The Republic of

China (Taiwan)

Tour 1: Taipei

The Republic of China (Taiwan's) National Anthem


I toured Taiwan in the winter of 1998. All tours of Taiwan typically begin (and end) at Taipei since it holds the country's major airport. Hopefully, though, you'll take the time to see more of the country on the related tours.

Background on Taiwan Before and After the Chinese

The current government of Taiwan, technically the "Republic of China" originated on the mainland. Taiwan has a longer history than its advent on the island in 1945, but that history only touches tangentially on Chinese history.

Basically, Taiwan lay, from the Chinese perspective, a long way from the center of things. As a result, contact between the two, officially anyway, seldom occurred. However, certain Chinese people, particularly the Fukkianese and Hainese, visited the island.

The islanders today come from diverse racial backgrounds but resulted from the immigration of the Austronesia people who ended up in the Philippines (see for reference), Malaysia, and eventually as far as Hawaii.

As late at the Ming Dynasty, few ethnic Chinese lived on the islands. Many of those, along with the few Japanese, practiced piracy, and the Ming longed on the island with dread.

Taiwan really enters Chinese history, and world history, with the arrival of the Dutch. The Ming had fought a serious of battles with the Dutch and finally granted Taiwan to the Dutch. The Dutch liked the location of Taiwan, but the Ming regarded the island as no loss since they didn't consider it their territory anyway. To read about the Dutch, refer to tour # 3: Tainen.

The Japanese arrived on the Island of Taiwan in 1895. They intended, as attempted in Korea (see the Korean tour to read about this), not only to rule the island but to racially and culturally absorb the Taiwanese as they sucessfully did with the Okinawans (see the Okinawa tour ). More positively, the Japanese spread schools through the islande.

As in the case of Korea, the cultural heritage, in this case Chinese, proved hard to wipe out. Still, the Japanese succeeded in making the island a productive part of their empire and the Taiwanese paid the price for this, undergoing conscription and bombing.

Meanwhile, events went on in China that would soon come to effect seemingly "Japanese" Taiwan. After several bungled efforts, Sun Yat Sen, the leader of the Nationalist Party, the Koumingtang, managed to launch a revolution that overthrew the Manchus. He declared a Republic. However, during Dr. Sun's lifetime, China remained in various forms of civil war with warlords, intrigue, etc.

When Dr. Sun died, his brother in law, Chiang Kai Chek, in 1920 took over leadership of the Nationalists, the Koumintang. A military man, he suceeded in taking over most of the country. His government, ostensibly democratic, in fact, gave all power to him. The Nationalist rule proved particularly corrupt in a culture long inured to corruption.

Even while Chiang seemed to enjoy power, another revolution, headed by his one-time ally, Mao Tse Tsung, attempted to overthrow the Nationalists. Seeing their opportunity, the Japanese, who already ruled Manchuria, invaded the Chinese lowlands.

During the Thirties, and during World War II, a curious three-sided war took place between the Japanese, the Chinese Communists, and the Nationalists. Writers now allege that Chiang took much of the aid money given to him by the USA to fight the Communists and pocketed it.

After the defeat of the Japanese, Chiang sent troops to occupy Taiwan, granted to him by the victorious allies. Much to the surprize of the local governor, the Taiwanese resisted the troops, and a massacre took place well-remembered today by those who want Taiwanese independence. As many as 14,000 Taiwanese died in the uprisings.

In 1949, the long war between the Nationalists and Communists came to an end, with the Communist victory. The Nationalists fled with everything they had to the island of Taiwan. The Communists would've pursued them, except the US Navy effectively prevented it and does so to this day. That government claims, today, to represent China, hence the name Republic of China.

During Chiang's life, which lasted very long even by Chinese standards, the Koumintang remained committed to returning to the Mainland. Koumintang veterans believed that the Mainland would simply welcoming them back, and, in periods of extreme turmoil in China, such as the Cultural Revolution, there seemed validity to their claim. Meanwhile, Chang with lots of military aid, ruled his little country under emergency rule, effectively a dictatorship. Chang, and his followers, wisely left business alone, and that part of Taiwan flourished until the small island's GDP exceeed that of China itself.

The death of Chiang and the end of the Cold War gradually changed things in Taiwan. Chiang's son and followers lifted emergency ruled and allowed free elections which, until this date, March 20 2000, the Koumintang always won. The Taiwanese majority of the population, some 80%, felt a lot more free to express their wish to simply have nothing to do with China any more.

Yet paradoxically, the island finds itself more drawn to China than ever before. As China de-regulated its economy, Taiwan and Hong Kong proved the most persistent investors. So ironically, the economic health of each depends to a large extent on the other.

As for me, I hope that the Taiwanese can get their independence without warfare. Such a war would destroy Taiwan, certainly, and seriously harm China also. The Taiwanese, as the history above, shows, probably suffered more than their share since their entrance into the center stage of Chinese history. They deserve a chance to make their own destiny.

Taiwan offers, oddly enough, the best chance to observe Chinese culture. While Mao Tse Teng tried his best to wean China from its past, the Koumintang embraced it as a means of legitimizing their claim to rule China. As a result, while China simplified its characters, Taiwan continues to use the originals. While China burned its monuments, in Taiwan you find them lovingly preserved.


Historical Sites and Interests
While Mao called on the Chinese to criticize Confucius, the Taiwanese honor him. Confucius wrote in a time of Civil War and aimed to get society to live better.

Young girls like to have their picture
taken on this model of The Great Wall.

This shows the Sun Yat Sen memorial.

Sun tried to launch so many revolutions, that the Manchus took him not very seriously. The Japanese encouraged and abetted him for reasons of their own.

The Matyr's Shrine honors those who died fighting with Sun.

This museum houses the greatest collection of Chinese Art. However, you can only see a portion at a time due to the sheer size of the total.

This honors Chiang.

Chiang supposedly had ties to Chinese gangsters.

Women bless the fruit in this temple.

This shows Taipei's Confucian temple.

The Langshan temple is the most famous Dao (Lao) in Taipei. Daoists worship many nature gods, rather like Shinto.

I think this shows a side view of the previous.

Yet another temple. If you know the name email me.

Modern Taipei
This shows the view from my hotel room.

This shows the "New Park." Note the Filipino immigrants.

A famous landmark, Grand Hotel boasts the biggest Chinese-style roof in the world. Every famous person stays here.

For two days, I kept seeing and not identifying this building.

It's the presidential building!

On that note, let's ride unto the next tour and leave Taipei.


Related tours:
Onward to Taiwan Tour 2: Around the Island
Back to Taiwan Tour 4: Kaohsiung

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