The Beautiful Island

Prof. Dr. Günter Pilz, Institut f. Algebra, JKU


„Ilha Formosa“ – the beautiful island was the Portuguese name for what is now called Taiwan (but „Formosa“ is also still in use). Taiwan has about half of the size of Austria, but about three times as many people. Many Austrians associate Taiwan with cheap products (since quite a time, this does not apply any more), and with the permanent conflict with Mainland China (unfortunately still unsettled). Today, Taiwan is a modern country, still with a clear Chinese heritage, perhaps a little “americanized”, technologically very advanced, and with marvellous food.

Taiwan is only densely inhabited along the coastlines; the interior is rough, with mountains up to 4,000 meter elevation, with canyons, lakes, hot springs, and untouched countryside. „Taiwan“ must not be confused with Thailand. The name means something like “Terrace Bay”. In the north, there is the capital Taipei ( “pei” means “north”), down in the south there is Tainan (guess what “nan” means…). By now, you have already learned 4 Chinese words. If you want to go to Taiwan (which would be an excellent idea), it is a good idea to learn a few more, inasmuch as 4 counts as an unlucky number in China. It is not too hard to learn Chinese words, the grammar is extremely simple, but the pronunciation can be very tough. By now, I can express many things in Chinese. The only problem is that nobody understands me…
This year (2010), I spent January and February as a visiting professor at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan. The NCKU is one of two “Universities of Excellence” in Taiwan, and is in all rankings ahead of the JKU. It is one of our partner universities in Taiwan with which we have a regular exchange of students and researchers. Our Institute of Algebra has a joint research project (supported by the corresponding Research Councils) on applications of abstract algebra to agriculture.

Apart from research and teaching, I met JKU students who are presently in Taiwan, as well as Taiwanese students which spent a year at Linz. The Taiwanese group is now the biggest group of foreign students in Linz. Many of their former students have got excellent jobs in Taiwan, mainly because of their times abroad and their language skills. So study leaves abroad really pay off in many respects! The same applies to Austrian students according to a study of Prof. Euler.

I could start many more promising contacts. Especially impressive were the visits to Academia Sinica (the Taiwanese Cultural Office in Vienna helped a lot in establishing this contact) and to the National Taiwan University of Technology. Both institutions have top rankings worldwide in many areas. The University of Linz wants to extend the relations to these institutions considerably in the future.



Longshan Temple

NCKU Camps

Friedhof in Tainan

Tainan Park

Winter in Taiwan