August 11, 2006

Local foreign celebrities

I recently saw someone with a book about living in Taiwan written in Chinese by a foreigner. The book's English title was "Foreigners and Smelly Tofu," and was written by Richard Hartzell. It was the third book in a series of at least eight books. It looked as if the books were composed of articles written for newspapers or magazines. I read a few of the articles in the book, including one where Hartzell met the Taiwanese writer Sanmao. The articles were polished and generally interesting and Hartzell seems like a very likable person, but they were obviously intended for a Chinese audience, so I don't think they are quite as interesting for a non-Chinese audience. The books appear to be out of print now. If he has the rights to his articles, it would be an interesting experiment to slowly release the articles on a blog. There might even be some money in it.

I had heard of Hartzell from forumosa.com, where I might have even got advice from him, and I had read a couple things he had written, but my friend who was reading the book had never heard of him, nor have I ever heard any other Taiwanese mention his name. It's strange that after having a newspaper column for years, he's not at least a minor celebrity. There's not a lot of competition for the foreigner celebrity.

So who is the most famous foreigner in Taiwan? I used to think that, if we don't count ethnically Chinese foreigners (because no one considers them foreigners), then entertainer Makiyo is the most famous foreigner. But it turns out she is only half Japanese, so she does not really qualify as a foreigner. So, my vote goes to Father Josef Eugster, a Catholic priest from Switzerland. People of all ages have seen him on TV talking about foot massage. The Taipei Times writes of him, "He may not have touched the hearts of millions of Taiwanese, but he's easily Taiwan's most famous and influencial [sic] foreign priest for having touched people's feet." He even has a page in the Chinese version of Wikipedia under his Chinese name, 吳若石.


  • I think Richard Hartzell used to write a column for a Chinese-language newspaper. If you mentioned the Chinese name he published them under your Taiwanese friends would probably know him.

    Dan Bloom is fairly well known among Taiwanese. He lives in Chiayi and has published a book (or books?) about Taiwan's night markets in Chinese. He doesn't actually speak Chinese very well though (from what I have been told).

    By Blogger David, at August 12, 2006 12:11 PM  

  • Dick Hartzell is by far the most famous foreigner in Taiwan under the Chinese name of He Rei Yuan. He founded Hess way back when.


    By Blogger Michael Turton, at August 17, 2006 4:15 PM  

  • I think you guys must hang out with a much more knowledgeable crowd than I do.

    By Blogger Taiwanonymous, at August 18, 2006 2:15 PM  

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