3/04/2007

Sun is Setting on Chiang

I decided to watch the local news today (SET News, Channel 54). After the breaking news, 17-year-old boy sleeps with 31-year-old woman and receives red envelope, family wants to sue but boy says it was consentual, the coverage moved on to the latest developments in President Chen's proposed renaming of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
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Here is the latest: Chen wants to rename it Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (a mouthful in either Mandarin or English). He figures the country has had enough of celebrating, in his own words, a "murderer" and "the main culprit behind the 2-28 Massacre" of Formosans (Taiwanese) and mainlanders alike. As expected, the anti-Chen anti-Taiwan Democracy Hall pro-China camp (another mouthful) in Taiwan has a different account of things (some academics have gone so far as to blame the phantom Japanese for this) and does not like the idea. Today, the plot thickened. Besides renaming the complex, the President is also proposing tearing down the surrounding walls, to give the place a more open and less menacing look. This has actually been a recent architectural trend in Taipei and is not confined to CKS er..., TD Memorial Hall. Planners claim it gives the city a less cramped feeling.
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As SET TV news points out, this is still pissing a lot of people off. Opponents claim that the walls represent the Emperor. Their destruction is an affront to Chinese history and therefore all peoples in Taiwan. This argument begs the question: "Which emperor are they referring to?"
In Peng Ming-Min's (彭明敏) A Taste of Freedom, I think this question is more than adequately answered. Peng describes a meeting with the Generalissimo:
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"On reaching the great building I was taken quickly to an ante-chamber in which I was briefed at length on visiting protocol, when and where to bow and how many times. I was told to sit if invited to do so, and to be sharply aware of the moment the Generalissimo desired to end the audience. He would make this clear by a gesture, and upon withdrawing from presence, I was to bow, and at the door turn and bow again and then promptly depart. It was the protocol for a royal audience" (Peng, 1972, p. 118).
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The anti-Chen anti-Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall pro-China camp has made its point. These walls do not jive with the idea of a democracy, which Taiwan is, or the new name of the hall. They must come down.

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