In the gentle morning light, 22-year-old Liu Chun-lin brushes her 2cm eyelashes, fastens her flowing raven hair, and sets off for another day of crying her heart out for someone else's dead relatives.
Liu and her five-member "Filial Daughters Band" are part of a thriving funeral mourning business, professional entertainers paid by grieving families to wail, scream and create the kind of anguished sorrow befitting a proper funeral.
Complex, lavish and drawn-out, the performances are as much a status symbol for the living as a show of respect for the dead.
Taiwanese death rites regularly feature processions of elaborate floats displaying folklore figures in vividly colorful costumes, bands of drummers and trumpet players and even strippers and scantily clad singing women.
Even a scaled down event -- something without processions and floats -- can cost families in excess of NT$200,000 (US$6,000), mortuary operators say.
Grieving relatives are often too weary or too numb to shed the requisite amount of tears, so rather than leave a void, they hire groups like the "Filial Daughters Band" to perform their mournful stuff.
On a recent weekday morning, Liu and the group arrived at a municipal funeral home in the rural outskirts of Taipei for a typical exercise in empathy.
Mounting an outdoor stage, Liu danced, posed, and clicked bamboo sticks to the tune of a well-known mourning song, before launching into her signature high-pitched, heart-wrenching wailing while pounding the floor and crawling on her knees to express grief for a dead stranger.
After finishing the song, she shed her rainbow-colored costume in favor of the white satin mourning dress with matching white linen head cloth required for the main ritual.
With brother Liu Wen-chi on an electronic piano, she returned to the stage, recalling the harsh life of the dearly departed, a woman who had sacrificed everything to raise her dutiful children.
"Mama," she chanted into a hand-held microphone. "From now on we go our separate ways. We look around everywhere but see no traces of you."
The woman's two adult sons and daughter quickly took up the beat and let their tears flow freely.
But it was Liu who set the pace, Liu whose emotion was greatest.
For 40 minutes she chanted, danced and wailed, touching the hearts of the audience.
Back in the band's van, Liu changed into a pink shirt and jeans, and considered the challenge of playing necrologic cheerleader for total strangers.
"I just imagine that I am part of the family and I fuse myself into the occasion," she said.
As tradition clashes with modernity, some Taiwanese young people -- particularly in big cities -- are reconsidering the need for expensive, elaborate funerals, opting for simpler, more restrained rites instead.
Touting the virtues of using the Internet to post pictures of dead relatives and dispense with or shorten formal rites, authorities are pressing grieving families to drop ceremonies considered too lavish or superstitious.
But old customs die hard for the many Taiwanese, who still insist on traditional procedures, including hiring monks and nuns to chant Buddhist scriptures to help spirits seeking the path to reincarnation.
921 EARTHQUAKE: The magnitude 7.3 quake left 2,456 people dead and 10,718 injured, while 53,661 houses were fully destroyed and 53,024 houses damaged The Central Weather Bureau yesterday received about 50,000 views on Facebook after it posted the data that it collected on Sept. 21, 1999, when the nation was devastated by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake. The data showed that the 921 Earthquake hit the nation at 1:47am, with the epicenter being 7km southwest of the bureau’s quake detection center in Nantou County’s Yuchi Township (魚池) at a depth of 8km. The quake left 2,456 people dead and 10,718 injured, while 53,661 houses were fully destroyed and 53,024 houses damaged, with the cost of the damage estimated at NT$300 billion (US$10.8 billion at the current
British newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported that Prince Charles met with Bruno Wang (汪家興), a Taiwanese fugitive who describes himself as a Chinese philanthropist and donated ￡500,000 (US$683,522) to the prince’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation. The newspaper reported that Wang is wanted in Taiwan on charges related to money laundering and being a fugitive from justice, allegations he denies, and drew comparisons between Wang and the Russian banker Dmitry Leus. Investigation and cooperation with foreign authorities have found that Bruno Wang’s father, Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), had stashed proceeds from a scandal involving the procurement of Lafayette frigates in 61 bank accounts,
AT ODDS: The KMT called on the government to seek bilateral dialogue with Beijing to resolve the issue that led to the ban on custard apple and wax apple imports Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials and lawmakers yesterday condemned China’s sudden ban on imports of custard apples and wax apples from Taiwan as “obvious political retaliation,” while the opposition called for a scientific investigation into Beijing’s claim to have found pests in imports of the fruits. China earlier yesterday announced a ban on the importation of the two fruits from today, citing repeated discoveries of Planococcus minor, a type of mealybug. The announcement follows a similar ban on Taiwanese pineapples imposed in February. At least Beijing gave a few days’ notice when it banned pineapple imports, an unnamed government official said yesterday. This time
BY OTHER MEANS: China could see CPTPP membership as a means of circumventing trade restrictions imposed by the US, amid an ongoing trade dispute between them The US could invoke a clause in its trade agreement with Canada and Mexico to block China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a government official said yesterday. Under Article 32.10 of the Exceptions and General Provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), if either Canada or Mexico enter a free-trade agreement with a nonmarket economy — such as China — the US could withdraw from the agreement. “If that clause applies to multilateral free-trade agreements such as the CPTPP — which Mexico and Canada are members of — that might be cause for the two