Pe̍h-oē-jī, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Human Being

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The second International Conference on Vietnamese and Taiwanese Studies and the sixth International Conference on Taiwanese were successfully held by Center for Vietnamese Studies and Center for Taiwanese Languages Testing at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan Taiwan on May 18 and 19. More than a hundred scholars from Vietnam, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, USA, Canada, Japan and Taiwan have participated in the conference. After conference, the international scholars also visited the historical sites of Taiwanese Roman scripts in Taiwan.

The theme of the conferences is “preservation and development of cultural heritage.” The organizers deeply hope that Taiwanese people will soon get back the rights to their mother tongue and Pe̍h-oē-jī, i.e. Romanized Taiwanese with supports from the international communities.

Although Taiwan is currently a Han characters-dominated society, Romanization once was the unique and first writing system used in Taiwan. Pe̍h-oē-jī, Romanized Taiwanese, means the scripts of vernacular speech, in contrast to the complicated Han characters of wenyen (classical Han writing). Pe̍h-oē-jī was introduced to Taiwan by Western missionaries in the second half of the nineteenth century. It plays important roles in three aspects: 1) cultural enlightenment, 2) education for all people and 3) literary creation in colloquial Taiwanese in early twentieth century. For example, Tâi-oân-hú-siân Kàu-hōe-pò or Taiwan Prefectural City Church News, the first newspaper in Taiwan was published in 1885. This newspaper was published in Pe̍h-oē-jī until 1969. Thereafter, it was shifted to Mandarin Chinese under the monolingual policy of the foreign regime Republic of China (ROC).

Although Pe̍h-oē-jī was originally devised for religious purposes, it is no longer limited to religious applications after the contemporary Tâi-bûn (Written Taiwanese) movement was raised in the late 1980s. Pe̍h-oē-jī has been adopted by many Tâi-bûn promoters as the Romanized writing system to write Taiwanese. For example, famous Tâi-bûn periodicals such as Tôi-oân-jī, Tâi-bûn Thong-sìn and Tâi-bûn Bóng Pò adopt Pe̍h-oē-jī as the Romanization for writing Taiwanese. In short, the Pe̍h-oē-jī was the ground of Romanization of modern Taiwanese colloquial writing.

Today, there are twenty three million of populations in Taiwan. About 80% of them speak Taiwanese. However, the Taiwanese people are forced by the Chinese ROC government to be educated in Chinese rather than in Taiwanese. In accordance with the spirits of Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (1996), Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) and the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), Taiwanese language and Pe̍h-oē-jī are not only the intangible cultural heritage for the Taiwanese people, but also for all human beings. “The main purpose of this conference is to promote Pe̍h-oē-jī as an intangible cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO in the near future” said by the conference coordinator Professor Wi-vun Chiung.

For more information regarding the conference, you may visit conference website at <http://cvs.twl.ncku.edu.tw/conf/2013>

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