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CultureRTI Radio Taiwan InternationalRTI Radio Taiwan InternationalCurious John

Curious John

English Service host John Van Trieste is curious. There’s nothing about Taiwan’s many cultures that he doesn’t want to know more about. Join him every week as he gets to the bottom of yet another question. What will he be curious about this time?

What's On

17 July, 2021
Taiwan's giraffe controversy

It's a plan that's enraged animal rights activists: a private Taiwanese zoo with a poor track record in terms of animal welfare wants to import 18 giraffes. But this isn't just a story about one zoo and 18 giraffes: it throws a spotlight onto broader issues, such as Taiwan's diplomatic isolation and what that means for its responsibility to uphold international wildlife protection rules. It also raises questions about the power of Taiwan's media conglomerates and about whether Taiwan has what it takes to uphold its own animal protection laws or hold zoos that violate the law to account. Joining us today for a look at the controversy and the latest developments is Connie Chiang, Executive Director of the Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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10 July, 2021
Taiwan's master violin-maker

Taiwan has no shortage of serious violinists trained in the western classical style, but until recently, many of their instruments came from abroad. That was until Chiu Chung-wei came along. This determined lover of the violin didn’t come from the background you’d expect of a master instrument-maker, but nevertheless, his creations have found a local market and are ringing out across Taiwan today. Mr. Chiu joins us today for a look at how an ordinary young Taiwanese man took an unusual career move and found success.

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03 July, 2021
Taiwanese chocolate

For your average chocoholic, the words “Taiwanese chocolate” are an unusual combination. Taiwan’s chocolate production is neither extensive nor does it have the prestige that high-end chocolates from some other countries carry. And yet a small group of intrepid cocoa farmers here quietly press on, producing sophisticated chocolate that deserves far more attention from the world than it’s gotten. Each grower seems to have their own quirky story about how they got into growing such a rare crop for this part of the world, and retired couple Chang Tung-ming and Tseng Hui-ying are no exception. They went in knowing practically nothing about chocolate, and only got to where they are through a sometimes disastrous process of trial and error. But they now produce cocoa products full-time in Taiwan’s far south, and they also run a successful farm tourism business that brings in chocolate-lovers from across Taiwan.

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26 June, 2021

Well, Taiwan is still not yet out of the woods when it comes to COVID. The government has just announced an extension of restrictions that will see museums and other places of learning shuttered well into July. But this doesn’t mean that museums or learning have stopped here. In fact, as Taiwan’s schools continue to hold classes virtually in the run up to summer vacation, some of Taiwan’s museums are pulling through, helping stressed-out teachers put together fun and off-beat classes that go far beyond the ordinary curriculum. Today, as we wrap up a series on what Taiwan’s museums have to offer in a time of COVID shutdowns, we’re heading to the National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan, a museum that has put together a colossal number of themed units for kids and adults alike to learn from. With us today is museum researcher Hsieh Yen-jung.

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19 June, 2021
The National Taiwan Museum: Busy despite COVID-19 closure

Like other museums across Taiwan, the National Taiwan Museum has had to close its doors to visitors amid Taiwan's worst-yet outbreak of COVID-19. But COVID-19 hasn't shut the museum down by any means: the museum's four branches are all open for virtual tours, their collections have been digitized for everyone to see online, and they are also right in the middle of a lively series of virtual events the public can join in on. That's not to mention the wealth of content the museum continues to put out there through various mediums, all of it ready to enjoy right at home. Welcome to this second episode in a series on what Taiwan's museums have to offer even as they stay closed due to COVID. Joining me this week is Huang Hsing-ta, head of the National Taiwan Museum's Education Promotion Section.

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