Little Happiness @ Taiwan Part3
OIGEN creates ironware for people. We are interviewing regular people from different countries and cultures around the world. Today we visit Taiwan.
By Nanao Sonobe
INDEX:Little Happiness @ Taiwan
Part1：The fundamentals of what I like: Video games, craftwork, matchbox cars and language
Part2：Food for your soul
Part3：Finding quality time to relax with your partner University professors Frank Ying and Kay Ying
Part4：A neutral place Lennon and friends, 30s
Finding quality time to relax with your partner
University professors Frank Ying and Kay Ying
Professor Frank Ying is a top professor at National Taiwan Normal University well known for his love of iron kettles. The affable professor, who would most likely laugh off such an introduction, has now been named the youngest vice-president in the history of the university.
As a tea aficionado, Professor Ying makes a point of buying the best tools to make good tea. He first set his eyes on Nambu Tekki over a decade ago in a Taipei department store. The first time we met him, he described his impressions of water boiled in iron kettles as “recreating the taste of soft water flowing from a mountain spring and filtered by the rocks.”
As a manufacturer of traditional hand-crafted ironware, it is a pleasure to come across someone who really appreciates the difference. Professor Ying calls each of his 10 or so iron kettles ‘he’ or ‘she’ and has lovingly made wooden stands for each of them by hand. A visit to his house revealed why his woodworking skills were legitimate enough to be affirmed by his friend who teaches design at a university in California.
Professor Ying is a practitioner of ‘Slow Life’, a movement that encourages making time to improve your quality of life. An antidote to the mass-production society of the latter 20th century which placed value in the pursuit of convenience, efficiency, speed and cost-cutting.
The concept of Slow Life spawned from the Slow Food movement that began in Italy in 1986 and has now become a global movement spanning over 160 countries. Slow Food itself gained popularity as an alternative to the growing prevalence of Fast Food. It was a call to reevaluate local food traditions and cultures that utilize locally grown produce, defining true quality with the traditions, wisdom and joy in the food we eat every dayi*.
While I agree with these principles wholeheartedly, like many others, finding the time and money to ‘live slowly’ is another matter. While someone as successful as Professor Ying may have the luxury of enjoying such cultured things, the average person just doesn’t have the means to select high quality locally produced food over cheaper imported goods. With more than a little curiosity, I wondered what such a life would actually be like. Our request for an interview was met with his usual bright response, “you’re welcome any time!” Actually tracking the professor down proved a little more difficult. One day in the USA, the next in Pakistan, it was a small miracle that we managed to catch him at home in Taiwan.
Like the salt of the Earth.
Professor Ying invited us to his house in New Taipei City. His apartment room decorated with his wife Kay, also a university professor, immediately felt like home. I had heard of Professor Ying’s interest in carpentry but was still taken aback by the beauty and range of his handmade work, from the bookshelves lining the walls to the ceiling decorations, dining table set, desk, and even decorative window in the door.
The professor first got into carpentry 13 years ago, wanting to make a chair out of some driftwood he picked up off a beach near New Taipei City. Talked then turned to his first ever OIGEN kettle.
“I discovered OIGEN around the same time as I started wood work. It was all about “slowed with taste,” which was everything I longed for. Wood working takes me a long time to do one piece. This cedar tree took me six months to sculpture. I use a sculpture knife. One cut at a time, to sculpture the whole piece of wood.
When I use your kettle to make my tea, I bring “slowed with taste” to my life. I feel very comfortable and peaceful. You want to slow down with taste.”
“Although there is colorful ironware out there, I like this natural iron color,” He continued. “Water in the creek naturally filtered through rocks which are often rich in iron becomes soft. It’s the best water for making tea. That’s why I like this natural color. When I heat water in OIGEN kettles, I feel a part of nature.”How to make warm ‘sayu’ water with iron kettles
“If you buy plastic materials, you are making waste. Wood and iron are both indulgent and like the salt of the Earth, meaning steady and trustworthy….”
Making time in your busy day
As I listened, I began to wonder. Thirteen years ago, his oldest daughter would have been five, and the younger siblings even smaller. With both parents working, it’s hard to imagine having time to stroll the beach searching for driftwood. If my husband was spending hours on end carving wood one cut at a time, I’d likely be at his throat with something along the lines of, “If you have that much time on your hands, why don’t you do some chores or help raising the kids!”
While professor Ying was in the garden preparing the barbecue, I took the opportunity to ask Kay about it.
“If I move tools on the floor, he gets mad because he couldn’t find his tools when he wanted to do his woodwork again… Tools were everywhere and sitting there for months. I did not complain about leaving things on floor. Why? Because we could actually talk. We had conversations. That’s probably the only time he had time to talk. I tried to make it acceptable. I knew he needed something like a hobby to release his pressures from writing papers, reading, preparing for lectures and so on.”
After meeting each other at university in the US, both went on to finish their doctoral programs and now teach economics at university.
Talking with Professor Ying got me thinking. Standing in the kitchen with my own husband, making food for visiting friends or family, or prepping some quick meals for the coming week, we would find time to talk about things that would otherwise be left untouched. While cutting vegetables, minding the pot and doing the washing up, we would share snippets of our day, our parents, our kids, or even problems at work.
Professor Ying and his wife showed me that a ‘slow life’ was not some unattainable dream, but rather a way of spending precious ‘slow time’ with family members. Not an ideal to yearn for in the future, but something we can create now, and spend with our precious partner and family.
As a child, professor Ying didn’t like to study. After graduating from college, he worked a few years as an electrician before deciding to go back to university. He studied hard and ended up traveling to the US to further his studies at age 27, completing his doctorate degree in record time and beginning his career as a professor. When I asked him about his driving force, his reply was succinct. “I am the most optimistic and hopeful person I have ever met. I always expect people to be kind and great. So I always want to help as much as I can.”
Ever since we first met, he had nothing but kind words for OIGEN products. “I believe OIGEN products are truly top quality, and even talk about them to my beloved students. I want to tell them about OIGEN, because I believe these things will make their lives richer and better. To tell you the truth, I think I’d make a pretty good salesman for you! Sometimes I may get a little too carried away though…” he says with a chuckle. To have someone outside Japan who appreciates OIGEN so much and supports our goals is truly a blessing. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Ying for all he has done. OIGEN is proud to be chosen as a partner for professor Ying’s ‘slow time.’
*Reference：Slow Food International Association “Our Philosophy”, accessed ,
March 12, 2019