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Wed, Nov 20, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Interesting facts about Belgium

, BELGIAN TRADE OFFICE

Someone said that "In people, in culture, in art, in history, in cuisine Belgium is a masterpiece." Hereunder a number of interesting and not very well known facts about Belgium and its inhabitants past and present.

Did you know that: The Belgian Capital Brussels holds annually the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Music Contest one of the greatest musical contests in the world.

Created in 1951 it brings world fame to its laureates. Yehudi Menuhin and Vladimir Ashkenazi are amongst its famous laureates. The first Taiwanese ever to win the Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition was born in Tainan and was educated and perfected his musical training in the Kuang-Ren middle school in Panchiao founded more than 40 years ago by Belgian Scheut fathers.

In Belgium music education is very popular and supported by the state. The annual registration cost in a municipal music academy cost no more than three private violins lesson in Taiwan. This is why Belgium produced so many musicians such as Cesar Franck, Peter Benoit, Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugene Ysaye, and that every Belgian village has its own band. Many Taiwanese students study music in Belgium and have brilliant international careers afterwards.

The first time the Flanders Region of Belgium was mentioned in the history of Taiwan was in the letters exchanged in 1622 between Gonzales Portales the Spanish governor of the Fortress Santissima Trinidad in Tamsui and the attacking Dutch governor Julius Tradenius, asking the Spanish to surrender. The former argued that his great experience in the Battle of Flanders against the rebelling Flemisch had allowed gaining great experience and his honor would not allow him to surrender.

The cannons, exhibited in the Chi-Mei museum in Tainan, were built for emperor Kang-Hsi by a Belgian astronomer and Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest. His Chinese name was Nan Huai-ren. As a reputed astronomer he was close to the emperor of China who named him adviser to court for his knowledge of astronomy. He also built the first celestial globe a copy of which is still visible today. Missionary and astronomer, he was born in Belgium in 1623. He died in Peking in 1688.

In 1668 the young emperor Kang Hsi commissioned him to calculate in advance the length of the shadow of a given height at noon of a certain day as well as the absolute and relative positions of the sun and the planets on a given date and finally the lunar eclipse. He passed the test and Verbiest was immediately placed at the head of the Bureau of Mathematics.

Kang-Hsi made used the Belgian Jesuit talent's Belgian Jesuit in various other ways, such as for the transportation of enormous blocks of stone, the construction of an aqueduct, and the casting of canons of which 132 were cast. Two of these are to been seen in Tainan.

In his memory a Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation was set up in Belgium to study the past and historical activities of Belgian cultural and missionary activities in China and Taiwan while continuing to conduct intellectual and scholarly exchanges between Europe and the Chinese world. The institute celebrated on November 15 its 20th anniversary and is today directed by Jerome Heyndrickx, a well reputed Belgian expert on past and present day China.

It is no secret that Belgian racing pigeons are winning the majority of pigeon races in Taiwan where more than five million pigeons are participating regularly to pigeon races. Every fancier, no matter where, knows that Belgium is the cradle of pigeon racing and that Belgian pigeons are the most wanted in the world for over 100 years In Belgium and the surrounding countries pigeon racing is also immensely popular. There are 96,000 pigeon fanciers in Belgium. There is even a world pigeon Center in the small village of Hoesselt in northern Belgium set up in March 2000 with the help of Taiwanese investors.

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