By: Hope Shourd (‘23)
As part of the annual event series put on by the Hamilton Lugar School’s (HLS) East Asian Languages and Cultures department, the College invited the public to participate in ‘Cycling Taiwan 2023: A bicycle tour of Taiwan, in Bloomington’ on April 16th. This event highlighted the shared biking culture seen within both the Taiwanese and Bloomington community and offered an engaging, interactive tour to cultivate a better understanding of the complexity of Taiwan.
Originally scheduled as an outdoor bicycling excursion, weather constraints led to the Cycling Taiwan tour to be conducted indoors at the new Ferguson International Center. During this simulated tour of Taiwan, participants visited four different presentation stations where they learned about specific regions of the country and the unique cultural and historical characteristics that constitute each area. Participants expanded their historical and contemporary perspectives of pertinent areas like Taroko, Anping Old Fort, Sun Moon Lake, and Dadocheng. Not only were participants given the opportunity to learn more about the vibrancy of Taiwan’s regions and landmarks at each station, but were also given complimentary treats at each stop, such as a traditional oolong tea or local pastry.
There were various actors responsible for putting on the department’s most ambitious Taiwan event series since its conception in 2018. The events were spearheaded by Professor Yea-Fen Chen, Associate Professor Fei-Hsien Wang, and visiting scholar Kai-Wei (Victoria) Cheng.
“This year the suggestion to focus the series around cycling came from a Taiwanese student who is very involved in the IU cycling community,” said Chen. “Since we seek to showcase genuine Taiwanese culture and put on an event that appeals to the public, each year we try to pick a theme that portrays unique elements of Taiwan while still containing a level of relevancy to the residents of Bloomington. The shared love of cycling between the two communities made it an excellent choice for this year’s event series.” Biking as a form of transportation and recreation is an incredibly popular activity among citizens from the East Asian island; while the tour originally meant to signify Taiwan’s fondness for cycling, it also promoted the culture’s overarching values of sustainability, freedom, and diversity.
With increased financial support from the university and key IU partnerships, the East Asian Language and Cultures Department has been able to increase the scale of the Taiwan event series and take on more elaborate programming goals. One significant collaboration comes from IU’s partnership with National Taiwan University, which has contributed to this set of events through crucial funding support. “The goal of this partnership is to promote the education of the Chinese language and spread Taiwanese resources to all students,” said Cheng. The Cycling Taiwan series is also sponsored by the IU East Asian Studies Center, IU Transportation Demand Management Office, and benefitted from the input of IU Assistant Instructional Designer Pei-Shan Hsieh who designed the biking route.
“For students who are not familiar with Taiwanese culture, this event hopefully sparked an interest in Taiwanese culture and fostered a curiosity that can lead to further immersion into the community—that’s ultimately what we tried to evoke from those participating in this tour,” explained Wang. “We wanted to provide an interactive, educational experience that creates awareness about the tranquil, hospitable beauty found in Taiwanese nature and society.”
Through the coordination of this event series, the chance to build a stronger Taiwanese community within Bloomington has already bloomed. “With support from both the university and local institutions, this series truly seeks to connect individuals from all corners of IU and Bloomington at large,” said Cheng. Ringing true to this sentiment, Wang added, “It has been a great opportunity to build a stronger network of East Asian partnerships and enrich a community that we can continue to collaborate with in the future.”