Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Many Faces of TTT

The fact is, most of the people in this program are young. By young, I mean, 2nd-4th year university students, an average of 18-21 year olds. Not to say that there aren't a large numer of 22 and 23 year olds, but 25 is damn old.

What was I like when I was 20? Naive, immature, unaware, blamed others for things that didn't go my way, unappreciative of all the wonderful turn of events that has been endowed upon me for no reason at all.
What am I like as a 25 year old? Less naive, less immature, more wary, attempt to figure out what I did wrong for things to go badly, growing appreciation for just how lucky I am to be where I am today.
What was I not like when I was 20? Believing that I am better than Taiwanese people who grew up in Taiwan because I happen to grow up in some other place. Lack of thirst and drive to learn about things around me, thinking that it's okay to be ignorant.

That is almost all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

History and background of footbinding in Taiwan

Here's the less interesting part, very general as well and only focused on Taiwan.

Footbinding was a custom passed down from approximately a thousand years ago, though no one really knows the exact time period of when it started: the earliest speculated date is 221 BC - 206 BC, the Qin dynasty. The custom is popular mainly with the Chinese ethnic of Han, though not all cultural groups practiced such a custom (For example we based on the household registration data during the Japanese Colonial period that the Hakka did not hold such practice.). At first, the practice was mainly popular with the wealth royalties, as women were unable to move around and perform laborious work. However, this fashion trend slowly spread to even the poor and by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), as long as it was economically possible, every household with a daughter would bind the daughter’s feet. (CITATION)

During the Qin dynasty, when the Manchurians took over China in 1644, the regime attempted to ban the practice of footbinding and did not allow their own people to begin such practice. Nevertheless, even the Manchurian laypeople, who had never held such practice, became absorbed in this fashion trend of binding the feet, allowing the practice to continue with the Han people for another 100 years, even though, for the most part, they never practiced themselves.
During this time, many women can to Taiwan from China, which not only popularized the custom of footbinding, but it became a mark of status. Nevertheless, in 1895, when Taiwan became under Japanese rule, footbinding came to be seen by the Japanese as a part of the Three Bad Habits (among opium and wearing of the queue) that needed to be eliminated. At the start, there was no official ban issued on footbinding, but the practice was merely advertised as a bad habit through education and the media in order to encourage the women to unbind their feet. For example, a report by the Japanese on a typhoon that hit Taipei On August 6, 1898, which caused a flood and 1390 houses to collapse, stated that of the 85 deaths that were caused by the typhoon, most were women with bounded feet. Many of the educated were the first to begin the anti-footbinding movement. In March, 1900, the first Natural Feet Society was established in Taipei, thereafter many branches of the Society was established in other parts of the province, among with other organizations with similar purpose. However, the custom was not so easily abolished and took until 1915 before an official ban was issued by the Japanese government to stop the practice. During the beginning of the anti-footbinding movement, most of the founders and members of the organizations were men who assured that all the women in their family have unbound their feet.

In 1911, an organization named Taipei Society for Unbinding Feet was established whose members were only women. At the time, it was believed that this type of organizations, originated by uppe rclass women, were the reason why footbinding became elminated so quickly soon after, as the Office of the Governor-General decided in a meeting in 1915 to completely abolish this practice and issued a ban at the beginning of the year. By August, there were approximately 763 000 women who have unbounded their feet, and was continuing to increase annually.

Why was it so difficult to convince the Taiwanese society to stop this custom when women were clearly subjugated to excruciating pain with injuries that hinders their movement for the rest of their lives?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is footbinding?

Thought I'd share some stuff I wrote as an intro to footbinding, I haven't cited the source yet.

One cannot fully comprehend any discussion related to footbinding without understanding the process of how footbinding is done. There are different methods for binding the feet, of course, but all of which involve pressing the toes down as far into the soles of your feet as possible, so that the bones of your toes and your arch break. Then using cotton or silk bandages that are approximately ten feet long and 2-3 inches wide, the feet is wrapped firmly to keep the toes pressed against the sole, so that the broke foot is folded at the arch, and also breaking the side bones to make your feet narrow. The binding is then sewn tightly together and, depending on how wealthy the family is, the bandages get changed from once a week or everyday so that the feet can be cleaned and bandages can be tightened to continue making the feet smaller. This is done for about two to three years until the feet are the ideal length, which is around 3-4 inches.

In spite of the excruciating pain that results from having your feet broken and bounded by tight bandages, the girl is also asked to walk around to further crush the bones of her feet into a desired shape. Often, during this process, infections would result, sometimes leading to gangrene. However, it was seen as fortunate if the toes fall off, as that would make the feet even smaller. What would not be good is when the entire foot needs to get amputated. In fact, an adage that’s often recited by mothers who help bind their daughters’ feet transliterates as “no rot no small, more rot more good”, essentially pointing out that if the flesh doesn’t rot and decay, then it would be difficult for the feet to achieve the desired effect. (CITATION)

Very General, Non-detailed Update of TW

It seems as though I've even abandoned my weak attempt at micro-blogging, not that anyone was encouraging the behaviour to begin with. My Internet at home pretty much blows (slow as hell), though I should be grateful that my friend Bruce has lent me a USB connection stick that allows me to connect tothe Internet anywhere in Taiwan as long as there is cell phone reception.

At any rate, here is a short update with what has been going on in my life in the last few weeks after I left Toronto:

Week 1 (June 24-28th): Taiwan Tech Trek's orientation. We went to TaiChung and area, which is approximately the center area of the Taiwan island. There are about a little more than 200 of us in the program and we were divided into 24 groups. My group only had 8 people and we spent the next four days touring together. I finished uploading the photos of the orientation after three weeks (at the rate of 5 pics a day) on Facebook.

Week 2: First week of work and Adam's arrival. On Monday, I began my position in the Historical Demography Program at Academia Sinica. I am a research assistant for the head of this program and he wants me to do research on footbinding in order to write a conference paper on the subject, backed up by historical demographic data in Taiwan, to be presented at the TTT academic conference. I'm also holding Seminars on how to write effective academic papers. On Tuesday, Adam arrived. I picked him in the wee hours of the morning and from thereon, we toured Taipei whenever I'm not at work.

Week 3: Second week of work and Hong Kong. Nothing general to report except that we took a trip to HK on the weekend. I hope I will end up making an entry about how much HK sucks (IMO).

Week 4: This week. Well since it's not over yet, I will report it later. Prof. Harris and I finally finished the paper we are going to submit to the Cognitive Semiotics journal! I will hopefully upload more pics on Facebook when Adam heads home and I'm less busy after work.