Blog: Love, Dadaocheng

Love, Dadaocheng: celebrating 6 months of smiles

6 months of Dadaocheng smiles

Six months ago today, 「 Love, Dadaocheng 」 began as a passion project aimed at helping others get to know the Dadaocheng that I (Holly) know and love. To many, Dadaocheng means old buildings, Chinese medicine shops, and the Lunar New Year Market, and in fact, most people only ever come to this fantastic place at Chinese New Year.

That few people get the chance to know the "real," non-tourist version of Dadaocheng is unfortunate, as what really makes this place special is the PEOPLE. It takes some time to uncover this truth, but what most people miss about Dadaocheng is that it's an oasis of smiles amidst a city that can often feel cold, guarded, and devoid of the neighborly kindness that people in Taiwan are known for.

Despite having lived in Taiwan nearly 10 years, city living has never quite grown on me. After 25 years of living in rural small towns across three states in the US, I was accustomed to small talk from store clerks, waves and smiles from strangers, and the understanding that if I were ever in need of something (a helping hand, a power tool, a spare light bulb), I could find whatever was needed by knocking on a neighbor's door. After traveling around Taiwan twice by scooter and numerous times by train, I'd found that this friendly, neighborly sort of environment could be found all over Taiwan -- just not so much in Taipei. By 2012, I'd nearly given up on the city.

In Dadaocheng, I found what I never knew existed in Taipei: a small town right in the middle of a metropolis, a real community.

But then, something happened. I moved to Datong District (大同區) two years ago and joined URS155 on Dihua Street as a resident artist. I got to know local shop owners, whole families of Dadaocheng residents, and even the temple community. In Dadaocheng, I found what I never knew existed in Taipei: a small town right in the middle of a metropolis, a real community. There are friendly people throughout Taipei, certainly, but it's hard to appreciate what a true close knit Taipei community can be until you spend enough time getting to know Dadaocheng. This is also why many new business owners who get the idea to open up shop here, too accustomed to the isolating factors of Taipei life, don't quite know what they're getting themselves into, or how to really open themselves up to the community. They've moved to a small town without realizing it. The experience is, as I've been told by some new shop owners, both educational and refreshing.

The past six months of 「 Love, Dadaocheng 」 have been educational for me, too. Because I want to share what I discover with others, I've learned to speak up more and ask questions when I'm curious or don't understand something, something I've never really done in my life (a by-product of being a social introvert). I've learned more about Taipei history, Chinese medicine, Taiwanese art, temple culture, and Taiwanese cooking this year than I have in the entire decade I've lived in Taiwan. I've made countless friends of all ages and occupations, and relearned how to make small talk with neighbors and strangers in the light, guileless manner I'd all but forgotten since moving to Taipei.

I haven't written as much as I'd like, having had to throw myself into my work in the past few months (it's a brand new projection touchscreen device, DAMO -- check it out if you're curious), but I've been able to share hundreds of photos and little snippets of Dadaocheng life, primarily through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, hopefully enough to give people an idea of everything I've written above. (More photo essays will come soon, I promise.) I've talked about Dadaocheng with newspaper and magazine reporters and TV hosts, and given tours of the neighborhood to guests from the US, Hong Kong, and Japan. The first 「 Love, Dadaocheng 」event was held last week, Startup Dadaocheng, a collaborative event with CAMPOBAG. It was a pleasure to bring together more than thirty people to discuss the intersection between Dadaocheng and technology. Another event is coming soon (Christmas Day -- stay tuned!), and there will certainly be more in the coming months.

Needless to say, it has been a wonderful half a year, and I'm looking forward to seeing 「 Love, Dadaocheng 」grow and continue in 2015. Thank you for your support!