Chiayi, Taiwan

I went down to Chiayi, Taiwan today to give a speech at a vocational school about the magazines my company publishes. I was in the teachers' room when I noticed this portrait of Chiang Kai-shek on the wall and took a picture of it on my cell phone (I need to start carrying a camera with me). Anyway, one of the teachers expressed that she was surprised to see a "foreigner" taking a picture of Chiang Kai-shek because "foreigners" think he's a dictator. In my opinion, Chiang is a favorite topic of "foreigners", both here in Taiwan and elsewhere. Some "foreigners" even think that if Chiang Kai-shek hadn't come to Taiwan, it would be Communist today:


I'm not so sure about this however. The US, frustrated by KMT corruption and ineptitude, was ready to throw in the towel on the Chiangs in early 1950. Truman seems to have changed his mind after Mao invaded Korea later that year. In January 1950, the US was giving Chiang about four months to fall, and had all but left him to his own devices. It was the US, and the 7th Fleet in particular, that probably saved Taiwan. I think they would've gotten behind any government here at this time.

I had a nice visit to this school, my second in a week. While there, I met Martin, an English teacher with a degree from Fresno State. Martin's dad served in the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII - a topic that feeds into the thesis I might actually write some day (if I can ever get up off my butt and get to work). I'm looking forward to meeting him soon. I am particularly curious about the topic of the draft. I've read that Taiwanese were not drafted into the army, but rather chose to join as they were promised land afterward. This point has been questioned by readers of my blog in the past. Martin was an interesting individual. He's up on both Taiwanese and Chiayi history, and is easy to chat with.

I wonder what the teachers make of this picture. One teacher told me that it wasn't Chiang Kai-shek, but rather "the father of our nation", Sun Yat-sen.

I took this photo from the platform of the Chiayi High Speed Rail Station. Parking doesn't seem to be an issue down there. Neither is driving - the roads seem empty, people stay in their lanes and go along at a reasonable speed.

BTW, I'm always surprised by Taiwan's weather. To me, Taiwan is a small country. It amazes me that a city like Chiayi, 200 km. south of Taipei, can be balmy T-shirt weather. Then I return and it's cold misty smog, and I'm freezing to death. Brr.


MJ Klein said...

interesting comment about the weather in Taiwan, Patrick. i've also been amazed at the diversity of weather on such a small island.

the "foreigner" comment is even more interesting and revealing. when i get comments like those i keep saying "what do you mean" until the person backs themselves into a corner they can't get out of.

George said...

I really don't know what's going on with the school you visited in Chiayi. It seems that school authorities have never paid attention to what mistake they made. To put it simply, the school has been against regulations announced by government. According to ministry of interior, portrails should (or can only) be hung in public, like auditoriums or classrooms, and are limited to the present president or Dr. Sun Yat-sen. So when you see the teachers next time, you’d better give them the suggestion that Chiang's portrait be taken down lest they could be fined.

Patrick Cowsill said...

How about big statues of Chiang at the main gate of a school? Are they illegal?

The Chiang portrait was hanging in the teachers' room, not a classroom or auditorium. Do you mean that they can't hang any portrait whatsoever in the teachers' room, or that teacher room portraits must only be of Chen or Sun? What if I'm a teacher and I hang a little portrait of my daughter at my cubicle?

I'll be sure to tell them, but (like I said in the post) they think it is Sun, not Chiang.