Pictures and words by Taichung City Government
Translated by Cara Steenstra
Anyone who has been to Taichung recently would notice that there have been more and more cultural and artistic activities taking place in the city, and Taichung itself has undergone quite a facelift. Through the efforts of actively promoting cultural diplomacy, Mayor has successfully helped Taichung reclaim the name of "Cultural City".
Taichung Should Not Be Called a Box Office Desert
You might find it hard to believe that a few years back, most world-class cultural and artistic groups would only perform and Taipei City or Kaohsiung City and completely bypass the "cultural city" known as Taichung!
When Jason Hu was elected as the Mayor of Taichung City, he set his sights on rebuilding the cultural environment of the city. He believes that culture is good business. Mayor Hu asked why does everyone remember places like Provence, Paris and London? A city without character is like a person without a face, and what is the face of Taichung? The answer is simple, "culture". Mayor Hu pointed out that "creative economy" has already become one of the leading forces of the 21st century world economy. On average, the world generates US$22 billion worth of business opportunities.
In recent years, Taichung has seen the establishment of many new and unique restaurants, motels, cafés and modern architecture, giving people an image filled with vitality. On the other hand, Taichung is also a city with culture and depth, with its old temples, shrines and other traditional buildings. Taichung city's beauty is a combination of inner and exterior beauty, tradition and modernity.
Taichung's Geographical Advantages Aids in the the Internationalization of the Arts
It is not just Taiwan, but the rest of the Asia Pacific region has not really organized any internationally known arts festival like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Holland Festival, and the Brazilian Samba Carnival. These festivals can bring in a lot of cultural and economic opportunities. Mayor Hu hopes that by developing the characters of Taichung and organizing a festival of that caliber, it would help promote local and international cultural activities, help revive traditions. Taichung has many outdoor requirements that are suitable for large-scale outdoor activities. Kaohsiung is too hot, and it rains too much in Taipei. Whereas Taichung not only has great weather, and is geographically well located for any outdoor exhibitions or performances.
Many famous performers and artistic groups have been invited to perform in Taichung in recent years, such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and famous musician Yo Yo Ma. Mayor Hu's intention is to organize a cultural festival every year so that the public develops a habit of appreciating the arts. If this trend continues, and the name of Taichung gains fame, in ten years, many Asians will be coming to Taichung to take part in this festival. Locally produced activities do not lack luster either. In 2004, the Traditional Arts Festival combined folk opera, puppet shows, shadow puppets, Bei Guan, Nan Guan, folk arts and temple performances. All these were provided free of charge for citizens to enjoy. This not only allows everyone to learn about Taiwan's traditional arts and culture, it also gives these performers a chance to share experiences with one another. In 2004, there was the Spring Arts Festival, Midsummer Arts Festival, the May 5th Taichung City Dragon Boat’s Festival Ming Hua Garden performance of the "Legend of the White Snake" and many other activities. In less than half a year, 170,000 people have already taken part in these activities.
Emphasizing the Cultural Characteristics of the City's Infrastructure
For over three years, Mayor Hu has been using "Culture, Economy and International City" as the key objectives of his administrative policies. The construction of cultural infrastructure development has already been started.
The Outdoor Amphitheater is currently under construction. Once finished, it will not only provide a place for Taichung citizens to enjoy taking part in various cultural activities, it will also be able to accommodate people from the nearby counties. It will also serve as a new landmark for Taiwan's cultural performances. The tourism business will also see a great increase in business opportunities.
Mayor Hu expressed that he believes that this new Outdoor Amphitheater will become a venue for artistic performances, as well as rock or pop music concerts. It might not be the theater of all of Asia, but it would at least be the first in Taiwan. Although there are theatres everywhere, this will certainly be the first large scale outdoors amphitheater in the Chinese-speaking world. Imagine kids from Taipei and Kaohsiung taking the 40-minute’s ride on the High Speed Railway to come to Taichung for a concert, then returning home safely and conveniently before midnight!
The construction of the National Opera House is also a huge event in the cultural world of Taichung. The National Opera House will be of international standard and invite performances of internationally recognized standards. This opera house will also be an important place of international cultural exchange between local groups and international performance troupes. It will also be a place where artistic talents are cultivated and the tradition of art is passed on.
Since coming into office, Mayor Hu has been leading the city government team to continue the promotion of culture and help Taichung take off. Mayor Hu expressed that as long as we stick to our goals, Taichung will definitely become the most vibrant city of Taiwan; therefore Taichung City must continue to move forward.