Mon, Aug 06, 2012 - Page 10 News List

The legacy of a spinning top master

Yu Mao-hsiung displays his tops in Changhua County on July 31.

Photo: ChangTsung-chiu,Liberty Times

After studying spinning tops extensively for five decades, Yu Mao-hsiung, from Changhua County’s Fuhsing Township, has become a veritable master of the spinning top. He can simultaneously spin seven tops using the five fingers of a single hand. He has taken his prized possession, a 40kg spinning top, to the streets as a prop for various grassroots movements. Yu has used the rotation of the top to mock the malleability of politicians and also as a testimony to Taiwan’s democratic presidential elections.

The 60-year-old Yu became interested in tops playing with them as a child, and eventually got to where he could perform with tops and make them himself. He has even organized the Spinning Tops Education Association to promote the spinning top. Yu has made countless tops, some weighing as little as several hundred grams to those weighing as much as 50 to 60 kilograms. Spinning tops possess endless intrigue in his hands.

Yu is often invited to perform at local traditional events, and his spinning top performances are an indispensable part of the democratic speech events held at local temples. But what is the relationship between spinning tops and the democracy movement? As it turns out, Yu has a giant spinning top with a very special background. Aside from performing with the top, he also used it at rallies for democratic presidential elections on March 30 and 31 in 1992, as well as to show support and help Taiwan’s first president and vice president get elected in Taiwan’s first democratic election on March 23, 1996.

Yu recalls the passionate calls for democratic presidential elections during that historic time. He also remembers taking his giant top to the north of Taiwan on March 30 in 1992 to participate in the resistance movement, performing with his spinning top in a protest play, using the top’s rotation as a metaphor for politicians and the public’s hopes that politicians do not simply turn into moldable figureheads. The next day he took the top to Changhua to participate in the local democratic election movement.


1. mock v.

諷刺 (feng3 ci4)

例: The children mocked the teacher behind her back.


2. figurehead n.

傀儡 (kui2 lei3)

例: The queen is merely a figurehead.


3. heirloom n.

傳家寶 (chuan2 jia1 bao3)

例: The huge stamp collection will one day become a family heirloom.


Many people are surprised by Yu’s spinning tops, especially his grandchildren, who are quite proud of everything their grandfather has accomplished, and say it is no wonder that their grandfather considers the spinning tops to be a family heirloom.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)







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