Thankful for Cats, Pies, and Puppets
Happy Thanksgiving! A short post of Treasure Hill and National Taiwan Museum.
Happy Thanksgiving! Michelle’s dear cousin Margaret spoiled us by cooking up a meal replete with delicious turkey and stuffing and everything else, including three different pies. We’re thankful to have felt the warmth of home amidst the dreary Taipei weather. (It’s been really bad!) We’re still writing and reporting some longer pieces, but wanted to share photos of a few recent discoveries in Taipei.
We met up with Liya Yu, an artist-in-residence at Treasure Hill Artist Village and author of a fascinating forthcoming book, Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Formerly a settlement for military veterans, Treasure Hill was scheduled for demolition in the 1990s, but, after activists and artists protested the decision, the city government transformed the area into an artists’ village. The warren of narrow alleyways, snaking around a hillside, is dotted with wall art, cafes, artisan workshops, and art installations.
Since we started noticing the cats in Hualien, we haven’t been able to unsee the overwhelming amount of cat love here. One Treasure Hill artisan shop sells cat bags. Another sold us a lunch of “Japanese cat rice”—soy sauce, bonito flakes, and an egg on rice—so named because it’s a dish of leftovers often fed to cats. (We learned this from a Japanese website that also warns that cat rice is “not a balanced food that contains the necessary nutrition for cats.”)
One installation, by the artist Huang Li-Hui, was a mock visa office where you could apply to become a cat, complete with nooks and crannies where you can hang out after your transformation has taken effect. (We didn’t see any actual cats, nor was there an officer there to process our application. Rude.) The exhibit works both as an absurdist mockery of state immigration procedures and as a paean to cats as guardians of the ultimate nation-state.
Next to a sound art installation, an exhibit showed the artists in the village doing public outreach, using art as therapy for the elderly.
On Saturday morning, we checked out the National Taiwan Museum, the country’s oldest museum, housed in an impressive Japanese colonial-era building. (A shout-out to the friends who showed us around, Shen-yi Liao and Sara Protasi, who seem to know all the kid-friendly gems in Taipei. Check out Sara’s brilliant book, The Philosophy of Envy, here.)
We were struck by these drawings from 1905 by indigenous children who were tasked with jotting down their impressions of a Han Chinese and a Japanese person. The Han Chinese wears a traditional Qing dynasty shirt, and the Japanese person rides a horse that looks like a dragon.
There was also a delightful exhibition on Taiwanese glove puppetry (pò͘-tē-hì). We only had time for a quick walk-through, but we hope to revisit it and write more about it next time:
And in case you want a quick primer, here’s a nice video on the artistry of Taiwanese glove puppetry.
Photos from Readers Around the World
Our former student Jasmine Cowen now teaches elementary school in rural Kentucky, in the Appalachia region. Here’s a picture of her school:
Jasmine teaches at the Hindman Settlement School as a first-year Teach for America corps member. She writes:
The Hindman Settlement School was the first rural social settlement school established in America, providing educations to children in rural mountain areas. Today, the Settlement School is a driver for rural redevelopment and provides writing workshops, Appalachian cultural programs, and dyslexia services for students in the region.
Book Club for January & February: The Brothers Karamazov
We were persuaded by Cyrus Habib, our beloved friend studying to be a Jesuit priest, to read this book. Neither of us has read it for years, but here we go! We’ve both been in dire need of some spiritual rebirth via intellectual pain.
And finally, RIP to the Master.