As AO has previously written (why you should study in Taiwan), Taiwan is a great choice for learning Chinese! With a growing number of high quality Chinese language schools, generous government scholarships and a friendly and safe learning environment, students are flocking to Taiwan to learn Chinese. The great thing about studying in Taiwan is that apart from improving your Chinese there is so much more to learn by studying in Taiwan.
Here are our top five reasons:
Taiwan would have to be one of the world’s greatest culinary Mecca’s. Given Taiwan’s history, there is a wonderful melting pot of cuisines. You can quite literally eat your way through Taiwan’s history. From the traditional Hokkien and Hakka cuisines of the first settlers in Taiwan to the incredibly authentic Japanese food, vestiges from Japanese colonial rule and finally the influx of foreign cuisines that have come with globalisation, there is surely something for everyone. Taiwan was of course the birthplace of bubble milk tea and bao buns (刈包), which are now taking the world by storm. You can eat authentic and amazing bao on every second street corner, at the fraction of the price of the overpriced bao you now find in hip restaurants in Australia. Given the centrality of food in Chinese culture (Nǐ chī bǎole méi? 你吃飽了沒), learning about food is essential to learning more about Taiwan and its rich culture.
2) Chinese culture and history
Often called the ‘bastion of Chinese culture’, Taiwan has been able to preserve much of its traditional and historic cultural artefacts. When the Nationalist Government fled to Taiwan in 1945 they brought with them much of the imperial, artistic war chest for safe-keeping. The result? The National Palace Museum in Taipei has a rich collection with over 700,000 pieces of Chinese artefacts and artworks. The collection spans eight millennia of Chinese art and history and is set in a beautiful building nested in the hills of north Taipei. While best known for the jade cabbage (whose lore and fame are akin to the Mona Lisa), when you visit the museum you could spend hours wandering the exhibits and soaking up the rich cultural experience. Taiwan also has preserved many of its ancient temples. Even in the middle of Taipei you can visit traditional temples including at Longshan Temple and Xingtian Temple. Not to mention that each small town/village/district will also have local temples.
3) Public transportation
Going to Taiwan will re-invigorate your love for public transportation and restore your faith in mass transportation. Taipei has one of the cleanest, swift and efficient subway systems in the world. With 108 metro stations, it takes no more than 30 minutes to get from any one place to another. All subway stations have toilets they are kept impeccably clean. All signage is bilingual in Chinese and English, making it easily accessible to all. If you want to venture out of Taipei, Taiwan has a high speed rail that can take you from north to south of the island in under two hours. There is also a comprehensive and well-established local train line that can take you almost anywhere on the island.
When your brain is feeling fried from too much study, Taiwan has an abundance of fun things to do in your spare time. There are hot springs dotted around the island that provide a perfect respite from hard study. There are hot springs to suit every budget and every taste. There are public, communal springs or private springs. Beitou and Jiaoxi are famed for their hot springs and are only a short trip from Taipei! Taiwan is also full of karaoke bars where you can improve your Chinese while busting out some cool tunes. For something a little more unique, Taiwan also has shrimp fishing where you can catch shrimp from a large pond. This is easier said than done, and you’ll be in awe of the locals who bring their own bait and pull out shrimp after shrimp after shrimp…
Taiwan has a flourishing local art scene. There are many converted warehouses and factories that have been converted into artistic parks and galleries. These include Songshan Creative and Cultural Park and Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei and Pier 2 Art Centre in Kaohsiung. There are also numerous established galleries and museums housing contemporary and Chinese art. Taiwan also has a burgeoning coffee scene, and many of these coffee shops display art or have artistic installations. You can very easily spend an afternoon (or longer!) wandering around these art hubs. Taiwan celebrates its history and has preserved many of its historical sites or re-purposing them. Highlights include the Hao Chu markets in Taipei which is hosted in old military quarters or the Tangshan sugar factory near Kaohsiung. Not only are these great fun to visit, but they also shed light on Taiwan’s fascinating history.
Studying in Taiwan is a sure-fire way to improve your Mandarin. But if you do decide to come to Taiwan to study Chinese, you can be sure to leave not only with amazing Chinese, but also an expanded worldview and insight into one of the world’s most delightful islands.
Check out more Asia Options article on studying Chinese in Taiwan:
- Why you should study Mandarin in Taiwan as your first choice
- Should I learn the Taiwanese dialect of Tai-gi?
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