1993 / 11月
Sunny Hsiao /tr. by Robert Taylor
While a light sea breeze blows lazily across the hubbub of human voices which fills Tanshui, the sound of an outdoor karaok performer singing Tanshui at Dusk outside the temple entrance plucks gently at the sightseers' heartstrings. On 23 October this little town, which appears so often in Taiwanese films, held a cultural "carnival" - the "Tanshui Culture Fair." For the grown-ups, it was an important cultural event, while for the children it was just an exciting day out.
That day the simple, usually lonely old streets came alive with the throng of visitors. The famous fishballs and "iron eggs" (eggs boiled in diluted soy sauce until small and hard) attracted many customers, and the exhibits, books, magazines and other records of Tanshui's history opened a window on the town's past. The You Theater put on local opera performances in the streets, and to watch figures being blown from hot malt sugar was mouth-watering fun for adults and children alike. . . .
But after the last tunes had died away and the visitors were gone, Tanshui fell back into its old slumber. Just what is the value of a little old town such as this with its characteristically Taiwanese atmosphere?
"Tanshui! It's the place which bore and suckled us . . . we are bound to her not only by understanding, but also by life and emotion. . . no matter how her lofty mountains and sparkling waters may be despoiled, her deep human intimacy diluted, as long as we live on this island of Taiwan, she will always be home to our spirits," Su Wen-kui, editor of the periodical Hu Wei Chieh wrote in an article.
In another article, Huang Jui-mao has observed: "A city is an artificial environment created by human beings over time, imbued with collective emotions accumulated over long periods of the human struggle for existence, and expressed in a real spatial environment through the concerns and practical operation of a specific culture. All aspects of t his developmental experience find expression in the little town of Tanshui."
But with Taiwan's soaring property prices and the headlong rush of urban development, can these old town houses, draped over Tanshui's undulating topography on the traditional long rectangular plots so typical of this province, survive?
Some say yes, some no; as yet we cannot be sure.
A recent example of what may happen can be found in the town of Sanhsia in Taipei County, where spring brings weeks of rainfall. In May, a baroque-style building in Sanhsia's Minchuan Street, the whole of which was protected as a "Class C Historic Site," collapsed. This brought protests and calls for the street to be demolished and rebuilt whom residents who demanded that they should be restored the right to "do with their property as they wish." But against them were raised the voices of scholars who insisted that the government should stand by its responsibility to preserve this cultural asset.
With neither side willing to compromise, the question at the heart of the dispute was this: when preservation and redevelopment are in-compatible, which should take priority?
Faced with the vehement protests of Sanhsia residents, in August the Ministry of the Interior, under whose remit the buildings fell, saw no alternative but to lift the "ban" protecting the site. But the issue has not really been resolved, for what is to become of other historical sites?
Some people have questioned whether, if things go on in this way, Taiwan will not become a place without "history"! Is there really no way to make balanced choices between the old and the new?
Associate Professor Yu Chao-ching of Chung Yuan University's Graduate School of Architecture comments: "One cannot just apply the concept of 'freezing' historic sites to a living community. The defining characteristic of a community is change." Thus when tackling similar situations he would always "first talk with residents about improving public facilities."
Of course, that is just the first step. The real key to preserving cultural assets is to successfully bring together the work of all agencies involved, and arrive at a consensus. Our cover story this month will help you better understand the battle over the preservation of cultural monuments which Taiwan is facing.
With inflation and the rising value of its currency, the Republic of China on Taiwan has seen negative growth in its income from tourism, but at the same time it has been gradually acquiring a new attraction which draws Chinese people to the island not to look at scenery, but to try to have children!
In Taiwan, the "test-tube baby" technique --in vitro fertilization (IVF) --has reached quite a high level of sophistication, and the advantages of lower cost and ease of communication are not to be overlooked.
For instance, at Taipei's Veterans' General Hospital, the success rate per cycle of IVF treatment is around 30%. In the USA, the success rate for IVF averaged 25% nationally in 1991.
As for the cost, one cycle of treatment in Taiwan costs NT$70- 80,000 in medical fees, compared with around NT$270,000 for the same procedure in the USA and around NT$400,000 in Britain.
Moreover, a common language and ethnic background remove many communication problems for patients, and doctors here are much more aware of the cultural importance to the Chinese of the Confucian precept that "there are three great unfilial acts, and the worst of these is not bearing offspring."
In this month's feature "Test-Tube Babies (Made in Taiwan)" we give an overview of fertility treatment in Taiwan, with its strengths and weaknesses. We also attempt to clarify the common but mistaken impressions that "test-tube babies shouldn't have Down's syndrome," or that "reproductive technology creates people."
The technique of in vitro fertilization is not the same as comprehensive testing during pregnancy, and a foetus produced by artificial fertilization can suffer any of the defects which may affect a naturally fertilized child, including Down's syndrome which results from a chromosomal mutation.
Furthermore, the name "test-tube baby" refers to fertilization of the ovum in the test tube, and does not mean that the baby develops in the test tube. This is another aspect about which many people are confused.
While researching the article, we came across many moving stories. A couple who, after being "pronounced" infertile, had gone through the long and difficult process of treatment, held each other and wept when the wife finally became pregnant; a mother who after enduring the pain of the procedures involved gave birth to a baby with a congenital heart defect was neither bitter nor regretful, but full of since re gratitude . . . .
Although there are many problems which can be solved by technology, there are even more which cannot. While the ROC's achievements in fertility treatment are certainly worthy of praise, there are still many infertile couples who are left disappointed. One scholar faced up frankly to the fact that he could have no son and heir, saying with a chuckle: "One's past lives have to be faultless to earn such happiness!" Can his words give any consolation to infertile couples?