J. Sydney Jones
Taiwanese Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Taiwan, also called Nationalist China or the Republic of China, a country located 100 miles from mainland China. The Taiwan Strait, formerly known as the Straits of Formosa, separates Taiwan from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian. To the north of Taiwan is the East China Sea with the Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa, and Japan; to the south, the Baishi Channel in the South China Sea separates Taiwan from the Philippines; to the east lies the Pacific Ocean. The country is mountainous, especially the eastern two-thirds of the island. It has jurisdiction over twenty-two islands in the Taiwan group and another sixty-four in the Pescadores Archipelago to the west. About twice the size of New Jersey, it measures 13,892 square miles (35,990 square kilometers).
According to a Taiwanese government estimate in October 2012, the country's inhabitants numbered 23.3 million, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. Of these, only 330,000 are non-Chinese: the aboriginal inhabitants of the island, who are related to Malay people of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Of the remaining majority, 85 percent are descendants of early Chinese migrants to the island; most are from the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong and are of the Fujianese and Hakka ethnic groups. The remaining 14 percent of the population is made up of “mainlanders,” Chinese people from a variety of mainland provinces who were either born in China or are descendants of families who fled the Communist Chinese armies during the Chinese Civil War (1945–1949). Daoism and Buddhism are the major religions of Taiwan. A blending of the philosophical tenets of Confucianism with these two major religions has resulted in a hybrid religion, often referred to as Chinese popular religion. Christianity is also represented, and though it is a relatively minor religion, it has had a strong influence in the spheres of education and health care. There are also some Muslims living in the urban areas of the country. Taiwan's trade economy makes it one of the wealthier countries in Asia, with relatively low unemployment. The island's major industries are textiles, electronics, machinery, shipbuilding, and agriculture.
Although immigration to the United States from Taiwan began in the late 1800s, the first large groups of Taiwanese immigrants arrived in the mid-twentieth century, seeking educational opportunities at universities along the East and West Coasts. Passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 resulted in increased immigration of skilled workers to the United States from Taiwan. In the 1990s new immigration laws, such as the Immigration Act of 1990, favored educated entrepreneurs, and businessmen and women brought their families to the United States to start new businesses or bridge business relationships between the United States and Taiwan.
The 2010 U.S. Census identified 215,441 Taiwanese Americans living in the United States (about as many people as live in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana), although because Taiwanese people are su-sumed into the category “other Asian” on the census form, the actual population may be higher. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates for 2006-2010, the largest population of Taiwanese Americans reside in California (51,094), particularly the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Other states with small but significant numbers include New Jersey (6,083), New York (9.896), Texas (9,138), Washington ((4,709), Illinois (3,959), Massachusetts (3,592), Virginia (3,152), and Maryland (3,006).
HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE
Early History The derivation of the Chinese word Taiwan is unknown, though its literal meaning is “terraced bay.” Until the sixteenth century it was primarily inhabited by a native Malayo-Polynesian population. In Chinese records from before the Han dynasty (206 BCE–222 CE), Taiwan is referred to as Yangchow and later Yinchow. In 239 CE the Chinese emperor sent an expeditionary force to explore the island, an event that forms one of the bases of Beijing's current claim of sovereignty over the island. The explorers established no permanent settlement on the island. Several centuries later China sent further missions to the island. It was clearly identified in court records of the Ming dynasty as having been charted by the explorer Cheng Ho in 1430 and given its current name. Few Chinese ventured across the treacherous waters of the Straits of Formosa, however, and the island was largely an operational base for Chinese and Japanese pirates.
In the sixteenth century other countries discovered the island's existence. The Portuguese passed it en route to Japan in 1517, dubbing it Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island. In 1624 the Dutch established a settlement in southwestern Taiwan, and the Spanish settled in the north at present-day Chi-lung. The Dutch seized the Spanish settlements in the north in 1642. In order to increase agricultural production, the Dutch East India Company encouraged Chinese migration, and the numbers of Fujianese and Hakka settlers grew to some 200,000 by 1662, when events in China brought an end to the Dutch presence on the island.
With the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the Manchus of the Qing dynasty had consolidated and enlarged their rule of mainland China, moving south of the Great Wall to bring all of China under their control by 1683. During these turbulent years many Chinese fled to Taiwan to escape the Manchus, just as, centuries later, Nationalist forces would flee there to avoid the Communist offensive. The island thus became a center of Chinese resistance to the Manchus as Ming diehards fought on. One Ming loyalist was the half-Japanese Zheng Cheng-gong, also known as Koxinga, who led an army of 100,000 troops and 3,000 junks against the Manchurian invasion; Koxinga's success in battle led to a long military career. Ultimately, he turned against the Dutch in Taiwan, expelling them and establishing a Ming-style dynasty on the island. This government in exile lasted until 1683, when the Manchus invaded Taiwan, absorb-ing it into the empire to be administered by Fujian province. Two hundred years later, Taiwan became a separate province of China.
The centuries of relative peace and prosperity under Manchu control led to dramatic increases in population on the mainland. Meanwhile, on the island, the aboriginal people were increasingly relegated to the eastern, more mountainous regions. Rice and sugar became Taiwan's main exports to China. In the nineteenth century European interest in the China trade grew. Two ports were opened in Taiwan in 1858: Tainan in the southwest and Tanshui in the northwest, the latter just downstream of the city of Taipei on the Tanshui River. China began to take more notice of its rebellious province to the west, but its years of misrule of distrust in Taiwan. In 1884 the Qing dynasty reorganized rule on the island, sending Liung Ming ch'uan to administer it, which he did capably. In 1886 Taiwan was made an independent province, with Taipei as its capital city.
Modern Era In 1894 China and Japan fought the first Sino-Japanese War over control of Korea. China was quickly defeated and, in the ensuing treaty, lost its province of Taiwan. For the next fifty years, the Japanese occupied the island, carrying out a Japanization policy of Taiwan's people and culture. Japanese was instituted as the language of instruction, bureaucracy, and business. Initially, the island provided mainly rice and sugar to Japan. By the 1930s, relatively cheap hydroelectric power in Taiwan allowed the development of textile, chemical, and machinery-producing industries. Although repressive, the Japanese regime improved the sanitation and educational systems on the island. With the onset of World War II, Taiwan became a Japanese staging area for invasions of Southeast Asia. After the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in September 1945, Taiwan was returned to China with uncertain status. In October China's Nationalist Party leader, Chiang Kai-shek, sent military forces to the island to replace Japanese officials with those of the Republic of China. Just as oppressive as the Japanese regime, the
Just as oppressive as the Japanese regime, the nationalist government was not popular. It viewed the Taiwanese as traitors for not having opposed the Japanese during the war. Unrest among the population led to a rebellion. Known as er er ba, from the Chinese for the date of the onset of the trouble—February 28, 1947—the insurrection was brutally put down by the mainland government, with the loss of Taiwanese lives estimated at 10,000. In the 1990s some amends were made to the families of the victims, and February 28 became Peace Day in Taiwan.
In 1949 communist forces under Mao Tse-tung defeated the nationalists on the mainland, establishing the People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek, his government, and a portion of his army fled to Taiwan to set up a nationalist government in exile. Mao's forces were on the brink of invading the island when the Korean War broke out in 1950. The U.S. Seventh Fleet was sent to the Taiwan Strait to protect Taiwan from attack. For the next two decades, the Republic of China (or Nationalist china)in Taiwan was the representative for United States-China relations. Chiang ran an autocratic regime there and dreamed of eventually returning to the mainland. In the bipolar world of the Cold War, Taiwan maintained a precarious independence. Partly with the help of American aid and partly with a policy of import substitution (producing at home rather than importing), Taiwan grew into a manufacturing power. By the 1960s it was exporting vast quantities of textiles, electronic equipment, and machinery to the West, fueling an 11 percent annual growth rate in the Taiwanese economy between 1960 and 1973.
In 1971 the United States began to normalize relations with communist China, and Taiwan lost its seat at the United Nations. Official diplomatic relations were established between the People's Republic and the United States in 1979. Equally dramatic changes were taking place in Taiwan. After Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo took power and attempted to cultivate a more populist image. He finally lifted martial law in 1987, a year before his death. He was succeeded by Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese. From 1988 to 1996 Lee oversaw liberal changes in the political process, and in 1996 he became the first popularly elected president of Taiwan. Page 345 | Top of ArticleThe country continues to perform a delicate balancing act, attempting to normalize relations with the People's Republic while at the same time insuring its own independence.
SETTLEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
Mainland Chinese immigrants began arriving in the United States in significant numbers about a century before the Taiwanese. These early immigrants, largely from Guangdong province, came to the West Coast during the Gold Rush. A backlash of anti-Chinese sentiment followed. Discriminatory laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, denied them the right of entry to the United States based on ethnicity and race. When China and the United States became allies during World War II, the ban on Chinese immigration ended, although early quota limits for Chinese and Asians in general were low. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Hart-Celler (Immigration and Nationality) Act, which allowed for an annual quota of 20,000 Chinese and the entry of family members as nonquota immigrants. Because Taiwanese immigrants were considered Chinese under the quota laws, their immigration patterns were influenced by the same legal restrictions.
Another jump in Taiwan's productivity in the 1980s created a class of transnationals called taikongren or “astronauts.” These immigrants shuttle back and forth between the United States, where their families reside, and Taiwan.
The first Taiwanese immigrated to the United States between the end of World War II and 1965. The majority of these were students continuing their education at American universities, mainly on the east and West Coasts and in certain places in the Midwest, such as Chicago. The numbers were low. Some stayed after graduation to find careers in the United States. Early Taiwanese immigrants also included wives of
U.S. servicemen who had been stationed in Taiwan after the Korean War. A third group of early immigrants sought better economic conditions and opportunities than they could find at home. This contingent often ended up working in Chinese restaurants or in service industries. A large number of Taiwanese immigrants settled in the Chinatowns of large American cities. Although they were classified as Chinese when they arrived, many of the early immigrants felt isolated from the general Chinese American population by cultural traditions and language: the majority of Chinese immigrants of the period spoke Cantonese, while immigrants from Taiwan spoke Taiwanese or Mandarin Chinese.
After the 1965 Immigration Act was passed, more Taiwanese came to the United States. The lack of diplomatic relations between mainland China and the United States meant that for more than a decade, the only Chinese allowed to immigrate were those from Taiwan. Individuals with technical and scientific skills, as well as those in the hotel and restaurant business, found easier admittance. This second wave of immigration lasted until 1979. Once the United States recognized mainland China, relations with Taiwan became more nebulous. Taiwanese immigrants since 1979 have faced increased difficulties because they hold passports from a “nonexistent” nation. In 1982 Taiwan's quota was 20,000, and many of the immigrants were trained professionals for whom there were insufficient jobs in Taiwan. Student immigrants added to the brain drain from Taiwan; educational opportunities increased in the United States, and many students who were granted temporary visas decided to stay, finding jobs and gaining more permanent residency. Work opportunities were more plentiful in the United States, and young men of draft age could also avoid compulsory military service in Taiwan.
Another jump in Taiwan's productivity in the 1980s created a class of transnationals called taikongren or “astronauts.” These immigrants shuttle back and forth between the United States, where their families reside, and Taiwan. The Immigration Act of 1990 established preferences for those willing to invest in new U.S. businesses.
The number of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States is difficult to calculate, because, as of 2010, U.S. Census figures group all of the approximately 3.4 million Chinese Americans in one category. This group includes American-born Chinese, as well as immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that from 2000 to 2009 some 92,000 Taiwanese immigrated to the United States, which yields an average of a little more than 9,000 each year. In 2011, 6,206 Taiwanese arrived, whereas about 83,000 immigrants were admitted from mainland China. In both cases the overwhelming majority of immigrants who listed an occupation Page 347 | Top of Articlewere professionals, technicians, or managers. The stereotype of the Taiwanese engineer or computer scientist is not necessarily the norm, however. Large numbers of blue-collar workers in service and garment industries and more women are now immigrating to the United States.
Large communities of Taiwanese Americans are scattered throughout the United States, but the majority are concentrated in California and on the East Coast. In California Taiwanese communities are particularly prevalent in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco. In the greater Los Angeles area, for example, the town of Monterey Park has been called “Little Taipei.” Large Taiwanese populations in suburban southern California also occur throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In the East sizeable communities have been established in the Flushing neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens, while in Texas, Houston draws Taiwanese immigrants. Smaller populations also reside in New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maryland.
The flow of capital from Taiwan follows these immigrants, and as a result they have been able to revitalize some failing communities and to culturally influence others. Instead of the Chinatowns of old, however, Taiwanese immigrants create islands of culture in suburbia, with all-Chinese shopping malls and strip malls offering everything from Chinese food shops to bookshops and pharmacies. Signs mix intricate Chinese characters with English words in a kind of international linguistic mélange. Entering these malls is like being transported to Taiwan. This is especially true in Monterey Park and San Jose, where the Taiwanese community has its own clubs, churches, and newspapers. In larger urban areas, such as Flushing, the Taiwanese are part of a more varied multicultural milieu that includes Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Koreans, Thai people, and other Asian Americans.
Taiwanese Americans speak a variety of languages, but their first language is generally Mandarin (or standard) Chinese, known as kuo yu, or “national dialect.” It derives from Beijing Mandarin and is about as similar to that dialect as American English is to British English. In addition, the various ethnic groups comprising the Taiwanese American community have their own dialects. The Fujian and Hakka speak the native Taiwanese dialect, which is based on the Minnan vernacular of southern Fujian province, and some Hakka also speak their own idiom. Chinese characters are still romanized using the Wade-Giles system in Taiwan, though the country is beginning to adopt the pinyin system used on the mainland. Thus Peking (in the Wade-Giles system), the capital of communist China, is now known as Beijing; and Taipei, Taiwan's capital in the Wade-Giles system, has become Taibei in pinyin.
Especially in written language, Taiwanese Americans often combine English with Chinese. In larger urban areas Chinese-language radio and television stations provide listeners and viewers with programming in Mandarin or Cantonese dialects.
Greetings and Popular Expressions Common greetings and other expressions (with pronunciation) include tsao (tsow)—“good morning”; ni hao ma (knee how ma)—“how are you”; tsao chien (tsow chyen)—“good-bye, see you later”; pai tuo (pie twa)—“please”; hsieh hsieh (shye shye)—“thanks”; pu ko chi (pookócheh)—“you're welcome”; tai hau le (tie how le)—“great, wonderful.”
For newcomers to the United States, religious affiliation can provide an important networking resource. Taiwanese Americans practice a rich diversity of religions. Whereas Christians are a distinct minority in Taiwan (about one million, divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant), a large percentage of Taiwanese Americans identify as Christian, partly because churches provide a social gathering point for immigrants. Protestants outnumber Catholics, and a significant number of Taiwanese Americans belong to evangelical or fundamentalist Baptist churches. Presbyterian churches, which often offer services in Mandarin or Taiwanese dialect, are also popular. Taiwanese American Christian churches offer the full panoply of options, including Bible study for the young and social functions such as dinners and talks.
Other Taiwanese Americans favor the traditional religions of Taiwan and China. These consist of Buddhism (with the largest following), Daoism, Confucianism, and a hybrid popular religion. Taiwanese Buddhists follow the Mahayana school, which is similar to the Buddhism of Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and much of China. Buddhism in the United States has seen particularly rapid expansion in recent years, with new temples established in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and New York. This growth reflects the increasing popularity Buddhism is enjoying in Taiwan: from 1983 to 1995 adherents multiplied sixfold. Xi Lai Temple, near Monterey Park, is particularly noteworthy as the largest overseas temple of the Fo Guan Shan Zen Buddhist Centre in Taiwan. Completed in 1988, Xi Lai Temple cost $26 million and is a colorful and stunning architectural presence, attracting the faithful and tourists alike. One hall alone has ten thousand golden Buddhas. It speaks for the presence of Buddhism in the United States, as do the Jade Buddha Temple in Houston and the Zhuangyen Monastery in Carmel, New York.
Taiwanese popular religion blends the three traditional faiths with ancestor worship and the belief in certain local gods and goddesses. It is represented in the United States by various temples built for worshipping these deities, among them Tudigong (god of the earth), Guanyin (goddess of mercy), and Mazu Page 348 | Top of Article(goddess of the sea). The Ma Tsu Temple, dedicated to Mazu, for example, was established in San Francisco in 1986.
Taiwanese faith-based organizations all serve functions beyond religion, incorporating activity halls for lectures as well as instruction in Chinese language. Religious observance is not restricted to formal temples and churches. Many Taiwanese Americans create shrines in their homes and observe lunar festivals, activities that bond the community to folk traditions and religious practices.
CULTURE AND ASSIMILATION
Like many other immigrants from Asia, the Taiwanese tend to settle in areas where large numbers of their fellow countrymen already live. Families create networks of mutual aid just as they might in Taiwan. “They have developed a complex organizational life, as social hierarchy is an important aspect of Taiwanese American life,” Hsiang-shui Chen pointed out in Chinatown No More (1992), a study of Taiwanese immigrants in Queens. Thus the Taiwanese American community tends to remain cohesive, preserving its values, languages, and cultural traditions amid the bustle of contemporary American life. According to Chen, Taiwanese Americans are no longer segregated into the Chinatowns of old. They often own a business or hold a job in the inner cities of metropolitan areas such as San Jose, Los Angeles, or Houston. Collectively they are differentiating themselves from their Chinese counterparts by “attempting to define their distinctive social and political history,” according to Linda Trinh Vō and Rick Bonus in Contemporary Asian American Communities: Intersections and Divergences (2002). In this way the new Taiwanese immigrant community is looser than it was, while preserving much of the reciprocal support that characterized the older Chinatown communities.
Traditions and Customs Taiwanese traditions blend those of the groups that have occupied the island state. There are instances of Fujian culture, of traditions from Guangdong, and of customs from Japan, as a result of the fifty-year occupation by that country. These practices have also been heavily influenced by Western trends, because Taiwan itself is a modern economic power. Taiwanese American belief systems have generally followed a middle ground between East and West.
Concepts relating to nature, space, and time unite the Chinese sense of harmonic living in tune with the natural order and the Western scientific, materialistic worldview. Ancient belief systems revolved around the Dao, or the Way—the manner in which humans become one with the natural workings of the universe. The traditional belief in qi, or life force, leads to a view of a world divided into the polar opposites yin and yang, as represented in such dichotomies as male-female, cold-hot, dry-wet, light-dark. Additionally, the world is seen as comprised of five elements: fire, wood, air, water, and earth. Seasons and relationships are determined by the ebb and flow of opposites and of the five elements. The tradition of feng shui, wind and water, is an ancient Chinese science that seeks harmony in interior and exterior design and architecture by balancing yin-yang and allowing for proper flow of qi. This tradition has gained popularity outside of the Taiwanese and Chinese communities, resulting in the use of feng shui principles in much of the Western world as well.
A unique perception of time also informs Taiwanese American life, in which both the lunar calendar and Western Gregorian calendar are used. The latter solar calendar is employed in business, school, and public life, whereas the lunar calendar determines the dates of festivals and religious observances. Based on the phases of the moon, the lunar calendar consists of twelve months with twenty-four solar divisions and is eleven days shorter than the Western calendar year. The lunar calendar and almanacs are also used to determine auspicious and inauspicious days for carrying out various endeavors, from starting a business to getting married. Some Taiwanese believe that certain days are unlucky: the third, seventh, thirteenth, eighteenth, twenty-second, and twenty-seventh days of the lunar month, for example, are held by some to be bad luck days. Such old beliefs, however, are dying out among the younger generation of Taiwanese both in Taiwan and in the United States.
Other widespread beliefs among both Chinese and Taiwanese include a taboo against the number four, which sounds much like the word for death. Buildings often exclude a fourth and even a fourteenth or twenty-fourth floor to avoid possible bad luck, a custom similar to that regarding the number thirteen in Western societies. Many other convictions revolve around the play of homonyms. It is bad luck to share a pear, li, because the word sounds like the Chinese word “to separate,” pronounced lei. After breaking an object, a person will quickly say Sui sui ping an, a play on the words for “pieces” and “year after year,” turning the bad situation into a wish for eternal happiness. Similarly, at Chinese New Year, the characters for luck and happiness are taped to windows upside down because the word for “down” sounds similar to that for “to come”: presented in this configuration, the words mean luck or happiness will come to you.
Cuisine Taiwanese cuisine is largely influenced by Fujian cooking, from which it gains its use of broth and seafood. Popular cooking methods include bar-becuing and the use of hot-pots—pots kept simmering at the table—in addition to pan frying, boiling, and stir-frying. Among Taiwanese Americans, traditional Taiwanese dishes remain popular and are also increasingly sought after outside the community, as numerous Taiwanese restaurants catering to a broad clientele have opened around the country, especially in California.
Taiwanese cooking employs a wide assortment of foodstuffs, from meats such as beef and pork to poultry and all types of seafood. Such meats as turkey and pork are often cooked in a variety of spices and are served over bowls of rice. Although rice usually forms the base of meals, noodle dishes and soups are also popular, as are boiled dumplings (shuijiao), prepared with crabmeat in addition to the usual pork and leek stuffing. Seafood appears in such delicacies as oysters in black bean sauce, prawns wrapped in seaweed, cucumber crab rolls, and clam and winter melon soup. With its tropical and subtropical climate, Taiwan grows fruits and vegetables in abundance, including papaya, mango, pineapple, melons, citrus, asparagus, eggplant, pea pods, Chinese cabbage and mushrooms, bok choy, and leafy greens of the spinach family. Bean curd in various guises is also a common ingredient. As a result of Western influence in Taiwan, dinner rolls, cakes, and bread are also more prevalent in Taiwanese cuisine than in other Chinese fare. Beverages such as beer and rice wine (sake) are typical, as is Western style soda, and tea continues to be an omnipresent beverage among Taiwanese.
The Taiwanese use chopsticks, a skill most children master by the time they are five. Deep, curved Chinese spoons in plastic or porcelain also make a change from Western cutlery. Knives are usually unnecessary at table as meat is diced or sliced in preparation. It is customary to hold the rice bowl close to the mouth, scooping the rice in with chopsticks. These are rested on the table or the rim of the rice bowl and never pointing down into the bowl, a position that could bring bad luck.
Music Music functions in ceremonial and entertainment settings in Taiwanese society, both in the United States and in Taiwan. It follows the dead to their burial, heralds marriages and birthdays, and provides the framework for Chinese opera and puppet plays. The ancient Chinese musical system uses a scale of seven notes, focusing on five core tones with two changing tones. The five main tones are tied to the Chinese concept of the five basic elements. The Taiwanese musical tradition follows the classical Chinese model and, in addition, has its own folk variations. Popular instruments include the se, a zither with twenty-five strings and movable bridges; the chin, another stringed instrument; and several types of two-string fiddles. This kind of traditional Taiwanese music, often accompanying a puppet show, is performed at festivals and cultural heritage events around the United States as a way to preserve Taiwan's cultural legacy among immigrant communities.
The Taiwanese employ three different varieties of musical ensemble at festive or ritual occasions, each tracing its development back to imperials times and the musicians that accompanied highly ranked officers. Drums are an integral part of traditional Taiwanese music, and for special occasions, a drum group, or guting, performs, comprising several sorts of drums, gongs, and cymbals as well as the double-reeded pipe called the suona. Bayin ensembles, employing eight tones, are used for weddings and funerals with a guting following. A third type of amateur folk ensemble plays beiguan music at temples for a god's or goddess's birthday. Folk songs and ballads have become more popular, inspired by both aboriginal music and Japanese musical styles.
Taiwan has produced stars on the Mandarin and Taiwanese pop music scenes, including Teresa Teng, a singer who was known all over East Asia and is beloved by immigrant communities in the United States. Taiwanese Americans also listen to Western music in all its forms.
Traditional Dress Taiwanese Americans wear traditional clothing when participating in events that promote Chinese culture; otherwise, they have assimilated in their dressing habits. In formal settings women traditionally wear the chi pao, a long, high-collared dress with a side slit. It is generally made of silk that may be brocaded with designs or plain. A shorter version is used for informal occasions. Formerly worn by men as well as women, the chan sang, literally meaning “long clothes,” is similar but with a looser waist.
Dances and Songs Taiwanese Americans keep their traditional dances alive as part of their heritage and cultural awareness. These dances are mainly ritualistic, emphasizing formal, stiff body movements with the feet kept close to the ground. Such dances appear in folk celebrations and rituals as well as in opera, where each movement is highly symbolic, telling of emotions or changes in time and space. Traditional drama often includes a chaotic, swirling, acrobatic blend of fight and dance, for instance when armies clash or monks attack devils. This latter form of dance is closely related to Taiwan's martial art, guoshu, of which there are many varieties.
Within a strong tradition of folk dancing among Taiwanese, the lion and dragon dances are the most typical. In ancient times the people performed such dances to bring rain or avoid plagues, employing drums, masks, and animated movements. Modern performances of the lion and dragon dances are intended to bring good luck or liven up festive occasions. The dragon mask and costume in particular are works of folk art in themselves, with the entire body of the dancer covered in colorful fabric. Contemporary choreographers have blended this folk tradition with elements of modern dance, creating a uniquely Taiwanese form of ballet.
Holidays In addition to observing all the American holidays—Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Easter—Taiwanese Americans celebrate with several festivals that are peculiar to the lunar calendar and have seasonal significance. The most important for all Chinese Americans
is the Lunar New Year, which is tied to the coming of spring and is thus also known as chunjie, or “spring festival.” The advent of the new year is a time for house-cleaning, but during the year's first days, housework must stop lest good luck be swept away. The dominant color is red: people hang swaths of red paper with calligraphic wishes for good luck or good health and wear festive red clothing at gatherings. On New Year's Day family comes together to give gifts and visit close friends. Celebrants prepare special foods determined by similarity in sound to words representing good luck or wealth; for example, fish, yu, is a popular New Year's dish because it sounds the like the word for “abundance.” Parades and dramatic performances take place over many days, before and after Chinese New Year.
The Lantern Festival, dengjie, takes place on the fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year and traditionally marks the end of New Year celebrations. In the United States this festival marks the beginning of spring banquets given by many Taiwanese organizations. In summer the Dragon Boat Festival honors the death of a popular poet and minister of the Zhou dynasty of China, Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BCE), who committed suicide in the Mi Lo River as a protest against government corruption. Legend has it that villagers attempted to recover his body with a flotilla of boats; modern-day boat races in Taiwan honor the day. The same legend tells that the people threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fish, thus keeping them from eating the corpse of the poet. Today, Taiwanese Americans often eat zongzi at this festival, a glutinous rice pudding or dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with pork, beans, and other ingredients. The Mid-Autumn Festival, zhongchiu jie, is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, when the full moon represents family harmony. The abundance of the autumn harvest is often displayed as an offering to the moon goddess. Participants bake sweet, round mooncakes filled with a paste made from lotus or melon seeds or various beans. Some U.S. cities have organized street fairs to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Health Care Issues and Practices There are no health issues specific to the Taiwanese American population. A healthy diet is embedded in the culture, based as it is on the five-element philosophy and the yin-yang dichotomy. Categories such as wet and dry and hot and cool are incorporated into each meal. The balance of such opposites is thought to be vital to good health. Taiwanese Americans rely heavily on non-Western forms of medical therapy such as acupuncture.
Death and Burial Rituals In the Taiwanese community funerals are a time for demonstrating respect for ancestors and publicly displaying family status. While the intricate kinship roles and patterns have partly broken down in the United States, funerals are still solemn affairs. Some mourners wear red to ward off the negative influences of death or to celebrate the long life and descendants of the deceased.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LIFE
Confucianism places a premium on family values and family cohesion. Throughout Chinese history, clans and lineages played significant roles, and in the Taiwanese American community such bonds persist. Whereas the extended family of three generations under one roof was once the norm in Taiwanese society, especially in rural, agricultural areas, the emphasis in recent years in both Taiwan and the United States has been on the smaller nuclear family. Often Taiwanese Americans have left family members behind, and sometimes mothers and fathers remain in Taiwan while sons and, increasingly, daughters come to the United States to build a new life. Relationships are maintained via telephone, the Internet, and periodic visits. It is still common for members of an extended family to live together in some cases, such as when a young person lives with relatives while attending college.
Within the family Chinese kinship terms are observed. Grandparents are zufumu if they are the parents of the father and waizufumu if they are the mother's parents. An older brother is called gege, a younger one didi; jiejie is an older sister while meimei is a younger one. Nomenclature that distinguishes rank, or seniority, and side of the family extends to uncles, aunts, and others. Such strict labeling eventually breaks down among Taiwanese families living in the United States.
Roles within families commonly depend on economic and educational status. Among blue-collar workers, even within double-income households, the husband is usually the dominant partner and male-female roles are more traditional. In professional Page 351 | Top of Articlefamilies responsibilities tend to be divided more equally, and the higher income affords both parents time with their children. In general, Taiwanese Americans experience fewer divorces than other American families, partly as a result of the extended kinship bonds and the overlapping social relationships in the community. Long-term separations, however, in which the husband is forced for economic reasons to leave his family in the United States while he shuttles back and forth to Taiwan, strain marriages.
The Taiwanese American community is cohesive. New arrivals can count on networking to help them establish themselves, start businesses, and find jobs. Community members look out for one another, forming familial bonds and joining groups in specialized organizations and clubs.
Gender Roles In Taiwan women have been largely ruled over by the male members of the jia, or extended family unit. Although divorce is rare, a wife's failure to produce a male child is a viable reason for separation. Family duties are chiefly perceived as within the woman's sphere. In the Taiwanese American community, the need to take care of children and domestic affairs has contributed to limiting women's achievement in the workforce. The educational disparity between women and men is decreasing, however, and women more often take jobs outside the home.
Despite increased equality, gender disparities remain. According to the 2010 American Community Survey, 81.6 percent of Taiwanese American males had attained a bachelor's degree or higher, as compared to 68.2 percent of females. In terms of employment, 53.5 percent of Taiwanese American females are in the American labor force, as opposed to 60.3 percent of the total Taiwanese American population. The significant inequality between average Caucasian and Asian salaries in the United States is even greater for Asian women than it is for Asian men: Asian women earn approximately 70 percent of the salaries of white men who have similar educational and occupational backgrounds.
Education Taiwanese Americans value education highly; parents encourage their sons and daughters to pursue college degrees. Many immigrants arrive in the United States with university and postgraduate degrees in hand. Competition for the few places in Taiwanese universities is stiff, so many more Taiwanese immigrate to the United States to study. The value of a college education is instilled in succeeding generations. Parents often choose a home based on its being in a good school district and are very involved in all aspects of their children's education. Preparation for college begins in kindergarten, when children learn the importance of doing well and getting good grades so that they can get into a good college later on. Many Taiwanese American children enroll in SAT preparation courses and practice writing college admissions essays early. The community favors such California universities as University California, Berkeley; UCLA; and Stanford.
Birth and Birthdays Both before and after giving birth, a mother is given especially nutritious foods. Whereas in mainland China and Taiwan, the birth of a boy is still the greatest wish of all parents, Taiwanese Americans rejoice at the birth of children of either sex. The child's one-month birthday is a time of special celebration. Birthdays are generally commemorated according to the Western calendar.
Courtship and Weddings Taiwanese Americans no longer observe the elaborate, lengthy courtships common in their home country, where, during a “greater engagement,” or dading, the families exchange gifts and present a dowry. Still, weddings are joyous occasions and are considered an important rite of passage. The marriage ceremony may be civil or religious and is always followed by a banquet. The couple is generally presented with envelopes filled with money. If the parents of either live in Taiwan, there may be banquets in both countries. In earlier times, the bride was sent back to Taiwan for cooking classes.
Relations with Other Americans Confucian cultural tradition emphasizes accomplishment over race or ethnicity. Thus Taiwanese do well in the multicultural environment in the United States and have generally gotten along well with other ethnic minorities. Friction may arise, however, especially where Taiwanese have settled in large numbers, such as in Monterey Park and Flushing. Immigrants from groups that have not fared as well resent the overall success and slowness to assimilate of the Taiwanese. Coming from a rich culture with ancient traditions, Taiwanese Americans do not take it for granted that all aspects of life in the United States are better than in Taiwan, and they are not eager to cast off their heritage.
EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
In general, Taiwanese arrive better prepared than the pre-1949 mainland Chinese immigrants: they tend to be better educated, have a profession, and know some English. Of the 215,441 Taiwanese American residents estimated in 2010 by the United States Census Bureau, for example, 64 percent of those reporting occupations were in professional, technical, executive, administrative, or managerial positions. Many others are blue-collar workers employed in restaurants and the garment industry. The full picture, however, includes 4.8 percent of the Taiwanese American population reporting no occupation. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, 5.7 percent of Taiwanese Americans (compared to 15.9 percent of the total U.S. population) lived below the poverty line.
Many Taiwanese entrepreneurs settle in the United States, encouraged by the Immigration Act of 1990. This act created preferences not only for those with key professional skills but also for those who
could create employment opportunities in the United States by starting businesses or investing funds here. Taiwanese feel that it is important to start their own businesses, no matter how small, because doing so is a sign of success in Chinese society. As the U.S. economy slowed in the 1980s and early 1990s, however, Taiwanese American professionals were forced to take research or teaching positions in Taiwan's high-tech industries and universities, leaving their families in the United States. With the East Asia economic crunch of the late 1990s, and with improved economic conditions in the United States, the reverse migration has been somewhat rectified.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Since the United States officially established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1979, Taiwan's position as an independent country has been precarious. Despite American insistence that the United States no longer officially supports an independent Taiwan, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, authorizing continued social and economic ties with the island nation. Much of the political activity of Taiwanese Americans has been focused on influencing American public and political opinion regarding Taiwan. Various Taiwanese American political organizations monitor U.S.-Taiwanese relations. The World United Formosans for Independence organization, established in 1970 in Dallas, Texas, promotes a free and democratic Taiwan and publishes the Taiwan Tribune to further this goal. The Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., closely observes legislation affecting Taiwan and the Taiwanese people. Taiwanese sovereignty is also the aim of the lobbying group Taiwan International Relations, centered in Washington, D.C., while the Formosan Association for Human Rights, located in Kansas, focuses on human rights.
Taiwanese Americans maintain close relations with their former country, as many have family members there. The numerous groups that continue to monitor the political situation within Taiwan welcomed the increasing democratization of the 1990s. The end of martial law in 1987 and the reforms of Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui have encouraged Taiwanese Americans to expect a stronger position in the world for the people of Taiwan.
In The Taiwanese Americans, Ng noted that despite having a short history in this country and representing a relatively small percentage of the population, the immigrant group has made “a significant presence. […] Most came after the immigration changes in 1965,” Ng observed, “but they have already helped to alter the U.S. cultural landscape.” Taiwanese Americans have worked to return U.S. attention to the Pacific Rim and, according to Ng, many Taiwanese Americans in business have become “cultural brokers in penetrating the markets of Asia.” Taiwanese Page 353 | Top of Articlehave brought capital and investment with them and are particularly prominent in academia. Others have become skilled workers in Silicon Valley businesses, valuable medical researchers, talented artists in film and music, and, in one case, an astronaut. The following is a list of individual Taiwanese Americans notable for their achievements.
Academia The first Asian in the country to lead a major university, Chang-lin Tien (1935–2002) was both a renowned educator and an administrator, serving as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, from 1990 to 1997. Born in Wuhan, China, Chang fled with his family to Shanghai in 1937 and to Taiwan in 1949. He graduated from National Taiwan University in 1955 then received an MA and PhD at Princeton in mechanical engineering. Conducting research at Berkeley in thermal radiation, he quickly made a name for himself, winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1965 and 1966 and an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship in Germany in 1979.
Ray H. Liu (1942–), the author of books and more than fifty articles on mass spectrometry and clinical chemistry, is the graduate program director in forensic science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the editor of the Forensic Science Review. A professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota, Tsan-kuo Chang (1950–) wrote The Press and China Policy: The Illusion of Sino-Soviet Relations, 1950–84. Associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, Tsay-jiu Brian Shieh (1953–), researches compound semiconductor device modeling and vacuum microelectronics.
Business From 2001 to 2009 Taiwanese American Elaine Chao (1952–) served as the United States Secretary of Labor as the first Asian Pacific American woman on a presidential cabinet. Chao is a former director of the Peace Corps and the United Way of America and is married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Other successful Taiwanese Americans involved in business include John Chau Shih (1939–), president of S Y Technology in Van Nuys, California. Dean Shui-tien Hsieh (1948–) is a pharmaceutical company executive in Pennsylvania, and Helen Kuan Chang (1962–) is a public relations director for the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau. Architect Jennifer Jen-huey (1964–) works in San Francisco. Paul P. Hung (1933–) is an executive for Wyeth-Ayerst Labs, and Yeou-chuong Simon Yu (1958–) manages the engineering department for Monolith Technologies in Tucson, Arizona.
Film Film director and producer Ang Lee (1954–) immigrated to the United States in 1978 to study acting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but his lack of fluency in English prompted him to change his career goal to directing. In 1985 the New York University Film Festival selected Lee's Fine Line as the best movie of the year. In 1992, after receiving funding from a Taiwanese production company, he made Pushing Hands, a film that became a box-office success in Taiwan and won the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Award. The movie was released in the United States in 1994. Lee's best-known films are The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). He also directed a movie version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995), which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and the acclaimed 1997 movie The Ice Storm. His accolades continued with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), the recipient of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2005 his film Brokeback Mountain won him another Academy Award for Best Director. His 2012 film Life of Pi garnered eleven nominations from the Academy.
Taiwanese American Doug Chiang (1962–) is a visual effects arts director at Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company founded by George Lucas. Chiang was the visual effects arts director of Death Becomes Her, which won an Academy Award for Visual Effects in 1992. He has also won both an Academy Award and a British Academy Award for his work at Industrial Light and Magic. Chiang led the design team that provided the special effects for Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, released in 1999.
Journalism Attorney Phoebe Eng (1961–) is the founder of A. Magazine, a periodical devoted to Asian American issues. With a readership of about 100,000, the magazine also reports on the media and the manner in which it covers Asian Americans and Asian American concerns. In 1999 Eng published Warrior Lessons: An Asian American Woman's Journey into Power, an examination of what it means to be an Asian woman in the United States. In 2005 Eng cofounded the Opportunity Agenda, a communications and national policy group that works with social justice groups to open avenues for success for all.
Music Renowned Taiwanese American violinist Cho-liang Lin (1960–) immigrated to the United States in 1975 to study at the Juilliard School. In 1991 he joined the faculty there, later becoming professor of violin at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Beginning in 2001 Lin served as music director of La Jolla's Music Society, developing their SummerFest chamber music festival. He is also the artistic director of the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival.
Science and Medicine Nobel Prize winner Yuan-tse Lee (1936–) is the son of a well-known painter in Taiwan. Lee opted for science over art, attending Berkeley in 1962 and working at Harvard University designing a mass spectrometer that could identify the paths of different ions as they separated. His work in the deflection and identification of the ions in chemical reactions won Lee the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. In 1994 he renounced his American citizenship to serve as president of Page 354 | Top of Articlethe Academia Sinica in Taiwan. Paul Chu (1941–) has conducted researches in superconductivity that have earned him worldwide fame. Chu has been at the University of Houston since 1979. David Ho (1952–) is a medical researcher whose work on the use of AZT in AIDS treatment won him a “Man of the Year” citation on the cover of Time magazine in 1995. Edward Lu (1963–), a NASA astronaut, has participated in two Space Shuttle missions. He left NASA in 2007. William Wei-lien Chang (1933–), a well-known pathologist formerly of West Virginia University, wrote numerous research articles on cell population kinetics and colon cancer. Kong-cheng Ho (1940–), associate professor of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, authored numerous publications on Alzheimer's disease and the development of the brain.
Several nationally published daily newspapers are aimed at a general Chinese American audience. In addition, some newspapers are linked to Taiwan in both direct and indirect ways. The World Journal, for example, is affiliated with the media magnate Tih-wu Wang and his United Daily News of Taipei.
International Daily News
Established in 1981, the paper features news of the Taiwanese American community.
870 Monterey Pass Road
Monterey Park, California 91754
Phone: (323) 265-1317
Fax: (323) 262-1425
The only bilingual newspaper in New England serving the Asian community, Sampan is published twice monthly.
Ling Mei Wong, Editor
87 Tyler Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Phone: (617) 426-9492
Fax: (617) 482-2316
Sing Tao Daily
Published since 1938, this newspaper is one of the most widely read Chinese-language papers in the world. The New York office reports on both world and local news applicable to the entire Asian community.
108 Lafayette Street
New York, New York 10013
Phone: (212) 699-3800
Fax: (212) 699-3828
This weekly Internet newsletter includes notes on events and happenings in Taiwan.
Edwin Hsiao, Editor in Chief
Friends of Free China
1629 K Street
Washington, D.C. 20006
This Chinese-language publication offers news and events of interest to the Taiwanese community around the world.
P.O. Box 1527
Long Island, New York 11101
Phone: (609) 750-0731
This newspaper, publishing since 1976, offers Chinese-language news for the North American community. It is published in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Vancouver, and Toronto.
14107 20th Avenue
Whitestone, New York 11357
Phone: (718) 746-8889
Fax: (718) 746-6509
Broadcasts programs in several Asian languages, including Chinese.
747 East Green Street
Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (626) 568-1300
Chinese news programming every morning.
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Phone: (415) 386-KUSF
Programming in Cantonese and Mandarin.
Luis Mendoza, General Manager
1750 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, California 94111
Phone: (415) 945-7149
Some Chinese programming.
1990 South Bundy Drive
Los Angeles, California 90025
Phone: (310) 478-1818
Fax: (310) 479-8118
Chinese news programming and a Friday night movie in Chinese.
100 Valley Drive
Brisbane, California 94005
Phone: (515) 468-2626
Fax: (415) 467-7559
ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Many Taiwanese American organizations have been founded to promote Taiwanese-U.S. relations, a free Taiwan, or both. Others have formed around business and professional themes and concerns.
Formosan Association for Human Rights (FAHR)
A national organization that monitors and promotes human rights in Taiwan, with sixteen chapters and a monthly newsletter.
Linda Lin, President
2403 Millikin Drive, Arlington
Phone: (817) 261-3929
Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA)
Attempts to affect U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan.
Mark L. Kao, President
552 7th Street SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
Phone: (202) 547-368
Fax: (202) 543-7891
North America Taiwanese Professors' Association (NATPA)
Professors and senior researchers of Taiwanese origin or descent join to encourage educational exchange and cultural understanding among the Taiwanese and other peoples worldwide. The association promotes scientific and professional knowledge, seeks to further the welfare of Taiwanese communities in North America and Taiwan, and sponsors research and lectures on topics related to Taiwan.
Shyu-Tu Lee, President
P.O. Box 873704
Vancouver, Washington 98687-3704
Taiwanese Association of America (TAA)
Promotes friendship and welfare among Taiwanese Americans and those concerned with Taiwanese human rights.
Shi Tadao, Chairman
Taiwan Benevolent Association of America (TBAA)
Promotes the culture of Taiwanese Americans, offering them a group of like-minded peers. Several states, including California, have TBAA chapters.
Taiwanese United Fund (TUF)
This organization encourages cultural exchange and understanding between Taiwanese Americans and other cultural communities in the United States.
3001 Walnut Grove Ave
Rosemead, California 91770
Phone: (626) 569-0692
Fax: (626) 569-0637
MUSEUMS AND RESEARCH CENTERS
Center for Taiwan Studies (CTS)
As part of the University of California, Santa Barbara's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, the CTS researches and promotes Taiwan-related academic activities. Its aim is to study Taiwan and Taiwanese culture as separate from China.
Kuo-Ch'ing Tu, Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California 93106
Phone: (805) 893-8835
SOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY
Chee, Maria W. L. Taiwanese American Transnational Families: Women and Kin Work. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Chen, Carolyn. Getting Saved in America: Taiwanese Immigration and Religious Experience. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Copper, John F. Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? 2nd ed. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.
Davison, Gary Marvin, and Barbara E. Reed. Culture and Customs of Taiwan. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Harrell, Stevan, and Huang Chün-chieh, eds. Cultural Change in Postwar Taiwan. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.
Hsiang-shui Chen. Chinatown No More: Taiwan Immigrants in Contemporary New York. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Ng, Franklin. The Taiwanese Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.