two neighborhoods and a soap opera plot

I continue to visit neighborhoods around Taichung. One, Liming New Village was built over fifty years ago on the then outskirts of Taichung. It was complete in and of itself, with a post office and schools, police station, library, and sports center. The other, an expensive, Japanese inspired gated community was built about twenty years ago at Da Keng, on the slopes of the Taichung’s most accessible mountain. Liming is in decline because the young people have left for jobs in Taipei, or to live in more upscale, “modern” communities. The Da Keng community never took off due to banking difficulties.

Also, I have been watching a Taiwanese soap opera with my friend’s mother. My sense of the plot line: episode 1: boy meets girl; episode 2: boy and girl fall in love; episode 3-39: their mothers fight; episode 40: some kind of reunion before the birth or the first grandchild when fighting resumes.

How do the neighborhoods connect up with the soap opera plot? An older neighborhood that looks like Liming keeps getting referenced as where the poor but honest live, while the wealthy and corrupt inhabit ornate homes like the second neighborhood. However, a friend explained that Taiwan’s middle class lives somewhere in between these two extremes, where the question is not how to make more money, but rather to reveal one’s taste by purchasing the highest quality goods (or house, in this case) without becoming consumed by work. Neighborhood impressions, below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

what is luxury living?

I’ve been thinking about luxury because it permeates Shenzhen advertising, especially that for new housing estates. The definition of luxury that appears in these advertisements invariably links high-end consumption, images of happy elites, and the idea of homecoming. The strip of reclaimed land that stretches from Shekou Gongye 8 Road to Dongjiaotou, for example, is thick with malls and advertising, as well as littered with evidence that such lives don’t come cheap.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The characters for luxury 奢侈 reveal the extent to which inequality threads through and often sustains our desire for these objects. 奢 deconstructs to the characters 大者, or “big one”. Likewise, 侈 becomes 人多, or many people. Thus, the literal definition of shechi is big one many people, leaving the question of the verb that links big ones and the many open to interpretation. Is a luxury item something that all want but belongs to the big one? Or perhaps, it takes many to produce a big one?  Continue reading