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Monday, March 5, 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel?

A not uncommon scene in my neighborhood on a Sunday morning - a Taoist procession slowly making its way along the narrow streets. This happens several times a year, and comes complete with firecrackers, drums and gongs (the firecrackers had all been set off by the time I had grabbed my camera). Someone in this area obviously pays for these affairs, because the processions almost always stop for a while at the entrance to our apartment building, with the noise getting amplified as a result (both daughter and cat are none too happy about this). This particular procession also featured a female "singer" standing in the back of one of the lead trucks. Though I wasn't able to get a glimpse of her from my window, most likely she was clad in "hot" clothing - "hot", that is, if your idea of "sexy" was formed during the Eisenhower administration. Though I didn't get to see her, I had no problem hearing her, as she "sang" for the benefit of the gods.

But I'm not complaining. I don't want to jinx anything, but it appears that my wife's pleas to the Taoist gods may have finally been answered. In fact, on Saturday afternoon she traveled back to her hometown of Siluo 西螺 in Yún​lín County 雲林縣 to pay gratitude to them. Details will be divulged later once things start to firm up.

For now, though, life in this part of the world goes on as usual, both at the local level and in the political arena, as this AFP article from Japan Today makes clear:

China and Taiwan on Saturday criticized Japan for giving Japanese names to disputed islands in the East China Sea claimed by all three parties in a long-running diplomatic row.

China and Japan have a lengthy dispute over an uninhabited but strategically coveted island chain known as Diào​yú​tái 釣魚臺 in Chinese and Senkaku 尖閣諸島 in Japanese.

China’s foreign ministry said moves by Japan to rename scores of islands in the chain was “illegal and invalid,” according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

“No matter what names Japan has given to the islands affiliated to Diào​yú island, it will not change the fact that these islands belong to China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in the statement.

China’s State Oceanic Administration has released names in Chinese for the islands in the chain, which it put at 70, the official Xinhua news agency said Saturday.

Separately, Taiwan protested to Japan for renaming four islets in the contested chain and unveiling the names on Friday.

“We have lodged a stern protest and reaffirmed our stance that the Diào​yú islands are part of our territory,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said.

Japan has said it plans to finish naming 39 uninhabited islands by the end of March.

The islands, which are believed to be surrounded by oil and gas reserves, have long been a source of friction between China, Japan and Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long sought political reunification with the island. Japan officially recognizes China rather than Taiwan but maintains close trade ties with the island. 

Notice the sentence "which are believed to be surrounded by oil and gas reserves" in the next-to-last paragraph of the above article. Japan took over control of the islands in January 1895 as Terra nullius, or "no man's land", and administered them as part of Okinawa Prefecture 沖縄県 until the United States took over control of the Ryūkyū Islands 琉球諸島 at the end of the Second World War. The U.S. returned the Senkakus to Japanese control along with the rest of Okinawa in 1972. From the time of the Japanese annexation in 1895 until the late 1960's, neither the Republic of China 中華民國 nor the People's Republic of China governments contested the claim to ownership. Not, that is, until oceanic surveys in the mid-to-late Sixties suggested the potential for those above-mentioned oil and gas reserves. Naturally, of course, it turned out the Senkaku Islands have always been a part of China, and must someday be returned to the loving embrace of the motherland. Along with all that potential gas and oil, plus a lot of fish as well.

Other things that go on as usual here is the Taiwanese love of the Japanese language. I haven't bothered much lately with taking photos of signs, but they are still out there, and as abundant (and in some cases misused) as ever. Here are a couple of recent examples:

I'm not sure if the 名屋 on this sign is supposed to be read as the Chinese míngwū or the Japanese naya, but the intention behind ラーメン, rāmen noodles, is fairly obvious.

Umm, barbecue バーベキュー

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