Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The force is with him: Taiwan’s one of a kind lightsaber maker

By Joseph Yeh  /  CNA

Vice President Chen Chien-jen is surrounded by characters from the hit movie series Star Wars last week at the Presidential Office.

To most people, May 4 is just another ordinary day on their calendar. But to diehard fans of the Star Wars series, the date is sacred.

May 4 was chosen by Star Wars fans as a worldwide holiday because “May the fourth” is a play on the movie series’ most iconic line — “May the force be with you.”

Star Wars fanatics celebrate the day with gatherings at which they dress up as the series’ popular characters, such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Princess Leia, and hold lightsabers, the main weapon in the Star Wars universe consisting of a metal hilt that projects a blade of plasma.

Taiwan is not immune from Star Wars fever, and this year Taiwanese fans made history by holding their annual gathering at the Presidential Office in downtown Taipei.

Over 100 Star Wars fans dressed as their favorite characters were welcomed by Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who called them “the first batch of visitors to the Presidential Office from outer space.”

The fans also held a ceremonial changing of the guard when the military police on duty switched posts with the Imperial Storm Troopers and rebellion forces soldiers.

The event was made possible by the efforts of Makoto Tsai (蔡榮洲), a diehard sci-fi aficionado and arguably Taiwan’s top Star Wars fan.

“It was like a dream come true for me. I just thought this is so surreal that I would wake up to find it was just a dream,” Tsai told CNA after successfully holding the Star Wars Day event.

Tsai said he had organized Star Wars Day celebrations at other public places such as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the 1914 Huashan Creative Park over the past four years, but was looking for a place that could best represent Taiwan.

“And the answer to me was the Presidential Office,” he said.

Star Wars characters had previously showed up at White House events before, he said, so why not Taiwan?

He was somewhat surprised to find that the Presidential Office was willing to accommodate his request and even allowed the group to bring lightsabers and laser guns to the building, which is normally off-limits to weapons-like toys for security reasons, Tsai said.

“I’m pretty sure this was one of the highest level Star Wars Day events anywhere in the world,” he gushed.

LIGHTSABER MASTER

Aside from being a leader of the Star Wars fan community, the 34-year-old is also a one-of-a-kind full-time lightsaber maker who sells his works to fans worldwide.

Lightsabers are the signature weapons used by the Jedi and the most recognizable gadget in the series. Thousands of people have devoted themselves to creating realistic representations of these fictional weapons, but Tsai’s works have stood out, earning him stardom on the Internet.

They’ve gained a devoted following because they are much brighter, lighter and easier to use than those sold on the official Star Wars Web site and even come with sound effects.

Tsai’s special talents can be traced back to his high school days when he first fell in love with the franchise.

His first encounter occurred in 2002 when he saw Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones while working part time at a movie theater and was dazzled by the film’s space battles and computer-generated special effects.

But what most caught his eye were the weapons used by the Jedi Knights and, desperate to have one himself, he bought a toy lightsaber from the series’ official site.

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