Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

This month we feature Taiwan's arts and artifacts, its famous artists, performing groups and arts festivals. Taiwan is a place of diverse cultures, with influences from the Chinese, the Japanese, the Hakka, Southeast Asian countries, and Taiwan's aboriginal tribes.

Taiwan has a very vibrant art scene and cultural life. In recent years many artists and performing groups from Taiwan have appeared on the international stage, to great acclaim from around the world. Foremost among these are the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, the Neo Classic Dance Company, the Lanyang Dance Troupe, the Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera, the Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe, and the hand puppet troupes 'Yi Wan Ran' founded by Mr. Li Tian-lu, and 'Wu Jhou Yuan', founded by Mr. Huang Hai-dai. Traditional crafts are also an important part of the local art scene, with ceramics from Yingge, Shueili and Kinmen, woodcarving from Sanyi, stone carving from Hualien, and Meinung's hand-crafted oil-paper umbrellas. Oriental glassware art has also taken on a new lease of life in Taiwan: Liuli Gongfang and Tittot are two examples of glass art manufacturers who have earned an international reputation in recent years.

Taiwanese hand puppetry and Taiwanese opera are two foremost examples of art forms which are authentically Taiwanese, in that they use the Taiwanese language, not Mandarin. Taiwanese puppetry is said to have originated from Quanzhou or Zhangzhou in Fujian, China, in the seventeenth century.

Taiwanese puppets usually consist of two parts – a hollow wooden head and a hollow body made of colorful cloth. The puppet master puts his hand inside the puppet to control it, using his fingers, wrist and palm to mimic the natural movements of people. Because the stories are usually adapted from Chinese traditional folklore, the puppets' movements sometimes also reflect certain elements of martial arts. In addition to making these intricate human-like movements, the puppet masters recite poems, sing songs and produce sound effects. In order to attract a wider and younger audience, many puppet masters have started using lasers, dry ice, and other modern techniques to add spice to the performance.

Taiwanese hand puppet shows are still a very popular form of traditional street entertainment. Puppet shows are often the main featured event at local festivals. The grand and colorful theatre designs, the many different puppet characters, their costumes, the intriguing stories, the exciting music and the lively hand movements of the puppet masters, make Taiwanese hand puppet shows a favorite entertainment for people of all ages. Two famous exemplars of this popular art form are Mr. Li Tian-lu and Mr. Huang Hai-dai. The Yi Wan Ran Hand Puppet Troupe, founded by the late Mr. Li, combines classical Chinese music, traditional Chinese Kungfu, and poetry. In 1993 the movie about Mr. Li's life, "The Puppetmaster" by Taiwanese director Hou Siao-sian brought Mr. Li and his troupe to an international audience at the Cannes Film Festival. Mr. Huang Hai-dai's troupe, Wu Jhou Yuan was founded 70 years ago and has been the inspiration for a recent upsurge of interest in this traditional art form, with over 200 other hand puppet troupes now performing all over Taiwan. Mr. Huang continues to bring new ideas to Taiwanese hand puppetry, innovating in puppet design, special effects and storylines. Perhaps his major achievement was to bring hand puppetry to TV, and into the movies, a development which has ensured the continuing popularity of the art form in today's modern world of youth oriented mass media.

Taiwanese opera is said to have originated from Taiwan's Yilan at the beginning of the twentieth century. The art form was originally called Luodisao, and all the actors were male. It received influences from various theater forms such as the Chinese opera, Sihping opera, Gaojia opera, Hakka tea-picking opera and Beiguan and gradually developed into an independent performance art. The language used is Taiwanese, and the lyrics and dialogues usually combine colloquial phrases with traditional Chinese poems. The art has long been known for its luxuriously colorful costumes, mask-like make up, and its unique music and singing. The inspirational stories are usually about virtuous heroes or heroines. Taiwanese opera used to be a very popular public entertainment, usually performed outdoors, at temples or in night markets. Nowadays, it is mostly performed on TV or in theaters and very few performances take place on the traditional outdoor stage. In recent years, the Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera has been winning praise internationally with performances in France, Japan, China and Southeast Asia. The Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe, founded in 1990, is another company dedicated to the mission of breathing new life into the exquisite beauty of traditional Taiwanese opera.

Hsinchu is best known as the home to Taiwan's world-famous Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park. But it is also rapidly emerging as a center of glass art. Since 1995 there have been five Glass Art Festivals in Hsinchu. In 2006 the theme of the festival was "flowers". Glass art works from international and local artists, including gigantic outdoor glass art installations, are displayed during the festival along with live folk and music performances, glass art classes, and international glass art souvenirs. Hsinchu is also home to Taiwan's first glass art museum and over a decade ago glass art was chosen as a focal art form for development in the city. Although the Hisnchu City International Glass Art Festival usually takes place in April, visitors are welcome throughout the year to find out more about the transparent beauty of Hsinchu's glass art.

In Sanyi, woodcarving is the most important creative industry. The first two woodcarving masters in Taiwan, Wu Luo-song and Li Jin-chuan, were both from Sanyi and studied woodcarving abroad. Li Jin-chuan was also the teacher of Taiwan's most famous sculptor Ju Ming. In the early days the woodcarvings were mostly of traditional subjects such as statues of local deities or decorative items. However, nowadays the form and technique has expanded, often combining wood with other materials.

Shueimei Street is the most famous place in Sanyi, with over 170 woodcarving shops lining the street. However, if you want to see the carvers at work, you should visit the Sanyi Woodcarving Museum. The museum is located in Shendiao Village, where visitors can witness the artists slowly turning a log of wood into a work of art. The museum also houses a permanent display of the most impressive pieces. Every year the local county government holds the Sanyi Woodcarving Festival, where artists are invited to work in front of visitors, and woodcarvings are entered into competition. Woodcarving lessons are also given to whoever feels the urge to try out their own creativity.

Taiwan has many other thriving local arts and crafts. They may not be world-famous or on a grand scale, but these arts reflect the age old wisdom and traditions of the local people, who combine local natural resources and history with modern technology and creativity to produce contemporary, living works of art. And often, it's this kind of local, small-scale experience that makes your vacation so unforgettable!


Lovely Lotus Flower Fields

Little Streets and Small Alleys

Noodles, Buns, and Dumplings

Shin Kong Chao Feng Resort Ranch

Hao Bu Hao Chi?

Taitung by the sea

Sleep, Eat, and Buy Options in Alishan’s North Sector

Mt. Guanyin

A Night at the Market

Alishan North

Green and Sleepy

Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail

Taiwan and Hotpot

Jinyue Indigenous Village

Seven Stars Mountain

DaMorLee Leisure Farm

Quick Trip to Taipei

Up into the High Mountains

Romantic Evenings in Kaohsiung

Railways to Bikeways

Xiang Luo Lei Restaurant

Land Ho! Penghu – Beckoning You

The Guanshan Town Circle Bicycle Path

The Heart of Hualien

Dageeli Tribe Restaurant

Coastal Hualien

Ximending (West Gate District)

Bunun Hunters Restaurant

Hello Hualien!

The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area

Tianwei Highway Garden

Prowlin’ in Maolin

Strawberry Town

The Maolin National Scenic Area

Stairways to the Sky

Pedaling Along

Daluan Restaurant

Around the Northern Tip

Hats and Mats

Orange Country

Travel Taiwan, Film Taiwan!

A Place to Relax

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi


Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)


Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild


Taipei Int'l Flora Expo




Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!


Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART


Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu