Focus: Do We Still Know How To Celebrate?

Focus: Do We Still Know How To Celebrate? (9)


Chinese New Year has become an international festival. Anchored into the calendar of ancient and rural China, it takes new significance in different times and places. What do we celebrate exactly at the time of Chinese New Year? How does it affect family life? What does it teach us about the importance of celebrating together in our post-modern societies, from East to West? More generally this Focus takes the opportunity of Chinese New Year to offer insights and reflections on the way we celebrate. Do our rituals and festivals still carry significance and if so, which do they convey?


Focus: The Legacy of Matteo Ricci

Focus: The Legacy of Matteo Ricci (19)



The Legacy of Matteo Ricci

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Father Matteo Ricci. This remarkable Jesuit not only signifies the spread of the Catholic Church to China but also in his partnership with Xu Guangqi, introduced and shared European astronomy and maths and science, further enriching Chinese society and its education system.

In this Focus, we will not only be looking in greater detail at the achievements and legacy of the great man, how he changed the world and how his spirit of this pioneer in dialogue lives on;  but also we will show how our umbrella organisation, the Taipei Ricci Institute is renewing Ricci's legacy, that of his encounter with Xu Guangqi and indeed our own Institutes mission and relevance today. Thus we announce the opening of the Matteo Ricci - Pacific Studies Room in the National Central Library, Taiwan; the Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at Fudan University in Shanghai, and the release of an electronic version of the Grand Ricci - which was the very first and most complete dictionary between Chinese and any European language.




Focus: City and Poetry

Focus: City and Poetry (14)


Can city inspire poetry?

This issue of eRenlai explores these three dimensions: what kind of poetic feelings will a city arise within our hearts? How can the city proper be read as a giant poetic work? And how can we foster the poetic soul of the cities we inhabit? Let us hope that this issue will inspire all of us, and that it may reach the ones who are responsible for city planning. Our future will not depend only on their technical ability but rather on the way they will be able to respect and foster our dreams, our fantasies and our creativity…


Focus: Challenges for Higher Education

Focus: Challenges for Higher Education (13)


Challenges for Higher education in Asia

Higher education (HE) has grown from being the sole preserve of the elite to a global industry. Throughout Asia and the world, universities compete to attract the most talented students both from at home and abroad. Increasingly it is more than just good grades that will get high school graduates into HE, rich students who might not quite have the academic record but do have the capacity to pay tuition fees are proving alluring for cash-strapped HE facilities. But beyond being trained to judge the Pareto efficiency of an economic decision or how many newtons of force a bridge should be able to withstand, what exactly are HE students being trained in and how prepared are they for the workforce? Perhaps more importantly, how does HE prepare graduates for the 'real' world?

Focus: Death penalty in the 21st century

Focus: Death penalty in the 21st century (10)

focus_dp_cover74This month, we explore issues related to death penalty. Here in Taiwan, the spotlight has shifted back to this subject with the recent restoration of executions by the government after a 4-year break. In light of this, we have prepared a series of articles and interviews that explore death penalty in the 21st century. As always, we welcome your comments on the articles. Death penalty is an important topic that should be actively debated.

Focus: Snapshots of Religious Innovation in Asia

Focus: Snapshots of Religious Innovation in Asia (17)



eRenlai has whipped out the ol' Polaroid camera and taken some 'Snapshots of religious innovation in Asia'. We've put together a colourful album that highlights some of the lesser known sites in the Asian religious landscape. So crack open a beverage, kick back and join in as we fire up the slide projector for a stimulating night in. Religion in Asia is constantly evolving. Old ideas are reinvented, repackaged or renewed, ready to re-enter the market. This fascinating aspect of public life isn't always easily accessible to those of us out of the loop. Take this chance to learn a bit about religious innovation in Asia. Who knows - one of these groups might becoming to a city near you...

Focus: Free Memory 2010 TIDF

Focus: Free Memory 2010 TIDF (24)


In October 2010 was held in Taichung the 7th biennial Taiwan International Documentary Festival. eRenlai was omnipresent at the festival; working in collaboration with the festival, providing festival snaps, videos and cutting-edge interviews with the best in the lonely, but precious art of documentary. The festival showed its continued prestige inviting some of the biggest names in the documentary world from North America, Europe and Asia including producers, directors, editors and cameramen whilst not turning its back on Taiwan's own documentary trade with its many workshops, lectures and the Taiwan Award. This focus will take this occasion to look at the power and importance of documentary in the contemporary world of overloaded, abused information and the flux audiovisuel and explore the festivals main theme of 'Free Memory'.

Focus: Challenged but not disabled

Focus: Challenged but not disabled (22)




In memory




Bob Ronald, SJ


1932 - 2009


Focus: Turning East, Taiwan's Pacific Frontier

Focus: Turning East, Taiwan's Pacific Frontier (12)

This month's Focus explores Pacific culture in Taiwan and its place in the wider Austronesian and Pacific context.

Focus: Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific

Focus: Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific (17)

In February the newly established Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies brought to Taiwan a flurry of distinguished guests from all over Oceania to rediscover their sea of islands with their first conference: Mapping and Unmapping the PacificIn this Focus we bring you the highlights of the footage from over a dozen scholars leading us into a new era of cooperation, based on respect and common struggles.

Focus: Beyond the Pale, Architecture in Taiwan

Focus: Beyond the Pale, Architecture in Taiwan (22)

In this month’s Focus on Architecture in Taiwan - Beyond the Pale - we search for the “improper” buildings, those beyond the reach of authority, those with humanity, character and impulsiveness; yet, despite this non-conformity, they appear to be in harmony with nature.

Focus: New Energy in Taiwan's Social Movements

Focus: New Energy in Taiwan's Social Movements (9)

In this month's Focus, eRenlai reveals the innovation and creativity of Taiwan's most dynamic social movements, with activist Zijie Yang as our trusted guide.

Focus: The Everyman of Taiwanese Theatre

Focus: The Everyman of Taiwanese Theatre (8)

In recent years, Taiwanese Theatre has made an attempt to reach out to ordinary people in Taiwan. Trying to span the crevasse between the traditional theatre-going audience, mainly consisting of the upper middle-class and the imaginary of the Taiwanese "everyman", those who have never set foot in a theatre before. This has led to a new cacophony of theatrical forms aimed at removing the esoteric elitist reputation. In this month’s focus, we take a closer look at some new theatrical forms in Taiwan, and influences from abroad.

Focus: Navigating your 20s in Taiwan

Focus: Navigating your 20s in Taiwan (7)

The fact that Taiwan's population is "aging" has been much hyped in news media over the last couple of years, so this month eRenlai attempted to read between the headlines, so to speak, and to find out how the choices young people are making in their lives - in terms of career, education and family - affects the population as a whole.

Focus: A Portrait of China Emerging

Focus: A Portrait of China Emerging (10)

09_thumbThe narrative of China's emergence that has predominated in the Western press over the last decade is one of a racially homogenous economic superpower in ascendance; the West seems to characterize China simply in terms of its potential as a huge untapped market to be exploited or as a threat to Western cultural and economic hegemony. This month, eRenlai hopes to offer an alternative perspective on China's emergence, wherein the reality of China's racial and spiritual heterogeneity and multicultural legacy can be borne witness to on a level more fundamental than that of Nationalism. Away from the rhetoric and scare-mongering of politics and economics is the space where one can experience China on a more personal and experiential plane. eRenlai has picked a variety of stories that span the last decade which paint an alternative picture of China in its period of rapid development, focusing primarily on rural life.

Focus: Human Animals and Animal Humans

Focus: Human Animals and Animal Humans (9)

This month eRenlai looks to the other species that inhabit this planet and our relationship with them - non-human animals. We rarely question the licence we grant ourselves in our conception of animals as a ‘lower’ species, in this focus we investigate this idea from several different perspectives. First, Eric Charmetant examines how contemporary research disturbs our ancestral certainties about the difference between man and animals while Conor Stuart has reviewed two films which give an insight into the different ways that people interact with animals, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and Errol Morris’s Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. We then move to Professor Huang Zong-Hui who gave us a mini-lecture on the blurring of the conventional line drawn between animals and humans in literature, and an interview on the current state of animal rights in Taiwan and where it will go from here. In a similar vein, Daniel Pagan Murphy explores the gruesome reality behind the stereotypes of Spain commonly held in Asia about bull-fighting. Witek and Daniel, on the other hand, take a look into a more privileged breed of animal in the world of luxury pet food, in a photo-story interview. Laetitia Kernaleguen then casts what could be said to be a more objective eye on animals in her mission to study the demographic evolution of the penguins colonies on Crozet Island, with a special eye to the possible impact of global warming on their diet and their reproduction. Finally Bob Bloodworth explores the myriad reasons behind the decision not to eat animals.

Focus: Living Together

Focus: Living Together (9)

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it is often easy to forget that we are living together with other people, and that we need to take their feelings and sensibilities into consideration. This month, inspired by the ongoing issues in the Shida Night Market area of Taipei, we have decided to focus on the problems that arise when living in close proximity with others, and how to best resolve those problems.

Focus: Poetry and Song

Focus: Poetry and Song (8)

Poetry is often represented to us as a rather inaccessible form of art, whether it be because of our lack of knowledge of the references made in classical poetry, or because the wit and honesty of a certain age, looks, in retrospect, trite and sentimental in the contemporary world, or even due to the apparent resistance to interpretation displayed by Modernist poetry. However, to view poetry, a form that by all accounts, predates literacy, as something erudite and far-removed is to ignore the form of poetry that makes up the fabric of our daily lives, song. So, this month, eRenlai has taken a closer look at the relationship between song and poetry.

Focus: Mental Difference

Focus: Mental Difference (7)

This month eRenlai is focusing on the stigma surrounding mental health and mental disorders. For this purpose we’ve coined the term “mental difference” in the hope that this will encourage our readers to view the people around them not in terms of the binaries sick/well abnormal/normal insane/sane, but rather to approach everyone in the world with an open mind as to the way their mind functions and their personality traits, regardless of their mental health issues or lack thereof, or their deviation from our perception of the normal.

Focus: Austronesian Conference 2012

Focus: Austronesian Conference 2012 (8)

The 10th International Austronesian Conference (IAC) was organised in 2012 in Taipei by the Council for Indigenous Peoples (CIP). Its main aim has always been to facilitate via conversations initiated among representatives from Austronesian governments, industries, and academic circles the establishment of an interactive network of Austronesian people. In addition to promoting both the understanding of Austronesian cultures at a global level and cross-cultural and cross-national relationships, the IAC also worked to increase international awareness of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. In this sense, the 2012 IAC was a success, since all of these objectives were met and surpassed. In addition to this the 2012 IAC also succeeded in establishing a well-structured platform for academic communication, all while facilitating actual collaborative relationships between nations and exploring the historical and spiritual resources of the Austronesian peoples. Finally, perhaps the most important function the 2012 IAC served was that of being an interactive platform for communication in terms of indigenous issues. Because of all of this, the conference not only linked to past debates and drew on further indigenous issues for the upcoming year, but aso served to strengthen the connection between Austronesian nations working together for the development of all indigenous peoples.

This month, we offer you select excerpts and exclusive interviews with the scholars that participated in this years conference, so that they may hopefully serve as a route to immersion into Austronesian and/or indigenous Culture.

Focus: The Solomon Islands

Focus: The Solomon Islands (8)

In a world where China's influence continues to grow and it's relationship with Taiwan continuously evolves, it is sometimes easy to forget what lies off of Taiwan's other coast: the Pacific. With that in mind, our focus this month aims to present a small taster of the magic contained in this vast oceanic continent by introducing the Solomon Islands, which eRenlai visited along with the Ricci Institute in 2012 whilst filming a documentary. Without further ado, we hope you can let the waves of words, sounds, and images, tickle your senses and sweep you away.

We begin our journey with an account from Benoit Vermander about his feelings towards the Pacific and how it slowly changed the course of his academic career. We also learn of the reasons behind the Ricci Institute's decision to film a documentary in the Solomon Islands. As with a trip to any country, our journey to the Solomons proper begins with a visit to Honiara and the Pacific Arts Festival with its vibrant energy. In this festival it is possible to witness beautiful displays of traditional dance. There is more to traditional culture in the Solomons than just dance, however, and we dive into the deep end, learning about shell money and ancestor worship, amongst other living traditions. Next on we delve a little deeper and discover some of the darker aspects of cultures clashing, as we learn about the effect that missionaries had on traditional Solomon culture. Searching for a more positive view of religious influence, we visit the St. Joseph Tenaru secondary school and get a taste of the challenges that face the school. Finally, we visit one of the most curious and mysterious groups of people living in the Solomon Islands: the Langalanga, who live in man-made island structures in lagoons.

Focus: Embrace the Pacific

Focus: Embrace the Pacific (8)

During the months of June and July 2013, the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies held a series of forums on Fijian navigation culture and Samoan Dance, lead respectively by the young Fijian navigator Setareki Ledua and the Samoan dancer Tupe Lualua. Together, they participated in various educational and cultural exchanges, mostly with students on the East Coast of Taiwan. The objective was to empower young Taiwanese aborigines by bringing other Austronesian cultures to them. Setareki and Tupe's experiences occupy us this month as they share with us the amazing times, the people met, and the knowledge gained in their stint on the island.


Focus: Living it Down Abroad: Travel as Vocation not Vacation

Focus: Living it Down Abroad: Travel as Vocation not Vacation (3)

There has been an increasing kickback in recent years against volunteer tourism, with accusations that volunteers do more harm than good while abroad, that it's more about the experience as perceived by the volunteer than the people that they're supposed to be helping, and, at its most extreme, accusations that this relatively new gap year/volunteering industry is a new form of cultural colonization, casting the host countries as victims and volunteers as saviours. 

In this light, over the past few months eRenlai has decided to focus on volunteering in Southeast Asia. Suspicions about Somaly Mam's background have dominated the headlines over the last few months and undermined the credibility of AFESIP, her NGO which protects women from sexual slavery. eRenlai contributor Clare Tan, who worked for Mam's charity in Cambodia, talks about her feelings about the recent revelations, and her hope that Mam as an indivual won't overshadow the cause. Clare previously shared her ambivalence about her encounters with street children in Cambodia, and the inspiration which Mam had given her. We then talked to veteran volunteer and blogger Leanne McNulty, who has volunteered for long stints in Cambodia, Australia, Vietnam and Taiwan, about the issues surrounding volunteer tourism and her experiences working with HIV/AIDS charity Harmony Home Foundation in Taipei. She also writes about what you can do to make a real difference when volunteering. We also dug through the archives to unearth two articles by Alice Lin on volunteering, the first is an interview with Cambodian psychologist Van Kamol about his work with children affected by HIV, and the second is her interview with Mech Sokha, a Cambodian man who helps rescue orphaned or abandoned children working at the infamous Steung Meanchey landfill, and reflections on her visit to the Center for Children's Happiness, which he runs.




Focus: Teilhard and China

Focus: Teilhard and China (5)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French Jesuit at the forefront in his chosen field, paleontology. After his death, his writings became immensely popular, dealing as they were with the connections between science and faith as well as with globalization and the future of humankind. Teilhard was based in China for 23 years (1923-1946), and wrote his two most influential books there. They included several of the writings that would later be gathered under the title "The Divine Milieu", and, most importantly, "The Phenomenon of Man."

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Teilhard's death, the Taipei Ricci Institute and the Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at Fudan University released a documentary about Teilhard's evolving relationship with China: Teilhard and China (德日進與中國). The film is available in English, French and Simplified Chinese (for more info, email cerise[AT]

This Focus aims to discuss the meaning that Teilhard's thinking can have today for the contemporary world and for China in particular by presenting excerpts of the documentary as well as unreleased footages and an interview with Alex Wang, an extraordinary reader of Teilhard who translated into Chinese his book "The Place of Man in Nature." 




Focus: Michel de Certeau (1925-1986)

Focus: Michel de Certeau (1925-1986) (5)

This Focus is a tribute to the work and life of French Jesuit Michel de Certeau.









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