Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ninety... nearly

Su Beng was born on this day in 1918, in the Shih Lin district of Taipei, Taiwan. So I called Su Beng earlier (due to the time difference between New York and Taipei) to wish him a Happy Birthday. Based on the Gregorian calendar, he would now be eighty-nine years old.

But according to Taiwanese custom, he celebrated his ninetieth birthday a few years ago. In Taiwan, a baby is considered one year old when he or she is born. When the new lunar year arrives, another year is added to a person's age, making him or her two years old. Since the first day of the lunar new year usually falls between January 20 and February 21st of the Gregorian calendar, by the end of February 1919, Su Beng was considered 2 years old. By November 18, 1919, he would still be two years old. Following this line of logic, Su Beng would have been eighty-nine years old in 2006. To complicate matters further, the number 9- and odd numbers in general- are considered unlucky by the Taiwanese, so people customarily skip the eighty-ninth year and just round up to ninety. So, Su Beng celebrated his ninetieth birthday in 2006.

We chatted briefly. I told him that I was planning to return to Taiwan in the new year and he told me that he recently published a short book titled, "Why Should Taiwan Be Independent." Once I'm back in Taiwan I will be back to work with him and plan to him help translate "Why Should Taiwan Be Independent" into English.

Draft pages from Su Beng's short book, "Why Should Taiwan Be Independent"