5/21/2011

Mixing Up Taipei's History


This is how an individual, or group of individuals, obviously employed by the Taipei government, has chosen to sum up the history of Taipei concerning the Red House in Ximending (西門町). Unfortunately, the writer(s) of this account (above) is either politically motivated or foolish. I suppose I'm nonplused as well. I can't figure out if a.) he or she has no concept of historical recollection or b.) he or she is rewriting history following the misguided concept that we here in Taipei need an untrue sense of it. Either way, there's just more muck for us to wade through and sort out.  

Have a look at the first sentence in the description: "From its completion in 1908 to today, Red House has witnessed the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, and the Republic of China." First of all, the Qing Dynasty sold Taiwan up the river in 1895 when they surrendered Taiwan to Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In 1908, they were already 13 years gone. I'll restate this point: the Red House wasn't around in 1895, when the Qing vacated Taiwan. How could the Red House witness the Qing Dynasty if it wasn't built when the Qing left? Even if the Red House had obtained a telescope and pointed it across the strait, it would have been looking at the Qing for a couple of years as the Qing fell in 1911. You think Red House would have remembered such a brief episode? Or how about this one: when the author(s) states the Red House "witnessed the Qing Dynasty," do you think he or she is trying to tell the truth?


The author(s) later claims the Red House was "a place of harmony between Japanese and Taiwanese during the occupation, as well as" some other stuff. This is a misleading statement. First of all, Taiwan was never "occupied" by the Japanese. (This word comes up again and again though -- what's up with that?) It was "governed" by the Japanese after China ceded Taiwan to Japan in order to get out of the the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5). In fact, Taiwan was not occupied until 1945, when Japan surrendered to the U.S. and KMT troops came to our island. Since the KMT had no treaty or official / legal agreement of any kind to arrive here, this party was undertaking the occupation. As this detail is not touched upon anywhere within the exhibit; I am inclined to believe a bit of disingenuousness and other shenanigans are underway.

There's one more piece of nonsense to clean up here. According to the author(s) of the Red House account, the Red House was "bombed, burned and plundered" by the U.S. during WW II. It is true U.S. planes hit Taipei and Taiwan from October 1944 until the end of the war. In doing so, they managed to take out 75 percent of the country's infrastructure. My wife's great-aunt also died during one of the raids. But American soldiers neither burned nor plundered. As America did not have ground forces in Taiwan, this simply could not happen. With the exception of POWs, American soldiers never set foot in Taipei or anywhere else during the war.

I was only kidding before. I think I can figure out what's going on here. The Taipei government leans toward China, even if most of the population is not on their side. They hope people'll change though and want to do their part. By putting a Chinese stamp all over Taiwan's history, and doing a little rewriting here and there, perhaps this end will be met. 


Taipei's Red House

22 comments:

James said...

Yep, standard revisionist drivel. Not sure when this went up but even if it was under the greens, I guess Taipei was blue (under Ma possibly?).

One point: unlikely - but not impossible - but do we know for a fact that work wasn't started under the Qing. That there is sod all Chinese influence on the end product is patently obvious.

It's another example of the interesting of the Japanese take on Victorian/ Edwardian archictecture, the obvious example being the Presidential Palace. The hotsprings museum near me is another nice one. The blending of influences, or, rather, the British-style through a Japanese lense is always intriguing.

The occupation blather is, needless to say unmitigated poppycock and definitely supports your suspicions.

As for the 75% thing. Have to say, Shackleton (I think, or perhaps it's Kerr) has a thing or two to say about that. While the bombing undeniably did a lot of damage to infrastructure, he reckons the KMT wholesale looting, down to ripping up train tracks to send back home, was what really counted and that they later used the cover of the war damage to obfuscate their thievery.

Good post; keep up the truth promotion.

Michael Turton said...

Excellent. Not to mention that the post is a lot of abstract meandering nonsense. Can no one write in any language?

Andrew Kerslake said...

The real irony is that the ROC was the reaction to antipathy for the Qing and much of Sun Yat-sen doctrine is designed to Cleave China and Chinese from the Qing era. Much of Sunist ideology was to invalidate Manchu sovereignty.

Okami said...

Interesting how the author felt/had to link it to the Qing dynasty to give it a bit of Chinese flavor. It always surprises me, even as an American, how piss ignorant most Taiwanese are about their history. I often wonder what they actually teach at school. I'd bet the author doesn't even know when the Japanese took the place over and made it what it is today or even why the Qing gave it up so readily. Definite points for making the Americans look bad.

Samuel Hutchinson said...

Good post. I only disagree on some statements you've made. Taiwan was occupied by Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek was greeted as a liberator, that's historic fact. What happened after that is another story.

Isn't it enough that KMT and CCP make up history? Why do you do the same? Your article tries to expose those who want to rewrite the history and then you make the same in your post. How are you any different from them? The above statements you made are pure Japanese propaganda. What's your agenda?

If you hate Han Chinese, then say it directly so we won't waste time on guessing it. Thank you.

yankdownunder said...

occupation

"what's up with that?"

Racism or ignorance but mostly racism(Samuel Hutchinson).

Terry J. Benzie said...

Need to find a reference but I have read (heard?) that there was a lot of post-bombing looting, primarily by KMT troops ripping up parts of the infrastructure to repurpose for war efforts. Blaming this on imaginary American troops is an interesting revision.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Taiwan was occupied by Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek was greeted as a liberator, that's historic fact."

That's not historic fact. Instead it's half wrong and half your opinion.

1. Taiwan was colonized by Japan after China ceded Taiwan to Japan.

2. The US liberated Taiwan. One of the conditions of Japan's surrender to the US was that Japan get out of Taiwan and other places. Japan complied. After that, the KMT came to Taiwan.

3. I think you're mixing some things up. Chiang Kai-shek wasn't greeted as a liberator. It was his soldiers that were (wrongly) greeted as liberators when they landed at Keelung in late 1945. Chiang Kai-shek was not among them. By the time Chiang got here, the 2-28 Massacre had already gone down.

I think I'll respond to this comment too: "If you hate Han Chinese, then say it directly so we won't waste time on guessing it." Are you like, I don't know, stoned out of your mind?

EyeDoc said...

Hi Patrick,

You have sharp eyes; although this "revision of history" may just be a translational error. On the official website of 西門紅樓 (http://www.redhouse.org.tw/ActiveWebSite/01.html), the Chinese version states "...這棟民國前的建築...", i.e., "...this pre-Republic building..., and pre-Republic = pre-1911. Unfortunately, in both English and Japanese versions, this was translated to mean "the Qing Dynasty". Whether it was intentional is hard to say.

Also omitted is the fact that there was a Taihoku I-Nali Jinja 台北稻荷神社 built next to the 西門紅樓 in 1911. You can still make out the ishidoro, the torii's and the main hall at the bottom of the drawing by 李乾朗. This omission is clearly intentional.

HM

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on most of what you write. However, in the text it says "bombed by USA forces, burned and plundered". Hence, the text doesn't actually blame the USA for the burning and plundering part. It is left unclear, who was responsible for that. So who else could have done the burning and plundering after the bombing had already happened?

John Scott said...

Whoever wrote this and other similar Taipei city historical descriptions is probably guilty of nothing more than following the narrative of the history of the ROC as they learned it in high school, albeit with all of the many contradictions and leaps of logic which that convoluted narrative entails.

I agree that it does reflect a sad state of academic and intellectual affairs that that narrative has proven so impervious to deconstruction. History should be supported by facts, not by ideological interpretation. How many more decades will children in Taiwan be taught this same narrative?

James said...

I'm intrigued as to what you thought was 'good' about this post Samuel, as - aside from the opening two-word praise - your whole comment is critical (not to mention, as has been shown, erroneous).

To riff on your own concluding couplet:

"If you dislike Patrick's post so much, then say it directly, instead of dressing things up as objective criticism by starting with a compliment. That way, we won't waste time on guessing what on earth you are about. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Did they leave out the part about the Red Theater showing naughty movies and it being a big cruising ground for gay men?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Did they leave out the part about the Red Theater showing naughty movies and it being a big cruising ground for gay men?"

I think my post contains the answers. How the Red House has been described is an exercise in writing about how we wished things had been, not how they were.

This is not the first time I've seen the whitewashing of Taiwan's history. The main problem, I think, is if our history is untrue, how can we learn from it and avoid past mistakes?

John Scott said...

Some info regarding the architect of the Red House that was relayed to me a year or so ago:

近藤十郎 (Kondoh Juro), graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1904.

Buildings in Taiwan designed by Kondoh:

from:
http://library.taiwanschoolnet.org/cyberfair2007/class509/002/index002.htm

西元1908年 西門紅樓 XiMen market

西元1908年 彩票局(後改為總督府圖書館,戰爭期間遭炸毀,原址為今博愛大樓。
(was this a library adjacent to the current President's Office Building? Apparently it was destroyed by bombing during WW2)

西元1909年 第一中學(今建國中學)
Taipei JianGuo high school (This shool has recently been restored, and is on NanHai road, opposite the Botanical Garedens today)

西元1912年 基隆郵局(戰爭期間遭炸毀)
Keelung Post Office (destroyed by bombing during WW2)

西元1914年 圓山別莊(今臺北故事館)
Taipei Story House (restored a few years ago, beside today's Museum of Fine Arts)

西元1916年 台大醫院舊館
National Taiwan University Hospital, original building

西元1920年 建成小學校(今台北當代藝術館)
originally JianCheng Elementary School. Recently restored, it serves today as The Taipei Museum of Modern Art (on ChangAn west street)

Samuel Hutchinson said...

Good responses, great debate.

But I beg to differ. As you are very well versed in the Japanese propaganda, you should understand, that I have no legitimate reason to misinterpret Chiang Kai-shek's legacy. I have no idea on what horse he has entered Taipei in March 1945, but I do now as a fact, that he was there. My Chinese wife's grandpa (she's from Shandong) was at that time there, he told us this story: Mr. Shek was greeted as liberator, people were chanting, fireworks were ablaze. At that time everybody was happy to be Chinese. And after KMT's brutal rule, people started to hate their own race and changed the identity to Taiwanese, albeit gradually. It's understandable. That's because only Chinese are capable of pulling off something like that (see what happened in Malacca, Jakarta or LA) Anyway, you will need to accept some things as facts, whether you like them or not. I know propaganda forces you to spin the words your way, but try to pause for a jiff and tell yourself the naked truth: Taiwan is part of China and Taiwanese are Chinese. Japan will never colonialize any Chinese territories again, you can be sure about that :)

Anyway, looking forward to a vibrant canon fire.

Regards from Sam.

Cheers!

Patrick Cowsill said...

"My Chinese wife's grandpa (she's from Shandong) was at that time there, he told us this story: Mr. Shek was greeted as liberator, people were chanting, fireworks were ablaze."

I'm sorry Sam, but he was not greeted because he did not come in 1945. I don't have a problem with the rest of this sentence. Let me say again: Chiang Kai-shek did not land at the end of 1945 in Taiwan.

"I know propaganda forces you to spin the words your way, but try to pause for a jiff and tell yourself the naked truth: Taiwan is part of China and Taiwanese are Chinese."

I don't give a crap about your politics. Politics are not on my agenda. This is where I am coming from: Not a lot of people have written about Taiwan's history. Since I have some understanding of it, I try to contribute every now and then.

Anonymous said...

"I have no idea on what horse he has entered Taipei in March 1945, but I do now as a fact, that he was there."

Huh? Japan did not surrender until Aug, 1945.

John Scott said...

What's this about CKS being in Taiwan in '45?

I thought he was busy running from the CCP in SiChuan province until sometime in '49. Maybe he took a short vacation to go accept the Japanese surrender.

Oh wait, it was the USA that defeated Japan, not the KMT. The KMT always devoted more resources to fighting the CCP than to fighting Japan in China.

In at least some of the material I have seen in Taiwan, is is sometimes implied that CKS (and family) should not get any blame for the 228 incident ("incident"? as if it was all over in an afternoon...) because he was not even in Taiwan at the time.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"In at least some of the material I have seen in Taiwan, is is sometimes implied that CKS (and family) should not get any blame for the 228 incident ("incident"? as if it was all over in an afternoon...) because he was not even in Taiwan at the time."

There is the infamous cable though, from Chiang Kai-shek to Chen Yi (陳儀): "Kill them all!" Even without the cable, he is responsible because he claimed leadership here, albeit not wanted.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"You have sharp eyes; although this "revision of history" may just be a translational error. On the official website of 西門紅樓 (http://www.redhouse.org.tw/ActiveWebSite/01.html), the Chinese version states "...這棟民國前的建築...", i.e., "...this pre-Republic building..., and pre-Republic = pre-1911. Unfortunately, in both English and Japanese versions, this was translated to mean "the Qing Dynasty". Whether it was intentional is hard to say."

I think it could have been unintentional. If so, it just goes to show that they don't care about Taiwan. They are so disinterested that it doesn't matter that Taiwan had its own history. The only thing that counts is Chinese history to them: Before 1911, there was only the Qing. You say Taiwan was part of Japan and there was no Qing in Taiwan after 1895? I don't care. The only thing that matters, etc. That is the basic attitude.

Jacobina said...

Well, I don't actually consider this is likely to have success.