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Refined Chinese “high” culture as staged in Taiwan.

Background

Two types of culture in Taiwan exists: one, the Chinese high culture brought over by the retreated Kuo Min Tang (KMT), two, the actual local culture of Taiwan. Real Taiwanese culture has been suppressed in the rule of KMT initially but the 1990s Taiwanization movement has seen rediscovery of Taiwanese folk art and artists to be celebrated in festivals and further within the communities in Taiwan.  As president of the then Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui introduced polices to celebrate local communities and their culture resulting in the celebration and flourishing of Taiwanese culture both in communicative means as well as cultural means in favour of idealised Chinese high culture.

National Arts Festivals

Before the 1990s, the Festival was held only in the three major cities of Taiwan: Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. The arts, organised by Council for Cultral Affairs (CCA), showcased Chinese high culture, with dance and drama performances relating directly to Chinese origins as the roots of Taiwanese culture. This was a period were traditional cultures were once again celebrated during the age of the ‘westernisation current’. The cultures were however an attempt to musk the traditions of Taiwan with modernised and westernised takes on Chinese arts to quantify itself as comparable to developed countries and be accepted by them.

The Festival in 1994 was reformed to no longer make exclusive the arts and culture as ‘high culture’ but be part of everyday life, known as Wen Hua Xia Xiang, meaning culture descending to the countryside. The Festival no longer restricts arts and culture to the fine arts and carefully orchestrated Chinese culture. Funding and resources are more fairly distributed between the cities and countrysides in said of cultivating the authentic Taiwanese culture to be showcased, celebrated and identified with. After 1994, the CCA no longer organised the Arts Festival. The Festival was ‘de-centralised’ and organised by counties instead.

Taiwan’s puppet exhibit as part of folk culture.

De-centralisation

In  de-centralising organisation to counties, the counties took responsibility in defining their distinctive local identity and character of arts and culture. To establish unique cultural identities and arts to showcase, the modernised European approach of “respecting minority culture” and “emphasizing folk culture” were thoroughly specified as aims in localising indigenous arts and culture of the counties and their native people. There were however, difficulties in defining the distinctive cultural character of their arts within counties

“Low” cultures of folklore were rediscovered and transformed into “high” culture to be worthy of showcase and being an identity embraced by the people. Cultural fairs and local festivals are organised for different counties to showcase and bridge the newly realised cultural gap between the Taipei city and other places of Taiwan. The cultural fairs thus form not just the identities and pride of communities but also enrich the cultural background of Taiwanese. The cultures of differing native ethnicities of Taiwanese, fine tuned by the county and national offices, defines Taiwan’s arts and culture as vibrant, unique, multicultural and inclusive.

 

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Performance by the Taiwan Yuan-Yuan Indigenous Culture & Art Troupe.

References

McIntyre, Sophie. “Re-Orienting Taiwan: The China Factor in Contemporary Art from Taiwan.” Asia Art Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://www.aaa.org.hk/Diaaalogue/Details/889>

Lu, Hsin. The politics of locality: making a nation of communities in Taiwan. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Turton, Michael. “The View from Taiwan.”Book Review: The Politics of Locality: Making a Nation of Communities in Taiwan. N.p., 10 Dec. 2008. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2008/12/book-review-politics-of-locality-making.html>.