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Friday, October 28, 2011

Scratching my head in wonder

A not-too-successful attempt at carving our very own Halloween Jack-o'-lantern. Will till next year, which is something I hope the Texas Rangers won't be saying after tomorrow's Game 7.

I came across an article this morning in the Taipei Times about the push to declare Yushan 玉山, the highest mountain in both Taiwan and East Asia...well, I'll let the opening two paragraphs speak for themselves:

"Local non-governmental organizations (NGO) were lobbying yesterday for the public to vote for Yushan to become one of the world’s 'New 7 Wonders of Nature.'

The organizations urged the public to cast their vote, asking people to treat the finals of the competition even more seriously than the upcoming presidential election."

Yushan as one of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature"? I realize that many Taiwanese are only dimly aware of what lies outside the confines of the Chinese-speaking universe, but this is being carried to ridiculous extremes. Yes, at 3,952 m (12,966 ft), Yushan is an impressive piece of geologic uplift for this corner of the planet, but there are innumerable mountains the world over of much greater stature and grandeur (and as the Wikipedia entry points out, Yushan is only the fourth highest mountain on an island). Even in relation to East Asia, Taiwan's mightiest peak can't match the aesthetic beauty or iconic status of Japan's Mount Fuji 富士山, which has been venerated both spiritually and aesthetically for centuries. But Fuji-san, for some odd reason, isn't on the list of finalists. What is going up against Yushan is...well, to quote the Taipei Times article again:

"Wang [Chun-hsiu 王俊秀, who organized the Vote-for-Yushan campaign] said that the last thing Taiwanese would want to see is Yushan losing the contest to South Korea’s Jeju Island - the only other natural landmark in northeast Asia that has made it as far as the finals.

'Yushan is and will be the president of the Republic of China 中華民國 - forever,' Wang said.

'Winning or losing in this race matters much more than the upcoming presidential election,' he said.

Wang, in collaboration with the Central Taiwan Sustainable Development Alliance, urged Taiwanese both at home and abroad, and all Chinese people, to go online and cast their vote for the breathtaking landmark."

Jeju Island, a Natural World Heritage Site that has the gall to be under Korean administration. Many Taiwanese are obsessed with South Korea. As with many Japanese, South Korean TV dramas, pop stars and fashion are popular, but for people here, South Korea is a hated rival, one that has to bested in any and all competitions, whether it be sports, economics or, as in this case, a pointless public relations contest. And if it takes overly emotive appeals to pan-Chinese nationalism to put those former vassals back in their rightful places, then so be it.

In all fairness, Koreans are hardly known for their pragmatic responses in matters of national pride - Dokdo Island and the "East Sea" are just two issues in which South Korean "patriots" frequently make fools out of themselves. But for most people in South Korea, Japan is the object of obsession, and the rival that must be beat, not Taiwan. While many here work themselves up in a lather over those dastardly Koreans, the latter most likely don't pay that much attention to how they're viewed by the Taiwanese. For those in Taiwan who fret over how this island is "losing out" to South Korea, I'd just like to say that the rest of the world really couldn't give a rat's ass care less about how the R.O.C. ranks in relation to the R.O.K. It's time to get over this asinine fixation.

As for the "New 7 Wonders of Nature", rather than leaving things up to online voting (with all the ugly nationalism and attempts at ballot box-stuffing that will inevitably result), why not just appoint an international committee of experts to settle the issue? Fill it up with scientists who can analyze the geologic and physical facets, and artists, poets and writers who can provide an emotional perspective on the different sites, and let them come to a consensus.

Or better yet, just drop the whole damn thing so that Mr. Wang can apply all that energy of his towards something that's actually useful.

Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

  1. Just had a look at some pictures of Jeju Island on the Google Maps (the little Panoramio things). It is a beautiful place. Wouldn't mind going there.