Located 180 km off the coast of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan – officially the Republic of China – is a small island nation-state with a treasure of natural beauty and pristine surroundings. Also referred to as “Asia’s economic miracle”, this tiny country has one of the world’s fastest-growing GDP. Often out of the itinerary of international tourists in Asia, a visit to Taiwan is definitely going to be a shocker. Its lush green mountains, the scenic beauty of the Chinese countryside, as against the bustling metropolis of Taipei and its other major cities, are a sight for sore eyes. Taiwan literally is beautiful as its traditional name Formosa translates to in Portuguese.
My rendezvous with this country came as part of an academic exchange. At the end of four months, however, I realized that there was a lot more that I had experienced and learnt there than just the academics. As an Indian, there indeed was a ‘cultural shock’ that awaited me in Taiwan as I started my stay. Humanitarianism practised as a religion made me question the very foundations of our own faiths, often manifested in the form of communal clashes and the loss of innocent lives. The idea of Buddha is so deeply embodied in the very tradition of the country that despite the shortcomings that occur in any political state, the majority of people are in a state of harmony and peace. Coming from a country where all of us complain about hygiene and cleanliness, I felt uncomfortable when asked to clean my own garbage and wash the bathroom and found that there was nobody to be blamed. I wondered whether Gandhi would have found his Sevagram in the households of Taipei.
Taiwan is indeed a fascinating place. Unlike communist China, infamous for its pseudo-autocratic regime and censorship, Taiwan has emerged as an exceptionally successful democracy with an open-minded culture and freedom of expression. It is no doubt the hard work and dedication towards excellence that the people of this country have demonstrated, that has led to this miracle. I have no intention to write a critique on India keeping Taiwan as a reference frame. I only wish that instead of brawling about foreign policies with the global ‘superpowers’, we should also engage culturally with lesser-known places (Taiwan is smaller than the state of Bihar) that can teach us how to be happy and content.
And yes, do visit Taiwan if you can. If you can, you must!
“When there is no more magic
And there is no God,
When all heavenly bodies have been flattened,
And ichthyological specimens begin to swim,
Then, my Maybe Man,
We will have a happy reunion.”
~Ji Xian, Modern Taiwanese poet