Taiwan 'very proud' of Oscar winner Ang Lee

Taiwan basked in reflected glory Monday after film-maker Ang Lee won the best director Oscar for fantasy epic "Life of Pi", which he shot on the diplomatically isolated island where he was born.

Taiwan Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai sent a congratulatory telegram to Lee, probably the island's most famous living son, promptly after the news broke that he had won his second Academy Award for directing.

"I'm very pleased to hear that you... have won the Oscar honour. We feel very proud of you," she said, according to the ministry.

The Oscar came as a rare chance for Taiwan, living in the shadow of giant neighbour China, to savour the global limelight after the small island found its way into Lee's acceptance speech.

"I (could) not make this movie without the help of Taiwan. We shot there," the 58-year-old said.

"I want to thank everybody there who helped us, especially the city of Taichung," he added, referring to Taiwan's third-largest city, where the majority of "Life of Pi" was filmed.

Taichung mayor Jason Hu said in a statement that Lee's Oscar win showed Taiwan's ability "to do many things well", adding: "Taiwan deserves this!"

China considers Taiwan part of its territory, demanding that all its diplomatic allies cut off official ties with the island.

Taiwan is currently recognised by only 23 countries, mostly small and poor, but the island's government has tried in recent years to make up for some of the missing diplomatic clout by banking on soft power.

Sports icons such as golf superstar Tseng Yani and basketball player Jeremy Lin -- American but with Taiwanese-born parents -- have been held up as models of the cool, modern image Taiwan wants to project.

Lee, who has spent almost his entire professional career abroad, won a best directing Oscar in 2005 for the gay cowboy drama "Brokeback Mountain".

In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with the kung fu epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".