A Visit from Vietnam

Last update discussed the beginning of January and the beginning of my winter holiday. In this update I will report how I received a visitor from Vietnam and showed him around.

Day 1: CKS  

I met my Vietnamese friend Quoc Anh during his study abroad in Belgium last year. In fact, you can read about some of his adventures on his blog. He’s got some family in Kaohsiung 高雄, a main city in the South of Taiwan and after travelling North via the East coast, he came to the Northwest of the country - Taipei.

The first day, after a lecture on the perdurant vs. endurant properties inherent in Chinese classifiers and measure words, we met and went to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial hall. This is the mausoleum for Taiwan’s nationalist leader and it looks like a giant white building, arguably in the political center of Taiwan.

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On top of the building, after you climbed the 88 steps that represent General Chiang’s (蔣中正 Chiang Chung-cheng - yes I am aware this sounds like the prototypical idea of what Chinese sounds like in Dutch, viz. ching chang chong), you get a wonderful view of the Freedom Square (自由廣場) and the National Theater and National Concert Hall on either side.

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Inside you can see the statue of Chiang Chung-cheng, looking over the Taipei he governed for many a year. There’s writing on the wall (and ceiling for that matter), as well as the hourly change of guard ceremony.

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Downstairs you can see some exhibitions that deal with aspects of his life. Like clothes he wore, two cars he was driven in (I am not sure if a lot of great world leaders can drive a car actually), him sitting at a reconstructed desk, pictures of his wife Soong Mei-ling 宋美齡 - one of the three So(o?)ng sisters that played a somewhat significant part in history and were scattered across the globe: Taiwan, Mainland China (Ching-ling, Mrs. Sun Yat-sen) and America (Ai-ling). My old Chinese teacher (n.b. old as in former, not necessarily old age lest he read this) Dirk (狄老師) wrote his thesis about them in the 1980s.

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Later that night, I had big plans with Quoc Anh - who will appear in a moment in pictures. We were going to a concert by the National Taiwan University Student Choir. So we went to the National Concert Hall at night.

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Here is one of the songs they performed that night, 風平浪靜.

To be honest, I liked their singing but I did fall asleep for a moment. This was probably because I did not come there for all the liturgical songs, but for the exciting performances like this performance of the theme song When you believe from my favourite children’s movie, The Prince of Egypt. It is also worth mentioning that my classmate Umy sings with them.

Day 2: Gugong

The next day we went to the National Palace Museum; the one they have here (as opposed to the one in Beijing, the Forbidden City) is also called Gugong 故宮 in Chinese, to make things even more confusing. It hosts a lot of precious artifacts that were conveniently transported to Taiwan during the last years of nationalist reign on Mainland (or at least that is the story I’ve beent told). And now you finally get to see a pic of me and Quoc Anh in front of the Gugong.

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Things that I secretly took pictures of in the museum include some nice pottery, the Chinese character for my Chinese first/last name and a horsehead that makes this smiley :P .

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Next to the Palace Museum, there is the Zhishan 至善 garden, which looks a lot like the gardens found in my beloved Suzhou (see almost everything published on this blog before 2014). It features two lakes, fish, zig-zag (ideophone!) bridges, a policeman that scares you away and a guzheng with broken strings that can be used by foreigners to take funny pictures with.

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Day 3: Confucius, tea and ‘Modern Art’

Since the weather was getting increasingly cold, I opted for looking more inside-things to visit. Still, we first went to the Confucius temple on day three, which is my favourite temple to visit in Taipei. It’s next to the Bao’an Gong (also a temple) so you get two temples for the price of none because they are free. Don’t miss the 4D movie experience that is also offered freely by the temple people. I like how they tried to modernize/update Confucius to also teach children and people interested in some tenets of the Ru 儒 (which is actually the name for what we tend to call Confucianism in the West). They have devoted six places in the temple to the six arts, complete with interactive things to do, stamps to collect and informative notes:

  1. Rites 禮

  2. Music 樂

  3. Archery 射

  4. Charioteering 御

  5. Calligraphy 書

  6. Mathematics 數

They can be grouped together in groups of two, so you get the ones that stimulate teamwork (1-2), the ones that strengthen the body (3-4) and strengthen the mind (5-6).

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Late we went to the nearby Taipei Story House, which featured an exhibition on teapots. Yes, teapots. Interested readers can look at more pictures by clicking left on the pic below.

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After that we went to the even nearer byer Taipei Fine Arts Museum. We saw three main things:

  1. Paintings by Su Wong-shen

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  1. “The Way things go”, a symbiosis of physics and art. Especially mesmerizing was the bubble machine.

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  1. The Taipei Art Awards (or something like that), proving that art can be interpreted very broadly. Here are some interesting pieces:

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Day 4: Xiangshan, the Elephant Mountain

On day 4 we went to Xiangshan 象山, Elephant Mountain, from where you have a nice view of the Taipei skyline. We met my Japanese friend Toranari-san.

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After that we had a quick visit to respectively Ximen and my university - mind you, it was the coldest temperature in Taipei in 50 years or so at this moment, a mere 4 degrees and I can tell you that is very cold in a wet climate. There was even snow, a nearly unheard thing of in these parts of the world.

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Day 5: Lilliput

On the last day, Quoc Anh’s very nice family drove North and took us to Xiao ren guo 小人國 - a mini Taiwan/Asia/World theme park. I had a very nice time there - the weather looked much better and the sights were very interesting. It was like walking through my lonely planet and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of things I still need to visit. There was no Belgian building, so that’s a pity, but the day was great. Here are some pictures, because they say more than a thousand words.

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Later that night I took Quoc Anh to a place with Belgian beer, because he said he missed it. Here he is with some Liefmans.

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And on the last day, we stopped to buy new shows for him. Here is a final selfie with him, his Vietnamese aunt, and me. I just realized that is was so funny - we all spoke different languages with each other: I spoke English with him, he spoke Vietnamese with his aunt and his aunt spoke Chinese with me.

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So this visit came to an end. Next I had an ‘Artsy-Fartsy Afternoon’ followed by a Visit from Japan. See you folks!

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Thomas Van Hoey
PhD Candidate in Linguistics

My research interests include ideophones, (Premodern) Chinese, historical linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, and lexical semantics.

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