Tag Archives: Taiwanese history

Midnight in the Garden of Abandoned Chiangs

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

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Getting “Freshly Pressed”: Reflections on Almost a Year of Blogging

This weekend, Girl Meets Formosa was Freshly Pressed. Now I’m steeped in juicy pulp. (Just kidding. I know, that was terrible.)

To explain “Freshly Pressed”: WordPress.com is the location and also the blogging software that I use to host this humble site. Word Press is a very popular blog interface, and needless to say, gets lots of traffic on its homepage. Each weekday, the content editors at Word Press choose 10 posts to feature in a special section on the wordpress.com homepage called “Freshly Pressed” (with a feed to which you can subscribe). This Friday, Girl Meets Formosa was featured in that section for my post “The Fantasy Treehouse.” Thus, my site traffic has increased by an embarrassingly large number of page views in the past two days.

So, Thank You, Word Press!  (Click here to learn more about how blogs are chosen for Freshly Pressed each weekday). And many thanks to you, dear readers, who have supported this blog from its beginning almost a year ago, and have followed my adventures on it!

And to my new readers and subscribers, WELCOME! Continue reading

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Finding Silai: A Search Through History

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.

Continue reading

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Silai Musical Interlude

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

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Research Update: Liao Wen-Kui in Hong Kong

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

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Taiwan Travel + History: Green Island

Since I’ve begun to talk more about my history research, here’s a story of where travel and history combine: on Green Island.

The other day, I was talking to some friends about cool places to go on vacation in Taiwan, and mentioned that I went to Green Island earlier in the month over a long weekend with some fellow Fulbrighters. I was listing off fun things to do and see there, and came to the infamous Green Island Prison, which now stands in ruins (with one wing fixed up as a museum) and has a Memorial built on the nearby cliffs. My uncle Suho, who currently lives in Taipei, also spent time there, and I found his name on the Memorial–they list all of the prisoners’ names and dates spent there. It was there that I learned that he was imprisoned on Green Island– for his political actions supporting the Taiwan Independence Movement– for 8 years in the 1950s.

I actually can’t imagine doing ANY single thing for 8 years, let alone being in an incredibly brutal, hard labor camp on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

At hearing this, my friend commented, “Man, your family has been everywhere! All of your vacations in Taiwan always have history research component to them!”

This is, actually, primarily true. Continue reading

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Meeting Peng Ming-Min (彭明敏): Or, Your Easy Breezy Guide to Taiwanese History Research

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.”

SWOON.

Okay, to explain now: Continue reading

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Calculated Madness: Confessions from the Writer’s Studio

Writers sure look crazy

Photo by Drew Coffman, couresy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Sorry for the absences, dear blog readers– I have some good news and bad news. The bad (but not really that bad) news: I have been inundated with historical research, some in English, much in Chinese, and a little in Japanese. It’s been a bit overwhelming. As a result, blogging has taken a backseat to working, and to living– Taipei’s winter was surprisingly cold (without central heat) and surprisingly grim (without much sunshine). However, the good news is this: the project has grown considerably, there are MANY ANSWERS to my many questions about the Liao family and the evolution of Taiwan’s controversial past.

Also, for me, most importantly, I’ve been WRITING.

Not blog posts, obviously. But the book. The WORK, as it were, is chugging along at a new pace, with a new tone, revised structure, fresh scenes, and a new perspective on what its starting and ending points are!  The book is moving!!!!!  (going off to have a little dance party now)

Wonka's chocolate river

Click here to see Willy Wonka (aka Gene Wilder) sing about "Pure Imagination."

The trouble with all of this, is the danger that all of you writers out there understand and share, when the work is plentiful and the inspiration flows like some kind of wonka-land chocolate river. HOW TO STOP IT FROM STOPPING?

And now I come to the point of this post. Trying to write when you’re in the zone (and for me, WRITING the major component of my project), and doing anything else at the same time, is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your belly, standing on one leg. Completely drunk. Maybe in the rain. Or with a bird pecking at one shoulder. Continue reading

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Hong Kong in Photos: Now and Then

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

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Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just Culture Shocked

 

“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

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