by J. Sydney Jones
Taiwan is also called Nationalist China or the Republic of China, and is located 100 miles from the mainland of China. An island country about twice the size of New Jersey, it measures 13,892 square miles (35,990 square kilometers). The Taiwan Strait, formerly known as the Straits of Formosa, separates Taiwan from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian. A mountainous country, especially in the eastern two-thirds of the island, Taiwan also has jurisdiction over 22 islands in the Taiwan group and a another 64 in the Pescadores Archipelago to the west. To the north of Taiwan is the East China Sea with the Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa, and Japan; to the south is the Baishi Channel in the South China Sea separating Taiwan from the Philippines; to the east is the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese Current helps give Taiwan a moderate year-round climate, and because the island is situated in the tropical and subtropical zones, the summer monsoon season ensures an ample water supply. The capital of the republic is Taipei, and the island's major industries are textiles, electronics, machinery, shipbuilding, and agriculture.
One of the most densely populated places on earth, Taiwan is inhabited by 21.5 million people, a majority of whom live on the low plain of the western part of the island. Of these, only 330,000 are non-Chinese, the aboriginal inhabitants of the island related to Malay people of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Of the remaining majority, 85 percent are descendants of early Chinese immigrants to the island, mostly from the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong, and primarily of the Fujianese and Hakka ethnic groups. These latter are the so-called "guest people" who migrated to Guangdong from Henan in central China and then moved on to Taiwan, beginning in the sixteenth century. The remaining 14 percent of the population are made up of "mainlanders," Chinese from a variety of mainland provinces who were either born in China or are descendants of families who fled the Communist Chinese armies after the Second World War. Most of the population speaks Mandarin Chinese, the national language. The second largest language group is Taiwanese, or Hokkien, spoken by Hakka and Fujian natives, and based on the Minnan dialect of southern Fujian. Many Hakka also speak their own dialect, while mainlanders speak a variety of mainland Chinese dialects in addition to Mandarin.
Daoism and Buddhism are the major religions of Taiwan. A blending of the philosophical tenets of Confucianism with these two major religions resulted in a hybrid religion, often referred to as Chinese popular religion. Christianity is also represented, and though it is a relatively minor religion, it has a strong influence in the spheres of education and health care. There are also some Muslims living in the urban areas of the country.
The derivation of the Chinese word Tai-wan is unknown, though its literal meaning is "terraced bay." Until the sixteenth century, Taiwan was primarily inhabited by its native Malayo-Polynesian population. In Chinese records prior to the Han dynasty (206 b.c.-222 a.d.), Taiwan was referred to as Yangchow, then later Yinchow. In 239 a.d., the Chinese emperor sent an expeditionary force to explore the island, one of the bases for Beijing's current claim of sovereignty over the island. However, no permanent base was settled on the island. Several centuries later, more missions were sent to the island. The island was clearly identified in court records of the Ming dynasty, charted by the explorer Cheng Ho in 1430 and given its current name, Taiwan. Despite this, few Chinese ventured across the treacherous waters of the Straits of Formosa. The island was largely an operational base for Chinese and Japanese pirates.
In the sixteenth century, foreign contacts began. The Portuguese passed by the island en route to Japan in 1517, dubbing it Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island. The Dutch followed, establishing a settlement in southwestern Taiwan in 1624, as did the Spanish, who settled at Chi-lung in the north. The Dutch East India Company encouraged Chinese migration in order to increase agricultural production, and the numbers of Fujianese and Hakka settlers grew to some 200,000 by the end of the Dutch period. In 1642 the Dutch seized the Spanish settlements in the north; they were in turn expelled in 1661, victims of events on mainland China.
With the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the Manchus of the Qing dynasty consolidated and enlarged their rule of mainland China, moving south of the Great Wall to bring all of China under their control by 1683. During these turbulent years, many Chinese fled to Taiwan to escape the Manchus, just as centuries later, Nationalist forces would flee there to avoid the Communist onslaught. Taiwan thus became a center of Chinese resistance to the Manchus, and Ming diehards continued to fight on. One supporter was Zheng Cheng-gong, also known as Koxinga, a half-Japanese supporter of the Mings, who led an army of 100,000 troops and 3,000 junks. Ultimately, Koxinga turned against the Dutch in Taiwan, expelling them and establishing a Ming-style dynasty on the island. This government in exile lasted until 1683, when the Manchus invaded Taiwan, making it part of the empire to be administered by Fujian province. Two hundred years later, Taiwan became a separate province of China.
The centuries of relative peace and prosperity under Manchu control led to dramatic increases in population on the mainland, as new emigrants swelled its population. The aboriginal population was increasingly relegated to the mountainous regions of the east of the island. Rice and sugar imports to China had become staple products of the island. As European interest in the China trade grew in the nineteenth century, two treaty ports were opened in 1858, Tainan and Tanshui, the latter just downstream from Taipei. Peking began to take more notice of its rebellious province to the west, but its years of misrule there had sown the seeds of distrust in Taiwan. In 1884 Peking reorganized rule on the island, sending Liung Ming ch'uan to administer it, which he did capably. In 1886, Taiwan was made an independent province, with Taipei its capital city.
In 1894, China went to war with Japan over Korea, and quickly lost the conflict, as well as its province of Taiwan in the ensuing treaty. For the next fifty years, the Japanese occupied Taiwan, who carried out a policy of Japanization of Taiwan's people and culture. Japanese was the language of instruction, bureaucracy, and business. Initially, the island became a rice and sugar provider for Japan. By the 1930s, industrialization involving textiles, chemicals, and machinery was made possible by relatively cheap hydroelectric power on the island. Though a repressive regime, Japanese control did improve sanitation on the island, as well as the educational system. With the onset of World War II, Taiwan was used as a Japanese staging area for invasions of Southeast Asia. In 1945, with the defeat of Japan, Taiwan was returned to China, under uncertain status. Chiang Kai-shek, of the Nationalist party, sent military forces to the island in October 1945 and replaced Japanese officials with those of the Republic of China.
Nationalist rule was not popular, as it maintained the same oppressive system. The Nationalists, involved in a civil war with the communists, viewed the Taiwanese as traitors for not having opposed the Japanese during the war. Unrest led to rebellion in 1947, which was brutally put down by the mainland government, with the loss of Taiwanese lives estimated at 10,000. It would take several decades to repair the damage done to mainlander-Taiwanese relations as a result of this massacre. The er er ba event, as it is known, from the Chinese for the date of the onset of the trouble, took place on February 28, 1947. In the 1990s, some amends were made to the families of the victims, and February 28 became Peace Day in Taiwan.
Communist forces under Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist forces on the mainland in 1949, and Chiang Kai-shek along with his government and a portion of his army fled to Taiwan to set up a government in exile. Though there was no love lost between the Taiwanese and the Nationalists, the former could do little but absorb the newcomers. Mao's forces were on the brink of invasion, when the Korean War broke out in 1950. The U.S. Seventh Fleet was sent to the Taiwan Strait to protect Taiwan from attack. For the next two decades, the Republic of China, or Nationalist China, became the China in U.S. foreign relations, and Chiang, running an autocratic regime in Taiwan, dreamed of eventually returning to the mainland. In the bipolar world of the Cold War, Taiwan maintained a precarious independence just 100 miles off the coast of the People's Republic of China. Partly with the help of American aid, partly with a policy of import substitution, Taiwan grew into a manufacturing power. By the 1960s, it was exporting to the West in vast quantities: textiles, electronic equipment, and machinery all helped to fuel an 11 percent annual growth rate in the economy between 1960 and 1973.
In 1971, the United States normalized relations with Communist China, the People's Republic of China, and Taiwan lost its seat at the United Nations. Official diplomatic relations were established between the People's Republic and the United States in 1979. In Taiwan, equally dramatic changes were taking place. With the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo took power and attempted to cultivate a more populist image. Martial law was finally lifted in 1987, a year before his death. Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese, became his successor. Between 1988 and 1996, Lee oversaw liberal changes in the political process, and in 1996, Lee became the first popularly elected president. Meanwhile, the threat from Communist China remains; Chinese military exercises in 1997 and 1998 were thought to preface a possible invasion of the island. Taiwan continues to perform a delicate balancing act, attempting to normalize relations with the People's Republic, while at the same time insuring its own independence.
THE FIRST TAIWANESE IN AMERICA
Mainland Chinese immigrants began coming to the United States in significant numbers about a century before the Taiwanese. These early immigrants, largely from Guangdong province, came to the West Coast during the boom of the Gold Rush. However, large numbers of these immigrants soon spurred a backlash of anti-Chinese sentiment. Discriminatory laws such as the exclusion act against the Chinese in 1882 denied them the right of entry to the United States simply based on ethnicity and race. Only with the defeat of Japan in World War II, in which China and the U.S. were allies, was there an effort to take the exclusionary laws off the books. Early quotas for Chinese and Asians in general were low, but the doors were once again open. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Act, which allowed for an annual quota of 20,000 Chinese, as well as for the entry of family members as non-quota immigrants.
Taiwanese immigration was influenced by these legal difficulties. The first Taiwanese immigrants came between the end of World War II and 1965, and were made up mostly of students continuing their education at American universities, mainly on the East and West Coasts, and in certain places in the Midwest, such as Chicago. The numbers of these were low, and some stayed on after graduation to find careers in the United States. Early Taiwanese immigrants also included wives of servicemen stationed in Taiwan after the Korean War. A third group of early immigrants sought better economic conditions and opportunities than they could find at home. These people often ended up working in Chinese restaurants or in service industries. Many such early immigrants felt isolated from the general Chinese American population by cultural tradition and by language, for Cantonese was the language of many Chinese immigrants of these period, as opposed to the Taiwanese or Mandarin spoken by immigrants from Taiwan.
SIGNIFICANT IMMIGRATION WAVES
After the 1965 Immigration Act, more Taiwanese came to the United States, aided by the new legislation, which gave priority to those with vital skills. Individuals with technical and scientific skills found easier admittance to the United States, as well as those in such needed occupations as hotel and restaurant work. This second wave of immigration lasted from 1965 to 1979. Once the United States recognized mainland China, however, relations with Taiwan became more informal. Immigrants since 1979 have had increased difficulties as they hold passports from a "nonexistent" nation. In 1982, Taiwan was given a quota of 20,000 immigrants, and many of these were students or trained professionals for whom there were insufficient jobs in Taiwan. A brain drain from Taiwan ensued, including students who, having completed their studies in the United States, decided to stay on. Not only were more job opportunities available in America, but young men of draft age could also avoid compulsory military service in Taiwan.
The Immigration Act of 1990 established preferences for those willing to invest in new business in the United States. Other factors in Taiwanese immigration since 1979 have been the increase of educational opportunities in the United States, as well as the uncertain position of Taiwan with respect to China. With the increased productivity of Taiwan in the 1980s, a class of transnational business people was created. Called taikongren or "astronauts," these business representatives shuttle back and forth between the United States and Taiwan, while their families reside in the former.
Numbers of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States are not easily calculated, since U.S. Census figures group all of the approximately 1.65 million Chinese Americans (as of 1990) in one category. These include American-born Chinese, as well as immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. From 1984 to 1999, it is estimated that some 200,000 Taiwanese have immigrated to the United States, with numbers averaging about 13,000 per year. In 1994, 10,032 Taiwanese came to the United States, while about 54,000 immigrants were admitted from mainland China. In both cases, the over-whelming majority of immigrants listing an occupation were professionals, technicians, or managers. However, the usual stereotype of the Taiwanese engineer or computer scientist is not necessarily the norm. There have also been large numbers of blue-collar workers in service and garment industries. Also, more women are now immigrating to the United States.
Large communities of Taiwanese Americans are scattered throughout the United States, but are concentrated primarily in California and on the East Coast. In California, Taiwanese communities are particularly prevalent in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco. In the greater Los Angeles area, for example, the town of Monterey Park has been called "Little Taipei", because of its large Taiwanese population. Other suburban Southern California communities with a high Taiwanese population can be found throughout the San Gabriel valley. Of the 10,032 Taiwanese immigrants in 1994, nearly half, 4,862, settled in California, with upwards of 3,000 in the Los Angeles-Orange Country area alone. San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland accounted for another 1,500 immigrants. In the east, large communities can be found in the Flushing-Queens area of New York, while in Texas, Houston draws Taiwanese immigrants.
The flow of capital from Taiwan follows these immigrants, and as a result they have been able to revitalize some failing communities and culturally influence others. The Taiwanese presence is evident in the cities where they settle. Instead of the Chinatowns of old, Taiwanese immigrants create islands of Taiwanese culture amid suburbia, with all-Chinese shopping malls and strip malls offering everything from Chinese food shops to bookshops and pharmacies. All signs are in Chinese characters mixed with English in a kind of international linguistic melange; entering these malls is like being instantly transported to Taiwan itself. This is especially true for communities such as those in California at Monterey Park and San Jose, where the Taiwanese community has its own clubs, churches, newspapers, and churches. This is also the case in larger urban areas, such as Flushing in Queens, New York, where the Taiwanese are just one part of a larger multicultural blend including Pakistanis, Indians, Koreans, and Thais.
Acculturation and Assimilation
Like many other immigrants from Asia, the Taiwanese tend to settle in areas with large numbers of their fellow countrymen. Families and networks of mutual aid are set in place in the United States just as they were in Taiwan. Thus the Taiwanese American community tends to remain cohesive, preserving its values, language, and cultural traditions amid the bustle of contemporary American life, but they are no longer segregated into the Chinatowns of old. As Hsiang-shui Chen pointed out in Chinatown No More, a study of Taiwanese immigrants in Queens, "the new Chinese immigrants do not live in isolated Chinese communities. Like the old Chinese immigrants, they have developed a complex organizational life, but it does not include all immigrants, and the new Chinese community in Queens has no hierarchical structure." Though the Taiwanese immigrant may own a business or hold a job in an inner city of San Jose or Los Angeles or Houston, "they are likely to have homes elsewhere," according to Franklin Ng in his study, The Taiwanese Americans (Ng, 1998:22). Thus the new Taiwanese immigrant community is looser than earlier Chinese ones, while preserving much of the mutual aid that characterized those communities.
TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, AND BELIEFS
Taiwanese traditions are a unique blend of the groups that have occupied the island state. There are instances of Fujian culture, of traditions from Guangdong, and of customs from Japan as a result of the fifty-year occupation by that country. These traditions have also been heavily influenced by Western trends, as Taiwan itself is a modern economic power. Thus, immigrants coming to the United States have generally found a middle ground between East and West for their belief systems.
Concepts relating to nature, time, and space are a joining of two worlds: the Chinese sense of harmonic living in tune with the natural order, and the Western scientific, materialistic worldview. Ancient belief systems revolved around the Dao, or the Way, the manner in which humans live in harmony with the natural world. The traditional belief in qi, or life force, leads to a view of a world divided into polar opposites, yin and yang, as represented in such dichotomies as male-female, cold-hot, dry-wet, light-dark. Additionally, the world is seen as comprised of five elements: fire, wood, air, water, and earth. Seasons and relationships are determined by the ebb and flow of opposites and of the five elements. The tradition of fengshui, wind and water, is an ancient Chinese science that seeks harmony in interior and exterior design and architecture by balancing yin-yang and allowing for proper flow of qi. This tradition has gained popularity outside of the Taiwanese and Chinese community, resulting in a popularization of fengshui principles in much of the Western world as well.
A unique perception of time also informs Taiwanese life, in which both the lunar calendar and Western Gregorian calendar is used. The latter solar calendar is employed in business, school, and public life, while for determining festivals and religious observances, the lunar calendar is used. Based on the phases of the moon, the lunar calendar has 12 months, with 24 solar divisions, and is 11 days shorter than the Western calendar year. The lunar calendar and almanacs are also used to determine auspicious and inauspicious days for doing various endeavors, from starting a business, to getting married. Some Taiwanese believe that certain days are unlucky: the third, seventh, thirteenth, eighteenth, twenty-second, and twenty-seventh days of the lunar month, for example, are held by some to be bad luck days. The first and fifteenth of each lunar month are not good days to wash one's hair. Such old beliefs, however, are dying out among the younger generation of Taiwanese.
Another widespread belief among Chinese and Taiwanese is the taboo of number four, which sounds very much like the word for death. Buildings often exclude a fourth and even a fourteenth or twenty-fourth floor to avoid possible bad luck, a custom similar to that regarding the number thirteen in Western societies. Many other beliefs revolve around the play of homonyms. It is bad luck to share a pear, li, because that word sounds like the Chinese word "to separate." Breaking an object, the person will quickly say Sui sui ping an, a play on the word for "pieces" and "year after year," turning the bad situation into a wish for eternal happiness. Similarly, at Chinese New Year, the character for luck or happiness will be taped to windows upside down: the word for "down" sounds similar to that for "to come," meaning luck or happiness will come to you. Gift giving is fraught with peril, for some presents are to be avoided; umbrellas, as the Chinese word for them sounds too close to the word for separation or departure, and clocks, which sound like the expression for attending a funeral.
Su-Chu Hadley, cited in American Mosiac: The Immigrant Experience in the Words of Those Who Lived It, Joan Morrison and Charlotte Fox Zabusky (E.P. Dutton, New York, 1980).
"[W] hen my oldest was ready for school, we came to the United States. When I came to this country, I heard about all the divorces and I was kind of scared. I wanted to save money in case my husband kicks me out, so I can go somewhere."
Taiwanese culture is rich in proverbs, many of them appearing in pairs and presenting opposite views of the same advice. Thus, to "give somebody wood on a snowy day," is to provide timely aid, while to "add flowers to a large bouquet" means to do something unnecessary. Similarly, advice about just desserts is served up in the following pair: "Bad persons always get their comeuppance; if they have not yet it is only a matter of timing;" and "Good persons always get a reward. Wait, it will come." The idea that trouble follows trouble is expressed in "The roof always leaks on a rainy day," and doing something unnecessary is parodied in "Painting feet on a snake."
Taiwanese cuisine is largely influenced by Fujian cooking, an Eastern style adapted to a lighter cuisine which employs more seafood. Japanese influences in this style of cooking include the substitution of vegetable oil for traditional Fujian lard to create more delicate dishes. Other popular methods of cooking include barbecuing and the use of hot-pots, in addition to pan frying, boiling, and stir-frying.
Taiwanese cooking employs a wide assortment of foodstuffs, from meats such as beef and pork, to poultry and all sorts of seafood. Noodle dishes and soups are popular, as are boiled dumplings, shuijao, prepared with crabmeat in addition to the usual pork and leek stuffing. Seafood is used in such delicacies as oysters in black bean sauce, prawns wrapped in seaweed, cucumber crab rolls, and clam and winter melon soup. Taiwan, with is tropical and subtropical climate, grows fruits and vegetables in abundance. Most popular fruits include papaya, mango, pineapple, melons, and citrus, while vegetables are asparagus, eggplant, pea pods, Chinese cabbage and mushrooms, bok choy, and leafy greens of the spinach family. Bean curd in various guises is also used. Buns, cakes, and bread are also more numerous in Taiwanese cuisine than in other parts of China, a result of Western influence in Shanghai. Beverages such as beer and rice wine, sake, are typical, as is Western style soda, but tea continues to be an omnipresent beverage among Taiwanese.
Some food is sold only at certain times of the day or year. For example, steamed buns and the clay-oven rolls called shaobing are sold only in the morning; some bread and tofu are sold in the afternoon and evening. The best time to find spring rolls is in April; moon cakes are available during the Mid-Autumn Festival; and the Dragon Boat Festival heralds delicious rice dumplings, zongzi. Other foods, such as snake and tiger, are now rare, used primarily for medicinal purposes.
The Taiwanese use chopsticks. It is a skill most children learn by the time they are five. Deep, curved Chinese spoons in plastic or porcelain are also used instead of Western cutlery. Knives are usually unnecessary at table as meat is diced or sliced in preparation. It is customary for the eater to hold the rice bowl close to the mouth, scooping the rice in with chopsticks, which are placed on the table or the rim of the rice bowl, and never pointing down into the bowl a sign of bad luck.
Music provides a ceremonial and entertainment function in Taiwanese society, both in the United States and in Taiwan. Music the dead to their burial, heralds marriages and birthdays, and also provides the framework for Chinese opera and puppet plays. An ancient musical system, Chinese music uses a scale of seven notes, but focuses on five core tones with two changing tones. These five tones are in turn tied to the Chinese concept of the five basic elements. The Taiwanese musical tradition follows that of the classical Chinese model, and in addition has its own folk traditions. Popular instruments include the zither with 25 strings and movable bridges, se, and the chin, another stringed instrument.
Three different types of musical ensembles are employed at festive or ritual occasions, each tracing its development back to bands that would accompany high officers in imperial times. Drums are an integral part of traditional Taiwanese music, and for special occasions, a drum pavilion or guting is played, comprising several sorts of gongs, cymbals, and drums, as well as the double-reeded pipe called suona. Bayin ensembles, employing eight sounds, are used for weddings and funerals with a guting following. A third type of amateur folk ensemble plays beiguan music at temples for a god's or goddess's birthday.
Taiwanese produce stars on the Mandarin and Taiwanese pop music scenes. Teresa Teng was one such popular singer, known all over East Asia and beloved by immigrant communities in the United States.
Folk songs and ballads have become more popular, inspired by both aboriginal music and Japanese musical styles. Taiwanese also listen to Western music in all its forms.
The chi pao is the traditional wear for women, a long, high-collared dress with a side slit. The chi pao is generally made of silk, brocaded with designs or plain, as is desired. Such dresses are for formal occasions, though a shortened version is also used for less formal wear. The chan sang is similar; it literally means "long clothes," but is loose-waisted in comparison to the chi pao, and was formerly worn by men as well.
DANCES AND SONGS
Taiwanese traditional dance is ritualistic, emphasizing formal, stiff body movements with the feet kept close to the ground. Such dances are seen in folk celebrations and rituals, and in opera, where each movement is highly symbolic, telling of emotions, or time and space changes. In traditional drama, there is often a chaotic, swirling, acrobatic blend of fight and dance: armies clash, or monks attack devils. This latter form of dance is closely related to Taiwan's martial art, guoshu, of which there are many varieties.
Folk dance traditions are strong among Taiwanese, the lion dance and the dragon dance being the most typical. In ancient times, such dances, employing drums, masks, and animated movements, were performed to bring rain or avoid plagues. Modern performances of the lion and dragon dance are intended to bring good luck or liven up festive occasions. The dragon mask and costume in particular are works of folk art in themselves, the entire body of the dancer covered in colorful fabric. Contemporary choreographers have attempted to blend some of this folk tradition with the elements of modern dance, creating a uniquely Taiwanese form of ballet.
Taiwanese Americans observe all the formal holidays of the United States: Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Easter. In addition, they have several festivals that are peculiar to the lunar calendar and have a seasonal significance. The most important festival, for all Chinese Americans, is the celebration of the Lunar New Year, which is tied to the coming of spring and thus also known as chunjie or "spring festival." The advent of the new year is a time for house-cleaning, after which no more should be done for the first days of the new year, or good luck may be swept away. Red is the dominant color: red paper with calligraphic wishes for good luck or good health will be hung; festive red clothing is worn at gatherings. New Year's Day is a time for family to come together, to give gifts and to visit close friends. Special foods are prepared, and much of these are determined again by similarity in sound to words representing good luck or wealth. For example, fish, yu, is a popular dish because it sounds the same as the word for "abundance." Parades and dramatic performances take place over many days, before and after Chinese New Year.
The Lantern Festival, dengjie, takes place on the fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year and traditionally marks the end of New Year celebrations. In the United States this festival marks the beginning of spring banquets given by many Taiwanese organizations. A summer festival, the Dragon Boat Festival honors the death of a popular poet and minister of the Zhou dynasty of China (403-221 b.c.), who committed suicide in the Mi Lo River as a protest against government corruption. Legend has it that villagers attempted to recover his body with a flotilla of boats; modern-day boat races in Taiwan honor the day. The same legend tells that the people threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fish, thus keeping them from eating the corpse of the poet. Today, Taiwanese Americans often eat zongzi at this festival, a sort of glutinous rice pudding or dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with pork, beans, and other ingredients. The Mid-Autumn Festival, zhongchiu jie, is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, when the full moon is supposed to represent family harmony; the abundance of autumn harvest is often displayed as an offering to the moon goddess. Paste-filled moon cakes are baked at this time, made from lotus or melon seeds, or various beans. Some U.S. cities have organized street fairs to celebrate Mid-Autumn.
There are no health issues peculiar to the Taiwanese population. A healthy diet is a part of the culture, owing to the five-element way of thinking and of the yin-yang dichotomy. Categories such as wet and dry, hot and cool, go into preparing a menu. The balance of such opposites is thought to be vital to good health. There is a heavy reliance on non-Western forms of medical therapy such as acupuncture.
Taiwanese Americans speak a variety of languages, but Mandarin Chinese is generally their first language, known as kuo yu, or "national dialect." This derives from Beijing Mandarin and is about as similar to that dialect as American English is to British English. The various ethnic groups comprising the Taiwanese community have their own dialects. The native Taiwanese dialect is spoken by the Fujian and Hakka, and is based on the Minnan dialect of southern Fujian province. Some Hakka also speak their own dialect. But generally speaking, Taiwanese all speak the four-tone Mandarin dialect. Romanization of Chinese characters is still done in the Wade-Giles system, though Taiwan is beginning to change such romanization to the pinyin system in use on the mainland. Thus Peking, the capital of communist China, is Beijing. Taipei, Taiwan's capital in the Wade-Giles system, is Taibei in pinyin.
Taiwanese Americans often mix English with Chinese, especially in written language. Thus, shop signs will often combine intricate characters with English words. In larger urban areas, Chinese language radio and television stations provide listeners and viewers with programming in Mandarin or Cantonese dialects.
GREETINGS AND OTHER POPULAR EXPRESSIONS
Common greetings and other expressions include: Tsao (tsow)—Good morning; Ni hao ma (knee how ma)—How are you; Tsao chien (tsow chyen)— Good-bye, see you later; Pai tuo (pie twa), Please; Hsieh hsieh (shye shye) thanks; Pu ko chi (pookócheh) You're welcome; Tai hau le (tie how le) Great, wonderful.
Family and Community Dynamics
Confucian values place a premium on family values and family cohesion. Clans and lineages both played significant roles in Chinese history, and in the Taiwanese American community such bonds continue to so. Whereas the extended family of three generations under one roof was once the norm in Taiwanese society, the emphasis in recent years in both Taiwan and the United States has been on the nuclear family. No longer are many children needed as they were in rural, agricultural times. Now the emphasis is on smaller families with fewer children. Often Taiwanese Americans have left family members behind; mothers and fathers remain in Taiwan while sons and increasingly daughters come to the United States to build a new life. Relations are continued via telephone, the Internet, and by periodic visits. It is common for members of an extended family to live together, however, such as in cases of a young man or woman living with relatives while attending college.
Within the family, Chinese kinship terms are observed. Grandparents are zufumu if they are the parents of the father, waizufumu if they are mother's parents. An older brother is gege, a younger one didi. Jiejie is an older sister while meimei is a younger one. Such nomenclature also extends to uncles and aunts to determine which side he or she is on (mother's or father's) and their rank of seniority in the family. Such strict labeling eventually breaks down among Taiwanese families living in America.
Depending on the economic and educational status of families, roles are more or less traditional vis-à-vis husband and wife. Among blue-collar workers, though they are likely to have a double-household, the male-female roles are more traditional and the husband will be the more dominant partner. In professional families, the roles tend to be more equal and the higher level of income affords both parents more time with their children. In general, Taiwanese Americans experience fewer divorces than other American families, partly a result of the extended kinship bonds and the over-lapping social relationships in the community. Long-term separations, however, in which the husband is forced for economic reasons to leave his family in the U.S. while he shuttles back and forth to Taiwan, strain marriages.
The Taiwanese American is cohesive. Self-help within the Taiwanese American community helps new arrivals to establish themselves, to start businesses, and to find jobs. Networking is a fact of life in all cultures; Taiwanese Americans form familial bonds and groupings in specialized organizations and clubs to look out for one another.
Education is highly valued by Taiwanese Americans. Many immigrants come to the United States with university and post-graduate degrees and the value of a college education is instilled in succeeding generations. With competition stiff and available spaces low in Taiwanese universities, many come to the United States to study. Preparation for college begins in kindergarten. Often parents will purchase a home contingent upon it being in a good school district. Children learn from an early age the importance of doing well in school, of getting good grades so that they can get into a good college later on. Many Taiwanese children take preparation courses for the SATs and practice writing essays for college admissions officers. In Taiwanese families, the parents are very involved in all aspects of their children's education. Favored places of enrollment are such California universities as UC Berkeley, UCLA, or Stanford. The Asian population at Berkeley is upwards of 60 percent of the total.
BIRTH AND BIRTHDAYS
The mother is given especially nutritious foods both before and after giving birth. Whereas in earlier times, and still to a great extent on mainland China and in Taiwan, the birth of a boy has been the greatest wish of parents, now Taiwanese Americans rejoice at the birth of children of either sex. The one-month birthday is a time for special celebrating; birthdays are generally celebrated following the Western calendar.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
In Taiwan, women tended to be subordinated, largely ruled over by the male members of the jia or extended family unit. Though divorce is rare in Taiwan, the wife's failure to produce a male child was one reason for separation. Times are changing in Taiwan, and among Taiwanese Americans. The educational disparity between women and men is decreasing, and women are often in the work force.
The courtship and weddings of Taiwanese Americans are no longer the elaborate, lengthy affairs they are in Taiwan, where there is a "greater engagement," or dading, during which gifts are exchanged between both families and the dowry is presented. Still, weddings are joyous occasions and are considered an important rite of passage. The ceremony itself may be civil or religious, but it is always followed by a banquet. The couple is generally presented with gifts of envelopes filled with money. Sometimes there may be banquets both in the United States and in Taiwan, if the parents of either of the couple live there. For a time, there was also the practice of sending the bride back to Taiwan for a cooking class.
Rites given at funerals depend upon the religious affiliation of the deceased. Funerals are a time for demonstrating respect for ancestors and publicly displaying status in the family. While these intricate kinship roles and patterns have partly broken down in the United States, funerals are still solemn affairs. Red may be worn by some to ward off the negative influences of death or to celebrate the long life and descendants of the deceased.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
Confucian cultural tradition emphasizes accomplishment over race or ethnicity. Thus Taiwanese do well in the multicultural environment found in the United States and have generally gotten along well with other ethnic minorities. Taiwanese immigrants have been resented, however, especially where they have settled in large numbers in a certain area, such as in Monterey Park in California or in Flushing in Queens, New York. Taiwanese Americans are generally successful, and such resentment is tends to come from those groups who have not fared as well in the United States. Also, coming from a rich culture with ancient traditions, Taiwanese Americans do not take it for granted that all aspects of life in the United States are better than in Taiwan. Taiwanese do not cast off their heritage in a rush to assimilate. Such an attitude can cause friction with other ethnic minorities.
Among Taiwanese Americans there is a rich diversity of religions. Some, as in Taiwan itself, are Christian. This is a distinct minority in Taiwan, about one million faithful, divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. A larger percentage of Taiwanese Americans are Christian than in Taiwan, partly because these churches provide a social gathering point for immigrants. Protestants outnumber Catholics in these, and a large group of Taiwanese Americans belongs to evangelical or fundamentalist Baptist churches. Presbyterian is another popular denomination, where services are often given in Mandarin or in Taiwanese dialect. The full panoply of services is available at such churches, including Bible study for the young and social functions such as dinners and talks.
Other Taiwanese Americans favor the traditional religions of Taiwan and of China. These consist of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and a hybrid popular religion. The popular religion is a blend of the other three faiths, plus ancestor worship and the belief in certain local gods and goddesses. For newcomers to the United States, religious affiliation can provide an important networking resource. Taiwanese Buddhists follow the Mahayana school, similar to the Buddhism of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Buddhism in particular has made rapid growth in recent years, establishing new temples in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and New York. This growth reflects the increasing popularity Buddhism is enjoying in Taiwan itself, with adherents growing six-fold in the years from 1983 to 1995. Xi Lai Temple, a Buddhist temple near Monterey Park, California is a particularly noteworthy in this respect. It is the largest overseas temple of Foguanshan center in Taiwan, a Zen Buddhist center. Completed in 1988, it cost $26 million and is a colorful and stunning architectural presence, attracting faithful and tourists alike. One hall alone has ten thousand golden Buddhas. It speaks for the presence of Buddhism in the United States, as do the Jade Buddha Temple in Houston and the Zhuangyen Monastery in Carmel, New York.
The popular religion is represented in the United States by various temples built for the gods and goddesses. These include Tudigong, or the God of the Earth, Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, and Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea. One such temple, to Mazu, was built in San Francisco starting in 1986. These churches and temples all include functions beyond religion: there are activity halls for lectures as well as instruction in Chinese language.
Religious observance is not restricted to formal temples and churches, however. Many Taiwanese Americans will have shrines in their homes and observe lunar festivals, activities that bond the community to folk traditions and religious practices.
Employment and Economic Traditions
Taiwanese Americans are generally seen as consisting only of well-educated professionals. Of the 10,032 Taiwanese immigrants admitted to the United States in 1994, for example, almost three-quarters of those reporting occupations were in the professional, technical, executive, administrative, or managerial classes. In general, Taiwanese do come better prepared than the older, pre-1949, mainland Chinese immigrant: they tend to be better educated, have a profession, and know some English. Yet that is only part of the picture; 6,084 of the ten thousand plus in 1994 reported no occupation. Many are blue-collar workers working in restaurants and in the garment industry.
Many Taiwanese investors also settle in the United States, encouraged by the Immigration Act of 1990. This Act created preferences not only for those with key professional skills, but also for investors who could create employment opportunities in the United States by investing funds here. It is important for Taiwanese to start up their own business, no matter how small, for these are signs of success in Chinese society. However, as the U.S. economy slowed in the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a reverse migration of Taiwanese professionals forced to take research or teaching positions in Taiwan's high-tech industries and universities, leaving their families in the United States. With the East Asia economic crunch of the late 1990s, and with improved economic conditions in the United States, this situation has been somewhat rectified.
Politics and Government
Since the United States officially established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1979, Taiwan has held a precarious position as an independent country. Much of the political activity of Taiwanese Americans, therefore, has been focussed on American public and political opinion regarding Taiwan. Despite American insistence that it no longer officially supports an independent Taiwan, the U.S. Congress did pass the Taiwan Relations Act authorizing continued social and economic ties with the island nation. Various Taiwanese American political organizations have been monitoring U.S.-Taiwanese relations. The World United Formosans for Independence organization, established in 1970 in Dallas, Texas, promotes a free and democratic Taiwan and publishes the Taiwan Tribune to further this goal. The Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington D.C. closely monitors legislation affecting Taiwan and Taiwanese. Taiwanese sovereignty is also the aim of the lobbying group, Taiwan International Relations, centered in Washington, D.C., while human rights is the focus of the Formosan Association for Human Rights, located in Kansas.
RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN
Taiwanese Americans maintain close relations with their former country, as many of these immigrants have family members in Taiwan. Frequent visits to both countries take place. Many groups continue to monitor the political situation within Taiwan, and welcomed the increasing democratization witnessed in the 1990s. Thus, with the end of martial law in 1987, and the reforms of Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui, Taiwanese Americans have been encouraged to expect a stronger voice for the people in Taiwan.
Individual and Group Contributions
As Franklin Ng noted in his book, The Taiwanese Americans, this group, despite having a short history in this country and consisting of a relatively small percentage of the population, has made "a significant presence" (Ng 1998:121). "Most came after the immigration changes in 1965," Ng observed, "but they have already helped to alter the U.S. cultural landscape." The Taiwanese Americans have helped to redirect U.S. focus on the Pacific Rim and many of them in business have become "cultural brokers in penetrating the markets of Asia" (Ng 1998:121). Taiwanese have brought capital and investment with them, and are particularly prominent in academia. But they have also become skilled workers in businesses in Silicon Valley, valuable researchers in medicine, talented artists in film and music, and one is even an astronaut. The following is a list of individual Taiwanese Americans notable for their achievements.
ACADEMIA AND EDUCATION
Chang-lin Tien (1935-) is both a renowned educator as well as administrator, serving as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley from 1990 to 1997. Born in Wuhan, China, Chang and his family fled to Shanghai in 1937 and to Taiwan in 1949. He graduated from National Taiwan University in 1955 in mechanical engineering and received his M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton in mechanical engineering. Conducting research at Berkeley in thermal radiation, he quickly made a name for himself, becoming a Guggenheim fellow in 1965-66 and an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow in Germany in 1979. In 1988 he became vice-chancellor at the University of California, Irvine, and then returned to Berkeley two years later as its chancellor. Other prominent Taiwanese Americans in academia include Chen Hui Lee (1929-), is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Steven Point who has authored 30 technical papers about forest genetics and tree improvements; Jian-min Yuan (1944-), a professor at Drexel University and author of more than 85 professional papers in the fields of molecular, chemical, and atomic physics as well as chaos theory; Ko-ming Shih (1953-), a professor of computer engineering at Mercer University, Macon, GA; Tsay-jiu Brian Shieh (1953-), an associate professor at the Univesity of Texas, Arlington, whose research is in compound semiconductor device modeling and vacuum microelectronics; Yuch-ning Shieh (1940-), a professor at Purdue who has published over 40 papers on oxygen, carbon, and sulfur isotope geochemistry in rocks and minerals; Yung-way Liu (1955-), an associate professor at the University of Delaware and well known research mathematician; Ray H. Liu (1942-), program director, University of Alabama at Birmingham, author of books and over 50 articles on mass spectrometry and clinical chemistry, and editor of Forensic Science Review ; Cynthia C. Hsieh (1961-), technical services librarian at Columbia College and Chinese American activist and author; William Wei-lien Chang (1933-), well-known pathologist, formerly of West Virginia University, and author of numerous research articles in cell population kinetics and colon cancer; Tsan-kuo Chang (1950-), professor at the University of Minnesota and author of The Press and China Policy: The Illusion of Sino-Soviet Relations, 1950-84 ; and Kong-cheng Ho (1940-), associate professor of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and author of 66 publications on Alzheimer's disease and the development of the brain.
ADMINISTRATION AND BUSINESS
Elaine Chao (1952-) is a former director of the Peace Corps and the United Way of America, and is married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; Dean Shui-tien Hsieh (1948-), is a pharmaceutical company executive in Pennsylvania; Helen Kuan Chang (1962-), is a public relations director for San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau; Jennifer Jen-huey (1964-), is an architect in San Francisco; Paul P. Hung (1933-), is an executive for Wyeth-Ayerst Labs; John Chau Shih (1939-), is president of S Y Technology, Van Nuys, CA; and Yeou-chuong Simon Yu (1958-), is engineering manager for Monolith Technologies, Tucson, AZ.
FILM, TELEVISION, AND THEATER
Ang Lee (1954-) is a film director and producer who came to the United States in 1978 to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, changing his career goal from acting to film directing because of lack of fluency in English. His 1985 film, Fine Line, was selected as the best film at the New York University Film Festival of that year. Finding funding from a Taiwanese production company, he made Pushing Hands in 1992, a film that became a box-office success in Taiwan and won Golden Horse Award. The film was released in the U.S. in 1994. By far his best-known films are the Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). He also directed the movie version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, a film nominated for seven academy awards. In addition, he directed the acclaimed 1997 movie, The Ice Storm. Doug Chiang (1962- ) is a visual effects arts director at Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company founded by George Lucas. Chiang was responsible for creation and design of Death Becomes Her, which won an Oscar in 1992. He has also won both an Academy Award and a British Academy Award for his work at Industrial Light and Magic. Chiang led the design team that provided the special effects for Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, released in 1999.
Phoebe Eng (1961-) is an attorney and a founder of A. Magazine, a periodical devoted to Asian American issues with a readership of about 100,000. The magazine also reports on the media and the manner in which it covers Asian Americans and Asian American issues. In 1999, Eng wrote Warrior Lessons, an examination of what it means to be an Asian woman in America.
Cho-liang Lin, renowned violinist, is on the faculty of Julliard School.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Yuan-tse Lee (1936-) is a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry. The son of a well-known painter in Taiwan, Lee opted for science over art, attending Berkeley in 1962 and working at Harvard University designing a mass spectrometer that could identify the paths of different ions as they separated. This work in the deflection and identification of the ions in chemical reactions won Lee the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. Paul Chu (1941-) has conducted researches in superconductivity that have earned him world-wide fame; David Ho (1952-) is a medical researcher whose work on the use of AZT in AIDS treatment won him a "Man of the Year" citation on the cover of Time magazine in 1995; Edward Lu is a NASA astronaut.
There are several daily newspapers that publish nationally, aimed at a general Chinese American audience. In addition, some newspapers are linked to Taiwan in direct and indirect ways. The World Journal, for example, is affiliated with the media magnate Tih-wu Wang and his United Daily News of Taipei.
The Chinese Press.
Address: 15 Mercer St., New York, NY 10013.
Telephone: (212) 274-8282.
International Daily News.
Established in 1981; featuring news of the Taiwanese American community.
Address: 870 Monterey Pass Rd., Monterey Park, CA 91754.
Telephone: (213) 265-1317.
The only bilingual newspaper in New England serving the Asian community; published twice monthly.
Address: 90 Tyler St., Boston, MA 02111.
Telephone: (212) 426-9492.
Sing Tao Daily.
Address: Sing Tao Newspapers Ltd., 103-105 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013.
Telephone: (212) 431-9030.
Taiwan Economic News.
A quarterly magazine seeking to promote business relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Address: U.S.A.-Republic of China Council, 200 Main St., Crystal Lake, IL 60014.
Telephone: (815) 459-5875.
A bimonthly newsletter with notes of events and happenings of interest to Friends of Free China.
Address: Friends of Free China, 1629 K St., Washington, DC 20006.
Address: P.O. Box 1527, Long Island, NY 11101.
Telephone: (718) 639-7201.
Address: 231 Adrian Rd., Millbrae, CA 94108.
Telephone: (415) 982-6161.
Global Communication Enterprises, New York; Huayu Radio Broadcast, San Francisco.
Cantonese simulcast of evening news and a Chinese community hour on Saturday evenings.
Contact: Alan Favley, Program Coordinator.
Address: 2905 21st St., San Francisco, CA 94110.
Telephone: (415) 648-1177.
Broadcasts programs in several Asian languages, including Chinese.
Contact: Shirley Price, Vice President.
Address: 800 Sierra Madre Villa, Pasadena, CA 91107.
Telephone: (818) 352-1300.
Religious programming with weekend Chinese shows.
Contact: Linda Johnson Hayes, General Manager.
Address: 3844 Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107.
Telephone: (213) 681-2486.
Chinese news programming every morning.
Contact: Chinese Today Communication.
Address: P.O. Box 5673, South San Francisco, CA 94083.
Telephone: (415) 386-5873.
Broadcasts a three-hour Chinese variety show each Saturday morning.
Contact: Carl Biers, Program Director.
Address: Columbia University, 108 Ferris Hall, New York, NY 10027.
Telephone: (212) 854-5223.
Chinese World Television, New York; Hong Kong Television Broadcasts, U.S.A., Los Angeles; United Chinese TV, San Francisco; Hua Sheng TV, San Francisco; Pacific TV Broadcasting Co., San Francisco.
Programming in Cantonese and Mandarin.
Contact: Jim Paymar, General Manager.
Address: 1550 Bryant St., San Francisco, CA 94103.
Telephone: (415) 863-3800.
Some Chinese programming.
Contact: Rosemary Fisher-Dannon, Executive Vice-President.
Address: 12401 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, CA 90064-1022.
Telephone: (213) 478-1818.
Chinese news programming and a Friday night movie in Chinese.
Address: 100 Valley Dr., Brisbane, CA 94005.
Telephone: (515) 468-2626.
Organizations and Associations
Many Taiwanese American organizations have been founded to promote Taiwanese-U.S. relations and to promote a free Taiwan. Others have been formed around business and professional themes and concerns.
Formosan Association for Human Rights (FAHR).
A national organization to monitor and promote human rights on Taiwan, with 16 chapters and a monthly newsletter.
Contact: Ken S. Huang, President.
Address: P.O. Box 81384, Memphis, TN 38152.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA).
Attempts to affect U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan. Chapters in 22 states and publishes a newsletter eight times annually.
Contact: J.P.C. Blaauw, Director.
Address: P.O. Box 15062, Washington, DC 20003.
Telephone: (202) 547-3686.
North America Taiwanese Professors' Association (NATPA).
Professors and senior researchers of Taiwanese origin or descent. Encourages educational exchange and cultural understanding among the Taiwanese and other peoples worldwide. Promotes scientific and professional knowledge. Seeks to further the welfare of Taiwanese communities in North America and Taiwan. Sponsors research and lectures on topics related to Taiwan.
Contact: Frank Chang, President.
Address: 5632 South Woodlawn Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
E-mail: [email protected]
Taiwanese Association of America (TAA).
Promotes friendship and welfare among Taiwanese Americans and those concerned with Taiwanese human rights.
Contact: Mr. Chiang, President.
Address: P.O. Box 3302, Iowa City, IA 52244.
Telephone: (319) 338-9082.
Taiwan Benevolent Association of California.
Address: 2225 W. Commonwealth Ave., No. 301, Alhambra, CA 91801.
Telephone: (818) 576-8368.
Taiwan Chamber of Commerce.
Address: 870 Market St., Suite 1046, San Francisco, CA 94102.
Telephone: (415) 981-5387.
Museums and Research Centers
Chinese Historical Society of America.
Devoted to the study of the Chinese people in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present, and to the collection of their relics.
Contact: Ted Wong, President.
Address: 650 Commercial St., San Francisco, CA 94111.
Telephone: (415) 391-1188.
Institute of Chinese Studies Library.
Holdings of 1500 volumes on Chinese peoples and cultures.
Contact: James A. Ziervogel, Director.
Address: 1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104.
Telephone: (818) 398-2320.
Sources for Additional Study
Ahern, Emily Martin, and Hill Gates, eds. The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1981.
Copper, John F. Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? Second edition. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.
Davison, Gary Marvin, and Barbara E. Reed. Culture and Customs of Taiwan. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Harrell, Stevan, and Huang Chün-chieh, eds. Cultural Change in Postwar Taiwan. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.
Hsiang-shui Chen. Chinatown No More: Taiwan Immigrants in Contemporary New York. Ithaca, New York: Cornell Univesity Press, 1992.
Ng, Franklin. The Taiwanese Americans. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.
"Taiwanese Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/taiwanese-americans
"Taiwanese Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Retrieved April 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/taiwanese-americans
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