Taiwan young ambassadors in Italy: beyond West and East matters for a Common Cultural Heritage.The weekend of July 14, 2012 spent in Venice, the city of the Doges, Italian port on the East, turned out to be one of the most pleasant and important cultural and professional life of the author. Being geographer scholar of the arts and landscape of Taiwan, I had the privilege to meet and interview the young scholars of Taiwan culture ambassadors visiting Italy for fostering dialogue between the two civilizations.
They are: Hsia Chih-22Jou, Cheng Po-jung, Lin ching-Hsiao Rzi, Yu-en 23Yen, Chou-ju, Chou Pei-hsuan. To facilitate understanding the boys have chosen italian nicknames, which I carry over in the text. Cristina( Taiwan food); Lucy (Ink painting); Nadia (Tea ceremony); Corrado (Puppet Theatre); Ida ( Aboriginal traditions and dances); Giuseppe ( Calligrapher). Along with their teacher Romy Wu and the delegation representative for Italy Richard Lin.
BACK TO THE DAY OF THE INTERVIEW: I was welcomed to the Venice station like a friend. They made me forget for a morning that I was in Italy, telling me of Taiwan’s flavours, traditions, arts, landscape of this island so far yet so close to dreams. A truly culture paradise. I returned home with a faboulous painting, a delicious pineapple cake, singing folkoristik airs and a big smiles in my heart. I was invited to Taiwan, and so I extend this invitation to all of my readers, while still thinking about the tea I’ve had occasion to sample within a sophisticated ceremony.
FM: Who do you represent and why did you come to Italy?
Cristina We are here as a delegation of young ambassadors of Fujen Catholic University. Six students with our professor of the Department of Italian language at our University, Romy Wu. Four of us are students of Italian language and literature, two of us studying instead museology. It is the first time that we are in Italy. In Europe there are delegations ‘ colleagues in England, Spain and Germany. Each of us has prepared a presentation on a topic of cultural excellence of our country, so we were chosen as ambassadors of culture. In my case I present taiwanese cuisine. I presented in Rome three of Taiwan’s most famous dishes, such as the pineapple cake (which the writer has received in gift), while my colleague Nadia took care of the tea ceremony (which I got to be started). I hope that we will be able to learn as much as possible of the Italian culture and help you discovering ours.
Ida: In my case I chose to introduce Aboriginal’s traditions like dancing the crafts, music and costumes. There are 14 ethnic groups, each with original features. They do not perform frequently in the main theaters of the island.
RW : This is due to historical problems. As A result of 2 waves of Chinese migrants to Taiwan over the centuries, Aboriginal communities were the victim of social marginalization and contempt from the governments. Despite the effort of preservation of their traditions, people are quite indifferent to their way of life. We feel sorry about this, because we are the third generation born in Taiwan. At that time people were on the island without thinking of returning to China, and then the population ended up being represented by a mix of Chinese and aborigines. I hope that in future we shall respect the local culture, which represents the most “natural”presence on the island. There is a need of greater balance.
FM : The story of Taiwan is virtually unknown in the West. It is considered eternally disputed between China, Japan, Korea, and the United States. Which are the strongest influences in your opinion?
RW: Our grandparents have a strong memory of the Japanese rule. They still remember the language, which at the time of colonization was imposed to all the citizens. At one point the settlement was extended to cover all cultural practices. All major infrastructures, public buildings and cultural sites were built by the Japanese, including many well-known universities.
FM : Back to traditions. Who wants to tell me about theatrical world?
Conrad: I mentioned the Puppet theatre. Long is its story, which includes 3 styles. A more traditional, a more modern and a half away. I chose the topic because in 1960 it was very important for the island. All People stopped working at noon to watch the puppet show on tv. A cultural reference, and for me a beautiful art form, with rich costumes.
RW : This art relates to the language of the ancient city that was the capital in China,Luoyang, near the Yellow River, which recalls the origins of the Chinese language and writing, linked to the South. Art, Poetry, and Elegance, were all transmitted by calligraphy. A literary culture that still survives today in Taiwan thanks to this type of theatre, especially in Taipei there is a temple in which is taught to recite the poems and the ancient texts.
FM: Then there is a strong bond with calligraphy. Who can explain that?
Giuseppe This was my theme, started by my father. Since childhood writing is part of our school preparation, although now the young people aren’t interested. To learn the true calligraphy, you need time, rituals, meditation. (They showed me a painting writing calligraphy while Ida was painting on a fan a landscape).
FM : How do you plan to disclose these gorgeous assets in Europe and in Italy?
RW : This year, between August and September, at the Venice biennale of architecture will be presented, at the taiwanese Pavilion, exhibitions dedicated to blend art and local geography of Taiwan. There is an agreement with the biennale since 1995. Moreover, many Taiwanese live in Italy, and the Pavilion at Palazzo Ducale is also for them.
Richard Lin: Relations with the West are difficult in international sports and cultural events. It is not allowed to present Taiwan, divided from China. So it is not easy to disseminate our culture
FM: What is the message that you want to leave the students who will be taking your place in the next few years?
Cristina I hope that we will be able to make known to the Italians our culture. Few people know what happened and what is Taiwan today. I would like to help foreigners discover us through the foods as well as culture, and would like to meet Taiwanese people in Italy and ask them what are their activities here. It is important for us, studying Italian, being , in the land of museology. Maybe organize exchanging internships. Already active are musical exchanges devoted to dance (Festival of Ravenna), but also cinema (far eastern Festival of Udine).
Nadia it is a real pity that there are no students from Taiwan in internships in Italy. But the Director of the Uffizi is available if you learn ‘ Italian. For us museums are cultural heritages, not just buildings. Unfortunately we cannot be part of the Unesco protected list for political issues and this undermines the protection of our tangible and intangible heritage. You can’t even bring out the treasures of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, without an anti-seizure law due to the old transfer from mainland China to the island. We are very concerned about the preservation of our culture, because other countries such as Korea, sent scholars to do research on our traditions, like that of the lanterns, claiming to present to the United Nations institutions as their own tradition. We hope soon to be allowed to prevent the loss of our cultural heritage.