On March 11, Wellesley’s Taiwanese Cultural Organization (TCO) brought a slice of Taiwanese culture to campus, hosting its annual Night Market. The event presented food, games, trivia and entertainment to encourage its visitors to learn more about Taiwan’s society and culture.
Jessica Tseng ’24, co-president of TCO, explained how the Night Market helps contribute to Wellesley’s diverse community.
“When I talk to my own friends about TCO, they always think that the organization is solely for Taiwanese people [but] that is completely different from what we are trying to promote,” said Tseng. “TCO’s mission has always been to spread awareness about Taiwanese culture by engaging a larger audience at Wellesley.”
Every year, TCO chooses a Taiwanese night market to replicate for the Wellesley community. This year’s night market was inspired by Tainan’s 花園夜市 (huā yuán yè shì, Garden Night Market).
“In the past, we have always chosen night markets located in Taipei, which is the capital of Taiwan,” said Tseng. “This year, however, we chose a night market located in Tainan, a coastal city in southwestern Taiwan, [because] that region holds a lot of cultural significance in Taiwan’s history.”
Although the Garden Night Market is relatively new compared to other cities’ counterparts, the concept of night markets is not. With Taiwan’s first night market founded in 1899, night markets typically serve small portions of authentic foods at inexpensive prices (usually $1-$3). The rising popularity of these markets over the years has led to diversity in the types of vendors, many of them providing entertainment or selling handicrafts, toys and clothing.
Similarly, the TCO Night Market hosted two food stands, with scallion pancakes, egg fried rice, and meats, four game booths and three student vendors along with student groups every hour. In addition, TCO invited visitors to learn about Taiwanese culture through “passports.” Handed out at entry, each visitor received a “passport” containing five trivia questions about Taiwan’s history, demographics and geography. If filled in correctly, the visitor would be able to turn their passport in and receive a raffle ticket. TCO’s main goal for this event was to bring people together and educate them about Taiwan and its food and culture.
One of the reasons why TCO continues to host the yearly night market is because there is not a lot of Taiwanese representation on campus. Tseng noted that TCO’s foundation is based upon having a safe environment for both Taiwanese and non-Taiwanese students to gather.
“We wanted to promote this idea by hosting an event that welcomes students of all backgrounds, encouraging them to try new foods and games, things that I experienced as a child,” Tseng said.