Taiwan and China (the PRC), Pt. 2

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP)
Fri, 15 Mar 1996 14:22:22 +0900

if we did not greet them. They kept our guns and bows and arrows,
which we needed for hunting, and made us go to school every day
for four hours. When they left all of a sudden, we had nothing,
neither our traditions or the masters who told us what to do. We
welcomed the missionaries because they were offering us
something to believe in, and they treated us with much more
respect and understanding than the Koumintang. In many ways
the Chinese were crueler than the Japanese. They never lived
with us as the Japanese did, they just sent police and soldiers
to control us. The shifts changed all the time so no relationships
could grow.
"'The missionaries gave us nice things . . . . And they promised
us that we could hunt in taboo places without attracting bad luck.
Even the Japanese had respected those areas. They did not make
us log the forests in sacred places. But everyone went hunting
and harvesting when we were told that Jesus protects us wherever
we go, if we go to church regularly. . . . And another thing, an
important thing, is that my church has a savings and loan program
with the best interest rates in the whole country." "Pillars of the
Sky," Stephan Kohler, _Kyoto Journal_, No. 25, 1993, pp. 28-29)

Here we have the account by a member of one of the native groups
of Taiwan about his impressions of the historical changes he lived
through. Unlike the dry "historical" (text-book history) account
quoted before, from this more ethnographic account you really get
the flavor of what it was like to be there. The Japanese colonial
period had its positive points, he admits, but one really gets a
feeling of what it was like to be a colonial subject when he
mentions that the Japanese would slap in the face people who
didn't greet them. Another interesting part is the equation of
"the Chinese" with the "Koumintang." The reason for this I believe
is that during the colonial period and then the previous period of
Chinese immigration the native peoples were allowed to live in
the mountains as they always did, with the Chinese settlers
remaining on the plains. Even today the common name used
(by Chinese) for the native peoples of Taiwan is "mountain
people," and most of the inhabitants of Taiwan live on the
western coastal plain which extends from Taipei in the north
to Tainan in the south. However, with the Koumintang coming
to power and the further rationalization of economic life and
the bureaucratization of political life (trends begun in the
colonial period), the mountain people were forced to move to
the plains and give up their old way of life Aand thus came
into sustained, direct, day-to-day contact with the Chinese
majority living in the plains regions for the first time.
Another interesting point which emerges in this ethnographic
account is the way in which Christian beliefs affected
mountain people's attitudes toward the activity of hunting.

Next, I would like to examine some tourist materials which
I acquired during some of my travels to Taiwan (to visit my
Chinese friend there, who showed me the sights as well as
taking me to a lot of nice restaurants). In the tourist materials
a typically Chinese way (and even KMT way) of representing the
history of Taiwan is presented.

@ "With a population of 19.7 million people, Taiwan is one
of the most densly populated pieces of land on earth. About
2.7 million of those people live in Taipei City and another
323,000 are ethnic aborinigines who live in remote mountain
villages [no mention of the relocation program]. The majority
of Taiwan's Chinese populace traces its ancestry back to Fukien
province in mainland China.
"Taiwan has a long and colorful history. First mentioned
in Han Dynasty chronicles over 2,000 years ago, it was later
claimed in the name of the Emperor of China by the seafaring
eunuch and magistrate Cheng Ho in 1430 [who if I am not
mistaken made it all the way to Africa; his act of "claiming"
Taiwan may also be compared in character (but of course not
scope) to Columbus's claiming the "New" World for Spain].
During the 17th century, when the Manchus invaded China and
toppled the Ming Dynasty, Taiwan became an island of refuge
for patriotic Ming loyalists, led by the great Ming hero Koxinga
(Cheng Cheng-Kung), who ousted the Dutch from their colonial
settlement in southern Taiwan [funny how this "fact" of Dutch
colonialism was not mentioned in the previously cited _East
Asia: Tradition and Transformation_] and established the
island's first Chinese government. Koxinga's heirs resisted
Manchu rule for half a century, before the island was
incorporated as a prefecture of the Chinese empire in
1684. In fact, however, Peking never managed to establish
effective control over the feisty, prosperous island [a veiled
reference to Taiwan's present state, too?].
"In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan as booty in the wake
of the Sino-Japanese War. For fifty years it remained under
the yoke of colonial Japanese rule [note the negative terms
used to describe the colonial period], until the end of World
War II, when Taiwan was restored [?!!] to Nationalist Chinese
[KMT] control in 1945. In 1949, when the communists usurped
[note the use of "usurp"] the Chinese mainland, President Chiang
Kai-shek led his best divisions and a loyal entourage of patriots
[bandits? thieves? It all depends on your interpretation] across
the Taiwan Straits, establishing the provisional capital of the
Republic of China in Taipei [provisional because the capital
will someday be moved to Peking]. Since then [note how the
excesses of the KMT in their first years of rule in Taiwan are
given no mention], Taiwan has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity
and the fastest rate of development ever witnessed in the world.
Indeed, Taiwan's rapid rise to the top echelon of industrial and
trading powers has been called an 'economic miracle [although it
could also be represented as an "ecological disaster" since the
eastern plain that runs the length of the island is perpetually
enveloped in a sea of smog, like L.A. but on a much larger scale].'"
(_A Glance at Taiwan Republic of China_, Tourist Bureau,
Ministry of Communications, Republic of China, 1989, p. 7)

This passage needs little comment since it is so obviously
biased. However, if you have little knowledge of the history
of China and Taiwan, you will not notice the biases. Concerning
this type of politically motivated reconstruction of history, to
some degree, it can be thought to reflect a harmless sort of
patriotic pride. @On the other hand, if people make important
political decisions based on this kind of flawed history, the
results can be disastrous.

Let's look at some more tourist materials, this on a
brochure on southern Taiwan published by the Tourist Bureau:

"Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and capital on this island
for 203 years, from 1684 to 1887, is imperishably linked
with the memory of Cheng Cheng-kung, better known as Koxinga,
one of China's greatest national heros.
"Koxinga was the Ming Dynasty loyalist commander whose
legions from the China mainland--30,000 picked troops in 8,000
war junks--ended the 37-year Dutch colonial occupation of
Taiwan that had begun in 1624 [see if you can remember for
exactly how many years the U.S. was a British colony, and then
compare your own hazy notion of U.S. history to the precision of
the Chinese awareness of their history; then consider how this
exercise is somewhat meaningless in that neither Taiwan nor
what later came to be called the U.S. had any really clear starting
point as either a country of Chinese or European immigrants since
the process was so gradual; in this passage, the rhetorical move
which is being accomplished is to make it seem like before the
Dutch occupation Taiwan was a well- defined Chinese territory,
when this is by no means clear].
"The name Koxinga is a Latinization of the resounding title
Kuo Hsing Yeh (Lord of the Imperial Surname) conferred on Cheng
by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in recognition of his attempt to
preserve it from usurpation by the Ching (Manchu) Dynasty
(1644-1911), China's last ruling house [note the use of
'usurpation" to characterize the Ching as foreign, and also in
general the rhetorical strategy of associating Taiwan with
one of the important figures of China's last native dynasty,
the Ming].
[paragraph deleted]
"The conqueror [Cheng] brought to Taiwan from the mainland
about 1,000 literati and other devotees of the arts to launch
Taiwan's first cultural renaissance. The island's second cultural
renaissance was initiated 305 years later, in 1966, this time by
the late president Chiang Kai-shek."

In regard to this second cultural renaissance, obviously the
writer is talking about some p.r. campaign the government
waged to glorify Chiang Kai-shek (although I am not clear as to
its exact nature). Also of interest is the implication that cultural
renaissances are associated with "conquerors," an explicit military
metaphor. We will now skip to the final part of the brochure which
talks about the island of Lanyu (considered a part of Taiwan) as a
tourist attraction.

"Unlike the other aborigine tribes in Taiwan province, the
ancestors of the Yami [the Yami live on Lanyu] have never
indulged [a rather ironic use of the word "indulge"] in
head-hunting--a grisly practice that did not cease until the
late 18th century. But, more than that, the Yami live in harmony
with their special environment. They have been practicing nature
conservation for centuries. Their main crop is taro, which
resembles the sweet potato.
"During their half century occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945) t
he Japanese, who undertook intensive study of the Yami, regarded
the island as an anthropological museum."
[Two paragraphs deleted]
"Wild orchids, beautiful boats, silver helmets, a landscape
at once stark yet subtripical [sic], and a people gentle and
unaffected--these special contrasts are the siren call of
Orchid island." (end of text part of the brochure)

Interesting in this part of the brochure is the contrast that
is made between the native peoples on the island of Taiwan
proper and the Yami on Lanyu. The head-hunting savages of
Taiwan are contrasted to the "gentle and unaffected" people
on Lanyu. At one point, in my travels in Taiwan my friend
took me to a reconstructed village of the mountain people. It
was raining that day which reinforced the gloominess of the
village (history as dead artifacts with no sense of the
living presence of the people). The Chinese who had
constructed this village had also constructed a long row
of shelves upon which many skulls were placed. I think
(although I cannot be sure) that the skulls and the way
that they were displayed were bogus: the purpose was to
emphasize the savage nature of these peoples, and so to justify
the Chinese settlement of Taiwan. [Briefly scanning Michelle Z.
Rosaldo's work, _Knowledge and Passion: Ilongot Notions of
Self and Social Life_, Cambridge University Press, 1980, which
is about a head-hunting people in the Philippines, I find no
description of villages displaying heads on shelves, and
instead frequent references to "tossing" or "throwing" away
the head once it is cut off.] Also, interesting is the "gentle
and unaffected" categorization of the Yami. Native people
are either cruel savages or child-like innocents (we can see
the same extremes in European people's, or their descendants',
categorizations of native peoples in the Americas).

One strange feature which I have difficulty understanding
is why the Yami are thought to live in harmony with nature
(but apparently not the other native peoples). Perhaps this is
because the Yami had agriculture (and the Chinese people's own
conception of their being lovers of nature is based on their image
of nature as an agricultural landscape--although a counter-
tradition influenced by Taoism which sees nature as
wilderness also exists). Another strange feature is the
inclusion of the Japanese, a rhetorical move which seems
to invoke the Japanese as authorities in scientific matters:
the Japanese regarded the island as an anthropological museum,
and so will you. The last part about "the siren call of Orchid
island" is a wonderful example of advertising hype, which no
doubt will be rendered meaningless (will not live up to its promise)
if you actually went to the island and were confronted with the
airport, roads, hotels, etc., all the facilities which make mass
tourism possible, and destroy its object, some untrammeled
place beyond the confines of our work-a-day lives.

Well, this contribution is already getting over long. There
are other things I could say but I'll leave my exploration
of the complicated relation between the Chinese and the
Taiwanese, and the complex, many-layered history of
Taiwan, unfinished (one aspect, in particular which I have
left almost entirely unexamined is the history of U.S.
involvement in the region both before and during the Cold
War: let me say, though, here that I feel that Clinton's shift
in policy does indeed represent a change from the old Cold War
approach of either ignoring the PRC completely, or adopting the
"fiction" that Taiwan and the PRC were one nation). Before I
sign off, I'd like to say something personally to John McCreery.
You said that "to blandly say that we have to respect Chinese
views toward people who've made something visibly better .
. .regardless of what they might feel . . . strikes me as little
better than 'They're only chinks. Fuck 'em.' In short, simply
despicable." I suggest that you look in your soul to see
why you have used this rather serious charge of racism in our
discussion. And while you're at it, why don't you clean up
your language.

Clyde Davenport