fulbright Taiwan online journal

fulbright Taiwan online journal

Tag: English

Conversations: Names, Mingling, and Speaking Up

     When I first arrived here in the United States to pursue graduate studies, I not only noticed the language difference, but also the unfamiliar conversation conventions. I realized that many conversations here operate according to a different communication style than what I was used to back home. Here in LA, I have found that many people greet others warmly and openly, even strangers. Since my arrival here, I have been greeted by cashiers, sales clerks, and bus drivers; even pedestrians on the streets usually greet me with a smile. This happens less often back home.        During the many opportunities I have had to chat with Americans in the United States, I have observed some interesting features of conversations. For instance, not only do people greet each other, many also cordially share their opinions and information about themselves in lengthy dialogues with strangers. This openness and frankness is helpful, since it gives me more opportunities to hear what Americans have to say. From such conversations, I have been able to learn about American culture in terms of interpersonal communication. To illustrate, I will recount below some interactions I have had here with new friends.   Name

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My Reflections

    Taiwan is a welcoming, multicultural environment offering wonderful opportunities to international scholars. I have known Taiwan for 30 years, having first come at age 28 to teach English for a summer at the Tainan YMCA, and returning a year later for Chinese language study at the Stanford Center at National Taiwan University.  After earning my PhD in East Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia in 1990, I have made several more trips to Taiwan:  as a research scholar at Academia Sinica in the summer of 1996, as a guest professor of history at National Chengkung University in the spring of 2012, and now as a Senior Fulbright Scholar at Tunghai University.  Tunghai University is a highly regarded private university in central Taiwan, founded in 1955 by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.  Its motto is “Sustainability on the Foundation of Liberal Arts.” In the course of my fruitful five months at Tunghai, I have dedicated myself to collaborative work between Trinity University and the International College at Tunghai University.  I have contributed to the strong relationship between these two institutions and our two countries in three areas:  service, teaching, and research.    

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On Shamanism, Positivism, and Shifting One’s Frame of Reference

     An important skill that I have adopted for living overseas in a different culture is shifting my frame of reference to accommodate new experiences or ideas.  Living in Taiwan for the last six months has certainly challenged me to do so in refreshingly unexpected ways.       Since new understandings begin with language and so much of language is based upon context, even a play-on-words can illustrate the value of shifting one’s frame of reference to unlock new meaning in a different culture.  As my Social Cultural Anthropology teacher, Futuru Tsai, said jokingly in class, “If you asked an English speaker what is one plus one, they would reply with ‘Two.’ If you asked a Mandarin speaker what one plus one is, they would reply ‘Wang.’”  The clever observation makes sense when you consider that Chinese writing is traditionally written vertically. The character for “one” is a horizontal line, 一, followed by a plus sign +, and then another horizontal line, 一, forms the Chinese character 王, wang, meaning king or monarch.  Shift your frame of reference and you are already smiling.      The approach of shifting one’s frame of reference comes in handy especially when encountering subjects that

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Seeing the Coral for the Reef

     According to research by the Kenting National Park (KNP), more than 80% of Taiwanese people will visit the park at some point in their life, and of those, 70% will go to one of the park’s coral areas. Over 400,000 international and domestic tourists visit the area each month. These tourists bring critical revenue to the Hengchun Peninsula supporting livelihoods and infrastructure. At the same time, rising tourism increases overfishing, water pollution, and coastal development, all of which damage marine biodiversity. Humans need both economic development and natural integrity, but how do we balance these sometimes-competing goals?        In the past, policy makers tended to focus on either growth or conservation to the detriment of both. Natural resource economics helps us understand ecosystems in monetary terms using social science–bringing our relationship with nature into the realm of financial planning. Once we know an ecosystem’s value, we can find appropriate legal settlements, reprioritize development goals, and help raise public awareness for better conservation. No ecosystem needs more protection right now than coral reefs, the beating heart of Kenting.        Coral, the ocean’s calcium rainforests, supports 25% of the world’s marine biodiversity while covering less than 1% of

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Mathematical Modeling: The Formosan Landlocked Salmon

In recent decades, dam removal has become a frequently-used strategy for restoring natural stream habitats because dams deteriorate river channels and often lead to decreased diversity of species. Taiwan has many short and steep rivers in the high mountains, where strong rainfall creates high water velocity. As a result, the government constructed many check dams to prevent the collapse of riverbanks and to lessen sediment transport to lower elevations. As of 1999, Taiwan had over 3,000 check dams. The Chichiawan Stream and its tributaries in central Taiwan are the last refuge of the Formosan salmon. Dam establishment and agricultural development have degraded this habitat.  These key factors are considered the main reason for the decline in the abundance and range of the Formosan salmon after the 1960s. The salmon population declined to about 200 individuals by 1984, at which time the Taiwanese government listed them as an endangered species. The salmon abundance in the entire Chichiawan basin has ranged between 1,000 and 5,500 since 2005. The Chichiawan Stream basin had 11 check dams in 2000, covering a length of less than 10 km. These dams have disturbed the salmon’s habitat in multiple ways. For instance, the presence of dams creates

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This Invitation

“It began with an invitation from the Fulbright Program to spend a year in Taiwan and now an invitation for the audience to enter into the choreographer’s world: an invitation to dream, to wonder, to be innocent, to feel pain…to sacrifice, learn, re-learn, let go…to die, to live…” Created as the culmination of her year as a Fulbrighter in Taiwan, this work titled This Invitation represents Amber Kao’s journey of returning to the country from which her family came, and her discordant experience as an outsider in a culture where she looks like she should belong. This works alludes to two influential figures in the choreographer’s life that unintentionally led her back to Taiwan this year: her grandmother who immigrated to the United States to raise her and her piano instructor and artistic mentor, Professor Logan Skelton. The dual influence of tai chi dao yin and contemporary dance technique is interwoven throughout this theatrical and choreographic work.  This piece comprises a sound score that includes voices of young children and a recording of a poem, both of which the choreographer composed and compiled. This Invitation I have for you this invitation, Feel free to accept or decline. I’d like for

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Smart Sensors for Safer Bridges: An International Collaborative Effort

Bridge Scour      The erosion of soil, sand, and riverbed materials near bridge foundations due to flowing water (or wind in some cases) is a phenomenon known as bridge scour. Despite our awareness of its occurrence, bridge scour remains one of the deadliest causes of overwater bridge failures worldwide, particularly in the United States and in Taiwan.      For instance, a notable scour-induced bridge collapse in the United States was the Schoharie Creek Interstate Highway Bridge incident in Mohawk River, New York, which happened in April 1987. The 32-year-old bridge collapsed due to extensive flood-induced scouring at one of its piers, and 10 people lost their lives. In Taiwan, similar incidents have occurred as well. More recently in September 2008, Typhoon Sinlaku brought heavy rainfall across many parts of Taiwan. The Houfeng Bridge collapsed due to flooding and severe scouring near one of its piers, although it was suspected that long-term riverbed degradation following the Chi-Chi earthquake in 1999 also contributed to its failure.      Events like these could be traced back through the histories of both countries. Even worse is that overwater bridge collapses after scouring continue to occur and threaten public safety. The inability to

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Chinese Buddhist Poetry and Academic Lineages in Taiwan: Part Two of Two

     In this two-part essay, I survey two important academic lineages in Taiwan and their contributions to the study of Chinese Buddhist poetry. In the first part, I focused on the cohort of scholars that worked and trained at National Chengchi University. In this second part, I examine the other major lineage. In addition to tracing the origins of this second group, I highlight some recent works and offer a more in-depth summary of their contents.        The other major school of scholarship on Buddhist poetry is associated with National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and National Taiwan University (NTU). Though still connected to traditions of East Asian scholarship, these scholars distinguish themselves through their engagement with contemporary Western scholarship. They frequently refer to their distinctive style of scholarship as cultural analysis.         These scholars tend to ground their work in historical disciplines (intellectual history, literary history, social history) rather than pure philosophy or literary analysis. They also set themselves apart by looking beyond the received canon. Though not as numerous as the members of Chengchi school of thought, the NTNU-NTU practitioners of cultural analysis are influential and hold positions at Taipei’s three most prestigious institutions:

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Chinese Buddhist Poetry and Academic Lineages in Taiwan: Part One of Two

     Chinese Buddhist poetry and literature remains largely unstudied in Western academia. The study of Buddhist poetry requires facility with the disparate fields of Chinese literature and Buddhist studies. These demands are a formidable challenge even for native speakers of East Asian languages. Nonetheless, several generations of East Asian scholars have made significant inroads into this field of inquiry. In this two-part essay, I will briefly outline two important academic lineages in Taiwan and their contributions to the study of Chinese Buddhist poetry.        Thanks to the generosity of Fulbright Taiwan, this past year I have had the honor of working at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy (ICLP) under the supervision of Professor Liao Chao-heng (廖肇亨). My interest in the intersections of Chinese Buddhism and literature has been nurtured by the large and active community of scholars at Academia Sinica.         When I had the opportunity to participate in conferences, attend lectures, or visit campuses and Buddhist temples, I was impressed by the breadth and depth of scholarship around Taiwan. The island, with its close connections to Japan and the West, is particularly well-suited to scholarship on Buddhist literature. Taiwan’s academic legacy

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Personal Experiences and Reflections at University of Washington

     This article aims to share my (academic) experiences at University of Washington, Seattle during the autumn quarter 2014. For 1st year PhD students in the Economics department, it is typical that almost all our efforts are invested in taking core courses and preparing for the qualifying exams. In other words, it’s good to have a research agenda, but students are encouraged to fully concentrate on core courses and exams. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to share my personal experiences and reflections, and will not discuss my research in this article.        The first thing that required a period of adjustment was food. Unlike Taiwan, the cost of living in Seattle is high, giving funded students such as myself, who typically try to make the best use of their stipends, greater incentives to cook by ourselves instead of eating outside. However, cooking for oneself also takes a lot of time and, for a Ph.D. student, time constraints are an important issue. To avoid cooking every meal, thus crowding out my time to study and spending an unreasonable amount of money, I finally decided to cook about once or twice a week and portion out the food

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Research & Reflections

fulbright taiwan online journal