Sunday, September 2, 2012
Taiwan and China: A Social an Cultural Comparison Continued
In this blog post, I will continue where I left off in my previous blog post in comparing the cultural and social differences between Taiwan and China.
One of the most salient social and cultural differences between Taiwan and China is the role of religion and spirituality in everyday life. In Taiwan, Daoist and Buddhist temples are ubiquitous and many Taiwanese go to these temples to pray to deities and burn incense several times throughout the week. While China does have its share of Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian temples, it seems to me that these religious sites are more geared for tourists than for devotees. Most people in China are non-religious, which can largely be attributed to the attack on traditional Chinese religion and culture before and during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). With Taiwan not having experienced a Cultural Revolution or rule by an avowedly atheistic government, traditional Chinese religion has flourished in Taiwan and is an intergral part of Taiwanese people’s everyday life.
Another interesting social difference between Taiwan and China is their differing attitudes towards Japan and Japanese people. While most people in China seem to have a hostile attitude towards Japan for historical and many other reasons, Taiwanese people seem to admire Japanese people and Japanese culture. Although Taiwan was a Japanese colony for fifty years, Japanese imperial rule was not all that bad for Taiwan: Japan did not commit atrocities like it did in China during World War II; rather, it built up Taiwan’s infrastructure and improved the life of many Taiwanese by building schools and hospitals. Taiwanese youth in particular seem to admire Japanese culture and customs. My Chinese teacher in Taiwan said that young Taiwanese get their sense of fashion from Japan, and it was not uncommon for me to find a Taiwanese teenager reading a Japanese novel on the metro after school. Japanese students also seem to prefer to come to Taiwan to study Chinese than Mainland China (probably because they will not be discriminated against). Half of the students in National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center—the Chinese program I studied at this summer—came from Japan. I do not ever remember encountering a Japanese student when I was in China.
A last difference between Taiwan and China is their differences in architecture. To be honest, most buildings in Taiwan are not very attractive. Because Taiwan is hit with so many typhoons throughout the year, Taiwanese people do not bother to clean the outside walls of their buildings, which are mostly covered with tiles instead of paint. Many of the buildings in Taipei also appear to be very old and have air conditioning units hanging from outside the windows instead of having central heating and air conditioning. In terms of architecture, I would say that Beijing and many other Chinese cities have more attractive buildings than Taipei. China has been building many new beautiful buildings in its major cites every year and can easily demolish old buildings (there is no notion of private property like in Taiwan).
As always, thanks for reading!