Famous Taiwanese People: Taiwanese Artists, Scientists, Leaders, Musicians, Politicians and Athletes
In this Country Profile
Taiwan may not be represented in the United Nations but that is a political issue that is subject to debate and may take years of discussion before being resolved. It does not detract from the fact that Taiwan has its own roster of famous people that have made an impact in the lives of people in Asia and the rest of the world, be it entertainers, musicians and people in the acting field, science and medicine as well as education and sports. Being a community of hard-working people, Taiwan has a crop of business people that created waves in the area of information and computer technology.
:: List of Famous People from Taiwan ::
Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Hulk (2003) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are just some of the memorable Hollywood films that Taiwanese movie director Ang Lee gave the world’s movie audiences. He is from Chaochou, Pingtung where he was born on the 23rd of October 1954. His parents highly valued education and he learned the Chinese classics at an early age. Ang Lee’s father was the principal at the National Tainan First Senior High School, where he graduated. While his father wanted him to be a professor, he failed the college/university examinations twice and decided to enroll at the National Arts School where he got interested in art and drama. After his mandatory military service, Lee enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979 where he took his bachelor’s degree in theater. He received his MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. While still a student, Lee had already displayed his flair for directing. His 16mm short film, Shades of the Lake won the Best Drama Award in Short Film in his home country. It was a short film he did in 1982 while in graduate school. He was part of the crew of Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, the thesis film of Spike Lee, his classmate at NYU. Ang Lee made Fine Line in 1984 for his own thesis. It won the Wasserman Award for Outstanding Direction given by New York University.
While Lee made waves, attracted attention and got represented by William Morris Agency, it was not easy for him to find work initially and his molecular biologist wife became the breadwinner. While Lee became a full-time husband he wrote two screenplays, Wedding Banquet and Pushing Hands, which he submitted in 1990 to a Taiwan Government Information Service-sponsored competition. His screenplays won second and first places, respectively. Newly-promoted senior manager of a major film studio and first-time producer Li-Kong Hsu got Lee to direct Pushing Hands as a full-length feature film in 1991. Lee’s career took off after that and he directed films in Taiwan and later in Hollywood. He had won Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Golden Lions and other major awards for screenplays and directing.
Another film director that helped put Taiwan in the movie world map is Hou Hsiao-Hsien. He was born on April 8, 1947 in Mei County in Guangdong, China but his family moved to Taiwan when he was barely one year old. He studied at the National Taiwan Academy of Arts. He is a leading figure of the New Wave Cinema movement in Taiwan and has won many prestigious international awards from Cannes, Venice, Hawaii and Nantes. He is fond of the minimalist approach and his films often depict China’s history, conflicts between China and Taiwan and their impacts on the common people, as well as conflicts between Taiwanese and migrants from the mainland. Some of his award-winning films include The Boys from Fengkuei, A Summer at Grandpa’s, A Time to Live, A Time to Die, A City of Sadness (Gold Lion winner), The Puppetmaster, Good Men, Good Women and Millennium Mambo. Hou Hsiao-Hsien is not only a director; he also had produced eleven films and even acted in a few movies.
Cold Face Killer is the nickname given to Chao Fong-pang, a professional pool player who has been a legend in the sport. He had won quite a number of pool and billiards tournaments in his home country and abroad. He was born in Kaohsiung in Taiwan on the 15th of September 1967. Fong-pang was the first Asian to win a major title in pocket billiards when he defeated Germany’s Thomas Hasch in 1993 at the WPA World Nine-Ball Championship. He defeated Japan’s 1994 title holder Takeshi Okumura in the ICC in 1995. He won it again in 2000 by defeating Ismael Paez of Mexico with a score of 17-6, a world record in itself as it was the largest deficit in a world championship final. He is notable for using jump shots to win difficult matches, just like what he did to defeat Francisco Bustamante of the Philippines during their tie-breaker at the International Challenge of Champions (ICC) tour in 2001. In 2005 Fong-pang emerged the winner against 2004 ICC title holder Thomas Engert, another German.
At the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, he brought home the gold medal for the 8-ball individual and the bronze for the 9-ball individual.
He is dubbed as the Little Genius or Taishan Shentong in Taiwanese. Born on the 9th of February 1989, Chia-ching is the youngest player ever to win a World Pool Association World Nine-Ball Championship. He won it in 2005 at five months past the age of sixteen. He was the runner up in the Juniors Nine-Ball World Championship 2004 and was also the winner in 2005 in the WPA World Eight-Ball Championship.
Chia-ching grew up with his grandmother who owned a billiard hall where he learned to play the game. His grandmother was the one who brought him to competition venues on her scooter when he turned serious about pool. He applied for and obtained citizenship in mainland China, a move he said he decided to make to enable him to compete in more international pool tournaments. It was revealed in April 2011 that he has not given up his Taiwanese citizenship. He has not submitted an application to renounce his citizenship from his birth country, as stated by the Ministry of the Interior, Deputy Minister Lin Tzu-ling.
Hu Chin-lung is one of the five baseball players from Taiwan who are playing for Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States. Hu was born in Tainan City on the 2nd of February 1984. He is part of the national team representing Chinese Taipei that had brought accolades to their country. They had won the gold during the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and the silver in the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou. They also won the bronze in the Asian Baseball Championship in Taichung in 2007 and won the silver medal in 2009 when the championship was held in Sapporo.
In his professional baseball career, Hu was first signed as an infielder by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the last day of January in 2003. His rookie career was spent with the Ogden Raptors in his first year. The following year, 2004 was spent between Vero Beach Dodgers (Hi-A Ball) and Columbus Catfish (A Ball). The year 2005 was his first full season with Vero Beach. His stats with the team included 23 stolen bases while he had hit .313. In 2006 he was assigned to play for the Double-A Jacksonville Suns and was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game during the break in 2006 as well as in 2007, the year when Hu earned an MVP. A few months after playing for Triple-A Las Vegas, he began his senior career on September 1, 2007. On September 11, 2007, Hu was at bat against the San Diego Padres and hit a solo home run, a first for a Taiwan-born player in the MLB to do so. On September 25 of the same year he managed to do a two-run homer. He played 2009 as a triple-A player with the Albuquerque Isotopes and only five games with the Los Angeles Dodgers after he was called up by the team way back in 2007. Year 2010 was the same and he only played fourteen games with the Dodgers. He was traded to the New York Mets on the 27th of December 2010.
Lu Yen-hsun is a professional tennis player who hails from Taoyuan County where he was born on the 14th of August 1983. He is ranked number 82 in the world based on the ATP men’s singles player ranking as of December 12, 2011. As of November 28, 2011, he is number three in Asia, after Kei Nishikori of Japan and Denis Istomin of Uzbeksitan, the current number one and two players in Asia, respectively. Hardcourt is Lu’s favorite surface. Lu was an accomplished junior tennis player while playing in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit and had beaten other junior players like Mario Ancic and Robin Söderling. He broke into the ATP in 2004 after playing solidly in the Challenger circuit. In his short but illustrious career so far, Lu has managed to defeat some of the current top ATP players in the world, including Guillermo Coria (2004), Peter Luczak (2006), Andy Murray (Beijing Olympics, 2008), Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian (2009), Andy Roddick (2010), and Robby Ginepri and Marcos Baghdatis in 2011. He currently has 15 Challenger singles titles to his name and has a collection of a few gold and bronze medals in the Asian and Olympic Games.
If you are one of the millions of people around the world who love to snack on instant noodles, especially those that come in a very handy cup, then you should know Momofuku Ando. He invented instant noodles and cup noodles, popularized by Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd., which Ando founded on September 4, 1948.
Ando was born in Kagi County in Taiwan on March 5, 1910 when the island was still under Japanese rule. His birth name was Wu Pai-fu and he was born to a wealthy Taiwanese family and owners of several textile shops. He was raised by his grandparents in Tainan as he was orphaned quite early in life. He initially started as a textile manufacturer when he was just 22 years old. A year later he traveled to Japan on business and decided to enroll at the University of Ritsumeikan when he became a Japanese citizen after the Second World War. He also managed to establish a merchandising company in Japan with the inheritance he received from his family. In his biography Ando was quoted as saying that his tax evasion case that led to his imprisonment in 1948 and the loss of his company was due to the education scholarships he provided, an act that was considered as tax evasion during that time. After his release he formed a family-owned business named Nissin, which started out as a salt producer.
After the war, people in Japan had to subsist on bread using wheat flour coming from the United States. Ando asked the Ministry of Health why that is so and was told that supply to make fresh noodles was not enough to meet the needs of the populace. Ando decided to try manufacturing the noodles himself and experimented with flash-frying them. He was 48 in 1958 when he achieved success in creating pre-cooked and instant noodles and marketed his product under the brand Chikin Ramen. His next successful product, the cup noodles in waterproof polystyrene cups was launched on the 18th of September 1971. Ando left this world on the 5th of January 2007 at the age of 96, leaving two sons, one daughter and his wife, Masako.
Did you know that the famous men’s fashion brand, Nautica, was founded by a Taiwanese? It was David Chu who founded what will become a world-famous fashion brand. David Chu was born in 1955 and his original name was Chu Hsin-chi. His name was changed when his family migrated to the United States in 1960. His parents wanted to open a Chinese restaurant in the US and they settled in New York before moving to Connecticut. David wanted to be an architect but his drawings, while taking summer drawing classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology so impressed a professor and he encouraged David to try designing clothes. He worked for a large company in the US, designing jackets inspired by the coats the sailors’ wear. In 1983 he ventured on his own and founded Nautica. The company was sold in 2003 and David earned US$100 million from its sale. In 2006 he started a new company, Bespoke, creating an exclusive line of hand-made suits created in Italy. He was also behind the designer sportswear label LINCS by David Chu.
Jen-hsun Huang was born in Taipei on the 17th of February 1963. His family migrated to Oregon in the United States and this is where he grew up. His American name is Jensen. He received his electrical engineering degree from Oregon State University and earned his master’s degree from Stanford University. After graduation he was employed as a Director of Coreware (LSI Logic). He also worked at AMD or Advanced Micro Devices as a microprocessor designer. He ventured on his own in 1993 and co-founded Nvidia, a globally known graphics processor, and competitor of AMD, Qualcomm and Intel. Nvidia manufactures GeForce and other processors for super computers, tablets and smartphones. He currently serves as President and CEO of Nvidia, where he earns nearly US$25 million annually.
Min H. Kao was born in the village of Jhushan in Nantou, Taiwan in 1949. He graduated from the National Taiwan University with a bachelor’s degree and earned his MS and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He was employed for research work by the US Army and the NASA. He also worked as a systems analyst at Teledyne Systems, a technology company that manufactures systems and instrumentation for defense, aerospace, digital imaging, marine and environmental monitoring instruments and satellite communications. His experience in the company inspired him to start his own company. Together with his friend Gary Burrell, they founder Garmin Limited, now an international company that develops the technologies used for the global positioning system or GPS, used for marine, aviation and consumer products applications. It is headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland with manufacturing facilities in Sijhih City in Taiwan. Mr. Kao’s personal wealth as of January 2010 is estimated to be around US$1.6 billion.
Steven Shih Chen
One of the most popular, if not the most popular video sharing site in the world is You Tube. And it was founded in 2005 by Steven Chen together with Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley, whom he met while all three of them were working at PayPal. Chen was also an employee of Facebook before the founding of You Tube.
Chen was born in Taipei, Taiwan on August 1978 and studied at the Ching Shin Elementary School before his family migrated to the United States when he was eight years old. They settled in Illinois where he went to the Washington Middle School, West Aurora High School, Illinois Math and Science Academy and later at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).
It did not take long for You Tube to be a sensation on its own and attracting the attention of other larger companies. The founders sold it to Google, Inc. for US$1.65 billion on the 16th of October 2006. Chen received Google shares worth US$350 million as of October 30, 2007. The Google shares that were part of the sale total 68,721 shares in trust and 625,366 regular shares. Asian Scientist Magazine listed him as one of the 15 Asian scientists to watch in the magazines May 15, 2011 issue. Steven Chen and Chad Hurley have formed AVOS Systems and they have acquired Yahoo!’s Delicious, a web-based social bookmarking service site.
Taiwanese business tycoon Stan Shih was born in Lukang Township in Changhua County, Taiwan on December 8, 1944. He received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in electronics engineering from the National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan’s oldest university and very well known for science and research especially in the fields of computer science engineering, electrical engineering, social sciences and management. After graduation Stan Shih founded Multitech in 1976 with his wife and five investors. The billion-dollar computer brand changed its name to Acer in 1987. It is now one of the top 5 branded computer vendors in the world and available in the Asia Pacific region, Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Stan Shih retired as chairman of Acer in 2004.
Born on the 14th of May 1978, Aimee Sun is Taiwanese celebrity endorser, a commercial model, media personality, socialite, heiress and jewelry designer. Aside from her multitude of social titles, she’s a level-headed business woman who co-founded Breeze Center. It is a shopping center located in the Songshan District in Taipei. She learned her business acumen from her parent. Her mother is the vice-chairman of Yuanta Securities while her father was the former chairman of Pacific Electric Wire and Cable.
His name may sound too common but in reality it is not. Jerry Yang is the co-founder of Yahoo!. He hails from Taipei where he was born on the 6th of November 1968. His family, which was composed of his mother and a younger brother, went to the United States and settled in San Jose, California when Yang was ten years old. His mother was an English teacher but he claimed that he only knew the word “shoe” when he came to the US. He took his bachelor’s degree and Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
In 1994 while still in school, the website Jerry and Dave’s Guide to the World Wide Web was created by Jerry Yang and David Filo. It was a website that contained directories of other sites found across the World Wide Web as well as various products and services that may be useful for people who go online. It became extremely popular and later renamed as Yahoo!. In 1995 the two decided to form a corporation and named it Yahoo! Inc. While he had stepped down as CEO of Yahoo! he still sits as one of the board of directors of Yahoo! as well as in Alibaba, Yahoo! Japan, Cisco and Asian Pacific Fund. Jerry Yang also sits in the Board of Trustees of Stanford University.
He was born in Taichung, Taiwan on the 27th of December 1970 but moved to the United States when he was barely eight months old. He was an only child and was raised in North Carolina, where his family lived for six year. They then moved to Toronto, Canada where he received his schooling, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science, Industrial Engineering. He became interested in computer programming while he was only 11 years old and was assigned by his father to write a database system using Dbase for their business. He perfected his database system and founded Linguasoft Corporation and sold the program to libraries and bookstores in Canada. One of his clients was the Royal Ontario Museum, which is still using his database program until now.
Ben Chiu founded KillerApp Corp. in 1995, a website where you can do comparison shopping when you are in the market for consumer electronics as well as computers. The site was acquired in 1999 by CNET Networks Inc. He actually began it in 1994 when he was helping his father manage their publishing business (Pan Asia Publications). The Internet was still very new at the time and Ben found it very hard to compare prices from magazine listings to look for the best deals among thousands of lists. He then thought of creating a database of prices and specifications of computers and parts. When e-commerce started to make an appearance, he developed a web crawler that will be able to gather and update prices (1.5 million daily) on his website 24/7, a great service for comparison shopping for buyers. The popularity of his site prompted several companies to bid for it. He later decided to sell his company to CNET is a stock swap agreement. The value was US$55 million and he became Director of Commerce Services of CNET.
Aside from his computer programming skills, Yang was also an accomplished table tennis player and has played for Ontario when he was young. He is also a gifted artist and likes to paint wildlife. His painting style is reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth and Robert Bateman.
Yuan Tseh Lee, Ph.D.
Dr. Lee was born in Hsinchu City (Shinchiku), a prefecture in Taiwan on the 19th of November 1936 when Japan ruled Taiwan. His mother, Ts’ai P’ei was an elementary school teacher and his father, Lee Tze-fan was an artist. Lee was a very bright student, that even without taking the university’s prerequisite entrance examination he was able to enter the National Taiwan University. He received his bachelor’s degree in science in 1959 and his Master of Science degree from the National Tsing Hua University in 1961. In 1965 he earned his Ph.D. from the University of California in Berkeley.
His work on physical chemistry and its use on the advanced chemical kinetics techniques for materials transformation earned him a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. Dr. Lee was the first Taiwanese to win this precious recognition. From January 15, 1994 up to October 19, 2006 he was the president of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica. Currently Dr Lee is the president of the International Council for Science.
Henry Chang-Yu Lee
For fans of the TV franchise CSI, Dr. Henry Chang-yu Lee is the real deal. He is the foremost forensic scientist in the world. He was born in Rugao City, in the province of Jiangsu in mainland China on the 22nd of November 1938. His family fled to Taiwan in 1949. His father perished in the trip. Because he grew up fatherless, and as one of eleven children, he did not dream of attending university. He instead enrolled in the tuition-free Central Police College where students also receive living stipends. After graduating with a Police Science degree he joined the Taipei police force. At age 25 he was already a captain and the youngest to be appointed to that rank. In 1965 he and his wife migrated to the United States because he wanted to continue his studies. He received his Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He took his masters in biochemistry and science from the University of New York, graduating in 1974 and went on to study for his Ph.D. in Biochemistry, which he finished in 1975 at the same school.
Dr Lee has worked in many high-level forensic cases including the O.J. Simpson case; the reinvestigation of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy; the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the suicide of Vincent Foster, Deputy White House Counsel. He was the blood spatter analyst during the trial of Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his wife. Dr. Lee was also the lead forensic investigator of the Helle Crafts murder. Helle Crafts was an airline stewardess whose frozen body was run through a woodchipper by her husband. It was Connecticut’s first murder conviction without a body as evidence.
David Da-i Ho
Dr. David Da-I Ho is an AIDS researcher who became famous for initiating the use of protease inhibitors to treat patients who have been infected with HIV. He was born on the 3rd of November 1952 in Taichung, Taiwan. His mother brought him and his brother to the United States to join their father who had been in the US since 1957. He graduated with the highest honors when he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1974. In 1978 he earned his Masters Degree from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology before doing his internal medicine clinical training at the UCLA School of Medicine from 1978 until 1982. His did his training on infectious diseases at the Massachusetts General Hospital from 1982 to 1985. Dr. Ho was one of the first doctors to know of the first reported cases of infection from the disease now called AIDS while he was a resident at the Los Angeles Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in 1981.
Dr. Ho is a leader in AIDS research and has published over 400 papers on the subject that helped the scientific community to understand the disease better. He focused on finding treatment for the early stages of infection rather on the late stages and he and his team are currently developing vaccines for AIDS. Dr. Ho has received so many awards and honorary titles due to his pioneering work from China, Taiwan and the United States. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver have inducted Dr. David Da-I Ho into the California Hall of Fame on December 12, 2006.
Taiwan’s TV industry is very much alive and the industry has continued to come up with television shows that have become popular not only in Asia but in other parts of the world. Outside of Taiwan, television viewers got to know Jerry Yan, Vic Chou, Vanness Wu, Ken Chu and Barbie Hsu of Meteor Garden fame; Rainie Yang, Ariel Lin, Joe Chen Qiao-en, Joe Cheng, Show Luo, Fahrenheit and Wilber Pan to name a few.
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