My Hometown Top Travel

Taiwan is more than a possible war zone

People at a fruit stand on the street in the Yong-Chun Market (永春市場). (Yunn Tsai/YJI)

Taipei, TAIWAN  – Throughout my life, I’ve joined or attended quite a few international organizations, summer camps, and seminars. The other attendees would introduce themselves by city and country: Chicago, the U.S., Barcelona, Spain, Tokyo, Japan, and so on. I can imagine their cities, from popular media, a vague impression, or even a visit. 

Nobody knew Taipei, Taiwan unless they were interested in world politics. Even if they did, they knew of China’s threats and the powerful semiconductor industry that Taiwanese people jokingly call the “Mountain that protects the nation” (護國神山). 

As someone who lives here, it’s easy to see Taiwan as just the place where I live.

I’ve become accustomed to the tension beneath calm surfaces, but the underlying ideas behind the busy roads and compact neighborhoods run far beyond war and politics. 

What I like most about Taipei is how it isn’t completely futuristic. The city is evolving and modern since it is the capital city, but on every corner, a hint of the old can be seen. Its infrastructure is an eclectic mix of old and new, worn-down apartment buildings mixed in with shiny, glass-covered new business centers.

Throw in various historical sites, and you get Taipei, where you can find anything you wish.

The view at dawn from the author’s school. The small tower in the distance is the Presidential Office. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

The district I live in is known for its bustling business and shopping centers, yet my family’s apartment is 50 years old and in the alleys of a traditional street market. My mother buys groceries here, and I hear the voices of vendors shouting out prices and discounts on my way to school.

From the hallway outside my school classroom on the fifth floor, I can see the top of the Presidential Office building, a building that used to be the office of the Japanese Governor (總督) back when Taiwan was colonized by Japan a century ago. My school building itself is also over 100 years old.

As someone who spends most of her time looking into the future, life feels like a constant sweep of ever-changing waves.

The view from inside the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Taipei’s alleys remind me of how some things remain the way they are, the old comfort of a favorite food stall and the clashing store signs most consider ugly, but carry the history of everything that’s ever happened in the area.

picture 4: The promotional signage of the 2024 Taipei Biennial at Yuan-shan Station (捷運圓山站).

If someone asked for my favorite place in Taipei, I would say it’s the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. On Saturday, students get free access to all the exhibitions, and I visit at least once a month to feel inspired by the calm atmosphere.

One of my favorite exhibitions is the Taipei Biennial, an international art exhibition hosted once every two years. It is organized by various artists around the world and in Taiwan and includes all sorts of art mediums. 

The promotional signage of the 2024 Taipei Biennial at Yuan-shan Station (捷運圓山站). (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Art also exists in mundane things. Most people get around Taipei through the Metro system, which started operations in 1999 and spans the entire city.

Every season, poems that won the Metro company’s poetry competition will be displayed on the trains. I always look forward to seeing new poetry pieces. They are good food for thought on an uneventful ride to school, and I wonder if anyone reads them too and thinks the same things I do.

As someone who’s lived in Taipei my entire life, Taiwan is certainly a great force in shaping who I am currently.

The complex history and emphasis on art resulted in my interest in these topics. The complicated political situation – despite it not being at the front of my mind – certainly influenced the way I look at the world and my interest in societal issues.

Since I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life, I want to live in another country someday, but I see Taiwan as the place I want to spend most of my life.

I hope my country will still be here when I’m old.

Yuhan Tsai is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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