Bringing Christmas to Taiwan

Western holidays are slowly taking over in Taiwan. I have a student, a high schooler, who said he was tired of Chinese New Year (nong li nian) because it was “stuffy, boring, and too long with too many rituals”. He said he liked Western New Year (yuan dan) because it was happy, upbeat, and “high”! “You do a countdown then boom! A new year is here and everybody’s happy and feeling high!!”, he said.

I don’t blame him. Not to be a cultural anthropologist, but there’s a reason the West was able to go so far in such a short time. Yes, not everything the West has done has been right, some of it outright deplorable. They conquered many nations unjustly. But then one has to ask ” how did these cultures fall?” The answer is probably in the fact that these cultures subscribe to a dark world/cosmology view; the world was created by angry gods, jealous of each other. The sun and the moon are deities that will judge us. And there are spirits everywhere, waiting to grab us etc…

Look at traditional Chinese culture/religion: almost everything about it is dealing with the dead. Taiwanese are not at ease about the fate of their loved ones after they depart this world. Taoism teaches that we all go straight to hell. We can get out by some means; till then our relatives must burn money so we will have something to spend. Our funeral must be loud, otherwise we will be cheated by others in hell. Incense must be burned often.

Then there is the land god (tu di gong) who demands our attention and even puppet shows yearly. If one were to follow Taiwanese folk religion to the letter, his/her ENTIRE DAY, EVERYDAY would be involved in some way with the dead. Then there’s the Farmer’s almanac (nong li biao) which tells us when and where we can do what. And so on.

In the midst of this, comes the idea of a baby coming to earth so that God could be among us. Feel our pain. Know our temptations. Pay for our sins.

Just a story? Even if it was just a story, it’s a better one than angry gods and dead spirits. It’s a lot brighter than going straight to hell to be picked on by richer dead people.

Even if it is just a story, why subscribe to a dark world view? Why not a bright one? Why not “God loves me”, instead of ” there are many angry gods and they will smash you if you don’t burn enough incense”?

Why be so dark when a brighter view will do just as well?

Story or not (you decide for yourself, i for one BELIEVE IT), it’s the greatest one ever told. Even children can understand it. Who can understand that burning 3 incenses means “respect for heaven, respect for earth. respect for man”? Who can get that the I-ching means this or that? Certainly not a farmer or truck driver struggling to put food on the table.

God came as a baby and died and rose again because He loved humankind? It’s a good story.Best one I’ve heard, especially since coming to Taiwan.

Merry Christmas to ALL OF YOU, and a Happy, “High” New Year
Ran the Man

About the Author

Ran the Man is a musician,martial artist, language teacher, and defrocked renegade missionary (really). He has spoken Mandarin for over 20 years and been in Taiwan for over 10. He can be found occasionally in some God-forsaken dives in central Taiwan, where he drinks Coke and rum. See more of Ran's musings at his blog - The Truth About Taiwan

12 Responses to “ Bringing Christmas to Taiwan ”

  1. thanks for editing!!

  2. Ran, stick to the videos of Taiwanese chicks pole dancing. For most of history, the West has been behind China in most aspects of human existence, including virtually all technological ones. Western dominance of the world since 1750 is a historically freaky event that is the result of various colonial projects, including western Christianity, the least tolerant and most jealous of the world’s major religions (except for perhaps Islam), and China’s loss of its technological and social dominance due to foreign domination under the Yuan and again under the Qing. Whatever you may say about Chinese religion, it has not invaded whole continents and destroyed their lives and cultural heritages, unlike Christianity. That’s real darkness, whatever you may claim about brightness.

    Of course, Christianity is not a “brighter” view — that is merely your subjective opinion. You’re not doing cultural anthropology, just ethnocentric twaddle.

  3. I’ll have to take credit for the Taiwanese chicks pole dancing. As far as western holidays in Taiwan, X-mas has left a huge mark. There are X-mas decorations up 24/7/365. I haven’t seen anything like the “Santa Claus nailed to a cross” cross cultural holiday misunderstandings like I have heard of in Japan.

    And Ran, I think the fear of punishment from God rules many Christians lives, as dark as that may be.

  4. taiwanese people live in fear ALL THE TIME. there is no comparison to the free thinking that western people enjoy. the backwardsness and loss of technology of the chinese people is a DIRECT result of DAOISM. even Confucianist say this.
    there is a story:

    a confucianist asked a farmer, “why are you doing that job the old way. there must be some sort of machine that can be made to do the job. the farmer replied” you have left the great Dao. for you long for an easy way to do things”

    daoism is a backwards thinking religion. and to tell the truth highly INTOLERANT.and just so you’ll know WESTERN CORPORATIONS and governments invaded china.

    if christianity is dark (and indeed catholism and past protestantism has made it so) then what is DAOISM? light? bright hope? shining idividualism? hope for the afterlife? give me a break.

  5. if daosim is so good then why are chinese people so dishonest? why do they lie so much? why are they so backwards and superstitious? why are they so confused?
    look at their gods. all scary, dark, mysterious.
    jesus on a cross looks a lot more loving,in my opinon.

    if you think Christianity is dark, do you have a better deal? never mind what people who CLAIM christianity for their own purposes say. look at the basic deal on offer. no incense to burn. no fear. only love and forgiveness. correction. hope for the afterlife., instead of direct flight to hell.

    if daoism is so good, then why are blue truck drivers so violent and ignorant? is that the west’s fault? the west didn’t raise them. daoist parents did.

  6. if daosim is so good, then why don’t most rural people obey the law? why does the mafia run the temples? you look at the States. most people obey basic traffic laws. why are taiwanese mostly selfish? because their RELIGION teaches them to “tchang wei dz”= steal the place. Ma Dzu teaches it when they have to steal the idol on its way to it’s temple. we take steal. push ahead.
    why don’t taiwanese people obey the law? because Daoism teaches a wishy washy morality. that’s why they have a tendency to not be forthright in their business practices as well.
    case in point: most taiwanese believe it is OKAY to cheat in business.

  7. for whatever you can say about hick christians in the US, i have NEVER seen anything more ignorant, violent, dishonest, lawless, and outright evil than rural taiwanese. and i say that as a speaker of Chinese language for 20+ years, and someone who understands the philosophy of yin/yang extremely well.

    Lao DZ was a great philosopher. DAOISM is not LAo DZ.

  8. and christianity is not Christ.

  9. “i have NEVER seen anything more ignorant, violent, dishonest, lawless, and outright evil than rural taiwanese.”

    Very true, except for Rural Chinese, they are the same and even a little worse. I had really hoped that the Taiwanese would be a little more civilized, but they act just the same as the mainlanders. Most of what I see happening here is not even human, animals treat other animals with more compassion and love than these people. Parts of Mainland China are actually starting to progress and move towards the future, but Taiwan, especially rural TW shows no signs of such forward thinking.

    This is not Lao Tzu’s Taoism, this is ‘religious Taoism’ a completely different creature. Nothing more than a means of control and source of $$$. Its quite hard to believe that here in the year 2008 almost 2009 that so many people are ignorant enough to buy into this sham. Billions of dollars are spent on paper money alone in this twilight zone. Unbelievable…

  10. Hi Ran,

    You can flame DAOISM (not Laozi) all you want. You’re right.

    Just as I can flame CHRISTIANITY (instead of Christ), all I want. I’d be right too.

    But there’s really no connection true Daosim and idiots thinking that Daoism makes you live like a caveman.

    Just as there’s no connection between true Christianity and idiots thinking they have slaughter the infidels who won’t convert.

    Don’t be one of those idiots Ran. It’s the people. It’s not their ideas. Nobody is forcing anyone to think like a caveman.

  11. yes it’s the people. unfortunately, the people have created this monster relgion that requires no individual morality, on the giving of offerings to gods for good luck.
    what really is the differenvce between that and selling one’s soul to satan?
    if i were the devil and wanted to make my own relgion, i’d make it folk daoism. it fits the devil perfectly: no moral requirement, you can even be a mafia. just butn that incense to me, and put arrange your house as i tell you too (just like drawaing a pentagram on the floor, gotta be just right) and i’ll give you earthly goods.
    but these people don’t get told that their soul is in the contract.
    daoism(the folk religion) is satanic.

  12. Hi SerinaThis is an ameoswe blog! Will come in handy the next time I go for a visit. Keep up the good work.CheersPace

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