Saturday, March 03, 2007

CKS to be renamed

Happiness is a cooler full of imported sausage at the Black Bridge store in downtown Taichung.

Both the English and Chinese-language news services are reporting that the revolting memorial to the dictator and murderer Chiang Kai-shek is getting its name changed.

Despite resistance from the opposition, senior government leaders decided yesterday to rename the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) Memorial Hall to the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and to remodel it into a showcase of achievements of Taiwan's democratization.

The name change was part of a drive to rectify Taiwan's title and to redefine the role of late President Chiang Kai-shek who has been defined by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as the mastermind who ordered the 228 massacre in 1947.

Minister of Education Cheng-sheng announced the decision after consulting at length with senior cabinet officials, including Public Construction Commission Chairman Wu Tse-cheng, Council for Economic Planning and Development Vice Chairman Chang Ching-sen (張景森), Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission Chairman Shih Neng-chieh, Government Information Office Minister Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦).

However, the participants did not decide when the memorial hall will have a new name or undergo other renovation projects to further other functions.

Explaining reasons for the name change, Chu Nan-hsien, director of the department of social education at the Minatory of Education, said the government decided to rename the CKS memorial hall because the hall has long been used as the site for pro-democracy activities. It is no exaggeration to say that the hall has witnessed the history of Taiwan's democratization, he said.

The area housing the National Concert Hall and the National Theater will also be renamed to the Taiwan Democracy Park, Chu said, adding that the participants have not yet decided on whether to tear down long walls facing the main streets on its four sides, as those walls were considered to have hindered access to the park by people with disabilities, Chu said.

The walls were there to channel crowds and make protests easier to control. It's time for them to come down. Good move, and good riddance.


Anonymous said...

No matter what the walls were intended for, they're visually distinct and attractive. They also insulate the park inside from the noise of the busy surrounding streets. The park is better for them. I think they should stay.

However, they should perhaps be opened up a bit to improve handicapped access.

Loving Owl said...

"The walls"... as the surrounding walls of the entire park? I don't think the walls were built for crowd control; instead, this is a feature in Chinese architecture, as seen around an oriental style garden. Back in the days when this memorial park was planned and built, there was no need for "crowd control." Who would have thought it would be necessary? Of course, history proved the planners wrong and the park being so big, it become a logical place for large crowd to gather. To me, the walls is a buffer from the noice outside, like gridman said. Plus, the blue and white combination is quite pleasing to the eyes. However, if anyone is offended by the blue, they are free to replace it with green tiles, which is as pleasing... but why spend people's money on something like that? My thought about this one is, in order to erase CKC, will the current planners also replace CKC's statue in the main hall? I never did like it and thought it was a tacky imitation of Abe Lincoln's memorial; but again, how much money would we spend on that sort of "remodeling?"

Jonathan Benda said...

I'm not sure that removing the walls is the best thing to do. CKS Memorial Hall is part of Taiwan's history. I'm all for renaming it and adding some displays that trace the history of democratization in Taiwan (and the history of how CKS himself has been remembered in Taiwan), but tearing down the walls around it wouldn't give the youth of today a feel for how the space worked to "channel crowds and make protests easier to control." In fact, if this function of the walls were pointed out in the displays, the walls could themselves be made part of the educational work of the Democracy Hall.

Anonymous said...

I find the use of the word "memorial" in the new name a little strange. Unless they intend to specifically create a memorial for those who died during 228 and the White Terror period.

Still I think it would be better just to call it "Taiwan Democracy Hall".

Redeveloping the parkland around the monument is a long overdue move, regardless of what they want to call it.

Anonymous said...

Time to remove his mug from the coins and discontinue the NT200 bill as well.

Since they're at it, they may as well get with the times and change the official date to 2007 instead of 96.

Is getting rid of SYS next? He doesn't have anything to do with Taiwan either.

Unknown said...

I agree, getting the dictator's mug off the coins and bills of the New Taiwan Dollars is much more symbolic and significant an act than some of the renamings they are doing. After all, it would have more of an effect propaganda wise in the international setting of the money markets. Everyone from the NYSE to CNN would be forced to acknowledge it.

Otherwise, everything is still just a local matter.

無名 - wu ming said...

i don't know, there's something deliciously ironic about holding democracy rallies in front of chiang's statue. in one sense, it's almost better to leave him up there, as a reminder about what a lack of democracy can wreak.

Anonymous said...

For those that think cost is an issue, let me remind you that there are two sides to the coin. Maintenance of the walls is actually very expensive and the growth in value of the surrounding properties plus resulting increased property tax revenue is something you need to account for too. (Actually government will hit you twice--capital gains plus property tax).

CKS Memorial is not even Chinese architecture. It is a post-modern imitation of northern imperialist structures except that the proportions are all farcically large. Nothing in that place looks like it was designed for anyone under 30ft tall (this in stark contrast to northern Chinese architecture to which it is referring).

Actually, there's not even such a thing as a public park in the Chinese architectural tradition. Fortunately, public parks/public space has become a firm fixture of Taiwanese urban planning (not that I'm happy with it in general).

Many people in Taiwan think that there is historical/cultural value to the Chinese-looking architecture in Taiwan. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that a lot of this stuff was built in the 1950s-1970s, way after the Chinese KMT came to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek and company were largely disgusted by how "un-Chinese" Taiwan looked.

It's funny. Last year, Ma Ying-jeou tried to tear down the wall of a Confucian temple in Taipei. If there is a structure that, in order to preserve its cultural/historic value, should have a high wall, it's a Confucian temple. Ma and his "Cultural Minister" argue that cutting down the wall would be good for sight-seeing tourism. Well, Confucian temples, very much unlike the Daoist/folk-religion temples in Taiwan, were traditionally opened only once a year and was a sacred place that sort of worshipped education. The whole point of the wall was to emphasize its sacredness. The high wall of separation is the same reason the Catholic Church does not build 1-story high cathedrals.

When locals got wind of Ma's plan to prostitute the temple to tourism, they came out and protested. Ma sent his Cultural Minister (no aides, no one else, just one clueless minister--who's taking notes on what the protestors want??). That day there was a police to protestor ratio of like 1:4 plus there were un-uniformed officers that looked like participants until they got tired and all sat in the back together. The whole protest was also thoroughly videotaped.

Anyways, pan-Blue hypocrisy is nothing new.

Alton Thompson 唐博敦 said...

david on formosa is right: Taiwan Democracy Hall makes a better English name for the structure. To say 'Democracy Memorial' in English is to imply that democracy lies somehow in Taiwan's past and is the thing being memorialized in the hall. Bu hao. God forbid.

The architectural features of the CKS Memorial--the gate, the perimeter walls, the blue roof tiles, the ascending staircase--evoke the design of the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum in Nanjing, China. The connection between the two suggests the best idea I've heard so far for the statue: relocate it to Chiang's permanent gravesite as part of a memorial there.

I didn't realize until I saw today's reports that the perimeter walls at CKS carry the negative symbolism they do for so many people. Such walls are a traditional element of Chinese architecture, as ivy noted; the Sun Mausoleum has them, too. Fountains, trees and greenery around the perimeter could replace them, though. Trees and fountains allow easier access while offering similar benefits--definition of the space, isolation from the street. Trees and fountains work as far more potent symbols of democracy, of course, than walls.

On that subject, have you noticed the changes made so far to the nearby building that used to house the KMT? The first thing the new owner did was toss the barricaded look. The barrier-colonnades protecting the facade have been removed. Now the main entrance of the building opens to the street.

Alton Thompson 唐博敦 said...

I said above that perimeter walls appear in the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum in China. That may not be correct. Photographs suggest Dr Sun's monument already makes use of trees for this purpose.

Anonymous said...

Just a background of history. In the early seventies, that area was planned for the World Trade Center. Then CKS died in 1975 and it was proposed to be his memorial site. You know what kind of peole would propose that. Let me give you another example: During the planning and construction of the Taoyuan International Airport, it had always been called Taoyuan Int'l Airport until right before its opening in 1979, Feng Fuxiang (the guy who raped a Philipina maid. He was instrumental in the "reorganizing" NTU's Philosophy Dept in the 1970's) and a group of "patriots" proposed to rename it CKS Airport.

Wayfarer said...

The perimeter walls are my favorite part of the park! They're not just symbolism, they're an utilitarian feature that makes the park a pleasant space, especially in the summer.

They provide shaded corridors for people to stroll along, peppered with seats so that people can play chess. Every sunday morning old guys gather to sing peking opera. It's lovely. If you get rid of that, you have more theoretical accessibility, but less character as well as less people-friendly space.

By all means, make more entry points and take out the stupid revolving doors. Take out old Chiang too. Beyond that, I'm utterly against ruining a favorite spot in Taipei.

Anonymous said...

The wall is symbolic. He is untouchable. He is separated from the common crowds, he is higer then the commoner. Creating a God-like persona for himself. (We can plant trees for shade,besides more natural and even more pleasing on the eyes!)

Yes, good riddance I say too!

Or it could be that he is afraid of the large amount of ppl who would want to come and wreck the place. Because he knew that large amounts of ppl are actually very unhappy with him. Therefore, he needs to have large walls to block ppl from doing that.Is it for the same reasons that he needs guards to guard his grave?