The report notes that this was the first time ever that any ROC President here in Taiwan had hosted this ceremony, which had hitherto been the responsibility of the Interior Minister. The KMT had never been comfortable with the feudalistic overtones of the ceremony, noted the friend who alerted me to this tale, and had thus delegated it to a lesser official. The report stated:
總統府發言人王郁琦表示，黃帝是中華民族的共同始祖，政府為紀念黃帝，將清明節定為「民族掃墓節」。基於「慎終追遠」對中華民族有重要的意義，馬總統決定親自主持，表達政府對相關傳統文化的重視。Readers conversant in Chinese can see how difficult it is to translate "民族 Tomb Sweeping Day." It comes out sounding truly bizarre: Race Tomb Sweeping Day? Ethnic Tomb Sweeping Day? Obviously the "race/ethnicity" meant here is Chinese.
Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi said that the Yellow Emperor is the common ancestor of all the Chinese people. In order to commemorate the Yellow Emperor, Tomb Sweeping Day will be designated "民族 Tomb Sweeping Day." Based on the importance of "being thorough in the funeral rites and worship of the ancestors" to the Chinese (race/nation) (中華民族), President decided to personally lead the ceremony, showing the emphasis the government places on culturally relevant traditions.
There's a rich vein to mine here. It starts with the construction of everyone on both sides of the Taiwan Strait being "Chinese", comments that have been in the news lately with the Buddhist Master Hsing Yun, but which, since Ma's election, date back to his May 2oth inaugural address (readers are encouraged to re-read the analysis I posted against this report on Ma's sacrifices to the Yellow Emperor). In my discussion of the speech, which uses the term 中華民族, I noted:
Two other translation points to make: the English text says "our common Chinese heritage" but the Chinese is explicit -- the people on the two sides of the Strait both belong to the Chinese race" (兩岸人民同屬中華民族).The second translation issue is even more interesting. Entirely dropped from the English text is the very next sentence, which says 中華民族智慧之高 which translates "the great intelligence/wisdom" of the Chinese race." As I noted, Ma's thinking treads the well-worn path of Han chauvinism in which other ethnicities are arranged in order below the dominant and wisely benevolent Han. The DPP, by contrast, offered "proto-state to state" and "partnership" with all the original peoples.The DPP also had a completely different idea of how to define citizenship, one not based on belonging to a specific ethnicity/race, but on being a citizen of a Taiwan nation. Racial chauvinism, demonstrated in Ma's personal honoring of the Yellow Emperor with its Yasukuni-like implications, is a powerful component of Ma's thinking, and his fostering of a retrograde Han chauvinism/superiority is an important affirmation of the remarks of people like Hsing Yun or GIO master blogger Kuo Kuan-ying. Indeed Ma criticized Kuo's comments by saying that everyone was a Son of the Yellow Emperor, affirming the Han Chauvinism that drove them even as he distanced himself from that chauvinism's more odious expressions. In terms of creating a civil society with a Taiwan identity at its heart, this is a step backwards.
After Ma made that statement in his inaugural address, an aboriginal legislator stormed out of the audience and convened a press conference on the spot to denounce it. Not everyone in Taiwan is a Son of the Yellow Emperor.
Second, this construction of everyone on both sides of the Strait as being Chinese is obviously and intentionally a colonialist one. If you have ever had the (mis)fortune to argue with a Chinese nationalist, they will blithely inform you that Tibetans, Manchus, Mongolians, etc, are all Chinese. Indeed, the claim that "X is Chinese" should be taken as a presumptive declaration that X is about to have their territory incorporated into China. In this light, there was something deeply symbolic about the revelation that the "ethnic" performers at the Beijing Olympics were all actually Han.
Ma's treatment of Chinese symbols shows his ideological identification with them. Recall this event from October of 2008?
The Taipei Confucian Temple marked the 2,558th anniversary of the birth of Confucius yesterday amid criticism from some city councilors that the temple performed the bayi dance — traditionally performed to pay homage to an emperor — to “fawn” over the presence of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).At that ceremony Ma strode through the Central Door of the Temple (中門), which only emperors are supposed to use.
I said then, it was only going to get worse. It is.
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