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Taiwan – The Crouching Tiger

Taiwan the Crouching Tiger

by Siva Lingam

Taiwan is known as one of the four Asian Tigers. Perhaps this Taiwanese folk tale may shed some light on why.

A Tigress Witch (Hoko Po)

A long time ago, many people in Taiwan believed in different spirits; gods and goddesses, ghosts and witches. They believed in the SunGod, MoonGod, EarthGod, RockGod, TreeGod, and even animal gods and goddesses. They even believed that when an animal became old enough, it would possess a strange ability to change itself into a human being to devour other humans.

Once upon a time, there was a lady in Taiwan. She lived in a deep mountain house with her two daughters. The older daughter was called A Kim and the younger daughter, A Giok. They were poor but their daily life was peaceful and happy. One day, their mother had to make a trip into the city. She was very worried about her daughters’ safety, so she told them to lock the door and not to open it to anyone while she was gone.

After the mother left, the two daughters did as they were instructed. Not much later, someone came to the door and began to knock loudly. “Bang, Bang, Bang. ”

The elder daughter, A Kim, woke up first and was scared. She hugged her younger sister A Giok tightly. They both did not know what to do. Then, the person outside the door began to call out loudly: “Open the door, open the door! I am your mother. “The sisters moved closer to the door and said: “You are not Mama; you wouldn’t be back so soon.” But the person knocked harder and called out louder: “I am your Mama. l thought you would be scared, so I came back quickly to see you.”

The sisters thought that it might be true, so they unlocked the door. As they opened the door and saw that the person wasn’t their mother, they tried to close the door, but it was too late. The person outside pushed the door open and entered quickly. Her hair was white as snow and her face was wrinkled like a cat’.

“Who are you?” the sisters asked?

“Don’t be scared. I am your great-aunt; I live behind the mountain. I haven’t visited you for a long time. Today, I passed by your house, so I came to see you. ”

After hearing the explanation, the sisters felt less afraid. A Giok was young and naive, and she was happy to see this great-aunt, but A Kim was much older and wiser and she did not believe it. A Kim wondered why their mother never mentioned to them that they had a great-aunt. It was very late and A Giok wanted to return to sleep, so she slept with her great-aunt. However, A Kim was still suspicious and went to the next room to sleep by herself.

At midnight, A Kim woke up and heard some strange noises coming from the room A Giok slept in. “Chunk, Chunk,” it sounded like someone chewing roasted peanuts or like dogs chewing bones. Finally, A Kim asked loudly, “Great-aunt, what are you eating?” The great-aunt had not expected A Kim to wake up and ask. Surprised, she quickly answered, “Oh, I am chewing some ginger roots; they are very hard, hot, and bitter, not for children to eat.”

A Kim could not believe the great-aunt. She asked and insisted that she wanted to have some too. Finally, the great-aunt threw over a piece for A Kim. When A Kim picked it up, it was a piece of a finger. “Oh, little sister A Giok must have been eaten up by the Tigress Witch, who has pretended to be our great-aunt!  I have to escape!”

A little while later, A  Kim pretended and said to the great-aunt, “Great-aunt, I have to go to the toilet and wash my hands.” “No!” The great-aunt finally showed her true nature as an old Tigress Witch. “You will be my breakfast. How can I let you go; you might try to sneak away!” A Kim was very smart and answered again, “If you don’t want me to escape, why don’t you tie a rope to my leg; then I will have no way to escape.” The Tigress Witch thought for a moment and judged this offer reasonable. She tied a rope around A Kim’s leg and held the other end in her hand and let A Kim go to the rest room.

As soon as A Kim reached the rest room, she unleashed the rope from her leg and tied it to the edge of the water container. Then she escaped through the window and hid in the top of a tree.

The Tigress Witch waited for a long time and finally pulled the rope, hearing the water sound. She waited for a few more minutes while chewing on the fingers and then wondered why A Kim was spending such a long time in the rest room. She went over to check on A Kim and realized that A Kim had escaped. She tracked A Kim’s footsteps and found A Kim hiding in the tree.

The Tigress Witch could not climb the tree so she began to chew the trunk of the tree with her sharp teeth. A Kim looked down and thought she would fall out of the tree if the witch kept on chewing the trunk. Calmly she thought of a solution. “Great-aunt, you don’t have to chew the tree trunk so hard. I am willing to come down to let you eat me. The only problem is that I am so hungry that if you eat me now, I will become a Hungry Ghost, and I will forever follow you and torment you. If you boil a bucket of peanut oil for me, I’ll fry some birds here and eat them. When my stomach is full, you can then eat me without any worry”

The Tigress Witch thought this was a very wonderful idea. She then  boiled a bucket of peanut oil and sent it up to A Kim. After awhile, A Kim called out, “I am ready to jump down now. Open your mouth” When the Tigress Witch heard this, she opened her mouth widely, thinking that she would be eating A Kim. Instead, the stupid Tigress got a whole mouthful of boiling peanut oil and died instantly.


I think not…incidentally the Taichung City Council in Taiwan had built the Folklore Park at Lushun Road in Taichung City. This is the first Folklore Park built in Taiwan. The whole park occupies a total area of 1.6 hectare and is full of folk heritage of the people living in the coastal Fujian area at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the early post-Qing period. In the park, the main features are the Folklore Hall, the Folklore and Cultural Heritage Hall and the Folk Arts Hall. They are further enhanced by the Folk Arts Square and the Folklore Square. So do ask your guide for more details or catch a cab.

To a more serious note…

The Four Asian Tigers or Asian Dragons is a term used in reference to label the highly developed economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – “Wikipedia”.

Our own Datuk Michele Yeoh and the brilliant Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fatt recognizes Taiwan as an important partner in the production of the famous multi award winning movie, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. However this is not the reason Taiwan is recognized as an Asian Tiger.

Also known as the “Asian Miracle” Taiwan tells a more of a socio economic success story, which is probably what Wikipedia was refereeing to as Asian Tiger. The rivalry amongst the 4 Tigers mentioned above is just the impetus that has fueled and emboldened Taiwan to literally try to squeeze water out of stone. Today Taiwan is home to one of the tallest buildings in the world in the form ofTaipei 101 and is also home to wonderful advances in the field of agricultural and industrial development sciences.

Friends from Sarawak who accompanied a former Deputy Chief Minister and Agriculture Minister to a university in Taiwan on a working visit where they were privy to results of huge advances made in the field of paddy growing, allowing for a quarterly harvesting as opposed to the traditional two times a year that we have in Malaysia. I was told by the Minister Himself that he visited the scientist who pioneered the technology and found out that he was at the time already field testing for a 7 times yearly harvest, imagine that.

Taiwan is the perfect place to go to see how the people have embraced technology and are actually now feeding a worldwide marketplace and from the place where all cheap imitations used to be made, much like Japan the industries reinvented themselves and started making their own products producing the likes of Acer, HTC and many other trusted Brands.

The island state is a popular haunt of Japanese tourists and more from around the world so this is a perfect platform for really good eating and not surprisingly Taiwan is famous world over for its ‘food exports’ such as the famous ‘chicken rice’ and ‘kolo mee’ in Sarawak, which actually originates from Taiwan. Today the tourist is treated to an array of traditional Taiwanese dishes as well as a host of Fusion cooking and really good Japanese and Korean Cuisine.

With the resounding success of dealing with two economic crises in 1997 and again recently Taiwan recorded 10% growth in 2011 and is still growing and that’s the reason I see Taiwan as the Crouching Tiger that is ever aware of its surrounding and alert to any and every thing whilst fully paying attention on its prey. China?

If you’re intrigued by Taiwan’s folk tales or astounded by its economic success, Suntravel offers a wide selection of affordable tours to this fascinating country. Just visit our China & East Asia section for full details, www.suntravelworld.com/tours/china-east-asia.