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Folk Stories of Taiwan

"Folk Stories of Taiwan" is part of the Taiwanese Tradition Series presented by the Culture Committee, Houston Taiwanese School of Languages and Culture. It explores some of Taiwanese folk tales, parables and mythologies, and introduces some of Taiwan's geographic landmarks and historical heroes as well. Through them, you may find a moral or religious lesson or the values underlying the culture. Hopefully, this will help you understand the difference between American and Taiwanese cultures.

What is special about the stories in this book is that most of the articles were translated or edited by second-generation Taiwanese Americans. They are attending high school, college or graduate school, and some of them have attended this Taiwanese School.

The Stories:

The Legend of Sun-Moon Lake
This myth originates from the Shao tribe, living in Central Taiwan. The "holding ball dance" was originally a popular game among the southern aborigines. The story tells of the sacrifices of a young couple in search of the sun and the moon to save people's lives.
The Legend of Muddy River
Chou Shui Hsi is the largest river in Taiwan. It originates from Mt. Chi-Lai and passes through several big pristine forests. Soil and sediment is carried downstream from the mountains, making the river muddy, as the name implies.
The Lake of the Sisters and the Three Brothers
On the famous Mount Ali (Alishan), the Lake of the Sisters and Three brothers accompany eachother, making for a harmonious natural scenery. Read this aboriginal legend to find out how this came about.
Ban Pin Shan
Ban Pin Shan means "Half-faced mountain". It is named as its shape implies. This story tells about the virtue of integrity and the values of kindness and selflessness.
The Aboriginal Hero
The Atayal tribe suffered for many years under the harsh rule of the Japanese. Eventually, this tribe revolted and fought for their freedom. many lives were lost. This famous "Wu-She" incident inspired many Taiwanese to stand up against Japanese rule.
The Tigress Witch (Hoko Po)
Do you believe in the strange ability of animals to change themselves into humans ? Remember the story of the three little pigs ? Read this story about a smart little Taiwanese girl named A-kim, and her encounter with the Tigress Witch.
Little Frog in the Well
Many people are only aware of the things they see and hear in their own small world. They often ignore what's going on outside of their daily lives. This can be bad, as the small frog in this story learned.

Background on Taiwan

Taiwan is located between the Philippines and Japan, 100 miles off the coast of China. It is roughly the size of the Netherlands and the state of West Virginia, USA. A number of smaller, nearby islands have had historic association with Taiwan, including the Pescadores, Green Island, Orchid Island, and Shiao LiuChiu.

About 15% of Taiwan's residents are refugees from the mainland who came over with the KMT in 1945-1949 and their Taiwanborn descendants. The rest of the population are called 'native Taiwanese', who are the descendants of the settlers who arrived 350 or more years ago who intermarried with the Malay-Polynesian indigenous population. About 70% are 'Minnan' and speak the 'Hoklo' language. Another 12-15% are descended from Hakka immigrants and speak the 'Hakka' language. Approximately 1.8 percent of the people are Indigenous people of Malay-Polynesian descent; there are approximately ten tribes with distinct languages and cultures.

Throughout 400 years of history, Taiwan has been occupied by the Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. Although Chinese culture has exerted a considerable influence on local traditions, Japanese and Western culture have as well. There are also some uniquely Taiwanese aspects of local culture, such as opera, folk music, literature and film.

Those interested in Taiwanese traditional puppet theatre and who have "Big-5" character-capability, can visit the site of the Academia Sinica.

© Houston Taiwanese School of Languages and Culture, 1995

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