Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺) recently proposed dropping the nation's Republican calendar and making the universal Gregorian calendar the only official time system. Pan-blue legislators strongly opposed the proposal, saying that it amounted to another Cultural Revolution and an attempt to destroy history. To an outsider like me, Lin's proposition is in fact one way to help Taiwan connect with the rest of the world, march toward modernization and pursue democratization.
Most nations use the Gregorian calendar, but Taiwan uses the Republican calendar, which begins its count with the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. But how many people in the world understand that they need to add 1,911 years to Taiwan's Republican calendar system to reflect the current year according to the Gregorian calendar?
In fact, adopting the Gregorian calendar would truly represent the reality in Taiwan, conform to international norms and reflect public opinion. Earlier this month, the Presidential Office decided to change its official name of "Chiehshou Hall" -- (介壽館) given to the Presidential Office to express birthday wishes of longevity to dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on his 60th birthday in 1949 -- to "Zongtong Fu" (總統府, the "Presidential Office"). The three characters are also now written from left to right, to embody the principle of modernization.
Decades ago, there were already intellectuals here who maintained that Taiwan should connect with the rest of the world and abolish the Republican calendar. They started a war of words with those antiquated people who were ready to die to protect the Republican heritage. Bo Yang (柏楊), the author of the famous book The Ugly Chinaman, suggested that texts should not be written top-down, right to left, for that practice does not conform to people's reading habits. Bo even lamented the way Chinese calligraphers of old wrote from right to left, saying that, "Wouldn't their elbows and sleeves blur the completed characters? This is simply irrational and illogical."
Internet users can tell that no matter what language, it is always written horizontally and almost never from right to left. This only goes to show that whatever the language or country, they are all complying with the way people use their eyes and brains. A Taiwanese decision to adopt the Gregorian calendar would be a first step towards conforming to international practice.
Pan-blue legislators are probably aware that they are not in a good position to defend their opposition to Lin's proposal. Therefore, they have decided to change their strategy by emphasizing how difficult it would be to implement such a change, claiming that it would cost a fortune to make related changes to the identification cards of all Taiwanese citizens, official documents and textbooks. In fact, what we can do is adopt the Gregorian calendar beginning now without changing old documents, so that we can gradually phase out the Republican calendar.
Pro-Beijing pan-blue legislators still oppose the idea, claiming that adopting the Gregorian system would mean accepting Beijing's "one country, two systems" principle. This argument is absurd. I remember that when Bo argued with the party-state intellectuals, they used the same kind of bent logic in claiming that Bo's promotion of a horizontal writing system was tantamount to being pro-Communist since Communist China used a horizontal writing system and the Gregorian calendar. A furious Bo wrote a reply saying that the members of the Chinese Communist Party shit with their asses and then asked if that meant we should put a plug in our behinds.
Cao Changqing is a writer based in the US.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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