Fri, Feb 06, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The book that built the Lien family

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

Lin's paper discusses how "collective memory" is formed. To serve the interests of Lien Heng and his son, as well as those in power, Lien Heng was transformed from a man of letters dependent upon the Japanese colonizers into a great historian of the Chinese national spirit. Through textbooks and government propaganda this manufactured image became the Taiwanese people's collective memory of Lien Heng.

Should we condemn the KMT for "using" Lien Heng to rule the Taiwanese? Lin offers a more well-rounded explanation: "It was not just that Lien Heng was used; he himself was a culprit who used others (like Chang Chi) and the nationalist sentiments of people in the motherland. Exactly because Lien Heng and his son were culprits, the KMT, while `using' Lien Heng, was in reality also being `used.'"

The Lien family's wealth was built on one book -- the General History of Taiwan, which created enormous wealth as it was skilfully used, first by Lien Heng and his son and then by the KMT regime.

Who says culture is useless? Officials who want to promote the "cultural and creative industries" should first study the legend of Lien Heng and his son.

Ku Er-teh is a freelance writer.

Translated by Francis Huang

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