Location | New York City
Introduction: I completely forgot to write an itinerary entry for my trip to Taiwan & Australia… so in the introduction here, I’ll set out my itinerary for my trip…
October 15, 11:50pm – Depart from Newark to Taipei
October 17, 6:30am – Arrive in Taipei, head to Taichung
October 23-28th – Fly to Brisbane and Sydney in Australia
October 31st – Depart to return to NYC
As part of my pre-preparation for going to Taiwan, I’m going to write a blog series about Taiwan and everything it has to offer. For the first part of the series, I’ll focus on Taichung and surrounding areas. It’s where my family is originally from. For the second part of the series, I’ll focus on Taipei. I know about Taipei the best because I’ve spent the most amount of time there (in total about 7 months). Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some insights into what characterizes Taiwan to be it’s own unique nation.
It’s really not a love story, rather my own love for Taichung. This is going to focus on general information on Taichung as well as some stories from my family history.
Taichung, A Love Story
Taichung (台中 simplified or 臺中 traditional) is located approximately 86 miles SW of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei. The third largest city in Taiwan with a little over a million people. Located in a valley surrounded by mountains with the Taiwan Straight to the west.
My ancestors left China in the mid-1600’s to move to Taiwan. In the present, we are at the 14th generation of the Lee family (my mother’s side) while my father’s side it remains unknown on how to trace a scattered family tree. To tell the story correctly, I’ll have to discuss my mother’s side of the family because there is more information readily available. My hopes is that I’ll also be able to find pictures and collect more stories during this trip when I have time to talk to my grandmother who is turning 80! (Happy Birthday Ah-Ma! 生日快樂阿姨!)
The Lee family left China and moved to Taiwan sometime during the mid-1600’s. As most historical sources have stated, during the 1600’s mainly men were allowed to travel/immigrate to Taiwan, therefore, to establish themselves, they’d often marry aboriginal women. So it’s relatively safe to say that besides Han blood, I also have aboriginal blood.
My great-great-great grandfather was a wealthy man who was a part of the local government in the early to mid-1800’s. He was well known in Taichung and his eldest son was also growing in popularity and power. In those days they were carried around on palanquins through the street. One day, the eldest son was stuck behind a palanquin while crossing a bridge. He yelled out at the palanquin ahead of him, cursing the person for blocking the way. Unfortunately the person ahead of him peeked his head out of the curtains and it… was… his father! Oh my… a story we often laugh about in our family.
So much of my family history is steeped in Taichung that it’s easy to understand why I love a love affair with the city. Known as a very friendly city with it’s own uniqueness that can be described as a big city with a little town’s personality.
My great grandfather was a doctor (as his son was and so on… there were apparently many doctors in my family). His friend was also a doctor and tried to convince my great grandfather to start a hospital together. My great grandfather declined, because my great grandmother felt that his services should be offered to those who really need it, who are often those who couldn’t afford hospital care. My great grandmother was an extremely devout Buddhist. She devoted her time to helping those in need. So my great grandfather would often help those who needed a doctor and accept what they could give, monetary payment or not. Meanwhile his friend went on to be the founder of one of the top hospitals in Taichung.
Although I’m not religious myself, my morals and values have come from a mix of Buddhist & Taoist teachings. It’s so deeply entrenched in the teachings that have been passed down from mother to daughter in the Lee family. There are many shrines and temple throughout Taiwan. My grandmother grew up in the nearby town of Dajia (大甲). Dajia is well known for it’s temple to Matsu, a goddess of the sea that protects those associated with water. My family goes to Dajia annually to pray at the Matsu temple (Chenlan). There you can actually find my name in one of the many (hundreds if not thousands) of lights. Those seeking guidance can have any of the monks put their name in a light (or a prayer book) to be prayed over for protection. Offerings include food (particularly Taiwanese pastries and fresh fruit), the burning if incense as well as the burning of ceremonial money.
My hopes is to further explore temple culture in my short visit to Taichung.
On a side note, all I know of my history of my dad’s side in Taiwan is the Lin Family Shrine, dedicated to the Lin’s that traveled from the Fujian province to Taiwan.
I’m hoping to continue my love affair with this city with a photo journal. I’d like to find some books on the history of Taiwan to translate. We’ll see how it goes.