Tag Archives: Taiwan

Pot, Kettle, Black

Check out this headline:

China says it opposes threatening Iran with war

Now check this out:

China renews Taiwan threat of war

Or this:

China Threatens War Escalation Over Bush Handshake

Or this:

China Threatens War With Taiwan by 2008

Maybe if China backs off on saber-rattling Taiwan then we can talk about your Iran concerns…

UPDATE: It never ends… China warns U.N. Taiwan independence moves “gravely endangering” peace

Mixed Messages

Michael Turton makes an excellent point: Why is it that the United States will rebuke Taiwan for supposedly violating the status quo between them and China by asserting their sovereignty with things I would consider entirely peaceful – i.e. requesting Taiwan be admitted into the United Nations or the World Health Organization, while we rebuke them for not purchasing hordes of American-made weaponry, then at the same time delay the sale of weapons already approved to Taiwan, all the while ignoring the fact that China has dozens of nuclear-capable missiles pointed at the island solely for the purpose of threatening to take the island by force? Never mind the fact that we don’t recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation, or that our executive branch has pretty much become the hand puppet of Chinese foreign policy with regards to Taiwan…

In what parallel universe does this make sense?

It seems to me that U.S. foreign policy needs a return to principle-centered leadership. What would a principle-centered policy look like? What would be The Right Thing To Do� What would Jesus do? What would Brian Boitano do? What would you do?

I know what I’d do.

Erhu, Zhonghu, Pipa, and Guzheng

There are three traditional chinese instruments that I find fascinating: Erhu, Pipa, and Guzheng.

ErhuThe Erhu (二胡) is a two stringed bowed instrument that is played like a viola da gamba, resting the instrument on a leg and bowing with a loosely-haired bow that is situated between the two strings and pulled in a similar style as a German bass bow or gamba bow.

(Incidentally, the chinese word for “to play a stringed instrument” is “l��,” (���) or “to pull.” For example, a literal translation inquiring about one’s violin-playing capabilities might be phrased as “n�� hu√� l�� xi��o t√≠ q√≠n ma?” (�Ω��������∞���������?) Or: “Can you pull the violin?”)

This afternoon as I was hanging out in my parents-in-law’s house, I noticed two erhu’s sitting in the corner, and Yingwen’s dad said he had been learning the instrument over the past year or so. I asked him to show me how it was done and he obliged, demonstrating the basics of bowing and fingering technique.

The two strings are tuned a fifth apart, and they are close enough so that both strings are fingered at the same time. But you don’t bow both strings at the same time. The bow hair runs between the two strings and you change the direction of force in or out to alternate which string you are hitting. To increase bow hair tension, you have to use your fingers to pull the hair out away from the stick, similar to many historic western string instruments.

Fingering is also slightly different than your traditional western string instrument, in that there is no fingerboard. You simply lay the finger at the point where you want to stop the string and out comes the note.

Other than all that, it feels very much like playing a very tiny bass with a German bow. Not too bad at all. I noodled around until I found a decent rendition of the melody from Dvo≈�√�k’s 9th Symphony, 2nd movement – pentatonic scale, common to both American spirituals, the blues, and traditional Chinese music.

The zh≈�ngh√∫ (�∏≠�ɰ) is a deeper-pitched version of the erhu. I would seriously like to pick one of these types of instruments up, and figured I’d go for zhonghu since I tend toward the lower-pitched spectrum of instruments.

The p√≠p√� (����∂) is a kind of Chinese plucked string instrument similar to a guitar or lute. This instrument is even more interesting to me than the pipa. I have one recording of solo pipa performance and it is quite an interesting style. From what I can tell, the right hand technique is pretty challenging with it’s sustained tremolos. I’m hoping we can swing by a music instrument shop sometime while we’re here so I can take a look and possibly try one out.

Guzheng PlayerFinally, the g��zh��ng (�����) is another Chinese plucked string instrument, but this one sits on a table and is rather long at about one meter long. It is like a harp or a zither, with moveable independent bridges underneath each string.

If I had free time (ha ha ha ha ha), I’d try learning each one of these instruments. This is the great thing about vacations when you’re an over-busy person: being able to try out something new and different.

Taoyuan Airport Impromptu Baroque Tai Chi Ballet

It is around 7 AM and daylight is just breaking out over the Taoyuan airport in Taiwan on Chinese New Year’s Eve after a long flight from SFO, and I’m sitting waiting for a connecting flight to Kaohsiung and I’ve been studying advanced SQL techniques. I turn on my iPod and put on some noise-canceling headphones to cut out some of the din in the room, with announcements coming in over the speaker and a rather loud dehumidifier placed behind my seat. I’m listening to Hilary Hahn play the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in E, BWV 1042. As the movement opens, this old woman gets up from her chair and starts practicing some morning Tai Chi Chuan. And it’s like I’m the sole witness to this sublime personal ballet. Her movements are graceful and limber, far beyond what you would expect from a woman of her years, and the movements of her hands in the air surrounding her seem to be in perfect step with every note being played. It is an indescribable moment of pure elegance; sublime, spontaneous beauty that will disappear with the the pre-boarding announcements coming over the loudspeaker for my next flight. For a moment there, I witnessed art – but I was the only one who knew about it.

How many times must the cannonballs fly…

As a Bob Dylan fan, I found this news particularly cool:

Bob Dylan to visit Taiwan

Rock singer-turned-anti-war icon Bob Dylan is to visit Taiwan in July. According to our understanding, the singer���s agent has agreed to have him participate as a part of Taipei County���s annual Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival, in response to an invitation from President Chen Shui-bian. It will cost the presidential office nearly eight million NT dollars to bring Dylan to Taiwan.

���How many times must the canon balls fly, before they’re forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,��� said President Chen as he read lyrics from Bob Dylan���s Blowing in the Wind to express his emotions in reaction to China���s enactment of its anti-secession law.

Oh man that would be a beyond-fun concert to go to…

Speaking of Bob, I love this early demo version of Went to See the Gypsy from the iTunes store. The simple electric piano accompaniment is sublime.