The Culture of Overseas Chinese or Overseas Taiwanese

National Chengchi University in Taipei has established a department to help overseas Chinese students. I guess this means Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Brits, etc. who have parents, grandparents, etc. who were born in Taiwan or China. This is the mandate according to their website: "An independent subdivision is established to address the special needs of from overseas Chinese students pursuing higher education in their own culture. Its work covers issues arising from learning, living in Taiwan, and extracurricular activities."

I wonder what is meant by "their own culture?" Wouldn't that mean the country they were born and raised?

Taipei Graffiti

I peeked under the cardboard that someone had nailed into the concrete wall, to cover up the work. The protestors looked like Zapatistas. One was wearing a headband and the other was in a wheelchair.


Taiwan Tang-wai is Back

The photographer partially covered up by a cardboard box in this work of graffiti (outside the Chungshiao/Fuhsing MRT Station) is a police officer. He's taking pics of demonstrators. I guess the work is to remind us of the 1970s-80s, when the KMT (國民黨) was cracking down on the Tang-wai Party's (黨外) pro-democracy movement. After murder, torture, wrongful imprisonment and harassment, photography was the favored method of intimidation.

The suggestion here is that Chen's government forces are at it now, bullying Shih Ming-teh "Depose" faithful with cameras. I pass by the protests on a daily basis and from what I've been able to make out, the graffiti though evocative is misleading. Plenty of photographers are on-hand. But their purpose is to feed Taiwan's various media outlets as they serve up frenzied pro-KMT propaganda rather than to work for the cops. On this point I am quite certain because every night I am treated to an endless stream of cranky geezers and whacked out grandmas as I eat dinner in front of the TV evening news with my wife's in-laws. The protestors are easily recognizable. They're the ones wearing red t-shirts and red baseball caps. They are the ones giving the "thumbs down" sign every five seconds. We can even comprehend their rants: the reason they are pissed off is after 50 years of intimidation and indoctrination, there are still people in Taiwan who see themselves as Taiwanese. We are not amused either. We can't find any news programs outside of CNN (which nobody in the house understands anyway) willing to report anything else.


Panda Diplomacy, Not Really

I happened upon this graffiti near the Fuhsing and Chunghsiao MRT Station, across from the yucky new Sogo building. The artwork I passed at first was pretty bland, just bubble-writing about nothing much. Above is the first of the good ones.
The work is in reference to the two giant pandas China tried to donate to the Taipei Zoo earlier this year. After some hesitation, President Chen decided to reject the offer as he felt China would use the transfer to treat Taiwan not as an international partner but rather a province. I think there was also something of the attitude in the press (pan-Green anyway) that if Taipei accepted the bears, Beijing would send something else and something else until finally they were making it terms for a surrender.
About the only clever thing anyone ever heard Lien Chan say was in response to Chen's paranoia: "I don't think there's anything green or blue about these bears - it's all black and white."

Wang Must Win Another Game to Set the Record

Local media reports that New York Yankess (and native son) Chien Ming Wang's (王建民) 18th win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays today "is a new record for Asian pitchers" in Major League baseball are erroneous. In 2000, South Korea's Chan Ho Park went 18-10 with an ERA of 3.27 and 218 strikeouts. Wang is currently 18-6 with an ERA of 3.57 (this would undoubtedly be lower if Wang were playing in the National League) and 72 strikeouts. This misreporting of the facts comes as a shock to most observers, as Taiwan's media is renowned for its excellence, diligence and objectivity.


Pope Benedict's Comments

During a visit to Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian king, claiming the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things. Muslims have responded by setting five churches ablaze in the West Bank and shooting an Italian nun in Somalia.


Fort Domingo, Tamshui, Taiwan

The Spanish built this fort in Tamshui in 1626, where they remained until 1643. Illnesses, financial losses (the Spanish had been hoping to open up better trade routes to Japan and China) and attacks from the Dutch brought Spanish operations to an end. Toward the end of the 19th Century, the British Consul lived in a residence about 50 meters east. Situated on a hill at the mouth of the Tamshui River, the site has a pretty good view.

Taiwan's First Governor

Koxinga (鄭成功) was not the first non-aboriginal governor of Taiwan but instead (from what I can figure) the 13th. The first was actually Maarten Snock. The list starting from 1624 when the Dutch moved their base from the Pescadores (澎湖) to Tayouan (Tainan or 台南) at the behest of the Ming government is as follows:

1. Maarten G. SNOCK 1624-5
2. Gerard Frederiksz RONG DE WITH 1625-7
3. Pieter NUYTS 1627-9
4. Hans PUTSMAN 1629-36
5. Johan VAN DER BURGH 1636-40
6. Paulus TRAUDENIUSRONG 1640-3
7. Maximiliaan LEMAIRE 1643-4
8. Francis CARON 1644-6
9. Nicolaas G. VERBURGG 1649-53
10. Cornelius CAESAR 1653-6
11. Frederick COYETT 1656-62
12. KOXINGA (鄭成功) A few months in 1662
13. CHENG Jing (鄭經) 1662-82
14. CHENG ke-Shuang (鄭克塽) 1682-83
15. SHI Lang (施琅) 1683 - ?

Shi Lang was the admiral serving under the Qing Emperor Kangxi (康熙) who finally defeated the Chengs. Kangxi is reported to have labelled Taiwan a "blob of mud in bobbing in the ocean" beyond China's domain. In 1683, China even offered to sell Taiwan back to the Dutch. Shi Lang met with Alexander van Gravenbrock to hammer out the terms. When the Dutch government in Batavia decided to pass, Kangxi wanted to then evacuate the 80,000 Chinese residents from the island, leaving it to its original masters, the aborigines. Shi Lang was able to talk Kangxi out of taking this step, arguing that Taiwan would become an outlaw base for pirates.


Foreign Baseball Players Discriminated Against in Taiwan

Over the past few years, "foreign" baseball players playing in the Chinese Baseball League (CBL) in Taiwan have been barred from participating in Taiwan's annual all-star game. When and if Taiwan's Wang Chien-ming 王建民 (17-5, 3.60), currently pitching for the New York Yankees, makes MLB's all-star game, this should make for an interesting contrast.
ICRT's (Taiwan's kind of English radio station) morning DJ Rick Monday interviewed a couple of "foreign" players a couple years back. When he brought up this topic, the players decided to refrain from making a comment. The uncomfortable silence was long enough, however, to indicate they were miffed.
The Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chapter I: General Provisions, Article 5 states the following: "There shall be equality among the various racial groups in the Republic of China [Taiwan]." In my opinion, the "in" in this provision is interesting. If it were to read "of" then the kind of racial discrimination the Chinese Baseball League (CBL) is engaging could be interpreted as legal. As it is, the racial groups "of" Taiwan includes these players.

Tuol Sleng Rules

This list of rules was posted at Tuol Sleng (S-21), Cambodia for inmates who were being processed for the killing fields or release (although the latter was unlikely). I was wondering if it was in English and French during the 1970s as well as Cambodian or if the list had been translated after Tuol Sleng was reopened as a museum and genocide documentation center. Besides Cambodians, detainees also included Thai, Vietnamese, New Zealanders, Indians, Laotians, Canadians, Americans, Pakistanis, Australians and Brits.

The rules were often enforced by little kiddie Khmer Rouge. I was told that these children were at least 13 years of age or older. A lot of their pictures were also available at the site. I think their ages must have ranged from about 7 or 8 up.

Pol Pot Looks Like This

We only saw two pictures of Pol Pot while we were in Cambodia. This was in the S-21 Museum in Phnom Penh. There was one more of him riding a train with his comrades. He was plump and had smooth skin. I've been told that their aren't too many around. During his reign, he was able to walk the streets of Phnom Penh in anonymity as nobody knew what he looked like.

I took this photo of a photo.


Rally to Oust President Chen

Although Chen was elected in a democratic election two years ago with a majority of the vote, these people are stoked to get rid of him. Chen's son-in-law could be charged with making off with NT$90 million (US$3 million) from insider trading (which is practically legal in Taiwan anyway) and this will not do for supporters of the squeeky-clean KMT.
In my opinion, Vice-President Annette Lu is a scary option. Her particular brand of xenophobia is extreme even when compared to other leaders in the DPP. This is the woman, after all, who has spoken of exporting Taiwan's aborigines to Central America.

Taiwan Textbook

President, Dictator or just a dick?

Barricade Down

The protesters broke threw the barricades that I mentioned in yesterday's blog. Then they rushed out into traffic, stopped cars and yelled people for not thinking exactly the same thoughts.
My friend Jeff told me yesterday that he was almost hit by an old vet after he refused to take and wear a "Down with the President" t-shirt. Talk about being sentimental (martial law ended 19 years ago).

Taiwan Presidential Office

The protesters are a few blocks down the street. The police have set up steel barricades that are reinforced with barbed wire.


Depose! Shih Ming-teh tells Chen to Take a Hike

Here's the nut that sold me the oust President Chen cap for NT$100. He's covering his eyes so that nobody will recognize him. He was ducking from some cops around the corner at the Taiwan University Hospital MRT Station. He didn't have a license to sell the caps.

Talk about Coming Full Circle

This cost a hundred NT bucks at the Shih Ming-teh around the clock 23-day sit in to force President Chen to resign. After spending 25 years of his life in jail to protest the KMT's authoritarian rule, it seems like he's tossed his hat in with them.

Tuol Sleng (S-21)

Tuol Sleng was a high school (Ponhea Yat) built in 1962 in downtown Phnom Penh. 12 years later, on April 17, it was converted to an interrogation center with its classrooms serving as cells. Prisoners were processed at this 600 by 400 meter compound before either being released or transported to one of the countries 19,940 killing fields. All kinds of torture took place on the campus. Some detainees were drawn and quartered, hung by their arms, electrocuted, drowned, filled up with water and then stomped upon. Others had their fingernails extracted, genitalia stung by scorpions, nipples removed and toes smashed. Conditions were so bad that the upper floors of Tuol Sleng were in need of barbed wire - to lace the windows and balconies tight. Too many of the inmates were jumping to their deaths.

Our guide Sotha told us that the interrogators were usually children. The Khmer Rouge had great use for little boys; they felt little boys could not conceal lies well. Their pictures are on display along with those of many of the victims. On both sides, individuals range from infant-size up.

Shufang asked Sotha how the Khmer Rouge could massacre its own people, he replied that he didn't know about that stuff. He only knew how to talk about Tuol Sleng. But he emphasized a Chinese hand in the matter. When I told Sotha about one of my friends from France of Chinese background who had suffered as a child in Cambodia during this time, he was even more adamant: "I am 35 years old," he said, "so I can remember when the Khmer Rouge emptied Phnom Penh. They had guns and vehicles from the Chinese. Actually, I traveled to the countryside in big ugly Chinese truck!"


Cambodia Killing Fields

The leaves were cut off this tree and used as execution machetes at killing fields across Cambodia. They didn't feel sharp at all. Our guide told us that the leaves used to be sharp, but had been dulled by all the visitors that touched them every day.


Chinese Grave in Cambodian Killing Fields

We noticed this tombstone in the middle of the killing fields of Cheung Ke, outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Chinese characters explain it is for a woman who died November, 1969 (six years prior to the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror). According to our guide Kasol, the Khmer Rouge plunked their killing fields down in the middle of a Chinese graveyard. The stones were probably knocked over and buried during the 70s and then dug out more recently.


Cheung Ke Killing Fields

Cheung Ke, one of the many identified killing fields from around Cambodia, is located 14 kilometers from Phnom Penh. Of the up to 2,500,000 people killed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975-78, it is estimated that 20,000 perished at this site.
Shufang and I repeatedly asked our guide Kosal why the Khmer Rouge why would kill its own people. Each time he was evasive. First he said the Germans did the same thing during World War II. He also quoted Pol Pot: "Man can make religion. Religion cannot make man.¨ Then he told us that the Chinese had taught Pol Pot to do this. We thought that it seemed a bit unfair. But we knew from history how the Chinese had tried to invade Vietnam in order to protect Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge government after the Vietnamese army had crossed the border into Cambodia on Christmas Day, 1978. The Chinese failed miserably, losing 60,000 soldiers (two thousand more than the total Americans lost during the Vietnam War a.k.a. American War).
Kosal pointed out several things about the Cheung Ke killing fields: Although the remains of 8985 victims have been at least partially exhumed, another 12,000 remain in the 43 unopened mass graves. Many of these graves are now under an encroaching lake. So far, 129 mass graves have been located at Cheung Ke. One Australian, two French and six American journalists are amongst these victims.
According to Kosal, the skulls stacked up in the Memorial Charnel Pavilion (see above picture) are to be used as evidence against Pol Pot. When I asked what good it would do, seeing that Pol Pot had died almost a decade ago, Kosal explained that many of Pot's commanders were still alive. I pressed Kosal about why Pol Pot would kill his own people once again. He answered it was hard to deal with the question as most people did not know who Pol Pot was:
"Was he ugly?" I asked, wondering if it was psychological.
"Most Cambodians didn't know what he looked like. Take me for example. I had heard the name Pol Pot - it was terrible. But I had never seen a picture of him because there were not any available. Pol Pot was secretive. He was probably walking amongst us all the time and we didn't even know it. Recently, I have seen a picture of Pol Pot, of when he was around 50 years old. He was handsome."
"Who were his parents?"
"Farmers, but Pol Pot was a top student. He won a scholarship to study in France. He could speak French, Chinese and maybe English. Still, he hated intellectuals. He tricked them into coming back to Cambodia, sending out word that the country was now democratic. When they arrived at the Phnom Pehn Airport, he had them executed immediately. The Khmer Rouge wanted to kill anyone who was a doctor, teacher, lawyer or journalist. They wanted to get anyone who was related to doctors, teachers, lawyers or journalists as well."
"So farmers were safe."
"No, they were killed for stealing their own food. They were only given two ladles of rice soup per day. Then they had to work 12 or 14 hours. Anyway, after the students came home, the Khmer Rouge sealed the borders. The only planes that could fly here were from China, the friends of the Khmer Rouge."
"Does Pol Pot have kids?" I asked.
"One: She's about 14 years old."
"Where is she?"
"Thailand, or perhaps China."


Cambodian-style Gas Station

This is actually petrol – one liter for one dollar US: on sale at the country's roadside beverage and snack stands.

Cambodian currency, the riel, seems to be a lot less popular than the greenback. When an item includes cents in its price tag, the change is paid in riel (R4000 = US$1). I've been given lots of R1000 bills and the occasional R5000. Last night, I got my first R10,000 and I've been told that there are R$100. Riel are handy for tips and also for getting rid of persistent kids.

Swallowed by Jungle

Ta Prohm, meaning “old Brahma” was built in 1186 by (or rather for) Jayavarman VII who consecrated the statue Prajnaparamita meaning the Goddess of Wisdom inside. The sign outside says that Jayavarman associated the goddess with his mother.

Situated at least a kilometer into the woods from the road, Ta Prohm is one of the most popular and beautiful of the Angkor sites. Everywhere one looks, one can see trees breaking down the temple walls, dislodging the stone and putting whole walls at impossible angles. Massive and muscular roots stretch from the high points of the monastery into the ground. The walls are green with grass and moss, giving the place a cool damp feeling.

We spent a lot of time at Ta Prohm, more than any other temple except Bayon (which we visited twice), because we first took the wrong path out. We also had some trouble trying to navigate back through the monastery. It was a maze of courtyards and connecting corridors.