14th Annual Taiwan Heritage Day at Citi Field
By Sophia Hsu
Photos by Amit Chaffee
On a beautifully clear late summer day, the New York Mets and Taiwan Tourism Bureau hosted the 14th annual Taiwan Heritage Day at Citi Field. Mets fans turned out early for the game against the Washington Nationals and were treated to performances, trivia, and prizes on Mets Plaza. During the game, visitors got a glimpse of the amazing vistas across Taiwan as well as a chance to win prizes during the Taiwan Baseball Trivia spots.
The crown jewel of Taiwan Heritage Day at Citi Field were performances by one of Taiwan’s premiere Taiwanese language opera troupes Ming Hwa Yuan Arts and Culture Group. The group was founded by Chen Ming-Ji in 1929. Ming Hwa Yuan was formed to revive and preserve traditional arts and culture in Taiwan through the marriage of complex performance skills and technology. From 1937 through 1945, much of Taiwanese culture had to be suppressed, even public performances of Taiwanese opera were prohibited. Very few troupes could perform in Taiwan and many were disbanded; however, Ming Hwa Yuan was one of the groups permitted to perform during this time and went on to thrive, celebrating 90 years of history in 2019. Ming Hwa Yuan continues to evolve by mixing avant-garde techniques and technology in stage design, lighting, and sound effects with traditional elements from folk tales, poetry, gymnastics, dance, music, theater, and fine art, all of which are deeply rooted in Taiwan’s heritage.
Ming Hwa Yuan delighted baseball fans of all ages and backgrounds to performances of “The Legend of the Eight Immortals”. The Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology possessed superpowers that could be transferred to specific objects, usually tools, which would be used to give life or take down evil. Based on an anonymous work written during the Ming Dynasty (c. 1500s -1600s CE) titled “The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea”, Ming Hwa Yuan’s story followed the Eight Immortals as they are in route to the Conference of the Magical Peach, where they are met by an ocean. For the Eight Immortals, clouds were the preferred mode of travel floating them to their destination, a common visual in Chinese mythology. Instead of travel by cloud, the immortals exercise their unique skills and superpowers to get across. A Chinese proverb, roughly translated, encapsulates the lesson of this story, “The Eight Immortals cross the sea, each reveals its divine powers,” which is loosely interpreted as each individual in a group can use their full potential (abilities, capabilities) to achieve a common goal.
In between performances, the crowd answered trivia questions about Taiwan to win prizes and their photo with Captain Oh Bear, Taiwan Tourism’s mascot, and Mr. Mets. After the performances, the Ming Hwa Yuan performers led the parade around the field. Taiwan’s Ambassador to the US Stanley Kao received the Spirit Award for his commitment to US – Taiwan relations. Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee, Taiwan’s first Nobel Prize Laureate, threw out the first pitch. Alongside Hungarian-Canadian Dr. John C. Polanyi and American Dr. Dudley R. Herschbach, Dr. Lee won his Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 “for their contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.” He currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the President of Taiwan.
For more information about traveling to Taiwan, the heart of Asia, please visit https://eng.taiwan.net.tw/.