Sunday, June 16, 2013

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Taiwan's smallest shopping mall

6/16/2013 Taiwan Explorer

Today when my wife and I went to visit a friend in an old neighborhood in Zhonghe, we passed by what could possibly be Taiwan's smallest shopping mall: The Wuuwey Shopping Mall. This mall is so small, that there are no escalators, no elevators, no security guards... not even doors! It's quite possible that the architect was inspired by Jony Ive's design philosophy that's been talked about a lot recently. Here's what Apple's famous designer said: “I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation, it’s about bringing order to complexity.”

A mall of real five flavors

Not only is the size and simplicity of this shopping mall remarkable, so is the English name Wuuwey. The Chinese original is 正五味 (pronounced as Zhèng Wǔ Wèi), and it literally means Real Five Flavors. More about the flavors further below.


Wuuwey, the short version of the Chinese original, is derived from the last two characters 五味 (Wǔwèi). The character 正 (zhèng) was probably omitted due to the aforementioned philosophy of simplicity. Unlike in communist China where the romanization of Chinese language is regulated and standardized, in Taiwan there is freedom to spell romanized words as one pleases, which is great (Taiwan is a democratic country after all). Let me explain what the local romanization expert most likely did here: The "ǔ" in 五 is pronounced in the 3rd tone, which is also known as the "falling rising tone". To the untrained foreign ear this might as well sound like "uu", people from Finland (Mitä kuuluu?) know exactly what I am talking about, so it makes perfect sense to correct the inaccurate pinyin "wu" with "wuu" here. The second part of the word is "wey", which might be an homage to Sinatra's "My Way". This is probably a good way (wey?) to attract foreign customers, especially those who came to Taiwan from an Anglophone country, because references to pop culture are a great way to catch their attention. In the past years the declining wages in buxibans and the skyrocketing rents in Taipei City have caused a real brain drain of talented English teachers, who are now relocating to Zhonghe in great numbers, because the living cost is still affordable, and the air still fresh. Naturally foreigners will move close to shopping malls, therefore a very catchy and linguistically well-thought through romanization will benefit one's business greatly. The owner of this shopping mall must be very forward thinking, and I believe his business will be good for many years ahead.

What are the real five flavors?

The five flavors offered in this shopping mall are: Candy, cookie, peanut, seed, gift. This is very well highlighted on the photo below, you can see colorful banners displaying this important information. I do hope that the word "gift" is not of German origin here.

The Wuuwey Shopping Mall is located close to Jingan MRT Station

• Check my list of shopping malls in Taipei here>>