,台灣要和平,不願子女當炮灰」 “Oppose Taiwanese Independence, Oppose War. Taiwan should be in peace, so that our sons and daughters don’t become cannon fodder”
「什麼叫作92共識?92共識便是体現咱們都是中國人的意思。蔡英文是日本人嗎?蔡英文為什麼不承認92共識拖累我們?」
What is the 1992 Consensus? The 1992 Consensus embodies the idea that we are all Chinese. Is Tsai Ing-wen Japanese? Why does Tsai Ing-wen hold us back by not acknowledging the 1992 Consensus.
This is the spot where Taiwanese Independence activists gathered each week when the Kuomintang were in power.
Nearby here were the Falungong protesters, with posters and broadcasts calling for the arrest of former People’s Republic of China president Jiang Zemin for presiding over policies which purportedly allow for the harvesting of organs from political prisoners whilst still alive:
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These guys have invested in an English translation however:
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The sign on the left says “Bring Jiang Zemin to Justice” and on the right you can see
“Stop the Chinese Communist Party from violently harvesting organs from live donors”.

Messianic Jewish Endtime Ministries in Taiwan: On Gays, Abortion and the Sabbath

I’m always interested to see religious pamphlets when they come through my door, especially given the recent protests held by Taiwan’s Christian minority against the gay marriage bill.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has treated these religious groups on the same footing as pro-gay marriage groups, despite a lot of misinformation spread by the former on the actual content on the bill (lots of talk of men marrying Ferris wheels and dogs).

Anyway, I got this leaflet through the door this week, which appears to be associated with or enamoured with the “Aleph & Tav Prophetic Endtime Ministries“, a sect of Messianic Judaism, and have translated selections of it that I thought were interesting as they relate to gay rights and abortion.

The first page is slightly odd, in that it first suggests that there has been an uptick in “earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, heat waves, damage to crops from cold spells, epidemics and terrorist attacks” and then states that most of these are the result of how humanity has destroyed the earth’s environment. He then points out, that actually earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not related to global warming, but are rather a sign of god’s anger. He goes on to state that effects of global warming are far beyond what many scientists predicted, so god’s probably making global warming worse for us too.

After this the author goes into a rant about the Sabbath being from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, not Sunday as some Christians would have it. One line of this rant stood out to me:

不要再讓外邦人嘲笑我們不遵守十誡。

Don’t allow the people of foreign countries to continue to mock us for not observing the 10 Commandments.

This is interesting because it conflicts with statements made later on in the text, in which he criticizes Taiwanese people for blindly following Western conventions on the issue of abortion.

The second page is a little more interesting, and I’ve translated it in two parts. The first excerpt is as follows:

WarningWarning

Warning! Warning!

The creator clearly tells humanity in the bible “Homosexuality is sin”, but nowadays, people with ulterior motives use “respect for human rights” as a shield to promote such evil behaviour among humanity. Their motive is to destroy and obliterate our next generation! Over recent years the number of homosexuals, drug users and even people infected with AIDS [sic.] on school campuses has clearly risen, which is closely related to the evil education policies (gender equality education, today in schools they no longer emphasize the idea of one man and one woman, but they advocate to allow for diverse genders)! There are even massive parades by homosexual groups in Taiwan every year, with singers launching concerts to support the cause and the media writing favourable reports about them, which has led to an intangible brainwashing and warping of the value systems of Taiwan’s young people so that they can no longer tell right from wrong!

The creator tells us in the bible that “homosexuals” are an object of his scorn, and are accursed! (The city of Sodom was destroyed because of the sin of homosexuality). What is most regrettable is that during the presidential election we chose a political party that supports diverse families and we chose a leader who supports homosexuals. This choice has led our country to be cursed! As all the people of Taiwan must take responsibility for their decision! Do you still remember? The day after the election (January 17, 2016) their were dark clouds in the skies all over Taiwan, and it rained everywhere! This is a sign that the heavens were weeping for this accursed piece of land, from that time onward there has been natural disaster after natural disaster, with frequent news of accidents, but this is just punishment and discipline, in the hope that our compatriots can wake up to this as soon as possible, and be cheated by this disingenuous rhetoric no longer, to prevent an even bigger disaster befalling us!

Dear compatriots, we hereby implore you to save our country’s next generation, to clearly express your opposition while we still have freedom of speech, otherwise when a disaster befalls us and we will be left with nothing but regret! We ask that Christians not remain silent, as silence is tacit agreement in the eyes of the lord!

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Variant radicals on parade with the Tudigong: 「蹺境/遶境/繞境」

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I saw this notice stuck on a traffic light from the bus this morning.

These notices are stuck along lamp posts and walls when a temple parade is going to pass by this area. As well as including the blessings 「國泰民安」(a secure country and safety for the people), 「合境平安」(Peace for everyone and everything), 「風調雨順」(No rain or wind) and a fourth I can’t quite make out 「? 去? 千 ?」, the basic information is listed:

「店仔街福德宮

福德正神謹訂於

農曆106年2月2日9時

國曆106年2月27日9時

境、出巡 」

Dianzai Street (lit. Vendor Street) God of the Earth Temple Notice

The God of the Earth (also known by the name Tudigong, but here Fudezhengshen) is set

on the 2nd day of the 2nd month of the 106th year (sic.) of the lunar calendar

on the 2nd day of the 2nd month of the 106th year of the Republic of China

to tour the streets on inspection.

What should be noted here, is that according to the lunar calendar, this is the 丁酉 year, not the 106th year (a borrowing from the National calendar).

There’s also what I think is probably either a mistake, or an attempt to render the notice in Taiwanese, with the use of the character 「蹺」 (qiao1) instead of 「遶」 or 「繞」 (both variants of each other) in the phrase 「繞境」。

A quick Google search can confirm that it was probably a mistake, as there are only 1,390 results for 「蹺境」 overall, and only one result in a news search. Whereas 「遶境」 produces 515,000 results overall, and 85,200 results in a news search, and 「繞境」 produces 423,000 results overall, and 17,700 results in a news search.

MRT Poetry: ‘City of Faith’ by Tien Huan-chun 捷運之詩:田煥均的〈信仰之城〉

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信仰之城              City of Faith

除了佛祖和耶穌基督
As well as Buddhism and Christianity
有些神明是挖下水道的阿拉
Some gods dig water channels like Allah
有的是公園裡推著輪椅的聖母瑪利亞
Some are the Holy Marys pushing wheelchairs in the park
鬼很多的所在,神明也多
Where ghosts thrive, gods thrive too
如同陰影總是伴隨著光
As shadow follows the light
光照多的地方妳感到心安溫暖
Where light shines strongest you feel secure warmth
但鬼眾出沒也請無所懼怕
But don’t fear the places where ghosts roam
有時城市的地㡳比地上還亮
Sometimes the city’s depths are lighter than its surface
這便是文明的進展
This is the advance of civlization

Year of the Rooster Couplets

Here’s a few couplets and Chinese New Year decorations from around my neighbourhood:

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「心靜自得詩書味,室雅時開翰墨香」 “With a steady heart, finding joy by oneself in poetry and scholarship, one can smell the ink and brush in the elegant surroundings.”

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「修雙慧福」、「修福粒米藏日月,持慧亳芒有乾坤」
“Cultivating both wisdom and merit”, “By cultivating merit, a grain of rice can block the sun and the moon, by cultivating wisdom, the tiniest hair can hold the universe”

Incidentally, this has been announced as the official slogan of 2017 by Tzu Chi (慈濟), one of the most renowned Buddhist organizations and charities in Taiwan.

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「丁酉年
爆竹千聲歌盛世,金雞報喜唱豐年
靈昱秀
刻印」

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The Monotony of Poverty: ‘Return to Burma’ Review 《歸來的人》影評

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KTV; Source: Return to Burma

For me this film doesn’t work for completely the opposite reason that another film by this director, Ice Poison, didn’t work. Whereas Ice Poison is centred around the rather hackneyed trope of “young man led astray by damaged young girl”, this film is rather unclear in its voice and direction.

The film is underlaid with a pseudo-neo-colonial gaze, as much of it is pure exposition aimed at a Taiwanese audience, what people earn in relation to wages in Taiwan, what the different smuggled Chinese imports cost etc. This is not an unworthy goal, given that South East Asian workers are reported to have faced substantial discrimination and exploitation when employed in Taiwan and China, but I’m not sure if this makes the film interesting beyond its Taiwanese context. Otherwise the kind of poverty that they suffer, although awful, is rather unexceptional: the struggle to find work and support oneself and one’s family.

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Temple; Source: Return to Burma

Not much happens in the film and I felt that, although the director might be aspiring to capture the fatalistic outlook of the characters in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s films in the face of tragedy, the tragedies seemed too distant from the core of the film to give the impassivity of the protagonist any gravity in contrast. We hear his sister was kidnapped and forced to marry an older Chinese man, but she’s resigned herself to her circumstances and is wealthier than the rest of her family now, with two kids that she loves (interestingly Ice Poison shows us a woman who makes a different choice, in that she runs away from her husband in China and, long story short, she ends up in jail for drug-dealing (moral lesson: stay with your kidnapper?)). While I might criticize that sentiment, it underlines the desperate poverty of many of the people featured in his films. It’s also a common trope in the Chinese anti-modernist tradition, in which writers like Shen Cong-wen suggested that though tradition might seem overly exploitative or repressive of a certain group or class (i.e. women), the discretionary power inherent in traditional social relations tended to mitigate this harshness in everyday practice and that “modernity” could actually be more repressive in its lack of this discretionary power (see his short story 〈蕭蕭〉).

There is no real exploration of the political state of Myanmar (Burma) in the film (it occurs in the run-up to substantial political change) and the regime is largely invisible, other than the rather amusing pro-government songs that play, praising the new congress and a vague reference to strict anti-smuggling measures. This in a way reinforces the neo-colonial idea that the film is aimed solely at creating “Taiwanese guilt” for the way they take advantage of this poverty, which, although it may have some merit, doesn’t do anything to address any of the domestic causes of this poverty. Nor is there any exploration of the ethnic conflicts that have surfaced in the country over the last decades. This means that the telling of this story of poverty is so universal, that it would have had to take a more interesting narrative line or adopted a more interesting technique to keep it from being a rather monotonous retelling of what we’ve all heard before. I almost feel that Ice Poison was an attempt at breaking from this monotony by staging a romance, it’s just a pity that it felt so… staged.

 

 

Scooter Equality Before Marriage Equality? – 「多元回家」

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I had quite a good time at the December 10 rally in support of the gay marriage bill. While I was gearing up to head home, however, I saw this (rather cheeky) attempt at hijacking the rally by an organization lobbying for the rights of scooter and motorcycle drivers on the road. They were riffing on the slogan from the “Diverse Families” draft bill — a previous and more wide-reaching proposal that had included gay marriage that had failed to gain approval — 「多元成家」 (Diverse Families) and swapped out the 「成家」 meaning “to form families” for 「回家」, meaning “to go home”. So the altered slogan reads “return home by diverse means”. Maybe they were just showing their support for the cause, and racking up some publicity on the side, anyway, you’ve got to respect a pun at the end of the day.

Passive Aggressive Notes: Poop Drawings and Urine Variants

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Another passive aggressive note that reads as follows:

街坊鄰居您好:

  • 這附近很少有流浪犬,卻常在巷口這一帶見到狗狗的[drawing of pool of dog piss]和 💩。
  • 請想想出入踩到的人心情有多差…😞
  • 煩請發揮公德心&飼主之義務,勿放任家犬便溺卻不清理!

非常感謝! Thanks a lot!!

[Translation]

Dear block neighbours:

  • There are very few stray dogs around here, but I often find doggy and [drawing of pool of dog piss] and 💩 around the mouth of the alley.
  • Think of how this affects the mood of people who step on it when they come in or out… 😞
  • Please have some common decency & take responsibility as a pet owner, don’t let your pet dog defecate and urinate without cleaning it up!

THANKS A LOT!

The friendly tone of the note, but insistent use of emojis qualify it as passive aggressive.

Also interesting is the use of the character 「溺」(here niao4/ㄋㄧㄠˋ) as a variant for 「尿」