Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The future of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

On March 2, 2007, Executive Yuan, Taiwan, decided to change the name of 'Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall' to 'Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall' and to remove the enclosing walls to make the area around the memorial hall a more open public space.

To keep the integrity of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which was built in 1980, Department of Culture, Taipei City Government, decided to evaluate if this area can be set as a national monument on March 5, 2007.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall collects stuffs used by Chiang Kai-Shek, who was a president here from 1950 to 1975. (The preserved remains of this previous president can still be visited in Tsu-Hu, Taoyuan.) Wei-Chen Tseng thought we should change the usage of the place:

This capacious place should be returned to the people instead of keeping for the dictator.

Chuo-Cheng Yang is the architect of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. He also designed the Grand Hotel, Taipei Grand Mosque, National Concert Hall, and National Theater.

Chih-Hung Wang talked about the history of the memorial hall:
「戰時首都」所含攝的復國意識形態和威權政治,與「現代化都市」的追尋,這兩種都市意義也不見得會一直相安無事,而有潛在衝突的可能。有個非常明顯的例子 涉及了目前中正紀念堂所在基地的用途。《台北畫刊》第67期(1973.7)報導了「營邊新社區」計劃,要籌資一百五十億元在信義路營邊段建設六十二英畝 的「現代化商業中心」,興建五座十八至五十層樓不等的辦公大樓,三座廿四層至卅層的國際觀光旅館和公寓,四棟百貨商場,以及會議廳、世界貿易中心、文化中 心和遊樂設施等,大樓間以輸送系統連結,行人以履帶運送。該期的封面與內文,都附有透視圖,全是高聳的玻璃帷幕大樓。這個充滿「現代化與科技進步」想像的 計劃,預計1974年6 月起開發。但是1975年蔣介石過世,計劃急轉彎改為中正紀念堂的用地。

'The capital in a war' includes two aspects. First is implication or ideology of it to be the base to re-gain the control the country (mainland China) and authoritarian regime. Second is the pursuit of a modern city. These two aspects would not necessary remain peaceful with each other; there is hidden conflict between them. One obvious example is about where the current Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is. In July 1973, 'Taipei reading' (volume 67) had an article about the project, 'Ying-Pien New Community.' The government originally planned to raise 1500 billion NTD to build a 'modern business center' across 62 acre area in Hsin-Yi Road. There would be five 18- to 50-level business buildings, three 24- to 30-level international hotels for tourists and apartments, four department stores, conference hall, world trade center, culture centers, and entertainment facilities. There would be transportation systems between buildings, and moving tracks for pedestrians. In the cover and content of this journal, we can see the scenographs, and all of them are towering glass-covering buildings. This project is full of the imagination of 'modern and technology advance,' and it was set to start the development in June, 1974. However, Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975, and the plan was suddenly changed to use the land for Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

In the wrestling between the Democratic Progressive Party, which leads Executive Yuan, and KaoMinTang, which leads Taipei City Government, bloggers in Taiwan have different opinions toward the actions taken by the two parties.
No one goes to UK thought the point is not removing the enclosing walls:

Removing the enclosing walls is precedented. The enclosing walls besides the National Theater and National Concert Hall were removed in 2003. Architect Cheng-Chung Yao used the space to include the theater and the concert hall with bookstores, fountains, coffee shops, outdoor performance area, and visitor centers. The open space becomes a nice place for people to enjoy at their leisure time, to attend the performance, to buy books, and to drink a cup of coffee. Because of the example, the core question in 'removing or not removing' should never be focusing on the disparity of the two parties. The core question should be focusing on whether removing the walls strengthens the social network in our society or not.

Prometheus thought even though politicians think the memorial hall is a political symbol, 'to most people, it is simply a place for dating, jogging, and strolling.'

How's sketch book also pointed out the same contradiction:
中正紀念堂作為威權的權威象徵,從仿中國宮殿的建築本體、週邊的空間配置(花園、廣場),到空間的使用(除了現在的兩廳院)處處流露著象徵符號。但有趣的 是,1980年落成的中正紀念堂,他本身的存在竟是如此尷尬。有多少人會去看蔣介石的銅像?去看蔣中正的文物?城市市民賦予中正紀念堂的是雲門、是樂儀旗 隊、是熱舞、是花燈、是演唱會...甚至是解嚴前後政治運動的基地:在蔣 家中正大廟底下,要蔣家交出壟斷的政治資源。這是一種多妙的嘲諷與記憶象徵。
並不是把深宮大院中正廟改成「台灣民主紀念館」 ,就代表我們珍惜所謂的「民主」了。拆掉圍牆,就空間而言的確會更有穿透性,但是不是有穿透性的空間就代表他是一個友善的,讓人可以沉浸在裡面的空間?

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a symbol of authoritarian regime. It mimics the Chinese palace-like building, from the surrounding (gardens and the square) to the space usage. The interesting thing is, the existence of the memorial hall, built in 1980, is itself very embarrassing. How many people would go there to view Chiang Kai-Shek's statue or browse the exhibition of the stuff Chiang Kai-Shek used before? The civilians visited the place for Cloud Gate Dance Theater, music, dance, lanterns, and concerts. It is also a place for democratic activities. It is a cynical memory that people gathered at the place which symbolizes authoritarian regime and asked authority to hand over the monopolized politics power.

Changing the name from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall does not mean how we cherish what is so-called 'democracy'. Removing the enclosing walls may make the space more transparent, but it cannot promise a friendly place where people would love to immerse themselves in.

Focus on Taiwan has similar opinion toward 'Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall':

'Democracy' is in the present progressive tense, and there is no need to set a memorial hall to build other icons. I think the people who fought for democracy would not want to be memorized in this mausoleum-like place.

From a different perspective, George Lee concerned the tourism function of the place:
中正紀念堂已經是觀光客來台北的大景點之一了。許多外國朋友來到台北,除了故宮和小吃以外,通常也都會詢問中正紀念堂的交通方式、遊園路線。即使 蔣中正罪大惡極,那麼留著中正紀念堂也無礙史官撥亂反正,甚至更能當作當年威權統治的罪證。貿然改名,只是徒自讓台北市少了吸引觀光客的賣點,讓鄰近商家 和小販生意直線下落而已。

It is a major tourism spot in Taipei. In addition to visiting National Palace Museum and eat some delicious dishes, foreigners often ask about the transportation to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and the route to walk around. Even if Chiang Kai-Shek is guilty of the most heinous crime, keeping the memorial hall will not interfere historians' work in finding the truth. Moreover, it could be used as the evidence to prove his authoritarian regime. Changing name could result in one less tourism spot and affect the business around.

About the enclosing walls, bloggers also have different feelings.

Zonble pointed out that on Yuan-Hsiao Festival, lanterns are hang on the corridors. The current design keeps the lanterns from the rain, and the windows on the walls can deflect the light to the other side of the walls to form a 'light corridor.'
在元宵節的時候,你可以看到,因為圍牆內部就是迴廊,而迴廊上頭可 以懸掛燈籠,迴廊有屋頂,所以燈籠可以因此不受雨淋,而圍牆上的造型窗戶同時又可以將燈光透射到外頭,從信義路或是愛國東路經過時,你會覺得自己走過一道光廊。

On the other hand, Life's basketball field said, 'when I ride my motorcycle there, I need to walk around the enclosing wall to find the entrance after I park. Every time I walk around the wall, the idea of climbing the wall is always in my mind. I really think the walls obstruct the sight and they are better to be removed.'

After Taipei City Government made the memorial hall as 'temporary national monument,' bloggers questioned the motivation for the action. The island left behind said:
看到「暫定古蹟」四個字,我第一個聯想到的是到現在遲遲無法定案的樂生療養院。第二個想到的,是台北市政府的邏輯不知為何?1925年由士紳合資興建的大龍峒孔廟圍牆要拆,而整整晚了55 年,1980 年建立的中正廟圍牆卻突然成了古蹟?

When I saw the words 'temporary national monument,' the first thing that came to my mind was Lo-Sheng Sanatorium. Then I want to question the logic of setting national monument. The enclosing walls of Confucius Temple in Dalongdong, which were built in 1925, were removed, but the Cheng Kei-Shek Memorial Hall, built in 1980, becomes a national monument.

Trace said, 'to claim their right to govern the place, the current rulers need to affirm themselves by denying the previous ruler.

Hopefully the politicians will take an action that is not only good for their political party but also good for the people. After all, in our county, the civilians are supposed to be the one who has the power instead of an emperor, a dictator, or a political party winning the previous election.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Yuan-Hsiao Festival: carry a lantern, play firecrackers, and worship deities

Nowadays, people in Taiwan start working in the fifth day after lunar new year eve. However, in tradition, the 15th day, Yuan-Hsiao Festival, is the the last day of the holidays.

Based on Alanruo, these full-moon festivals are related to the productive cycles in agriculture. At the start of spring, Yuan-Hsiao Festival is full of the expectancy for life, and this is why farmers hope for abundant harvest, women hope for children, and singles gather together during this festival.


(It might be true: Yuan-Hsiao Festival this year is March 3rd, Valentine's Day is Feb 14th, and Mardi Gra is Feb 20th.)

Because the sound of 'lantern' (Deng) in Chinese is similar to 'man' (Ding), raising lantern means hoping for children.


In Taipei, we have yearly lantern demonstration. You can watch the major lantern here. If you watch it carefully, you can see a Farris wheel, Taipei 101, and a circling train. If you think it is not modern enough, how about this lantern? The major producer of this Gundam lantern, bean20, spent two and half months building the lantern with the help of 11 people.

People also go to the mountains to send 'Tien-Deng.' The origin of this tradition is Ping-Hsi, Taipei County. In the past, 'Tien-Deng' is a safety signal for families. Nowadays, it is a messenger to the deities. If you are not satisfied in watching people sending 'Tien-Deng', how about sending your own 'Tien-Deng' on line? Do not forget to write down your wishes in the blank area.

Although people enjoy this activity, Alhorn observed the poor dog lanterns last year (last year is 'dog year'). Alhorn said, 'the life of these lanterns is shorter than the time we need to develop the film.'


Alanruo talked about the old tradition of carrying the paper lanterns with candles:

When we carry the lanterns with candles, and when the lanterns are burnt, it is a lucky sign because the sound of 'burn a lantern' (Chu-Deng) is similar to the sound of 'bear a child' (Chu-Ding) in Chinese. If we use batteries and light bulbs, we will produce pollution that lasts for thousands of years.


'Tien Deng' also raises serious safety concerns. weatherman said, 'this activity has serious public safety problems. I recommend that our government should make people more aware of the danger, and we can reduce unnecessary loss. People should know that we do have regulations for this activity, and we have responsibility for our 'Tien-Deng' if it affects public safety, airplane navigation, environment protection, or other disasters.'


While the northern Taiwanese lighted up the lanterns, the southern Taiwanese tried to use firecrackers to expel bad luck.

Yen-Shui, a small town in the plain, and one of the major harbors in Taiwan three hundreds years ago. In 1882, many people died from a plague. After asking the 'Kuan-Kung' (one of the major deities), people decided to walk the statues of the deities and set firecrackers. The plague was controlled after the ceremony, so this activity is held every year thereafter.

If you think we use normal firecrackers, you are wrong. The firecrackers in Yen-Shui is called wasp-firecrackers. Local people always spend a lot of money making or buying firecrackers, and then they will set them toward the statues of the deities. Because they have the largest and the wildest firecrackers in Taiwan, young people will wear helmets that protect the whole head and clothes that cover the whole body and walk close to the statues to feel the crazy firecrackers. This year, they even built the longest (13 km) firecracker in the world, which is called 'the legend of fire dragon.' (It only took 45 mins to burn out!)

In addition to carrying a lantern and playing firecrackers, we worship the deities. You can hear traditional music in the ceremonies in Alanruo's blog. She also described the ceremonies:

Yuan-Hsiao Festival is the birthday of an important deity. In addition to worshiping the deities, the temples also take care the need of the ghosts. They will hold 'Pu-Du' (ceremony) that give food to the ghosts emblematically and then give the food to the people.


Think this is old-style? How about deities dancing with electronic music? In an ancient story, the third prince (Nézhā) is a naughty boy. In recent years, the third prince is the first deity embrace electronic music and dance. In Siddhartha's blog, some people left messages to support this change, while some people disliked it.

About reviving traditional ceremonies, cwyuni has another idea:

I feel I have the responsibility to stand out for the deities who protect us. I should plan a series of festival activities that young people will enjoy. I propose that next time when the third prince has his birthday or Ma-Tsu begins her patrol, we should gather in the temples to count down. After midnight, we can celebrate by eating the food that worshiped the deities. We can take the incense besides the can-mountains and give each other a train ticket from Yung-Pao to An-Kang (meant for 'be peace and healthy forever). At last, we can eat two pieces of Wang-Wang cookies, raise hands toward the sky, and shout 'Wang-Wang' (meant for prosperity) instead of 'Happy New Year' or 'Merry Xmas'!

我覺得有使命為平常有拜有保庇的眾神明挺身而出,策劃一系列年輕人也可以同樂的節慶活動。建議下回三太子李哪吒作壽或是媽祖她老人家出巡, 我們不妨齊聚全省各大廟宇倒數,過了午夜大啖素雞素鴨或大茂黑瓜以示慶祝,罐頭山旁邊捻一炷清香互送「永保安康」車票祈福,最後嚼兩片旺旺仙貝,張開雙臂 對天空大喊一聲「旺旺!」取代「Happy New Year!」或是「Merry Xmas!」

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Kevin Lin completed across Sahara

After 111 days, Kevin Lin from Taiwan completed the ultra-marathon across Sahara desert, the largest desert in the world, on 2/20/2007 with other two runners.

This ultra-marathon was first proposed by Charlie Engle, who went to Matt Damon's production company (LivePlanet) to persuade them to film a documentary for it. This film documented not only the endurance to run the ultra-marathon, but also the nomadic people in Sahara desert and their daily struggle to find water. Another goal of the ultra-marathon is raising awareness for the clean water nonprofit group H2O Africa.

There are three runners, Charlie from USA, Kevin from Taiwan, and Ray Zahab from Canada. Their original plan was running 50 miles per day for 80 days (4000 miles in total) (the length for regular marathon is 26 miles). It began in Senegal, went across Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and ended in Egypt . The runners and their support team had to negotiate when they met treacherous terrain, including minefields, as well as risk of disease, war-torn regions and bureaucracy. A series of detours added more than 500 miles (800 km) to the route. They finally finished the ultra-marathon in 111 days for 4562 miles (7300 km).

In Kevin's website, 14 supporters from Taiwan went to Egypt and wrote diary about their journey. Some of them rented a car and met the runners in Salloum, Egypt on 2/12/2007 and ran a few miles with them later. They were excited about how the documentary group love their yellow T-shorts for this event. They said, 'although we only joined their trip for such a short time, we have learned how hard to live without water. It is great they finished it!'

Kevin is not tall, and his father demanded him to study hard to go to college. However, Kevin chose marathon, and left home for it. At the age of 15, Kevin brought a package to visit Ruei-Gen Pan for marathon training. Later, he entered Taipei physical education college. During his career in ultra-marathon, Ruei-Gen Pan is his adviser and always provide the greatest support in these competitions.

Kevin's story encourages many Taiwanese. Confessor's lounge said that through blogging, more people will know their story about how human beings create history.

On the other hand, Schee talked about why Kevin Lin had difficulty to find financial support from our government or our society. He said 'ultra-marathon is too complicate to set standards for it. It is hard to say if IAAF will set a category for it in the future (note made by author: IAAF sanctions ultra-marathons). If the world governing body of track and field does not recognize it as a competition category, the competitors will face huge difficulty to find financial support.'

Spiritual awakening talked about how Kevin Lin open a window for Taiwan to the world:
We always hope through diplomatic methods Taiwan can be connected to the world. But now we have seen how Ang Lee in Oscar ceremony, Chien-Ming Wang in Yankee, and Kevin Lin can open a door for Taiwan to the world. When using diplomatic methods faces huge obstacles, maybe we can try softer ways to reach our goal. For example, our culture and athelects.

There is a movie about the Taipei 24-hr ultra-marathon in 2000 that many Taiwanese bloggers shared with each other after Kevin Lin came back from Egypt.

If you are interested in how Kevin faces the difficulty of ultra-marathon, he recorded his life in his blog, including running ultra-marathon in Golbi in 2006 and Sahara this year. Now he is planning for the rock and ice ultra-marathon in Yellowknife, Canada this March. This time, there will be three Taiwanese run with him. Good luck and take care!