Tue, Nov 06, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Taiwan’s iconic rice cooker maker Tatung celebrates centenary year
著名電鍋廠商大同公司 歡慶百週年

The exterior of Tatung Co’s headquarters building in Taipei’s Zhongshan District.

Photo: AP

If you ask any Taiwanese person about rice cookers, nine times out of ten the conversation will quickly turn to “Tatung dianguo.” As Hoover is to vacuum cleaners and Biro is to ballpoint pens in the West, in Taiwan the name Tatung dianguo is synonymous with rice cookers. Its manufacturer, Tatung Co, is a major Taiwanese electronics conglomerate and home appliances brand headquartered in Taipei’s Zhongshan District. This year, Tatung is celebrating its centenary.

Originally called Hsieh Chih Business Enterprise, Tatung was established in 1918 during the Japanese colonial era by the company’s first chairman Lim Shih-tsao, also known by the courtesy name Siong-chi, and several business partners.

The company initially started out in construction, completing over 600 projects including Taipei City Hall (today the Executive Yuan building) in Taipei.

In the late 1930s, Hsieh Chih Business was transformed into Tatung Iron Works and expanded into heavy industry, while also founding Tatung Vocational Industrial Primary High School (later renamed Tatung High School) in Taipei. By the late 1940s, Tatung began to produce home appliances, and was the first company in Taiwan to manufacture electric fans. Mass production of the iconic Tatung rice cooker commenced in 1960 and the company is still producing them to this day.

The prototype of the Tatung rice cooker, whose design has barely changed over the years, was actually based on a 1940s design developed by Toshiba Corp, the first company in the world to successfully bring an electric rice cooker into commercial production. Similar to many Taiwanese companies at the time, Tatung was actually producing a counterfeit version of Toshiba’s rice cooker but, afforded protections by the government, the company entered into a “technical partnership” with Toshiba.


1. nine times out of ten phr.

十之八九 (shi2 zhi1 ba1 jiu3)

2. centenary n.

百週年慶 (bai3 zhou1 nian2 qing4)

3. iconic adj.

代表性的 (dai4 biao3 xing4 de5)

4. word of mouth phr.口耳相傳;口碑 (kou2 er3 xiang1 chuan2; kou3 bei1)

5. set-and-forget phr.


(she4 ding4 hao3 jiu3 zi4 dong4 zhi2 xing2)

6. misnomer n.

不當的用詞 (bu2 dang4 de5 yong4 ci2)

7. indispensable adj.

不可或缺的 (bu4 ke3 huo4 que1 de5)

8. runaway commercial success phr.


(ju4 da4 de5 shang1 ye4 cheng2 gong1)

9. multinational conglomerate phr.

跨國企業集團 (kua4 guo2 qi4 ye4 ji2 tuan2)

Tatung’s rice cooker became popular largely through word of mouth, with users praising its ease of use, durability and automated set-and-forget functionality, which meant housewives no longer needed to stand over the rice pot during cooking.

In fact, “rice cooker” is really a misnomer since, in addition to steaming rice, the electric cooking pot has been adapted by Taiwanese cooks to a variety of other culinary uses, including cooking noodles, steaming dumplings, making hotpot or soup and even grilling steaks and sausages. One could say that while Tatung may have skimped on R&D in comparison to rival Japanese manufacturers, the ingenuity of Taiwanese cooks has kept its bare-bones rice cooker alive through the years.

Today, the Tatung dianguo has become an essential item for Taiwanese students studying abroad on a tight budget, and most Taiwanese mothers won’t feel content unless they’ve managed to ram one into the luggage of their son or daughter. But the Tatung dianguo is also an indispensable travel item for many Taiwanese tourists on an extended tour of Europe or the US, allowing them to rustle up a tummy-filling bowl of rice or noodles in their hotel room after braving the unfamiliar flavors and dreaded raw salads of foreign cuisine.

After the runaway commercial success of its electric rice cooker, Tatung went on to develop and produce a range of other household appliances including televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners. Tatung has evolved into a multinational conglomerate investing in a range of industries including green energy, the Internet of Things and smart healthcare. However, for most Taiwanese, Tatung remains synonymous with one thing: that unremarkable — yet most indispensable — of kitchen companions, the humble rice cooker.

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