Taiwan rectifies names in new history textbook

Article first, comments below.

Textbook revision draws criticism

Tuesday, Jan 30, 2007, Page 4

The Ministry of Education has revised a high-school history textbook to more accurately reflect Taiwan’s development as an independent nation, media reports said yesterday. Under the ministry’s orders, the title of the textbook was changed from National History (本國史) to Chinese History (中國史), reports in the Chinese-language daily China Times and by the state-funded Central News Agency (CNA) said.

In the textbook, terms like “our country” (woguo, 我國), “this country” (benguo, 本國), and “the mainland” (dalu, 大陸), were changed to “China” (zhongguo, 中國), to indicate that Taiwan is not part of China, the reports said.

To put Taiwan and China’s relationship into context, the textbook now uses neutral words to describe events in China’s history, such as describing the 1911 Wuhan Uprising that toppled the Manchu Dynasty as a “riot” (qishi, 起事) instead of a “justified uprising” (qiyi, 起義).

In addition, the Republic of China’s first president, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), was referred to as the “founding father” (guofu, 國父) in previous versions of the book. The revised textbooks merely refer to him as “Sun Yat-sen.”

Another change condensed ancient Chinese history, but includes a section on the Taiwan-China separation. The section includes a passage that reads: “Taiwan’s future remains a big question mark. Will Taiwan’s independence bring war? How to protect Taiwan from being swallowed? How to maintain the status quo? How to deal with China? Taiwan’s people are frustrated.”

“School textbooks must reflect social changes, regardless of the era or the nation,” National Institute for Compilation and Translation Director-General Lan Shun-teh (藍順德) was quoted as saying in the CNA report.

Some teachers, however, are opposed to the revisions.

“In the compilation of the history textbook, there was strong political intervention from the government and only one voice was allowed. This is control by the state apparatus,” Wu Chan-liang (吳展良), head of the history department of the National Taiwan University, was quoted saying by the China Times.

In recent years the government has undertaken many “desinicization” measures, such as removing the word “China” from the names of some state-run enterprises.

Currently, Taiwan’s executive branch is controlled by the pro independence Democratic Progressive Party, while the legislature is controlled by the pro-China (but not pro Communism) Nationalist Party (Kuomintang: KMT for short). The two parties continually struggle for the political upper hand, and there has been a tendency for the party in power to promote their particular vision of Taiwanese identity, in great or small ways. For example, the DPP administration has made great progress in desinicization and promotion of local Taiwanese culture, such as the promotion of the Taiwanese and Hakka dialects and aboriginal languages and culture, the recent creation of a cabinet level Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, the currently under debate Aboriginal autonomy law.

On the other side, we have seen the KMT controlled Taipei government institute standard correct pinyin signs, while much of the country continues to use virtually random alphabetic spelling of Chinese names and words. (Incidentally, Taiwan needs to adopt pinyin universally on public signs. Since pinyin is present purely for the convenience of foreigners, making the signs actually legible should not be a political issue.)

This textbook revision is just another example of the same type of action. Interestingly, while the actions of the pro-independence faction are generally looked at as anti-China, the thinking behind their textbook revision is probably best described using the Confucian idea of rectification of names.

Confucius believed that social disorder resulted from failing to call things by their proper names, and his solution was “Rectification of Names/Terms” (zhèngmíng, 正名). When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, Confucius replied, “There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.” (Analects XII, 11, tr. Legge). He gave a more detailed explanation of zhengming to one of his disciples.

Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?” The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?” The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.” (Analects XIII, 3, tr. Legge)

Xun Zi chapter (22) “On the Rectification of Names” claims the ancient sage kings chose names (ming 名 “name; appellation; term”) that directly corresponded with actualities (shi 實 “fact; real; true; actual”), [Japanese readers may recognize this characters as 実] but later generations confused terminology, coined new nomenclature, and could no longer distinguish right from wrong.
The blues (KMT) continues to claim that Taiwan is in fact part of China, and they therefore must continue to refer to Taiwan as part of China. Likewise, the greens (DPP) can not allow Taiwan to continue to be referred to as the Republic Of China, since they do not believe that it is in China at all. While most of them are still too scared of China to offically declare independence and change the constitutional name of the republic from China to Taiwan, there is a movement to apply for membership to the UN under the name of Taiwan. (As their application as “Republic of China” has been rejected for 13 years running.

The two sides may disagree over whether Taiwan is in fact part of China, but they are doing so in a very Chinese way. To paraphrase, names are rectified by the winner, but in Taiwan’s tempestuous democracy there is unlikely to be a clear and decisive majority party in the near future. However, recent polls show that the number of Taiwanese self identifying as Taiwanese, instead of Chinese, has increased from 36% when the DPP president Chen Shui Bian was elected in 2000 to over 60% today. If this trent continues, reality may become undeniable, with even the KMT being forced to rectify names.

47 thoughts on “Taiwan rectifies names in new history textbook”

  1. I got a copy of 認識台湾(Japanese translation).pretty well written.But The new one is a lot more “Greener”than I thought.Is Outer Mongolia indepedent in this book?
    And what do they say about the flag.(青天白日旗)(笑)。

  2. Don’t laugh.I don’t know how to “LINK”.
    No one is around here to tell me right now.I’ll learn someday.
    認識台湾is history textbook used since’97.Japanese translation is 台湾を知る~台湾国民中国歴史教科書~ and it’s still available,(it says 国民!).

  3. i support this rectification.. coz well.. it would stop confusing those in Taiwan and other countries…
    the next thing we need to rectify is inappropriate title of a non-existent place called “chinese taipei” …
    –_______–” this title really confuses foreigners…

    have fun!~
    ( ^ – ^ )

  4. Is just a symbolic gesture of independence. The problem is, that we all know how much asians tend to overreact in these cases, when they think that they are losing face. Takeshima day, Yasukuni… and China is not’ famous for have a tolerant goverment. Taiwan is free, the longer that they keep the charade of be part of China, CCP can save face. Why endanger the Status Quo? CCP is not’ going to let Taiwan make a successful secession whitout a fight, because that can fan the fire of independence in Tibet and Xingjiang. The US know that, they dont’ want a war whit a nuclear country for a few islands. “The U.S. does not support Taiwan independence.” Act like an adult, accept the reality, join HK and try to change China from the inside.

  5. HK isn’t changing china from the inside…
    HK is being changed by china.
    It seems as if it is getting changed, but sometimes things are only an illusion. Some things are set up to show how well china has changed, but it actually hasn’t. Sorta like an show for the foreign media to watch…

    What u are saying is that its not adult-like to do things we believe in?
    but i do agree with you that this is the reality of now, but i think the reality doesn’t have to be this way.

  6. “For peace sake, go and make peace with Mainland China. It’s good for everybody.”

    It’s the other way around – China should make peace with Taiwan and treat it fairly. How is stacking up 1,000 missiles against a single island peaceful?

  7. PJ says, “It’s be the other way around”.

    Sound like Taiwan is not a minicule (small) country anyway but a superpower. If true, China should kowtow of course. If you are not, behave as one who fit where you are. Don’t be stubborn, arrogant and out of reality.

  8. Enlighten us with some of your knowledge on China,BeeWay.
    How come China has so many armchair strategists and so little democrats.

  9. BeeWay looks like you are the epitome of a Chinese… stubborn, arrogant and out of reality to think that Taiwanese ppl will do waht you say… 🙁 sad ne…

  10. What armchai strategists, what democrats, does all these objects tells us what is right or wrong?
    The right answer shud be,”Taiwan belongs to China and it shud be returned”.

  11. Nobody is screwing you up except your Govt. With your DPP govt whose sole platform is lack of achievement, what else would be expected except to play with racial disdain. Riko, even without an enemies, the day will sooner come when Taiwan will just explode itself. Trust me on this.

  12. Trust u on this?!?!
    is it because u saw it happen many times in China? is that why u seem so definite?

    I have to agree the DPP government hasn’t performed at its peak. But with politics most of the time i think which party u choose to support is relative. out of the DPP and the KMT… KMT is the underachiever in all areas. So yeah if the KMT was in power, u’d b right about taiwan explode itself.

    besides, they have one big contrast in their policy, one that concerns the soverignity of the nation.

  13. KMT under Mah is a born again party of yesterday’s KMT. DPP under Chen is worse than the DPP of yesteryears.
    If you don’t see the picture, what else can I help you.

  14. Mah is under the same accusation regarding his special allowance and he is looking worse than President Chen day by day. so Mah is worse than Chen and Mah is the best that KMT has whilst Chen is the worst…

    doesn’t that mean the worst DPP leader is still better than the best KMT leader?

    best thing u have said so far! 🙂
    thanks for that fuel for thought!~

  15. BeeWay is busy right now, gentlemen. Will be back in the next few days. Don’t go away if you’re still my friends.

  16. And Ma has just been indicted and resigned! Of course, Chen Shui-bian also might be under indictment if he weren’t under presidential immunity. It’s pretty sad that the head man of both parties is in trouble for the same thing.

  17. Welcome back BeeWay.

    Chen was elected through democratic procedure.AND he is not convicted yet.

  18. Chen has also promised that he will resign if his wife is convicted in her trial, which definitely seems possible. I imagine that the DPP will choose a candidate for the 2008 election with a squeaky clean record, and try and emphasize every shady thing that Ma has done while protesting that Chen’s spotty record should not affect a clean candidate from the same party. As far as I know Lu has always been very clean, but I don’t know how much being Chen’s VP would taint her image.

    BeeWay, don’t worry, I will write more about Taiwan in the future. Just stick around, and try to be more polite. I appreciate your discussion, but try and keep a collegial tone in the future.

  19. And Ma is still running for the Taiwanese presidency.
    He resigned the chairman of KMT and according to existing KMT party discipline,you are not supposed to be the KMT candidate once you are not in the chair of the party top.He is NOW asking to change this.
    So much of showing political principles….

  20. Of course, they say that Ma is not asking for them to change the rules, that other party members are spontaneously planning it without his input while he patiently waits. And I thought that tatemae and honne was supposed to be a Japanese concept! Have the pundits let me down?

  21. Aha!MF.
    It is the golden opportunity of talking the gaijin misuse of the Japanese morality!
    We talk tatemae and honne allegory not ONLY because they are frequently seen in daily life but many are very critical about hypocricy.Gaijins are using this as somekind of Japanese cultral practice or something.

  22. actually i recommend the whole of Taiwanmatters blog for all that’s interested in a view on Taiwan. A different view from all the Pro-China media that seems to dominate usually.

    🙂 have fun!~

  23. sorry, Im a bit slow…
    so how can tatemae and honne be applied to this incident, like what Mutantfrog was talking about?

    thanks! sorry, Im not too bright sometimes :p

  24. Classic Tatemae建前:
    “Ma is not asking for them to change the rules, that other party members are spontaneously planning it without his input while he patiently waits.”

    Classic Honne本音:
    “Ma might have some behind the scene input into the change of rules”

    Do you think this is the legacy of 50years of Japanese rules,or perhaps China had influenced our ancient ancestors?

  25. thanks for making the usage of tatemae and honne clear to me! but doesn’t all cultures have a hint of tatemae and honne? like the underlying meanings to certain actions?

    🙂 thanks~

  26. Generally all cultures has its own tatemae and honne, but the invisible differences still depends on the type of homo sapiens and its environment. My own analyse and viewpoint of the characters of the people are (no offend pls);
    Chinese (include Taiwan); Intelligent, hardworking but selfish
    Japanese; Intelligent, hardworking but self-imposed isolated mentality
    Korean; Intelligent, hardworking but rough
    Mongolian; Above average, tough but in this modern age, will not achieve much.
    Indian; Intelligent, average in work but over sex.
    South-east asian; above average, lazy and emotional
    Whites; Intelligent, average in work but still have barbaric tendency to attack and kill.
    African; Average in intelligence and work, but with no direction
    Latin natives; Average in intelligence and work, but no leadership quality
    Arabs; Above average in intelligence, average in work but overkill in religion
    Isrealis; Intelligence, above average in work but selfish and tricky
    Martians; Not able to determine at this moment. Future research.

    That’s the short conclusion. No offense again

  27. “Mongolian; Above average, tough but in this modern age, will not achieve much.”

    Brother this is waaay offensive to my eyes.
    Time for you to pack up and head for outer space searching for Martians.

  28. Well, of course both white and green martians are shapechanging telepaths, but white martians are violent fiends whereas green martians are an artistic people with an unusual phobia of fire.

  29. I did say no offend intended. It’s my personal viewpoint (after research). If any of you have anything to add/modify, pls always contribute.

  30. “Well, of course both white and green martians are shapechanging telepaths, but white martians are violent fiends whereas green martians are an artistic people with an unusual phobia of fire”

    hahahahaha how did u get to this conclusion?!?! 🙂

    Beeway, I think ur list is very limited, because I think you can find all of the above in all races. Also, it depends on what region of the country you are talking about. North taiwanese ppl are slightly different to South Taiwanese and I am sure both types are different from the Chinese.

    The politically correct way is NOT “chinese (include taiwanese)”, is it chinese and taiwanese if u would like to make it into one category.

  31. I was describing white and green martians as they appear in DC Superhero comics, which are based on the old Martian novels of Edgar Burroughs from the 1920s or so. I hope some real Martian readers will correct my unfair stereotypes.

    Back to tatemae and honne. This week I read “Forty Signs of Rain,” a science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which the main characters all work in politics and science policy (at the NSF) in Washington DC. There is a scene where a character describes to some befuddled Tibetans how when a Senator tells you “I’ll see what I can do” it actually means “no way.” The only difference between this scene and stereotypical descriptions of tatemae and honne in Japan is that there are no special words in English for the concepts.

  32. It’s a test water on what I wrote on Mongolian. To rephrase on Mongolian, they should correctly be depicted more as “Intelligent, hardworking and fiercely independent”. Otherwise how can the Great Khan be able to conquer the largest land empire in history.

    It’s no surprise (but surprise only one protest so far) as generally Japanese has great ‘love’ affinity for the Mongolian. There is a unproven saying that Japanese actually descend from Mongolia. But a more popular tale is that Japanese were actually from the 3,000 virgins boys and girls who are sent to fetch the everlasting portion by the first Emperor of China.

    Maybe the Martian may be able to tell us on this.

  33. Sorry I forgot to include a link there. It was from the Taipei Times, and you should still be able to find it in the archive on their (slow) website.

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