Wednesday, October 30, 2013

That is one BIG Duck

It's an inflatable duck, but not a big inflatable duck.
I've been reading about this giant rubber duck for a while, now.  I first heard about it when it was in Sydney, Australia.  That was in 2007.  It looks just like the rubber duck you played with in the tub when you were a kid.  Well, some of you, I know you still play with that thing. 

I was pretty excited to see it.  The duck, created by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman made it’s first appearance in 2007 in Sydney Harbor and its been in a number of places since.  Recently, it was in Southern Taiwan in the city of Gaoxiong, but now it’s right here in Northern Taiwan in a little place called Xinwu. The duck will be there from October 26 (2013) until November 10. 

According to things that I've read, the artist doesn't send the duck but sends plans for the duck, which are then implemented in the host country.  The duck in Taiwan was inflated in just seven minutes, thanks to technology developed here.  When the duck was in Hong Kong harbor it took an hour to inflate. Can you imagine the volume of air that had to be moved to inflate a duck that’s 58ft by 58ft by 81ft that’s 272,484 cubic feet (83,841 cubic meters) in seven minutes?  I’m guessing they didn't just use the vacuum on blow. 

The duck peers out over the crowd.
We decided that we couldn't let the duck be this close and not go see it.  Even my teenage daughters were kind of excited about it.  Of course, they have fond memories of their little rubber ducks.  When they were babies I would play with the ducks with them while they soaked in the bathtub.  In fact, their first word was duck.  Most parents get “mama” or “dada,” we got duck.”

This duck is a bit bigger than they’re used to, though.  The duck is 18 meters high, that’s 58 feet for you on the English measuring system, and 25 meters long (81 feet).  That is one big duck, so you would need a big, big tub to play with it in.

We also got on the news as being the only foreigners in the place.  There were probably 10,000 people who went to see the duck today, which is pretty surprising for a work/school day.  The first day it was opened was a Saturday and 100,000 people passed by and gazed upon the duck in all its hugeness and glory.  In fact, they opened the art festival an hour early, because by 8:00 am, they already had a line more than three kilometers long.  They’re expecting 1.5 million visitors before the end of the run.  Xinwu is a small rural community, especially by Asian standards; only 48,000 people live there. 

Duck Souvenirs
It was a great trip.  There was a great carnival atmosphere, with food vendors and souvenir vendors and other artworks on display.  People were happy and enjoying the autumn weather.  This is the absolute best time to be in Taiwan weather-wise. 

Access for handicapped people was provided, but you couldn't easily get too close to the duck.  There was an area that was like a deck that was reserved for elderly and handicapped people.  there were also volunteers and staff to enforce that it wasn't packed with able bodied people, so there was actual room for the elderly and disabled

If you live in Northern Taiwan, take some time to visit Xinwu while the duck is there.  We had a wonderful time.  Admission to the Taoyuan Land Art Festival, that’s where the duck is, is free.  I’d pay at least twice that for the opportunity to see it all again.

They've got all their ducks in a row.

Delicious Squid on a Stick.

Duck Watchers

Other posts you may be interested in:

Local Color: A Winter Trip to Danshui
Local Color:  Ju Ming Museum in Taipei

Photos by Emily Banducci

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cruising Around: Exploring Close to Home.

Have Wheelchair will Travel
The weather here has become Autumn weather.  So the temperature has come down, a fresh little breeze is blowing and the weather is perfect for a cruise on the the old scooter.  So after I got back from my morning trip to downtown Taoyuan I decided to hit the open road.  I took a few pictures of some things that I thought were interesting or beautiful, or both, as the case may be.  I've recently been spending quite a bit of time looking at photographer Craig Ferguson's travel photos.  His photos are so good that I'm almost intimidated to take pictures.  His are art, mine should be in your grandmother's scrapbook.  You can see Craig's excellent photos at  and you'll see why I'm intimidated.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not that good a photographer, basically because I'm lazy.  I have a small digital camera and mostly take snapshot like photos.  I'm wanting to get a really good, digital camera, like a canon rebel with a 55mm to 128mm lens or some other technical stuff.  I had a nice SLR film camera, but film is a pain when you're using it to blog.  So, I guess I'm not too technical when it comes to cameras.  I have a friend who's so technical that he uses only numbers when he talks.  Anyway such as they are, here are my photos and a brief description

These three photos above are a a large Taoist temple.  I found this temple by following a line of lanterns hung from the telephone poles.  The lanterns are red and spherical.  They're the common lanterns that are sold in Chinese gift shops across America.  They have a purpose beyond decoration and that purpose is to point out the location of a temple.  If you see lanterns strung down the side of a road and follow them they will end at a temple site.

This is a photo of the garden in front of my apartment community.  Many apartments have a beautiful park like Garden for the residents to enjoy.  My daughter Elizabeth loves to take her laptop down to the garden to do her schoolwork.  I have on occasion sat down there in the morning to pray.  It's really very beautiful. 

This stream seems to appear out of nowhere.  On one side of the road is the pond in the picture above where the temple roof can be seen and on the other side of the road is this stream.  But I can't see what feeds the pond.  It's just there, then this stream.  But the stream isn't a trickle it's a pretty good sized creek.  In order to find the source, I'm probably going to have to get off the bike and explore, but I think it would be hard with a wheel chair.  You can see the brush is fairly thick.  So...I guess I'll have to make Emily and Elizabeth do it.

You can see how close I am to the city right here.  This is about three quarters of a kilometer from my apartment.  Elizabeth found this place while walking her dog.

This is the same field as the one in the picture above.  The birds are called Egrets, in English, I don't know what they're called in Chinese.  These are the birds that are often depicted in Chinese art.  Usually they're called Cranes, although, I don't believe they are Cranes in a  taxonomic sense.

The first photo in this group of two is a photo of an altar.  You can see on the altar is a small incense urn, with sticks of incense sticking out of it.  There is a statue of the Goddess on there as well.  So people in this small neighborhood probably burn incense the local deity here.  The incense sticks tell me that someone worshiped here before I came this morning.  The bottom photo is of a couple of family tombs.  These two tombs are beautifully cared for.  You cans see an incense urn and two vases for flowers on the one on the left.  The character in the circle on the top of the one on the right is Wang, a family name, which translates to King.

After I left this road, I circled back and went about 2 kilometers down another road, which leads to a city called Ping Zhen (Ping Jun).  As I came out of the city I came across another stream and found this guy fishing.

A little farther down I came across this apartment community.  the interesting thing here is that this community has a private temple for worshipers living in the community.  I haven't often seen that.

Finally, as I turned toward my own community, I came across this cool little car.  This car is run by a dog grooming company who apparently comes to your house to groom your dog.  You see a lot of these little "VW buses".  They're made from a kit.  I've seen a number of them outfitted for serving hot food off the back.  the panels fold up and in to reveal a propane grill and preparation table.  I've even seen one made to be a small van.  They used a pink one as a van in an Idol Drama, starring Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin called, "It Started with a Kiss."  I like the little paw print shaped vents on this one.

Photos by Chris and Emily Banducci

Other posts you may be interested in:

Clearing Out the Camera:  Random Shots of Taiwan
Local Color:  The Color is Green
Local Color:  The Colors of Kenting
Local Color:  The Temples of Taoyuan City

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Origins of Wulong Tea?

Look at the beautiful, clear yellow of the Wulong Tea.
The word Wulong (Oolong; in Chinese 烏龍) is literally translated as black dragon.  So what we call Wulong tea means Black Dragon Tea.  I've pondered this many times.  Wulong tea is closer to a green tea type tea.  It looks like a green tea when brewed as it has a beautiful clear golden yellow color.  It also looks like a green tea in its prior to brewing.  So why call it Black Dragon Tea.

Because the origin of Wulong tea is shrouded in the mists of antiquity there are three theories about how Wulong Tea came to have that name.  But in my mind, one seems more likely from a historical perspective.

The first theory is that it was first cultivated in the Wuyi Mountains(武夷山) of Fujian Province in China during the Ming Dynasty.  Evidence comes in the form of two poems published during the Qing Dynasty which followed.  The Qing Dynasty started in 1644 and ended with the Xin Hai revolution in 1912, when the empress dowager abdicated the throne on behalf of her son the emperor.

The first is called the Wuyi Tea Song by Yi Chaogun

In the fifteenth century
Tea fields were abandoned
As some of the rock tea starts to grow
The love it when the North wind
Starts to blow on a sunny day
But not the South wind or rain
The fragrance dissipates
The beautiful Plum and Orchid Aroma
Come from the final baking process

The second is called Tea Tale by Wang Chaotang

Wuyi Tea is left to sun in a bamboo basket
Then roasted and baked
Longjing tea is pure because it is roasted but not withered
Only Wuyi tea is roasted and withered
Half green and half red
Roasted green and withered red
Left to wither then shaken
When the fragrance emerges; it is roasted
The timing has to be precious

This theory seems most plausible to me as these poems seem to chronicle the processing of Wulong Tea.  The process for preparing Wulong Tea is still the same today:

  1. It’s picked by hand.
  2. Left in a basket in the sun to oxidize.
  3. It’s rolled into balls
  4. Baked in an oven

Black Tea (front) is in leaf form, the Wulong Tea (rear) is rolled into balls.
It’s important to know that Green, Black and Wulong Tea come from the same plant.  The differences are in the fermenting or oxidizing of the leaves.  Green Tea is not oxidized, and black tea is fully oxidized.  Wulong tea is partially oxidized.  So as the poem says it’s “half green and half red.”  Black tea in Chinese is called Hong Cha (紅茶) Hong means red in Mandarin.

The second Theory is based on the Tribute Tea.  This is tea that was grown and processed for emperors, and dates back to the Song Dynasty.  The emperors of that time set up the Beiyun Tea Garden again in Fujian Province.  The tea produced there was in the form of a hard cake called the Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake.  But as the Song Dynasty became the Ming Dynasty this teacake fell out of favor.  The Beiyun Gard changed its process to loose tea.  The result was a glossy, dark loose-leaf tea.  Called Bvlack Dragon Tea.

This version seems less likely to me as Wulong tea is not a dark colored tea leaf, the color is a green that turns to a yellow color as it brews.

The final theory is based on a legend as are a lot of Chinese Traditions.  According to the legend a man named Long, who was particularly dark skinned and called WuLong (Black Dragon) was hunting.  He was distracted by a deer and followed after it.  By the time he had returned to the tea stored in his bag it was halfway oxidized.  The tea became popular and was called Black Dragon Tea after this man.

This legend while an interesting story seems the least likely explanation for the name.  In any case I drink Wulong Tea far more often than any other kind.