Vegetarianism and religion
To be known for a vegetarian nation, India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined, and the lowest per capita meat consumption among global average. But the view of India as a predominantly vegetarian nation may not be quite accurate. (Read more: BBC: The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation)
Vegetarianism is strongly linked with Dharmic traditions (religions) that originated in ancient India. In Jainism, vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone; in Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, it is promoted by scriptures and religious authorities but is not mandatory.
In Taiwan, vegetarianism isn’t an unfamiliar concept at all since Buddhism is deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture. Taiwan is covered with vegetarian buffets which is really affordable for everyday eating. Low-priced vegetarian cafeterias can be found on every street corner.
There are also a growing number of upscale vegetarian restaurants, some with stylish interior designs, others able to host formal banquets. Over 6,000 vegetarian restaurants are on this little island (even smaller than West Virginia). Click here to download Taiwan’s Top 100+ Vegetarian Restaurant by Taiwan Tourism Bureau.
Unofficial statistics show that about 10 percent of Taiwan’s population insist a vegetarian diet on a daily basis, which is the second highest percentage behind India in the world. As society increasingly focuses on health and fitness, there are numbers of “sometimes-vegetarians” who choose to go vegetarian from time to time. This imply that Taiwan’s vegetarian food market is becoming more sophisticated and enticing. (Read more: Why Taipei is Asia’s top destination for vegans)
What kind of vegetarian?
Vegetarianism has been present in India since antiquity although a non-vegetarian diet may be present even on the highest priest caste. Many Indians who do not regularly follow a vegetarian diet may adopt one during religious festivals. (Read more: In charts: Vegetarianism in India has more to do with caste hierarchy than love for animals)
- Jainism: The Jain cuisine is completely vegetarian and also excludes underground vegetables such as potato, garlic, onion etc, to prevent injuring small insects and microorganisms; and also to prevent the entire plant getting uprooted and killed. It is practiced by Jain ascetics and lay Jains.
- Hinduism: Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, but some Hindus avoid eating meat because it minimizes hurting other life forms. Vegetarianism is considered satvic, that is purifying the body and mind lifestyle in some Hindu texts.
- Mahayana Buddhism: Many Buddhists interpret “prohibits taking the life of any person or animal” to mean that not consuming animals which requires killing. Buddhists also follow a lacto-vegetarian diet. This means they consume dairy products but exclude eggs, poultry, fish, and meat from their diet. (Read more: What I wish everyone knew about the 5 main types of Buddhism)
Taiwanese’s vegetarian custom origins from religion, but more people dine meatless not just for Religion but Lifestyle nowadays. (Read more: Meatless Dining – for Religion or Lifestyle)
- Flexitarian (方便素) : Those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but can eat meat in certain occasions. It makes things easier and convenient for Taiwanese when they are on business trips but hard to find vegetarian restaurants. “Flexitarian” literally means “convenient vegetarian” in mandarin. Another term in this category is for those who accept vegetables are cooked together with meat (but eat only the vegetables and leave the meat aside).
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian (蛋奶素) : When Taiwanese are talking about vegetarian, they are likely referring to lacto-ovo vegetarian. Majority of vegetarians in Taiwan belong to this category. They do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or any kind of animal, but do eat eggs and dairy products.
- Vegan (全素) : Vegans strictly don’t eat any kind of meat. Declining eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these as well. Some vegans exclude the five pungent vegetables as for the sake of religion (Buddhism). (Read more: Five Forbidden Pungent Roots)
Indian in Taiwan
“I didn’t expect to find a place in the world where vegetarian food is even more abundant than in India, but in Taiwan you can find vegetarian food on every street corner,” exclaims Pradeep Rawat, director general of the India-Taipei Association.
Indian culture such as yoga and Indian classical dance are wide developed in Taiwan. (Read more: Indian culture dazzled visitors at Taipei Main Station)
On the other hand, Taiwanese culture and society are friendly to every nationalities and religions. Taiwanese people will be the most hospitable you have ever seen! So, are you ready to plan your Taiwan tour? You can start with a Taipei day tour here!