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Immigrant Stories: Taiwan

Sheow Hwey Chang , Taiwanese Immigrant

Sheow Hwey Chang (“Showay”) was born in Chung-Hwa, Taiwan. Chung-Hwa City is known as the “Bamboo City” located on the eastern coast. She moved from her home in Taiwan to the bustling city of Chicago in 1970, after her fiancé received a residency in gynecology at Chicago hospital. Shortly after arrival, the two were married and began a family of their own. Showay spent the next few years juggling between raising their three children and helping out in her husband’s office. Sometime later, she began taking art classes at the local community college and participating in many Taiwanese organizations throughout the city. Soon, she was not only a community artist and leader, but also teaching art classes at community colleges and universities across St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois. She proudly displays her artwork in a glass case at the Saint Louis Public Library which she frequents. Showay reminisces about her first months here in the U.S., “It was freezing… It was so cold and our apartment was next to Michigan Lake. Looks like a big ocean!” Many days and nights were spent crying in their tiny studio apartment. Advised not to walk the streets alone, Showay dealt with the shock of being confined to her tiny “box” apartment, without a friend and homesick for her beloved Taiwan.

Today Showay describes her personality as a positive one that helped her get through those first initial months. It was through encouragement from her graphic design professor that she learned not to be embarrassed by areas she felt she lacked. Her professor took time to teach her the basics of using a computer and before she knew it, she was designing logos for t-shirts and posters. Today, Showay shows no signs of slowing down. She can be found giving presentations on Taiwanese culture at the St. Louis Science Center, displaying her artwork at the Festival of Nations, participating in Tea ceremonies or transporting her children from violin lessons to sports practices. She may not have come to the U.S. on her own accord, but she has made every effort to make St. Louis her home and to raise outstanding children. It’s no surprise that she is so dearly beloved at the International Institute of St. Louis. Her positive attitude and willingness to support the community has made her a standout citizen.

Facts about Taiwan

First inhabited by Austronesian people, Taiwan became home to Han immigrants beginning in the late Ming Dynasty (17th century). In 1895, military defeat forced China’s Qing Dynasty to cede Taiwan to Japan, which governed Taiwan for 50 years. Taiwan came under Chinese Nationalist control after World War II. In the four years leading to the communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government under the 1947 constitution drawn up for all of China. The Nationalist government established authoritarian rule under martial law in 1948. Beginning in the late 1970s, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. This process expanded rapidly in the 1980s, with the founding of the first opposition party (the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) in 1986 and the lifting of martial law in 1987. Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) to the DPP. Throughout this period, the island prospered and became one of East Asia’s economic “Tigers.” The dominant political issues continue to be management of sensitive relations between Taiwan and China – specifically the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty – as well as domestic priorities for economic reform and growth.

Population: 23,545,963 (July 2018 est.)

Location: Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China

Languages: Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects

Religions: Buddhist 35.3%, Taoist 33.2%, Christian 3.9%, folk (includes Confucian) approximately 10%, none or unspecified 18.2% (2005 est.)

Ethnic Groups:more than 95% Han Chinese (including Hoklo, who compose approximately 70% of Taiwan’s population, Hakka, and other groups originating in mainland China), 2.3% indigenous Malayo-Polynesian peoples

Information from the CIA World Factbook