A few weeks ago, my friend and I went out to Cihu Mausoleum Park, in Taoyuan County, to see Chiang Kai-Shek’s preserved remains and the garden of abandoned Chiangs. I would say, without exaggeration, that this is the most surreal place in Taiwan that I’ve been to all year.
I had wanted to go see the Generalissimo’s former summer home after my professor at Zheng Da explained to me that Chiang Kai-Shek has never been buried. Instead, his preserved body waits in his former home for the day that the “Republic of China” reclaims the China mainland from the “Communist rebels,” at which point it will be given a traditional burial in his hometown. However, the “Republic of China” retreated to Taiwan in 1949, more than 60 years ago, and Taiwan has not had a seat in the United Nations for 40 years. So the pickled body of Chiang may be waiting for quite a while. Continue reading
The view of Silai from Yanping Historic Street, a road that runs through the middle of town and showcases preserved and reconstructed traditional Taiwanese architecture.
In May, I went back to my grandfather Thomas Liao’s hometown of Silai, to meet people, conduct oral history interviews, and look for documents about Thomas’s life, family, and political career.
This was my second trip– the first was a somewhat ill-advised round trip scooter ride from Chiayi City that I did in one day and took 5+ hours. But this time, I had made contact with a very kind host, Stella Chen, who introduced me to everyone she knew in the greater Silai area (between Taichung and Chiayi), and everyone I met introduced me to everyone THEY knew, who might know something about the Liao family, or remember a funny anecdote, share a photo, or take me walking around a historical part of the town.
To say the least: it was intense.
To introduce a series of posts about visiting my grandfather’s hometown of Silai (in Mandarin Siluo, Xiluo, 西螺), here’s a sweet song and video slide show, made by the town’s historical society!! It’s called the Luoyang Culture and Education Foundation, or: 螺陽文教基金會.
So I hope you’ll give it a watch if you want to see how the town looks now– in Silai itself, there are some beautiful historically preserved old buildings, collections of old photographs and books at the historical society, and a traditional soy sauce museum and factory. Continue reading
Dusky, rainy Hong Kong turns on its lights. Taken from a desk at the Hong Kong Public Library-- 1 of the 4 libraries I scoured in 3 days. Who says being a geek isn't fun?!?
I went back to Hong Kong at the end of June, but instead of tourism, boat-related travel, Fulbright conferences, or even Dim Sum being my objective, I went there to visit libraries and try to find out more about Joshua Liao. (Or, Liao Wen-Kui, Wen-Kwei, Wen-Kwui, or Wen-Kuei, depending on your romanization style.)
Joshua was five years older, and was apparently a major figure in Thomas Liao’s life. Continue reading
Today, I met one of the biggest Taiwanese Independence rockstars out there: Professor Peng Ming-Min. He could be considered the Jagger, the Morrison–or maybe even the Lennon–of Taiwanese independence history and activism.
And the first thing he said to me? “I’ve heard about you! I must say, I had great admiration for your grandfather.”
Okay, to explain now: Continue reading
I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong for a Fulbright-related conference, which allowed me the opportunity to do some family history research. I knew that my father’s family had fled the KMT government in 1947 or 1948 to seek safe haven in Hong Kong, and they lived there together until 1951. My grandfather Thomas Liao (廖文毅) had been in Shanghai during the 228 Incident in 1947, and couldn’t return to Taiwan at risk of death. So the family reunited in Hong Kong, and my Aunt Jeanne remembers those years as some of the happiest the family ever spent together, before my grandparents were separated by the Taiwanese Independence movement, for which work Thomas moved to Tokyo.
Also, my father was born in Hong Kong in 1949. When I was a kid, and we would see “Made in China” or “Made in Hong Kong” stickers on the bottom of items, my dad would stick them on himself and say, “I was made in Hong Kong!” Continue reading
Photo by camilo, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons License
Apropos international showers I have taken and beginning to feel at home in Taiwan, it’s time to go traveling! Over the last week I have officially caught the travel bug. And when I look back on experiences moving to new places, returning “home” to that place after a trip really made me feel like I belonged there. It’s the difference between vacationing and living somewhere, and nothing draws that contrast better than returning.
When I was living in Paris for 4 months as a college exchange student, my first return was a lovely evening when my friend and I got off the train (from Amsterdam) at Gare du Nord. I took the Métro back to Ternes, and watched the sunset from over the elevated section of the blue #2 line at Barbes Rouchechart, with a feeling of deep peace in my heart and mind. Paris was my city, and I was coming back to it with a sense of ownership and tired relief.
So in the coming months, I have some exciting trips in the planning stages! But where to go, what to see, eat, do? Continue reading
“What causes culture shock? It is basically an accumulation of stress caused by a lack of the familiar…. Culture shock can hit the young, the old, the experienced, the naive. It might be a fleeting moment of melancholy, or a brief loneliness, but it can also be a profound and deep depression.” — Culture Shock! Taiwan
So the honeymoon is over. Over. It’s been a fantastic introduction to Taiwan, but as I bid good bye to my heady first few weeks here, I realize with a shock that I am living in Taiwan, not visiting, vacationing, or galavanting. So if I haven’t been in touch, don’t worry, I’m just culture shocked. Continue reading
photo by beggs, courtesy of Flickr creative commons
Formosa = Taiwan. Taiwan = Formosa. So why not just use the term Taiwan, or better yet, ROC (Republic of China), as the Nationalists dubbed their stronghold of Taiwan in 1947, when they lost control of mainland China to Mao Zedong’s Communist Party, who renamed China as “The People’s Republic of China”?
Both China and Taiwan have been known by so many terms over the last 100 years, it can be hard to keep track! (Especially if you are American, and received as comprehensive a world history education as I did– i.e. not comprehensive at all.)
So, I have decided to call this blog Girl Meets Formosa, not Girl Meets Taiwan, because the term Formosa had an important connotation for my grandfather Thomas Liao (廖文毅). Formosa is the Taiwanese cultural name for Taiwan. Continue reading
photo by eazy traveler, courtesy of Flickr creative commons
Welcome to the blog Girl Meets Formosa, which will recount my travel adventures as a young American writer spending one year in Taiwan (Formosa) to learn about how my grandfather Thomas Liao (Liao Wen-Yi) changed the face of Taiwanese history. This blog will detail my unfolding search for information and identity, as I reconstruct the story of my family–from Taiwan to New York and back again–in the book I’m working on called The Lost Family.
In the blog, I’ll be posting regular updates on the research, fun pictures, and show you what it’s like to live in Taipei as an American writer with Taiwanese roots. Perhaps I’ll post excerpts from the book! Also look out for discussions of some of my favorite topics– food, fashion, travel, writing, book reviews and what makes this author tick! I invite you to check out the rest of GirlMeetsFormosa.com for info about the book, the blog, the history of Formosa (Taiwan), and an introduction to my writing and publications.
Here’s a brief taste of what brings me to Taiwan: