Students from a local university displayed their findings and a collection of souvenirs from Taiwan following a study tour of the island. The 18-member group from the Anthropology Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU) studied various aspects of Taiwan's culture, including religions, festivals, social life, and cuisine. Their observations, which were highlighted at an exhibition in CU's Hui Gallery, provided the youngsters with a comparative view of Chinese cultures. Joseph Bosco, associate professor of anthropology who was also director of the study tour, said: 'The culture of Taiwan is somewhat different from Hong Kong and China and our stu dents were impressed with the great influence of religion in politics, society and education.' The group visited temples, folk villages, museums, and food stalls, and saw dragon boat festival parades in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Chiayi, Changhua, Taichung, Likang and Taipei. They also interviewed Taiwan's aborigine people. Professor Bosco said the group found that religion played a major role in politics, education and social life in Taiwan. There was also a special radio channel devoted to Buddhism. The convergence of religion and social life over the past decade had changed the culture and structure of Taiwanese society, he said. Many Taiwanese tend to invoke the intervention of vari ous deities when faced with problems and some enterprises and politicians linked with a religion tended to garner mass support. 'People do not think fortune-telling and necromancy are superstitious, but our students found it mysterious and conflicting at first,' Professor Bosco said. Cheung Hiu-wan, who is studying for her master's degree in anthropology, was surprised by the atmosphere at the dragon boat festival parade which attracted huge crowds of tourists who lined the streets, as well as locals. 'The parade had nothing to do with the dragon boat festival but with religion and traditions. 'They wear masks and special costumes to worship the God of luck and joy,' she said. Ms Cheung's experiences in Taiwan gave her a different perspective of its society compared with Hong Kong, although she did not expect a great disparity between the people of the two places. 'People there are very friendly and they lead simpler lives. The food stall hawkers are very helpful even if we just interviewed them without buy ing anything,' Ms Cheung said. Natalie Lee Sui-ting, a third year student at CU, enjoyed the visits to museums, folk villages and the chance to sample the local cuisine. Taiwan's cuisine, the group observed, was different to food of most other Chinese societies. Cold dishes, seafood, deep- fried food and cold tea, as well as stalls selling snacks, were popular in Taiwan, according to the group. Second year student Derek Hon Man-kit said the values and ethical standards of most Taiwanese were based on religion.