One of The inspirations for coming to Taiwan

Yes, it’s an actor! It was watching Joseph Cheng in “The Rose” that first whet our curiousity about the country and its cultures (and oh yes, his fascinating looks and talent). So to discover that we could meet him was the perfect capper to our first trip here!

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Fated to Love this Drama

The 2008 Taiwanese drama “Fated to Love You” (also known as “The Sticky Note Girl” and “命中注定我愛你 / Ming Zhong Zhu Ding Wo Ai Ni”) has to be one of the most charming produced in recent years in that country. The series has the great good fortune to have a very winning lead couple and an experienced supporting cast to keep things lively.


Ethan Ruan manages to surprise and delight once again with his versatility. 2008 was a terrific year for this young actor, coming off 2007’s “Wayward Kenting”. He successfully manages to create two very unique and compelling characters. As Ji Cun Xi, he is the earnest, somewhat brash and thoughtless, but generally tender-hearted scion of a soap empire. As a result of a series of errors, he meets and inadvertently impregnates Chen Xin Yi, the titular “sticky note girl”, played with a fresh and natural candor by Chen Qiao En. A marriage of convenience follows – a plot that could be tired and predictable with less charming and interesting actors – and it’s just a matter of time before the two fall in love. Does the path to happiness run smoothly? Of course not, it is a drama after all, but the heartaches (some serious) and romantic flutters along the way are worth the effort to track this down.

Musicians in 3s

There is something particularly exciting about discovering a new musical artist and falling in love with his or her work. Songs get played over and over again and even when not running through the headphones or speakers you hear them inside your head. They are the very best kind of earworms.

As I listen to the music it sometimes occurs to me that there is a sense of familiarity to a voice or a tone and then it hits me: I have fallen for this new artist the same way I did for another. They share a musical sensibility of sorts – not like I’m choosing the same thing over and over again – but there is something about these artists that links them in my mind. Maybe it’s the vocal range, or the timbre of their voice, but it resonates with me.
Joanna Wang is my most recent fixation, thanks to the use of a number of her songs from her 2008 album, “Start from Here” in the Taiwanese drama series, “Wayward Kenting.”
Over the course of several days listening to the album (available through iTunes), it occurred to me that a number of the songs evoked the same sensation as the late Eva Cassidy‘s seminal work, “Songbird.” Other songs put me more in mind of Rachael Yamagata in her 1990 album “Happenstance,” particularly one song that got a lot of airplay, “Letter Read.”
There is a fourth artist who I could add to this list. If you know and admire the work of Norah Jones, then give Joanna Wang, Eva Cassiday, or Rachael Yamagata a try and see if you can’t discover a new favorite artist as well!

Let’s go to the beach

We’ve been enduring an overlong and dreary winter here in the Midwest, but the latest drama I’ve been watching was as refreshing as a summer’s day.

The Taiwanese series, “Wayward Kenting,” although starring idol actors Eddie Peng and Ethan Ruan is far from being a typical, frivolous and fun idol drama. Produced by PBS (Taiwan’s public television station), the story is set in the oceanside town of Kenting and in the first episode identifies the type of individuals who find themselves in a tropical paradise: those who are born to it and embrace it as their home and those who land there in their journey to find something else or to lose themselves. 

Happy-go-lucky Han Wen (played by Eddie Peng) is a Kenting native, living to surf and enjoy the natural beauties of his home. Uncomplicated, simple even, he understands the value of life at its most basic level. Two childhood friends, Liang (Lee Kang Yee) and Ah Zho (Lee Shiau Shiang) complete his perfect circle of happiness. His sunny existence is in sharp contrast to Ah Nan (Ethan Ruan), who comes to Kenting in search of a friend who has left him with debts. Abandoned by his father and raised by his mother and grandmother in a similar setting, there is something about the peace of Kenting that calls to him. Befriended by Han Wen and Liang he discovers that life can have meaning for himself too. Another who runs away to Kenting is internet writer Xiao Wei (Janine Chang), fleeing the memories of an unhappy romance. Her writer persona, Yu Bu Ting, just happens to be Han Wen’s favorite author and he dreams of meeting her.

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The drama deservedly won the Golden Bell Award for best script in 2008 and Eddie Peng received a nomination for his work, but the real standout is Ethan Ruan who is absolutely immersed in his role as Ah Nan. While he was interesting in “Summer X Summer,” in “Wayward Kenting” it is impossible to see any break in character. The pain and isolation the young man feels is visible in his self-contained walk, his haunted eyes, the tilt of his head. It is a remarkable and unforgettable performance.

Another strong selling point for the drama is its skillful use of Joanna Wang’s songs “Lost in Paradise” and “As Love Begins to Mend.” With a voice that may remind one of Norah Jones, Joanna Wang sings of hope and despair and sets the tone perfectly.

When the second fiddle carries the melody

Taiwanese dramas don’t always feature the caliber of acting that you’ll see in Korean dramas but there are a few of the “idol” performers who can generally be relied upon to deliver a compelling performance. Mike He (賀軍翔 (贺军翔) / He Jun Xiang), who’s perfected the bedroom eyes look too well for one so young, is such a performer. And yet… I’m just starting to watch “Bull Fighting” (鬥牛。要不要 / Dou Niu. Yao Bu Yao?) and it’s the second lead, Lee Wei (李威) who is running away with the show so far!

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His interpretation of the faithful bodyguard Zi Cong, in love with his charge, is pitch perfect. The dignity and character he brings to the role is amazing.

This is not to say that Mike He is any slouch in his performance, but he’s not yet been called upon to do much more than look attractive and perform some nice basketball moves.

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It’s almost as if I can hear him saying, “What do you mean? How can you say that I’m being cast in the shade?” Well, I’m only 6 episodes in, so he has time to make up some ground, but with the excellent work Lee Wei’s putting in he’s got a tough row to hoe!

And, in case you’re curious about the title, “Bull Fighting” refers to a type of street basketball game. No ones getting dressed up in the traje de luces and going after a real bull here! For more information on the series, check out the d-wiki site. The drama also stars Hebe Tian (田馥甄 / Tian Fu Zhen), one of the singers of the Taiwanese pop group S.H.E., as the love interest of the two young men.