Reidschram's Blog

Jiaoxi/Jiaosi 礁溪 Hot Spring Paradise! 溫泉

Posted in Taiwan by reidschram on May 15, 2010

The Chinese word for Hot Springs is Wen1quan2 溫泉。The verb “to sit” used with 溫泉 is pao4 泡.

A very short train ride, scooter ride, taxi ride, or even bicycle ride north of Yilan is the Hot Spring resort town of Jiaoxi. As soon as you step off the train, you are greeted by a tiny covered foot soaking hot spring pool. There are usually a few folks sitting there relaxing, it really sets the tone for the whole town. If you are coming from Taipei, I suggest you take the Kamalan bus from the Taipei Bus Station. It should take less than hour and cost about 100 kuai.

The middle of Jiaoxi has a amazing park called TangWeiGou. The city built a park with a stream of hot springs water flowing down the center of it. There are many foot soaking pools and a covered area where people are offering foot massage, back massage and private rooms that can be rented. Its really easy to find this little gem. As you come out the Train station, walk until you come to the first main intersection, then take a left and walk 2 blocks and take a right. You can’t miss this park! During peak hours it is crowded with people enjoying the free foot soak, vendors selling food and souvenirs and even performers playing music on Fridays and the weekends. There are of course dozens of other choices for a more private or intensive hot springs experience


Chapter 9 of Practical Audio Visual Chinese

Posted in Uncategorized by reidschram on April 22, 2010

Chapter 9 and 10 of the main text “practical audio visual Chinese” that I use deals mostly with location.

Chapter 9 introduces a group of vocab words of common places words.

When learning Chinese, there are many grammar quirks that you must learn to accept.

For instance, the term Place word. The grammar patterns explored in this chapter include

Subject – 在 – Place Word

for instance


The book is ontop of the table. Without the 上 at the end of table, it is not a place word. Many proper nouns can be modified in this way of adding 上 or 下. The place word cause also be 哪兒 or as they more commonly say in Taiwan 哪裡. This is a question. So the statement 書在桌子上 could be an answer to the question “書在哪兒?”

Of course word order is very different, if looked at more literally you would see “Book is table above”

Using the Subject – 在 – Place Word grammar structure, answering common questions of “Where is the book” or “Where is your friend” etc. can be answered.

For more complex questions and statements we turn to another set of grammar rules.

Lets say someone asks you where something is and the item happens to be located inside of something. The person asking the question doesn’t have to indicate that they know the item is inside of something else, but the answer must make sure this is reflected in the answer. There are many ways to say the same thing, grammar changes where the emphasis is placed.

For example, using the same 書在哪兒? Let say that the book is in the library.

You would reply 圖書館理有書.

Place word 有 Noun

If the person asking the question knew the item would most likely be located inside of something else they would ask.


Moving right along, lets assume you want to say “He is at the library studying”

Subject 在 Place word Verb Object


You could get a phone call and the caller might ask you


Right now where are you and what are you doing?

Your might reply.


I’m at home eating lunch.

Tibetan Buddhism

Posted in Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 21, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this other then seeing their temples and spotting monks in red robes a few times was a shock. It really made me think about how just a few miles west, this belief system, and the people who ethnically identify with it do not enjoy the freedoms that their brethren here on Taiwan have.

Tainan’s Stone Goddess by the Sea 林默娘 (LinMoNiang)

Posted in Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 21, 2010

Tainan casts a magical spell on everyone. Every single person, foreign or native, long time resident or visitor loves Tainan. I have yet to meet anyone who has said anything but good things about Tainan. Maybe this incarnation of Mazu (媽祖) as LinMoNiang (林默娘) adds to the enchanting effect that is Tainan.

Mazu is a guardian of fisherman, the story goes that her Father and brother where fisherman and they were caught in a terrible Typhoon. She fell into a trance and was able to protect her family while in that state, her mother woke her from the trance causing her to loose concentration on her miraculous ability, this resulted in the death of her brother, but her father was able to make it back to land safely.

The story of Mazu, who was born LinMoNiang is especially strong in Fujian province, the area where most mainland Chinese who immigrated to Taiwan were from. Fujian province has always relied heavily on the sea in order to sustain their way of life. This explains why a guardian of seafaring men is so popular.

If you want to see this amazing statue, just head straight towards the ocean as soon as you get off the train. You can’t miss it.

Taiwan’s National Palace Museum in Taipei 國立故宮博物院

Posted in Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 21, 2010

A short bus ride out of the heart of Taipei will take you to one of the best museums in the world with The best collection of Chinese art/artifacts spanning more than 8,000 years.

The National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 is home to over a quarter of a million pieces of Chinese history. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed inside the museum, but let me assure you it is a must see for anyone who finds themselves in Taipei for more than a day and has even the tiniest bit of interest in Chinese history, or appreciation of the arts.

The Museum is huge, there are 3 floors, and several wings to the building. The pieces of art are organized via era and type. For instance, at the top floor are the oldest relics of pre-Chinese civilization. Jade tubes of unknown purpose and ceremonial Jade axe heads.

The main floor of the museum has a lot of the exquisite religious art of China spanning the centuries. Painting, Statues of many types, bronze, wood and stone, and other religious items are grouped together.

The Museum has vaults full of all the pieces, there are so many pieces that at any one time, only about 1% of the inventory is on display. I plan to go again before I leave Taiwan as the pieces on display will have been rotated. Taiwan is also in a earthquake prone area, which provides a unique challenge to Museums of priceless relics. The Taiwanese have solved this problem in ingenious ways, many items that are prone to tipping are anchored via metal wires to ensure they remain standing upright in the event of an earthquake.

If you want to visit the National Palace Museum, take the MRT to the Shilin stop, get off and walk straight out of the MRT station until you see a bus stop. Many of the buses go by the NPM, I remember taking one of the red lines (895 i think?) to the Museum,

Yilan’s 宜蘭 Memorial Hall built during the Japanese Rule

Posted in Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 21, 2010

Yilan is home to a extremely beautiful historical building complex. The Buildings construction began in 1900, 5 years after the Japanese assumed control of Taiwan after the Qing dynasty’s defeat in the first sino-japanese war.

The buildings have been restored and turned into a museum, the main building shows the different phases Yilan has gone through under the Qing, Japanese, and KMT rule.

A main factor in deciding to restore the memorial hall and its adjacent buildings was a 100 year old Camphor tree that is inside the walled courtyard. Officials realized preserving the tree foolish by itself was foolish and decided to invest in creating a historical center.

There are three main buildings, one is devoted to showing history of the area through the years. Another is focused on traditional Chinese instruments. And a third has been converted into a restaurant.

The building housing the musical instruments is my favorite, the history building was very interesting, but everything was in Chinese, so I was really only able to appreciate the architecture and design. I was taken there by one of my Chinese teachers as a field trip, but her English skills were limited.

Through my own research, I have learned more about how the Japanese really developed different industries in Yilan (and all over Taiwan) during their 50 years of rule. Yilan’s timber industry saw much modernization and increase in capacity under the Japanese.

The tastefulness of these buildings still astounds me, they are a welcome sight as I pass by them on my way to school. If you are in Yilan and would like to see this building, it is right behind the Luna Plaza.

Review of Far East Everyday Chinese

Posted in Learning Mandarin, Taiwan by reidschram on March 18, 2010

Winter quarter at Fo Guang University allowed me to use a different book for learning Mandarin Chinese. The book is called “Far East Everyday Chinese”. Sold alongside the main textbook, is a student workbook and two sets of CD’s. One set of CD’s goes with the textbook and allows you to follow along with many exercises and dialogues in the book. For example, you can listen to conversations that are shown in picture form in the book, listen to a native speaker pronounce Mandarin sounds and tones, and there are also some questions that require answering in the book based on what you heard. The book and CD will often have a drill that says “Don’t worry if you don’t know every word in this conversation, just try to answer the question as best you can”. Whenever you come across that, you will hear two people speaking, and there be questions like, “Why was person A calling person B”. Or “What did Person A want to buy from person B”. I like to use pencil when I do these exercises, so as to not ruin the book.
The book follows a good and predictable format. Each lesson is based around a theme. For example, Lesson 3 teaches you to ask for things at a variety of stores, and be able to pay for them. Lesson 4 is centered around making phone calls and setting up appointments. The first page of each chapter, gives a brief overview of the Vocabulary you should expect to learn, and the new rules of grammar these vocab words will be tied into. Each chapter is usually broken into about 3 Dialogues. There will be a picture, that gives you reference to the conversation that is written in both Chinese and Pinyin. You will listen to this conversation on the CD before you are taught the vocabulary or the grammar. After every dialogue, the vocabulary will be shown to you, and included is a short sentence for reference. There will then be a series of drills, and explanations about the grammar you have just been exposed to. Then another dialogue will be shown, and the vocabulary and grammar explained.
I really enjoy this textbook. It is a refreshing change from the Practical Audio Visual materials that I have used before, and am still currently using. I like Far East Everyday Chinese because it gives real world examples of Chinese. Living in Taiwan, what I have learned from the Far East book is far more helpful in daily life. Being able to buy food, ask how much something is, address store owners properly and learn more common forms of speech is invaluable when you are surrounded by it all day everyday.
The workbook and its accompanying CD follow a basic pattern, at least in the early chapters that I have thus far completed. The workbook lessons average 5-7 pages. The first two pages are devoted to using the workbook CD to listen to a native speaker pronounce Mandarin words, you are asked to do a variety of things based on what you hear. Sometimes it is putting tone marks over the pinyin that is printed in the workbook, and other times you are asked to write out the word in pinyin and then write the Chinese character next to it. Sometimes you just have to circle the correct pinyin choice based on what you hear. After that there is no more listening exercises for the remaining 3-5 pages. A variety of exercises are requested of you. For example, sometimes you are asked to match characters based on their radical, sometimes you are give an English sentence and asked to translate it and write it in both Pinyin and Chinese characters. Sometimes you are given a handful of sentences and asked to arrange them into a coherent conversation. There are pictures shown and you are asked to write sentences based on the pictures. Fill in the blank, multiple choice and so on. There is quite a variety of exercises and they vary chapter to chapter. This is a stark contrast to the Audio Visual materials which are very repetitious and predictable.
Once again I must say that I really enjoy this book. I think I will complete Book I of Far East Everyday Chinese during Spring quarter at Fo Gaung University’s Chinese Language Instruction Center.

Taroko Gorge 太魯閣 (Tàilǔgé)

Posted in Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 17, 2010

The beautiful marble gorge that adorns the Eastern side of Taiwan just north of Hualien, is usually known to foreigners by the name “Toroko”. The term Taroko is said to have come from the Truku tribe of Taiwan. The word means beautiful and magnificent. Many times did I mention the wonders this place holds to my Taiwanese friends using the aboriginal term, and many time I got nothing but puzzled looks. Once I had learned how to say it in Mandarin, everyone knew what I was talking about.

Taroko is most easily accessed via Hualien. I took a train from the north to Hualien, there I stayed in the “Formosa Backpackers Hostel” for the night and got up early to take the bus that runs several times a day up to 天祥 (Tian1xiang2). I was lucky enough to meet a young French man and his Taiwanese girlfriend. His name was Phillip and he smoke great English. His girlfriend didn’t speak English but spoke fluent French. I spent the day with them walking down from the top of Taroko gorge down towards swallow grotto. It was amazing to ask Phillip a question in English, have him relay the question in French to his girlfriend who would then ask a park staff member in Chinese. Of course the answer would come back to me through the same process. This made me really appreciate language.
Many tribes used to live in and around Taroko gorge. The many phases of history that Taiwan has undergone has displaced, massacred, or via assimilation caused the way of life the aboriginal people of this area used to have to disappear.

The archaeologist’s and anthropologists are still finding out more about the people who inhabited this area. For a long time it was thought the Ami people were the main tribe that occupied the area.

I have never been to the Grand Canyon, but, I imagine it being similar to Taroko and made of sandstone instead of marble. In many places you the grain of the marble was twisted several times, this and the hot springs all over the island and frequent earthquakes are another reminder of Taiwan’s active life.

Taiwan is a extremely active geological site. The island owes its existence from that. Being thrust up from the sea floor by colliding tectonic plates. The peak of Yushan is almost 13,000 ft. That is really impressive when you realize just a few miles to the east of it the ocean is several thousand feet deep.

Fo Guang University 佛光大學 (FGU)

Posted in Learning Mandarin, Photo Essay, Taiwan by reidschram on March 17, 2010

Fo Guang Shan


Fo Guang University is a private school with the main branch located in the hills of Jiaoxi 礁溪 (jiao1xi1). The Chinese Language Instruction Center is in the heart of Yilan City 宜蘭 (yi2lan2). Getting to FGU from either the Train Station or the Bus Stop is very easy considering both both places always have Taxi cabs around them. Ask the Taxi driver to take you to “Lei Yin Si4”. That has worked for me everytime.

When you get to the building, as you walk in the front door, look to your left and you’ll see glass doors, that is the office area of FGU.

The Yilan branch of FGU is located inside of a large building that is a Buddhist Temple among other things. The monks who live in the building are female Mahayanist’s. There is a cafeteria in the basement that is all vegetarian, and meat is not allowed to be brought into the building.

The building is about 15 stories tall, and many of the floors are used by members of the community to teach everything from Yoga, Kung fu, Calligraphy 書法 (shu1fa3), guzheng 古箏 (gu3zheng1) and Weiqi 圍棋 (wei2qi2) etc.

There are many Fullbright students in the Chinese Language Instruction Center (CLIC). I find it odd because I only met one during my studies at Cheng Kung University in Tainan (NCKU). There are very few students who attend the CLIC, most of them come over in groups as part of FGU’s exchange program. I have met a group of Latin American students and a group of Korean students since I’ve been studying there.

Often there are art exhibits for the community to enjoy. Since my time here I have seen a Calligraphy exhibit of a lead monk, and a photo exhibit of pictures of Taiwanese aboriginal life.

In Taiwan, occasionally the characters will be written Right to Left. Not often, but enough to confuse foreigners!

I won the Gilman Scholarship!!!

Posted in Learning Mandarin, Taiwan by reidschram on March 17, 2010

I, alongside about a dozen other Evergreen State College students were lucky enough to win the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship.

This scholarship is targeted towards students who want to study abroad. It gives preference to those who will remain in a foreign country for at least 14 days, and it is there first time studying abroad. Further preference is given to those who choose to study outside of western Europe or Australia/New Zealand. Those who choose to study a language of critical need while abroad receive further preference and become eligible for up to another 3,000 dollars in scholarship aid. Among the languages of critical need are: Arabic, Persian, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese, Japanese, Russian.

More information can be found here There are several cycles of Gilman awards each year, and one should check on their website frequently.

Here is a copy of the essay I wrote that helped me to win the Scholarship

Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity that most people in the world are not able to experience. Those who are able to study abroad should, because of the immense value of an experience as a student outside of the country can be.

Diving into another society, culture, and language is an intense experience. Being forced to rapidly adapt to a alternate lifestyle will be an experience of a lifetime. Seeing how another group of people live and interact should allow me to reflect on my own country’s customs and ways of maintaining civilization. I think this alternative perspective is vital in our changing world, as the human race continues to expand and progress, we must observe one another and borrow each other’s strong points if we hope to be responsible to the future.

As the interconnectedness of the world charges forward with no signs of slowing down, the demand for multilingual global citizens has never been higher. I strongly believe that Americans fluent in Mandarin will be invaluable as businessmen, lawyers, teachers, diplomats, doctors, scientists and many more professions throughout all social strata. Most people believe learning Mandarin is a daunting task and next to impossible. The brave few who are willing to put forth the effort and truly apply themselves will be able to provide much needed services to society.

Studying Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.

Before the 1990’s, Americans who wished to study Chinese, went almost exclusively to Taiwan. As China began to ‘open up’ during the 1990’s and allowed more travel and provided incentives for foreign students, Taiwan lost much of its students to Mainland China. Taiwan is much more appealing than Mainland China to me for several reasons, among them, are its open democracy and freedom of beliefs.

Many who come to study Chinese in Taiwan, do not posses a high degree of commitment, these students who are not very sincere in their studies can be extremely distracting in a classroom environment. I did some research and found that several of the most popular Mandarin language programs in Taipei have larger class sizes and a higher ratio of potentially disruptive students. Information regarding the various Chinese learning facilities is readily available on the internet, allowing easy comparisons.

After much research I found a intensive Mandarin course on the northeast side of the island at Fo Guang university. This facility offers a 20 hour a week course over 16 weeks. When compared to most universities that offer a 12 week program of 15 hours a week, the difference is clear. Also Fo Guang offers one hour of one on one training everyday, another aspect that makes it exceptional and unique.

With almost 900 Million speakers, the demand for Mandarin speakers has never been higher. I hope that by learning Mandarin I will open up many job opportunities. Picking up English edition of Mandarin language newspapers and flipping to the classifieds, one finds quite a few jobs for those who are able to speak both English and Mandarin. Many Taiwanese universities offer very impressive scholarships to students who are pursuing Graduate degrees, provided they understand enough Mandarin to be able to successfully comprehend the class.

In Taiwan, many Taiwanese speak a little English, it is part of their final testing before they graduate high school. Also military service is mandatory for men and they receive more English training during their 2 years of service. Most Taiwanese I encounter want to practice their English with me, and they are willing to help me with my Mandarin. Spending informal time with local people teaching English and learning Mandarin is a great experience, and a good way to quickly learn the surrounding area, shops, restaurants, libraries, hospitals etc. Also being friendly with the locals gives a window into their opinions and point of views of local and world events. Once again I think it is very important to understand how people in different parts of the world and from other cultures view the events that are unfolding in our lifetimes.

The challenges any student faces when he chooses to leave his native country to study abroad are daunting. I by no means find my situation especially difficult as I recognize the difficulty all students face. In fact I think Taiwan is a very friendly place to foreigners and probably much more forgiving than some places American students choose to study.