Ethnography sample essay

Ethnographer Analytical Essay: Taiwan

1. Introduction

In this analytical essay, there are a few main sections that will be covered. The first section that will be covered will be the trip itself. In this section, destination of the trip, personal experience gained from the trip and essential aspect of the trip will be mentioned. It is then followed by a literature review which will help in understanding the trip. Next, it will be the section where discussions are made on the trip and lastly, a conclusion where both the main points and site are drawn together. 


In this research essay, the main theoretical concept that is chosen will be authenticity. Besides authenticity, a small portion of impacts and outcomes as well as the meaning and experiences will be covered to help in the findings of this research. With the theoretical concept chosen, therefore the research question is as followed: “Do people actually believe in letting off sky lanterns?”

2. The Trip Itself

With the help of this essay, I get to travel out of Singapore with my friends to a self-planned 4 days’ trip to Taiwan (13-16 October 2016). Besides the responsibilities I hold to complete this essay, although it is a short trip but I get to experience various things that I don’t. As a kid, I used to travel with tour agencies and go on guided tour. But this trip to Taiwan, I did it all on my own with the help of my friend from scratch. I get to plan my own itinerary, doing research on the internet for famous and popular places to visit in Taiwan. Foods that must be tried as well as shopping places to visit. Through this, I get to understand that planning my own itinerary is not easy as there is many to be done. Research such as what public transport to travel to the destination, will the itinerary go smoothly as planned, booking my own air ticket and finding my accommodation.


It is my first time visiting Taiwan and it is such a lovely place with heart-warming locals. The locals there are really friendly and I get to experience the help of the locals there as I lost my handphone in Taiwan during the trip there. It is really memorable. Besides the experience I gained, I visited many places in Taiwan. Places such as Leofoo, Jiufen, Pingxi as well as their night markets.


To save cost for the trip, I decided to travel by public transport. Taking their public transport, I get to experience how different it is from Singapore. Their trains are slightly more complicated than ours, and the way they queue for the train, standing on the side of the escalator is also different from us. It is really an eye opener to me.

3. Literature Review

To understand more about the trip, research has been prepared before setting out to Taiwan. It is a big country, hence there must be sufficient understanding.  Understanding of the country itself and the attraction destination that will be visited had been researched on beforehand.


A brief introduction of Taiwan itself, Taoyuan International Airport is Taiwan's largest airport, and it is located just outside of Taipei City. It is one of Taiwan's four International Airports, and Taoyuan is known to be the busiest. In this research, Taipei was the place that was visited, Taipei City lies in the Taipei Basin, the land surrounding Taipei City and Keelung City, which together forms the Greater Taipei area. It has a wealth of landscape diversity, including mountains and hills. Snow Mountain ranges, Datun Mountains and Guanyin Mountain ranges together form a natural barrier for the city. New Taipei City has a total of twenty-nine administrative districts.


Not only known for its busiest airport and landscape, Taiwan is also rich in its culture and history. Most of the residents of New Taipei City speak Taiwanese or Hakka. There are also some aboriginal people who resides in the county.


The next brief introduction that will be mentioned about will be the attraction visited which will be Shifen old street, where we will release sky lantern and answer the research question that we have in this destination. Shifen old street is located in Pingxi district of New Taipei City. It is a famous stop along Pingxi branch line as Pingxi was originally built to transport col and now it has been transformed into and internationally renowned railway for tourists to experience lighting sky lanterns. The ambience and experience of this attraction attracts large number of local and visitors daily. In the past, people waited until the lantern festival to release the sky lantern where they hope to make a wish for the new year and then send it to god. But today, Shifen old street is a popular tourist stop for people to put off sky lantern at any time of the year.


This is where the theoretical concept of authenticity is what this research essay wants to find out. Relating to the theoretical concept, the research question that was asked was “Do people actually believe in letting off sky lantern?”


The idea behind this research question was because the releasing of sky lantern loses its authenticity of only releasing it on the lantern festival during Chinese New Year period. The lantern festival is held to celebrate the first full moon of Chinese New Year, which is the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. A small section of impacts and outcomes will be mentioned in the later part of this essay because sky lanterns releasing into air can cause harm to the environment as well as the space needed to release it. The next small section that will also be mentioned will be meaning and experiences as how do locals and visitors feel about releasing sky lantern every day in the year, in this section, there is some casual talks with the local staff there.


More will be discussed in the next part of the essay.

4. What It Means

As mentioned in the literature review, the idea behind the research question was because the releasing of sky lantern loses its authenticity of only releasing it on the lantern festival during Chinese New Year period. This is why authenticity was chosen, as it is a norm now that people can release sky lantern at any time of the year. The meaning behind sky lantern is one must first write their New Year’s wish on the outside of the lantern. But do they really believe it or was it just doing it for fun.


While I was setting my own lantern, when waiting for it to get heated up I had a casual talk with the local staff there. Our conversation was very brief as I do not wish to make it like I am interviewing him. I casually asked him, as a local here how do he feel about tourist gets to put sky lantern everyday instead of the one year lantern festival during Chinese New Year. His reply back to me was on the point of view as a business person, he said to me that he felt it was great because they attract more tourists here thus leading to an increase in their earnings.


But as my point of view of a tourist, I feel that this is a great opportunity and it benefits me as I do not have to wait for the Chinese New Year period to release the sky lantern. There is a short window of opportunity to take part in this festival, and there are guaranteed to be crowds. I followed by asking him how do he feel about this loss of authenticity in this lantern festival, he told me that it does not really matter to him, as long as customers (tourists) are happy, so are they. He then told me that since every day in the year tourists are releasing sky lanterns, to him it feels like he is attending lantern festival every day.


Although the sky lantern festival did not really lose its meaning, but it loss the tradition of only celebrating it during the Chinese New Year. The festival’s majestic beauty and convenient access from the Taipei metropolis has seen the event rapidly grow in popularity, and has attracted the attention of major international media outlets


The next section that will be covered will be the impacts and outcomes that this research essay wish to talk about. As sky lantern are being released into the air, this can be harmful to the environment. The paper lantern is being soaked in kerosene and release into the air. By holding the lantern down on the ground and allow it to fill with hot air. Once the lantern is filled full of hot air, release the lantern and watch the wishes float up. Again, I casually asked the same local staff by releasing so much sky lanterns in a day, wont it harm the environment. He told me that this place (Shifen old street) is the only place in Taiwan where sky lanterns can be released legally. Extra research was found that Shifen old street was seen as a safe location due to being located in the high mountains. Festival viewers will be glad to know that it is also one of the places with the lowest amounts of light pollution in Taiwan due to the low population density.


Lastly, the last section that wished to be covered in this research will be the meanings and experiences of this attraction event. Besides the real meaning of writing wishes for it to come true, another meaning that is celebrated in this festival will be to inspired love, romance and happiness. Their love will be witnessed and blessed by all participants of the Sky Lantern festival. Although it is a same event, but it holds different meaning and gives tourists or locals different experiences.


And this, to end off my trip, I asked the same local staff if he believe in releasing sky lantern for wishes to come true, he told me that everyone who came to this place, be it doing it for fun or for wishes to come true still hope for the best. If it was not for this trip, I would not know that there is meaning behind it, initially I did not understand why people release the sky lantern until I visited and experience it on my own. The atmosphere there just makes one believes in it.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the research question proposed is still not being fully covered. As there are still some parts left to be unknown and research still has to be done further to answer the research question. Although the local staff there has their own point of view, I personally have my own point of view as well. So, it is more of a bias answer because of our own personal view of the event. There are uncertainties to be clarified with people of higher authority.


Next, the references obtain in this essay is minimal as most of it are obtained and gained from personal experience from the trip. Most references obtained are on the history and findings of the attraction destination. Through this field trip, I learned to be independent and I look forward to plan my own travel in future. I get the feeling of engaging with the locals there, experiencing things that I don’t from a guided tour. To me this trip was worth it although it was a short one, I get to understand more of a place and the meaning it holds behind it.

6. References

"NTPC Travel - Pingxi". Tour.ntpc.gov.tw. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. http://tour.ntpc.gov.tw/page.aspx?wtp=3&wnd=211


"Shifen Old Street In Jiufen". roundTAIWANround. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. https://www.rtaiwanr.com/jiufen/shifen-old-street

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