Architectural preservation and history in Taiwan updates

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed three stories in the Taipei Times on the topic of preserving notable or historical architecture in Taiwan.

  1. Taipei County looks to rebuild site of weird UFO houses – I had actually written that I wanted to stop by this area and see the UFO houses before my trip to Taiwan last summer, but just couldn’t find the time. Alas, they may be completely gone by the time I next visit Taiwan.
  2. Taipei to preserve historical Japanese-era buildings – I have previously discussed the many Japanese houses that can be found all over Taiwan in stages of repair ranging all the way from crumbling ruin to well preserved monument. Here is a gallery of photographs I took at one ruin in Taichung, and here and here are photographs of the one behind my apartment building in Taipei. Although Taipei is not proposing a general preservation rule for such historical buildings, which might be nice, they are designating an area near the intersection of Zhongxiao E Road and Jinshan S Road, which contains a cluster of 10 surviving houses built for Japanese civil servants – reportedly the largest single cluster in Taipei – as a special historical zone.
  3. Miaoli officials caught in a lie – Another piece of grim news. Apparently officials in the Miaoli County actually pretended to hold a meeting to discuss the historical preservation of the last three surviving kilns in what was a center of the pottery industry during the Japanese colonial period, but in fact never even convened the meeting. The claim that the kilns had “no historic or cultural value” sounds shaky at best, and it seems that they likely violated the Cultural Heritage Protection Act [文化資產保護法] to make way for an industrial development. Angry preservationists are filing lawsuits against the officials who cleared the kilns for distruction.

There were also three other stories of note related to historical topics I have discussed on this blog before.

  1. Chiang Kai-shek plaque to return to memorial hall – “Rectification of names” continues in Taiwan. I have discussed this phenomenon several times in the past, as committed by Chen Shui-bian’s DPP administration here and here, who was replacing China-centric names with Taiwan-centric ones, and then with the reveral of Chen’s Taiwanization moves by Ma Ying-Jiu’s KMT administration here and here. As of January 22, Democracy Hall nee Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is now once again Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. However, the new KMT administration has magnanimously decided to preserve the renaming of the area surrounding CKS Hall to “Liberty Square”.
  2. Descendents of ‘Orphan Army’ dream of home – I previously discussed the KMT/ROC army remnant of Southeast Asia here, noting in particular their fascinating historical association with the SE Asian drug trade, and the unlikely direct connection forged with 1970s Harlem druglord Frank Lucas, as portratyed in the film American Gangster starring Denzel Washington. As descendants of KMT soldiers, there are actually a fair number of “overseas Chinese” from Burma or Thailand who have gone to Taiwan to study using fake documentation, and although they are apparently not deported from Taiwan due to the tricky historical ROC links, they also find it difficult to obtain proper documentation that would allow them to travel back and forth. I imagine there is some sort of process by which they can apply for legal status, but it may very well require geneological or other documentation that is hard to come by. This is a story well worth checking into more.
  3. Study backs findings on Polynesian origins – Linguistic, genetic and archaeological research in the past has suggested that the entire Polynesian/Austronesian group of peoples, ranging from the Malays of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to the Maori of New Zealand and the native Hawaiians, are all descended from seafaring explorers that set out from Taiwan thousands of years ago. Although only about 2-3% of Taiwan’s current population officially belongs to these “aborigine” tribes whose ancestors were also the ancestors of the Polynesians, a much, much larger percentage of “ethnic Chinese” Taiwanese are actually at least partially descended from aborigines who became culturally Sinicized generations ago. This is of particular pride to proponents of Taiwanese independence who use it as evidence that Taiwan is not inherently Chinese. It is actually a popular theory (if not fact) that much of the “Han” population of southern China is actually descended from natives who became culturally Sinicized in a similar way hundreds or thousands of years ago, and have a noticably distinct genetic history from the northern Han Chinese.
  4. Descendants of victims mark ‘Taiping’ tragedy – Not specifically related to anything I have written about before, but the story of how over 1000 immigrants from China to Taiwan died in a shipwreck near Shanghai in 1949 is new to me, and well worth knowing. I am a bit skeptical of how one can wring out a 20-episode drama from this story though. James Cameron’s Titanic was long enough for me.

8 thoughts on “Architectural preservation and history in Taiwan updates”

  1. Here’s another point of view vis. polynesians: the ancient polynesian seafarers set sail for Maori from Madagaskar when that island was still part of ancient Africa/Pangea and all of the sailors were females who had had enought of the males and decided to get away from them. The women sailed along the coastline of africa (part of which became the current-asia) until they were in position to head out to maori (now called New Zealand by the white man) and RE-SETTLED! the land. So those women were apparently very familiar with the island and appeared to be ‘returning’ to it.

  2. Well, Pangea was 250 million years ago…

    That sounds more like a creation myth than any kind of scientific or historical theory. The linguistic and genetic evidence for the relationships between these groups seems pretty conclusive, from the admittedly casual reading I’ve done on the subject.

  3. I paid a visit to the Generalissimo on Monday and had the pleasure of watching a small dog lift its leg over the corner of his memorial and take a long, hard piss on it. The dog must have been a DPP supporter.

  4. y’know,I was a mojor in Polynesian archaeology back in my college days….

    The ancient population of Madagascal is know from sailing from Sumatra and they are not exactly a Polynesian.

    Many Polynesian researchers think,ancient polynesia came from somewhere in continental South East Asia and spread all over South Pacific which eventually landed in today’s New Zealand.
    Back in Japanese days,some researcher had claimed “Malayo-Polynesian” linguistic group origin of Taiwanese aboriginals and came out with hypotesis of them spread to South Pacific from Taiwan,which was also convenient for Japanese Southbound policy.After World War 1 Japan took Micronesia from Germany as a war booty and there was some boom of dreaming south seas.
    But this “Malayo-polynesian”is a troublesome term nowdays and changed to more neutral”Austronesian” for there are distincitive difference between Polynesian and Micronesian/Melanesian.

  5. Wow, I didn’t know that was your major. Anyway, it seems like that theory has actually gotten more evidence over time. Just because it’s used to justify imperialism doesn’t mean it can’t also be true. But I’ll admit I don’t know much at all about the boundaries of different groups, so I’m not sure which groups exactly are considered to be descended from the ancient Taiwanese tribes.

    I know I’ve heard a theory that the Madagascar people (at least partly) are descended from ancient Malays, but I have no idea if there’s any truth in it.

  6. Madagascar-Indonesia links are prove through both archaeological facts and DNA research if my fading memory is collect.But then again,I was a lazy student.

    Using an outrigger canoe and star compass will take you pretty much elsewhere.
    Going to Madagascal from Sumatra isn’t that difficult.

    There was a group of Micronesians from Satawal came all the way from Micronesia to Osaka in 1970 Osaka EXPO only using traditional paddled canoe.The paddler used star compass and ancient song that memorize the navigational passage to Japan from Micronesia.It’s all in Kenneth Brower’s “Song for Satawal”,a good read.

    There are many schools of thesis in Polynesian studies.So I’m not going to say how Taiwanese Aboriginals are “Polynesian”since I’m not accustomed to the latest Taiwanese research.

  7. Hey, notice how I don’t post any of my writing in Japanese in public? I think you’re doing OK…

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