5/19/2010

Sun Yat-sen and the Brothels He Visited

 An old,  fuzzy Taiwanese political cartoon (1899): "Rotten fish stored in a pretty jar: Even if covered up, it still stinks. It just won't shut up."


I passed by the 2-28 Museum in Taipei a few days ago on my way from the Taipei Train / MRT Station home and was disappointed to see it has been shut down. There's a yellow tape around it so you can't even look in the windows. This comes on the heels of a museum in Jingmei (景美) commemorating those who fought for democracy and human rights during the days of martial law in Taiwan, and who were jailed for it, being shuttered last year. Here's a link to that museum: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2008/08/li-aos-cell.html

The situation is as such: The KMT invaded Taiwan following WWII. After arriving, they removed Taiwanese individuals from places of power, including government positions and teaching posts in universities. They carted back pieces of Taiwan's infrastructure to China and took over Japanese companies operating in Taiwan. When the Taiwanese resisted, the KMT got rid of them. The situation came to a head on February 28, 1947, in what has came to be known as the 2-28 Massacre. Starting on that day, KMT soldiers went on a killing spree, killing some 30,000 Taiwanese people.

When the KMT fled en masse to Taiwan following their defeat to the communists in China, they instituted martial law. For the next 38 years, until 1987, to even talk about what happened in the final years of the 1940s could mean jailing and even summary execution. After Lee Tung-hui came to power, though, he apologized for the 2-28 Massacre (I think he did it in 1991). At this time, the lid came off a stinky pot and the Taiwanese started to recover their history, which was important in the gaining of a proper sense of identity. For the past 40 years, they had been taught they were Chinese, to get them geared up for a KMT war with China. Why? The KMT ruler in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek, planned to retake China and in doing so, he understood he would need Taiwanese soldiers committed to the cause. By indoctrinating them in the schools, media and along all other avenues, he figured he could get the Taiwanese public on board and achieve this goal. Dwelling over mass murder in the 1940s seemed counterproductive.

Much of the progress made in the past 20 years in setting the record straight as well as finding out more details about what happened to all those who disappeared during the KMT regime is now being undercut by the children of the KMT invaders. They regained power in Taiwan in 2008 when the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) beat the DPP's Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the presidential election. Besides insulting Taiwan's Aboriginal peoples (to which most Taiwanese people are related), Ma has done a lot to undercut the Taiwanese people's identity. I'm not just talking about his servile attitude toward China, a country that has over 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan either. I blame Ma Ying-jeou and those of his political ilk for how Taiwan's history is now, once again, being revised. I mean, how are we going to know that KMT soldiers killed 30,000 Taiwanese people in a power grab two generations ago if we shut down museums underlining this point? How will we know that people were actually jailed in 1979 for asking for elections and an end to martial law if we, once again, shut down museums making this clear? It's almost as if the government now wants us to forget what happened over the last 60 years, instead of to understand the details clearly so we can learn from them.

Today, I saw a new museum that is also in the vicinity of the Taipei Train / MRT Station, some 200 meters from the recently closed 2-28 Museum. It's called the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Momorial House. I wanted to take some pictures but was told to put my camera away. The woman there pointed to a sign that read: "No pictures." Here's something I don't understand: If Taiwan's constitution were to state "The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication" (Chapter II, Rights and Duties of the People, Article 10), does not taking a picture of a supposedly historical building fall under the category of freedom of speech?

I snagged an English brochure, which I don't get either. And, simply put, I see it as being a pack of lies. Let me introduce the first two paragraphs just to give you a flavor of what I'm talking about. They're in single or coupled sentences in bold print. I'll make a few comments along the way:

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen initiated the Chinese National Revolution, wrote the Three Principles of the People, founded the Republic of China in 1912, and established the unique constitutional system of five-branch government, paving the way for democratic politics in Asia."
1. Chiang Kai-shek, who championed Sun Yat-sen as a way of legitimizing himself, I suppose, served as a dicator in Taiwan from 1949 to 1975. His son governed from 1975 to 1987. Two men ruling a country for 38 years doesn't smack of democratic principles.
2. Japan has been voting for Prime Ministers for 125 years. They started this in 1885, some 27 years before 1912.
3. I think this is the most important point here. In 1912, Taiwan was a colony of Japan. It would remain so for 33 years. The events that transpired leading up to 1912, and in the following decades, were irrelevant to Taiwan and its situation in that year; moreover, this is irrelevant to Taiwan's history.

"[Sun Yat-sen] dedicated himself to striving for an equal status for all nations in the international community and world harmony, thus making him a savior of the Chinese nation but also a great leader of the world."
1. Really? What did he achieve? Two years after 1912, WWI began. Is there a shred of evidence to back up his leading the world - conferences attended, peace treaties brought about in it, etc.?

"He had visited Taiwan three times during the 40 years when he led the national revolution, encouraging comrades and compatriots on the island to aspire after the recovery of Taiwan."
1. Sun Yat-sen died when he was 58 years old. Do you mean to tell me he led the national revolution since he was 18?
2. There is some evidence of the Taiwanese revolting from 1895 - 1900. After that time, all resistance, save that of the Aborigines which the KMT has repeatedly claimed not to be the same as the Taiwanese people, is basically a myth. The Japanese, upon taking Taiwan in 1895, allowed any Taiwanese people not happy with the situation to leave. A percent or two did make their way back to China. They were usually quite rich; they were labeled "Half Mountain People."
3. During the Japanese colonial period, Taiwan was also under martial law. Until 1919, it was governed (with, I think, one exception in 1898) by ex-military men. Had Sun Yat-sen preached a "recovery of Taiwan," something China obviously didn't care about (see how she abandoned the island at the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895), he would have either landed in jail or been deported, or both.

"After failing the Second Revolution, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in the company of Mr. Hu Han-min and other revolutionary leaders, arrived in Mawei, Fukien Province on his way from Shanghai to Kwangtung Province, planning to launch another offensive to overthrow Yuan Shih-kai. Upon learning of the changed situation in Kwangtung, he came to Taipei in August 1913 for a second visit, instead of proceeding to Canton."
1. What was the changed situation in Kwangtung?
2. I thought you said he "founded the Republic of China in 1912." What's this about Yuan in 1913? Did someone else found it then?
3. Should you not, for the sake of getting the facts straight, also explain how Sun lived abroad and didn't even return to China until 1911, after hearing about the First Revolution from a hotel in, I think, London?

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen stayed at the Hotel Umeyashaki operated by a Japanese [individual] in the then Omari Machi (at the intersection of the now Chung Shan North Road, Sec. 1 and Peiping West Street. During his stay there, he wrote two Chinese characters, "Po Ai (Universal Love)," for Sogo Daiwa, the owner of the hotel "and another two characters, "Tung Jen (Fellowman)," for Daiwa's younger brother, Goichiro Fujii, as souvenirs."
1. Talk about being a gracious guest then. This brochure has him out in the streets, protesting an overthrow of the Japanese government. LOL.
2. And if they're "Fellowman," once again, why does he want the Taiwanese to turn their backs on them, especially after all Japan did for Taiwan (and China did not). Japan built the country's infrastructure, including the railroads, banks and bureaucracy. It also by establishing modern hospitals rid the island of tropical disease, something that had plagued the Taiwanese since they first arrived at the start of the 17th century. Entering WWII, Taiwan was probably the second richest place in Asia after Japan. China was third-world.
3. I'm getting tired of this. Did Sun Yat-sen also write the characters for "I'm horny. I want to get laid!"? History tells us that Sun Yat-sen was a notorious womanizer. In fact, his advisors beseeched him on more than one occasion to stay out of the brothels because it was tarnishing his reputation, especially in the West and with Christian groups, where he normally went hat in hand. Sun Yat-sen loved prostitutes. What are the chances he did business with a few while on one of his three trips to Taiwan? And where? On the corner of what street and what street?

At the end of the day, I'm not supporting one party over another. The KMT stunk, but it produced Lee Tung-hui, who people called Mr. Democracy. He showed courage and did many things for this country. The DPP's first leader to gain the president's office was Chen Shui-bien, a man who gave speeches to blame "foreigners" for stealing jobs from Taiwanese and stir up animosity. Xenophobia was his political bread and butter.

I am however greatly concerned about the historical revisionism that is going on right now. It doesn't feel like we're in 2010. The covering up and rewriting of history that is going on at the moment in Taiwan can not lead to any good.