Sunday, May 8, 2016

When the U.S. Bombed Tainan, Taiwan: Signs of the Past at the Hayashi Department Store

Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan

The Hayashi Department store in Tainan, Taiwan, has several floors filled with a variety of goods for sale. The most recent renovations were completed two years ago, but on the 5th and 6th floors several signs suggest not everything was fixed.

chipped bricks in a wall

damage at the Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan

On the top floors, the store provides an explanation (quoted "as is"*):
During the Pacific Wars in WWII, Taiwan was bombed by American's air raid. On March 1st, 1945, the Allied Forces conducted the biggest air raid to Tainan in Taiwan's history, bombing massively around Honcchou (Now Minquan Road) and Suehirochou (Now Zhongzheng Road). The roof and part of the floors were destroyed and government agencies nearby such like Tainan Prefecture Office suffered severe damage. The marks and bullets holes left on the façade of Hayashi Department Store were already repaired during the restoration, but on the top floor visitors can still see the evidence of that ferocious attack.
For those wondering why the U.S. felt inclined to bomb Taiwan during World War II, the last three words of the store's history provided on a lower level are a big hint (quoted "as is"*):
Hayashi Department store was opened on 1932 (year 7 of the Showa Era) and located in West Central District of Tainan. It was known to the Tainan people as "The Five-Stories-House" (Gō-chàn-lâu-á). Upon completion, the building was the second large department store in Taiwan and also the highest in Tainan. Hayashi was the first department store in Tainan with internal lift and other modern equipment. It was also a symbol of Tainan's prosperity and progress milestones during the Japanese colonial period.
The store's website has more details about its history.

I wouldn't have been at all surprised to hear this morning I would soon see an example of how the U.S. has left its mark in Tainan. This isn't what I would have expected though.

hole in a wall at the Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan

* I did fix two punctuation mistakes and added a needed space. Click the links for photos of the original texts which also include Chinese and Japanese versions.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Another Look at What Life Was Once Like Near Shangqiu's Dieze Gate

The previous post featured some buildings inside the Shangqiu's ancient city wall at the Dieze Gate which I had seen in November 2010. After I took the photo of them shared in that post, I walked through the gate and headed to other sights in Shangqiu. When I later returned to the ancient city through the same gate, I took a photo which includes some of this same buildings. In this case they appear on the right side.

Street scene near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in Shangqiu during November 2010

I also took a photo of the other side of the street.

Street scene near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in Shangqiu during November 2010

The photos aren't remarkable to me just because I found the buildings in both have since been demolished, with the exception of those behind the trees, but also because of the life they capture such as hanging clothes, an electric scale, vehicles, items for sale, and, of course, people on a day which for them might have been mostly unremarkable.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Destroying to Restore: Disappearing Life in the Shangqiu Ancient City

Mark Rowswell, aka Dashan, a performer in China famous for his Chinese language skills and comedy, recently tweeted about a city I rarely see mentioned:

The tweet reminded me of my own visit to Shangqiu and how everyday life continued amidst construction in its ancient city. A subsequent tweet by Rowswell and an accompanying photo captured how some of the life there hasn't continued in the same way.

portion of ancient city wall with leftover marking from a building which had once been built against it

The mark of the building which had once stood against the wall made me wonder how much of what I had seen in Shangqiu was now gone. Rowswell's photo specifically reminded me of one I had taken inside the western portion of the ancient city wall at Dieze Gate (垤泽门).

building attached to the city wall near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in the Shangqiu Ancient City in November 2010

When I took the photo back in November 2010, I questioned whether the buildings next to the wall would last long. Now I was especially curious. I am not near Shangqiu at the moment, and, even if he were still there, I figured it would be a bit odd to ask Rowswell to go over and snap a photo.

Fortunately, there was another option. Baidu's online street-view service, which didn't exist when I visited Shangqiu, has greatly expanded its coverage during recent years. Not only does it now cover portions of the Shangqiu Ancient City, it offers a similar viewpoint.

More recent view of Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in the Shangqiu Ancient City from Baidu's street view service

The tree, a little larger, remains, as apparently does some of the activity near the wall. But clearly much is gone. Seeing the remains of the demolished buildings wasn't entirely unexpected, yet I still felt a complex combination of emotions I have experienced before elsewhere in China.

When I visited this location the buildings and the life around them caught my attention as much as, if not more than, the ancient city gate. I wonder what life was like there during the wall's early years. In some ways it may have more closely resembled what I saw five and a half years ago than life there now.

Regardless, the buildings are history. Perhaps it was the right choice. And perhaps someday in the future people will want to reconstruct the buildings for the same reasons they were destroyed.

Like Rowswell, I have mixed feelings.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Assorted Links: People's Daily's YouTube Rant, Taiwan's Principles, Delhi's Pollution, and Composer Chou Wen-chung

Some links for today:

1. China's People's Daily is upset about its YouTube account. No, People's Daily isn't advocating for YouTube to be unblocked in China. It is mad because thousands of its YouTube subscribers suddenly disappeared, and it is letting people know about it:
On Wednesday, Ren Jianmin, managing director of People’s Daily Online USA, penned an English-language online column about the paper’s YouTube channel losing thousands of subscribers in two days. Mr. Ren, who also oversees the newspaper’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other foreign sites, concluded that “YouTube did not show a bit of respect to our 3,552 subscribers by removing them from our channel without any reasons.” . . . .

Naturally, the People’s Daily took to another blocked social media network, Twitter, to voice its indignation.
As explained, one possible innocuous explanation for the disappearance is that they were simply accounts for artificial users. There was no word on Ren's thoughts about this. The article ends with a question one can only hope Ren will also address.

2. I am in Taiwan at the moment. And Taiwan's status is an especially fascinating topic. So here is some recent news:
Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said she will maintain the status quo in the island's relationship with China, but that her policy will be based on democratic principles and transcend party politics, a nuance likely to be lost on Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

3. An article titled "What It’s Like to Live in the World’s Most Polluted Place" isn't about any city in China. Instead, it is about Delhi, the capital of India. But the two sets of photos featured reminded me of similarly polluted scenes I have seen in China. The caption for the tenth photo in the first set especially caught my attention:
A dairy farm sits between a massive construction project and a garbage dump. Livestock are regularly in contact with waste, increasing the risk of contaminated dairy products
I thought back to some questions I recently had after seeing fresh goat milk sold and a goat eating outside in Jieyang, Guangdong.

4. Finally, a story about a composer whose teachers included Edgard Varèse and Bohuslav Martinu shares how 91-year-old Chou Wen-chung doesn't identify himself as a "Chinese composer" even though he grew up in China. Yet he doesn't deny his experiences there have had an influence:
But the sternest teacher of all was war, which swept over Mr. Chou’s native China in 1937, and which, over the next eight years, forced him to flee from one town to the next and often brought him face to face with death. In Shanghai, he practiced Bach and Mozart on the violin to the sound of artillery fire. Later, he trained his hearing as a university student in Guilin, where he learned to identify the flight path of Japanese warplanes by their sound. During a recent interview in his West Village townhouse, Mr. Chou recounted many harrowing war stories.

“This is the kind of thing we don’t want to experience,” he said after describing a traumatic escape from Guilin in 1944, moments before Japanese forces entered the city. “But if you do experience it, use that. We have to learn from life.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Night Work at a Hole in Tainan

three workers looking into a utility hole at night next to the Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (祀典武廟) in Tainan, Taiwan
A few hours ago at an intersection next to the Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (祀典武廟) in Tainan, Taiwan

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Life Amidst Construction in Tainan

Call it coincidence. Call it fate. But I can't call it planned. After posting yesterday about the intermixing of everyday life and a construction site in Shangqiu, today I saw a similar mix at Zhengxing Street in Tainan, Taiwan. Today's construction was both far smaller in scale and far briefer, but like in Shangqiu, there weren't hard borders between the roadwork and life on the rest of the street. Below are some photos capturing a few different stages of the work by the Taiwan Water Corporation, passersby, people standing in line at a popular milk tea stall, and a woman who decided to move some potted plants which were next to the area being dug up.

woman carrying a baby past construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

people walking by construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

people standing in line next to construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

woman carrying a potted plant away from construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

young couple walking by a sign for construction work by the Taiwan Water Corporation at Zhengxing Street in Tainan

Monday, April 25, 2016

Life Amidst Construction in the Shangqiu Ancient City

When I visited the Shangqiu Ancient City in Henan province in late 2010, road construction made the central Zhongshan Main Street difficult to navigate, especially if you wanted to cross from one side to the other.

road construction at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

There were few barriers around the construction site, and it was easy for people to enter, whether accidentally or on purpose. The border of the construction site was often fuzzy and in places materials obstructed sidewalk space.

large concrete tools on the sidewalk next to a road construction site at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

So like in many other parts of China, seemingly ordinary construction had become remarkably intwined with the lives of many people, including playing children. And people continued with their daily lives whether on it . . .

woman holding a child who is standing on a large concrete tube at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

next to it . . .

woman selling tubers next to a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City

or over it.

woman pushing her bike towards an informally made bridge over large concrete tubes at a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

The road is in far better shape now, but change doesn't stop, even in an ancient city. And sometimes life can't blend in as easily. I will share a more recent example from Shangqiu later.

Update: See here for the more recent example.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Strategy and Luck: A Game of Banqi in Tainan

As I approached a group of men surrounding a small table yesterday in Tainan, Taiwan, I wondered if I was seeing yet another outdoor game of xiangqi, otherwise known as Chinese chess. But the xiangqi board was rotated from its usual position by 90 degrees, only half the board was covered with xiangqi pieces, and some of the pieces were upside down. So instead of a photo of an outdoor game of xiangqi, here is a photo of an outdoor game of banqi:

men playing and watching a game of banqi outside in Tainan, Taiwan

As indicated in an unsourced but detailed Wikipedia entry, multiple versions of banqi, which also goes by several other names, exist, yet all, unlike xiangqi, involve a significant element of chance. A how-to-play guide on a blog by Woody Thrower, whose most recent post on the same blog is "Ubuntu 12.04 initramfs dependency nonsense", provides a brief look at the game and so does a fast-paced how-to-play video using alternative pieces by Joseph Larson, whose most recent post is "3D Printing with Ninjaflex". To my great joy, after finding these two guides and the two other posts, I finished watching the tail end of the video and discovered Thrower and Larson are indeed friends.

Presumably the men I saw in Tainan were playing the Taiwanese version of the game. Or perhaps like Thrower and Larson, they selected rules so the "balance of luck and strategy" better matched their tastes. Whatever rules they use, I wonder if they would agree with Larson that:
The combination of luck and strategy means that nobody really loses. If you lose you go 'eh, it was just bad luck'. But if you win you get to go 'aha, isn't my strategy incredible".

Friday, April 22, 2016

Guarding in Red in Tainan

Today's guardian lion, courtesy of the Anping Kaitai Matsu Temple in Tainan, Taiwan:

guardian lion with red ribbon bows at the Anping Kaitai Matsu Temple in Tainan, Taiwan

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Road Construction Fun in Shangqiu

Shangqiu, a prefecture-level city in Henan, China, recently came to my attention, and I was inspired to write a related post. I won't finish the post today, so for now I will share a photo I took in November 2010 of some boys who were playing in the middle of a road construction site in the walled Shangqiu Ancient City.

five boys standing in the middle of a road construction site in Shangqiu, China

More on the construction theme later. And then a bit about some more recent destruction in the historic area.