Friday, September 07, 2018

"What? More words?"

"     ...But we have crossed millions of miles of nothingness. We have visited another world. And our Locar had said `Why bother? What is the worth of it? It is all vanity, anyhow.'
     And the secret is," I lowered my voice, as at a poetry reading, "he was right! It is vanity, it is pride!"

"You will say to them in Warwickshire: Eh, he wor a wonderly fine candle?"

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

"For those Dark Ages were not really so very dark — they were full of flickering lanterns, and even if the light had gone out of Europe altogether, there were other rays, literally from China to Peru, at which it could have been rekindled. But the Dark Ages that are to come will cover the whole world in a single pall; there will be neither escape nor sanctuary, save such as are too secret to be found or too humble to be noticed."
Friends and readers...

For over a decade now I have run this blog. Somehow, it became bigger than me, a kind of institution in which my role was more custodial than authorial. It has changed my life, filled it with interesting, passionate, and insightful people, kindled friendships, and informed and inspired others. It has been a privilege to be the steward of this blog, one I shall cherish to the end of my days.

The truth is, though, I have become exhausted. I cannot face another post. I have come to the end, of myself, and of this blog. And there at that end, I find, not myself, but all the others who have made this blog so special. It is to them I dedicate this, the final post on this blog.

My debt is boundless. Many, many wonderful, intelligent, insightful human beings have contributed to the making of this blog, through comments, alerting me to events, explaining things to me, or just plain being inspiring over the years. I'd like to thank Andrew Kerslake, Michael Fahey, Michal Thim, Jeff Miller, Clyde Warden, Courtney Donovan Smith, Frank Muyard, Martin Williams, Ian Rowen, Karl Smith, Michael Cannon, Kitsch Liao, SYS, Ben Goren, Max Hirsch,  Xander, Readin, Julia Famularo, Linda Arrigo, Robert Kelly, Jason Cox, David Reid, Aaron Sechrist, Paul Barclay, Tim Maddog, June Teufel Dreyer, Tammy Turner, Ottavia Huang, Paul Barclay, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, Tim Ferry, Kathrin Hille, Gerrit van der Wees, Chen Hui-ling, Coen Blaaw, Yang Ji-lin, Mark Stokes, Jon Sullivan, Steve Yates, Domenic Alonge, Chris Horton, Dennis Engbarth, Mark Harrison, Paul Snyder, Thomas Liao, Jeff Martin, Scott Simon, Avron Boretz, Shirley Kan, Kerim Friedman, Jenna Lynn Cody, Carrie Kellenberger, James Fallows, Marc Antony, Chang Rui-chuan, Michael Klein, Edouard Roquette, David Tsai, Arthur Waldron, Mike Fagan, Peter Enav, Mike Crabendam, Rashmi, David Curtis Wright, Bill Hayton, Brock Freeman, Josh Ellis, Bruce Jacobs, Ian Easton, Kharis Templeman, Peter Chow, Michella, John Tkacik, Ross Feingold, Scott Harold, Chris Nelson, David Tsai, Dwight Jurling, Andrew Bott, Francois-Xavier Bonnet, Andrew Leonard, Frances Chan, Clive Ansley, Katy Hui-wen Huang... so many, I cannot remember them all.

A special thanks to TC Lin, Roland Soong, and Scott Sommers, whose blogs were inspirational for this one.

A very special thanks of deepest affection to my first Taiwan teacher, Bob Sutter. Still drawing on what you taught, all those years ago.

I'd like to thank all my readers. I wish I could give all of them a hug. I have received so many emails from all over the world, and thousands of comments. Each one was a small kindness that meant so much to me. Thank you.

I'd like to thank all my students, who taught me so much about Taiwan, and who have been so patient with my infinite supply of new misunderstandings.

I'd like to thank all the researchers whose work has appeared here. I wish I had the brains and energy to do your work justice and to understand it properly.

I'd like to thank all the people who said 'yes' when I requested: "Can I put this on my blog?"

Oh yeah, and I'd like to thank the media. Those of you who read this blog know why.

And finally my family: Sebastian, Sheridan, and Sylvia. Love you all so much. I hope you can forgive me for all the time I put into this blog.

As for me, look for me on a road, somewhere in the mountains of Taiwan.

You'll find me.

"In peace, may you leave this shore. In love, may you find the next. Safe passage on your travels, until our final journey to the ground"
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Monday, September 03, 2018

Monday Short Shorts Plus Links

Yesterday was first nice day in weeks. I hit the mountains. It was wonderful.

This week brought us a sloppy and potentially libelous headline from Taiwan News on Mayor Ko and Ethan Gutmann's book on organ harvesting in China: Book claims Taipei Mayor transplanted organs from Falun Gong prisoners. To wit:
Butterfly Orchid Cultural Creativity (蝴蝶蘭文創), the pro-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) publisher of the Chinese version of the Ethan Gutmann book "The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem" have taken out a full page ad in newspapers in Taiwan claiming that the organs Ko's team collected from China for patients in Taiwan all came from Falun Gong prisoners.
This claim that Ko used organs from Chinese prisoners is not a new claim, but a claim recycled from the 2014 election. He was attacked then and it didn't fly. The book does not say that, either, it actually says the exact opposite. My blogpost on it has the relevant excerpts, and let me repeat:
In addition, Ethan Gutmann testified before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in the Canadian Senate on October 21, 2014. He stated, “Ten years ago Dr. Ko went to a mainland hospital to negotiate reduced kidney and liver prices for his department’s elderly patients. After a friendly banquet, Dr. Ko was given the Chinese price, which was about half of what a foreigner pays.” Gutmann went on to praise Ko, saying that “Dr. Ko is now the leading candidate to be mayor of Taipei, largely due to the perception that he is a man of integrity. I’ll go further. Dr. Ko’s testimony has done more for this investigation than all the world’s health organizations put together.”
In other words, Ko rejected the organs. The revival of this ugly, shitty smear directed at Ko vividly shows how stupid DPPers in Taipei are -- they should be celebrating the fact that a fellow pan-Green is running the show and is popular enough to win again, paving the way for future DPP politicians to win there. I never expect the DPP to be very competent but the party's handling of Taipei has set new lows even for the DPP. Word needs to go down that DPPers need to stop attacking Ko. Support Yao if you must (why?) but leave Ko alone.

Taipei Times reports that Political donations to the KMT have plummeted, while the DPP is staying steady. That's a doubly good sign -- if the public were that upset with the DPP, donations might fall.

Kudos to Tsai Ing-wen. Via the simple act of refusing to kowtow to the fictional 1992 Consensus, she forced journalists to either explain that it's a fiction, explain it really means conceding Taiwan is part of Beijing's China, or stop writing about it. Most choose the last, but still, good job. The silence on the 1992 Consensus is vast -- not a single paper that made the false "two interpretations" claim has ever conceded that it misrepresented reality.

Amnesty complained that Taiwan executed someone. So did the EU, which thinks executions are bad but is silent on China's threats to maim and kill Taiwanese and annex their island (sell us weapons to resist? Perish the thought). Several people complained that this will impact Taiwan's soft power. I rather doubt that all those people snarfing gua bao in Berlin and London and NY even know that anyone was executed in Taiwan, and probably don't care either.

Finally, I just want to note: for all the thirty years I have been involved with this island every damn typhoon people go down to the oceanside and then die. This time 5 and rising, including an eight year old girl. Really tired of it.
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Paper on Parade: the enclave of once-Muslim families in Lukang

An address sign in Guocuoli

Time once again for our regularly irregular feature on a scholarly paper about Taiwan...

While I was looking at the complicated ethnic history of Quanzhou in Fujian, where 45% of the pre-1949 immigrants to Taiwan came from, I ran across this fascinating paper by Oded Abt entitled "Muslim Ancestor, Chinese Hero or Tutelary God:Changing Memories of Muslim Descendants in China,Taiwan and the Philippines"(Asian Journal of Social Science 42 (2014) 747–776). I asked Dr Abt to send the piece to me which he courteously did (if you want a paper just ask a scholar, they always provide). The paper is based on fieldwork he did in China and Taiwan in the 2000-2010 period.

Abt's paper discusses the background of the Guo family of Baiqi in Quanzhou. Early in the Qing these Guos sent a branch across the Strait to settle in the thriving port town of Lukang. In Lukang there are six branches of the Guos -- four branches that are part of one lineage from Baiqi, one branch composed of Guos who are not in the main branches, and a sixth branch composed of people with the Guo surname who are not related to the Guos of Baiqi (they come from Rihu and also trace their  ancestry to General Guo) but joined the family based on the common surname (common surnames are useful bases for relationships in Chinese society). The interesting thing was that the Guos began as Muslims...
The Baiqi Guo’s earliest ancestor was Guo Deguang 郭德广 (born between 1308 and 1311), a Muslim trader who moved to Quanzhou from Hangzhou, at the beginning of the 14th century. In 1376, a short while after the Ming rose to power, his grandson Guo Zhongyuan 郭仲远 (1348–1422) moved across the bay and established the family’s permanent home at Baiqi. At present, all Guos in the vicinity are his descendants (BaiqiGuoshiHuizuZongpu vol. 1: 61–62; Chen Dasheng 1984: 102–107). According to genealogical sources, at the beginning of the 17th century, “by the time of the Eighth and Ninth generations [of the Guos in Baiqi] they completely abandoned the [Muslim] faith, apparently in the mid-Wanli reign period (1573–1620)” (Baiqi Guo Shi Huizu Zongpu vol. 1, 2000: 15).5 Beginning in the early Qing period, several Guo households crossed the Taiwan Strait and settled in the town of Lugang 鹿港 where they were joined by other sub-branches throughout the Qing period. Another smaller community was formed in the Philippines by Guo sojourners that settled there throughout the Qing and Republican periods.
According to many scholars who write on the Hui (Muslim-descended) people in Chinese society and in Taiwan, Islam has vanished from their lives except for occasional taboos, such as not eating pork before performing religious rituals, that are still retained within families. Abt writes:
The Baiqi Guo lineage has preserved such ancestral-worship customs as the pork taboo, which is meant to demonstrate its Muslim origins. At the same time, the clan has also maintained a tradition that associated it with the wider Han community. The recently restored ancestral hall of the Baiqi village carries inscriptions and couplets alluding to the Guos’ mythic Chinese founder, the Tang general Guo Ziyi. They open with the words “our ancestor is of Fenyang, our branch from Fuyang …” (zu Fenyang, pai Fuyang … 祖汾陽, 派富陽…7), commemorating the clan’s descent from Guo Ziyi, whose official title was Prefect of Fenyang.8 The characters Fenyang 汾陽 are often written as an honorary title referring to Guo Ziyi himself and they appear on many of the lineage’s funerary and ritual articles.
Clan members know that Guo is only a mythical ancestor later adopted -- many different families adopted famous ancestors with the same surname during the Ming in order to fit in with the Han society or because it gave gentry a leg up in getting into the civil service. The Guo families know that their connection to General Guo is mythical, but to them the preservation of the link represents a symbol of the persecution these Muslim families faced in China... Abt observes:
In the present, the Baiqi Guo themselves accept this view. Nowadays, when asked about it, members of the old folks committee (laoshehui) and senior residents of Baiqi village explain that the tradition of revering Guo Ziyi is a remnant of the troubled time during the early Ming period, when minority groups such as their ancestors suffered harsh persecution and hostility at the hands of both local Han society and the Ming Government.
An interesting old house in Guocuoli

Inspired by this paper, I went down to Lukang (where my wife's family is from, although she is one of the Shih clan) to locate the enclave of Guos, called Guocuoli (郭厝里). Unfortunately nothing of the infrastructure of Islamic practice is left... Abt notes:
The Guo members, like their kin in Baiqi, do not practice Islam at all. Many of them do not retain even the slightest traces of their Muslim ancestral heritage (Pillsbury, 1973: 144–149; Cai Maotang, 1980: 101–105; Su Yiwen, 2002: 29–38; Huang Tianzhu, 1993: 139). They are aware of their Muslim origin, although it maintains only a marginal part in their current religious activities and family traditions. The elders of Guo Cuo Li still recall the purifying well that was located in the heart of their neighbourhood until about 60 years ago, in what used to be the yard of the local mosque.
According to Abt the traditions of descent from Guo Ziyi are "very rich and thriving". The community built a new temple to their tutelary deity around 2000 called the Bao An Temple, to replace the one dating from 1725.

A side view of the Bao An Temple, with a small earth god temple in the foreground. Being easily distracted I never did get a picture of the Bao An Temple...

Abt's paper ends with a discussion of the politics of the Hui identity in modern China, where the state identified some groups as Hui (Muslim) in the 1950s, and Taiwan. Identification with this identity has waxed and waned with politics, but state efforts have stimulated responses that have helped reinforce and reshape these identities...
In present-day China, being classified as one of the 56 officially recognised nationalities signifies absorption into the larger collective of the Chinese nation. Among the mainland Baiqi community members, Guo Ziyi is a symbol of forced assimilation and this, in turn, embodies their contemporary Sino-Hui identity. Outside the boundaries of China the boundaries of Chinese-ness are also transformed: In Taiwan, Guo Ziyi is a symbol of identification with a large universal Chinese surname-group. Descent from Guo Ziyi is what enables the Lugang Guos to ascend above the more immediate foreign ancestry and form a link to the core of mainstream Chinese national and cultural heritage.

A ruined house in Guocuoli

Today you can walk around Guocuoli and never know its unique heritage, for there is nothing on the ground to signal that this place has is own special history.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!