Dear Steemit friends :
I've always considered travelling an opportunity to learn and enrich myself with experiences which allow me to mature, and expand my knowledge. My second visit to Taiwan has allowed me to dig a little deeper into the complex and intricate history of this region. Many people know that the political relationships between China and Taiwan have had it's peaks and troughs throughout history. Today, considerable effort has been made by both sides of the strait to improve relationships, mostly through better mutual understanding of each other's cultures.
Although people in Taiwan speak a common language to mainland China (Mandarin), the island has drawn it's own path to development, (largely orthogonal to China's) as it followed the rest of the world in embracing industrialisation and globalisation.
Today, Taiwan celebrates democracy, albeit at relative infancy compared with developed nations in the West. In-fact, post WWII, Taiwan came under martial law from the Chinese Nationalist party led by Chiang Kai-Shek who retreated with the KMT party and it's remaining army to the island in 1949 after suffering defeat in a civil war against the communist party led by Mao Zedong.
Chiang Kai-Shek was regarded as a controversial figure. He was often attributed with the deaths of millions of Chinese people during his rule as the President of the Nationalist Government of China (ROC). He was criticised for spreading ideals of democracy and capitalism under the veil of a dictatorship. His authoritarian rule constituted the suppression of anyone who challenged him, and there were many accounts of purges of opponents and critics throughout his rule.
He was however credited in part for his contribution to the Allied Victory of the Second World War against the Japanese on the mainland front, a task he accomplished whilst putting the Chinese civil war on hold, and fighting together with the Communists to defeat the Japanese.
Chiang Kai-Shek continued to rule in Taiwan as the President of the Republic of China until his death in 1975. A year after his death, the government instructed a funeral committee to build Chiang Kai-Shek's memorial. Even though I have no particular political stance, I do believe in studying history to be better informed of the modern history of China. It's transformation from Imperial rule, to state rule, the parties involved, the conflicts, and their inter-relationships. It's a part of history that very much shapes China, Taiwan and even Japan, Korea and Indochina.
Covering Chiang Kai-Shek's historical arc is a study well beyond the scope of any article I could ever write, but I do hope that the following tour will incite curiosity in many of you, motivating you to read more about the history around not only Chiang Kai-Shek, but also how modern China (inclusive of Taiwan or not) arrived in it's current form today. Believe me, it's a huge backstory well worth reading!
Let's take a look at the memorial hall below!
At the West, we have this grand entrance marked with the characters "Liberty Square". The central location of the square, along with it's large open area has made the square one of the most popular places for mass gatherings. Ironically, the gatherings were mostly in protest for pro-democracy, and for several years after it's opening, the rallies held there were pivotal in ushering Taiwan into it's modern day democracy. Of course, we know that by 1996, there were general elections held for the leadership of Taiwan.
For this reason, the square has played an utmost importance in securing Taiwan's democracy and has been named in dedication of the liberty from martial law.
In the background, you can see the Memorial Hall with it's blue octagonal roof and four sided white walls. It's situated on the eastern end of the square.
Facing each other, North and South of the square, we have the National Theatre and the National Concert hall.
Behind me is the National theatre. You may not notice the difference, but it's roof is designed differently from the Concert hall. The National Theatre is designed like Beijing's central pavilion of the Forbidden City.
Opposite the National theatre is the National Concert Hall. If you look closely, you can see some white and blue patterns on the side of the roof. The patterns and colour remind me a lot of white porcelain which is commensurate with traditional Chinese colour, as well as symbolic of Chinese culture.
The memorial hall itself is surrounded by a park. Two walk ways lined with trimmed trees lead the way to the memorial hall. You can also walk directly through the middle in the open space.
At the base of the steps, you'll find two Chinese guardian lions. Conveniently each guarding one of two steps leading up to the main memorial hall.
There are two separate sets of stairs leading up to the memorial hall, and each have a total of 89 steps. This number was chosen to represent Chiang Kai-Shek's age when he died. Once you reach the top, the view of Liberty Square and the two halls are pretty spectacular!
Stepping inside the memorial hall, you'll notice two things. First, the national emblem of the Republic of China on the ceiling.
Secondly, a huge bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek.
There are some inscriptions on the wall, these are the Chinese characters for Ethics, Democracy and Science. These are the essences of Chiang Kai-Shek's political thinking.
Perhaps the highlight of the cavernous hall, is the changing of honour guards every hour.
The purpose of this ritual is to relieve the guards on duty for fresh ones but it has become some what a display of perfect synchronisation, both of the movements as well as the guards steps. In such a big empty all, the echo's from their steps resonate around the large crowd who watch in awe as they perform their routine.
On the ground level, there is a museum which showcases many of Chiang's belongings, including items from his personal treasure, his writings, clothes and even his cars.
Moreover, the various rooms exhibit Chiang Kai-Shek's life at various points in time, and in various places. From China, to Japan, to Taiwan.
You'll also see pictures of his wife, Soong May-ling and her sisters, Soong Ai-ling and Soong Ching-ling.
This is Chiang Kai-Shek's 1972 GM-manufactured Cadillac.
This was the car he actually used right up to his death. He had another car which was a 1955 bulletproof Cadillac Limosine, but he only ever used that one once.
This is a life-size re-model of Chiang Kai-Shek in his presidential office.
When I first walked into this room, I jumped thinking he was actually there!
Not too far from the memorial hall, about 5 minutes walk, there is a famous home run restaurant which specialised in braised meat on rice - a Taiwanese speciality. After browsing the museum and seeing the memorial hall, it was a good time to get some late lunch.
Most home run restaurants will look something similar to this. Nothing fancy, with the menu hanging up on the wall. Kitchen staff will work at the front of the restaurant, and tables will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.
This particular restaurant is so well received that it frequently has queues of people waiting to be seated. This is what the red line on the floor is for.
Here's all the food!
Taiwanese Braised Pork on Rice
Fried Bean curd in Chilli Sauce
Steamed Bamboo Shoots
Braised Pork Belly
Braised Soy Egg
Scolded Water Spinach with Braised Pork
They have Pikachu soda here!!
Please check out my video of the visit!
Thank you for joining me on a very brisk tour of the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall. Visiting this place made me realise that there is so much recent history that I don't know about, particularly as the two Chinese regions have until very recently been isolated from one another.
In China, we've all learned about Chiang Kai-Shek, but it's always been with a one sided perspective. Finally, i'm able to see the story of this man from the other perspective and balance out my views and understanding some more. At the very least, it was an intriguing part of history to look into, and i'm glad that Taipei have preserved this memorial hall (and it's exhibits) as a place to face history, recognise agony and respect human rights.
Please remember to upvote this post if you liked it, follow me for updates on my activities, and please leave a comment to let me know what you think!