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Minister talks up rural areas as key parts of Taiwan's cultural mix

2012/04/18 18:37:19

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai urged local government officials on Wednesday to keep rural communities in mind when making cultural policy decisions and allocate Taiwan's cultural resources evenly instead of concentrating them in large cities.

Cultural resources should be spread out like "stars filling a sky" instead of being concentrated like a "bright red sun," Lung said at her first meeting with cultural officials from Taiwan's 22 counties and cities since taking over as head of the Council for Cultural Affairs in February.

"That way wealth is really stored among the people, and a wealthy people is more important than a wealthy nation," Lung said at the meeting in Safulak Art Village in Hsinchu County, where she stressed the importance of a rural perspective in promoting culture.

Recalling the 13 years she lived in Switzerland and Germany, Lung said the biggest impact that Europe had on her was seeing the rich cultural resources available in its small villages and towns.

Lung said the German town of Kronberg, where she lived for many years and which has a population of only 20,000, boasts a well-equipped performance hall, exhibition hall, children's theater, youth salon and bookstores that can get books they don't carry for customers within 24 hours.

The town also hosts an annual international cello festival, holds regular writers' reading events, compiles its own town history, and allows its people to apply for passports and immigration documents at the town's office, Lung said.

The biggest difference between German and Taiwanese villages is that the latter are still seen as being subordinate to the city, said Lung, a longtime essayist and cultural critic.

"All of our major public constructions are concentrated in big cities. Village people are forced to overcome many barriers, such as transportation and information barriers, to enjoy the same resources as city people," she said.

Economic advancement has not been the only factor driving German villages to reach such high levels of sophistication, according to Lung. Good policies are equally important.

She said a cleaning lady in Germany, for example, can take a day off to attend an opera because the German government subsidizes its citizens to go to such performances.

Lung, who took office in February, has vowed to bridge the cultural gap between urban and rural areas.

Meanwhile, asked by a reporter about a case implicating former Culture Minister Emile Sheng, Lung said that it should be left for the judicial system to decide.

Sheng was forced to resign after being accused of spending an extravagant sum on "Dreamers," a musical produced and presented for two nights in October at a cost of over NT$215 million (US$7.3 million) as part of the Republic of China centennial celebrations.

Opposition lawmakers have accused him of fixing the tender for the production to favor people close to President Ma Ying-jeou, charges Sheng has vigorously denied.

(By Christie Chen)