Sun, Mar 04, 2012 - Page 8 News List

A fuller perspective on 228 needed

By JolanHsieh 謝若蘭

The history of the 228 Incident is a bloody one. Irrespective of the controversies that surround it, it may serve as a lesson for later generations. More importantly, it is Taiwan’s most precious collective memory and historical asset. The sad thing is that each year around the anniversary of the Incident, as the subject is once more brought to the fore, it is often presented as a matter solely involving ethnic Taiwanese — Han Chinese whose ancestors moved to Taiwan prior to 1945, or the arrival of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — and Mainlanders (Han Chinese who moved to Taiwan after 1945). Discussion of the 228 Incident is often no more than a war of words between different party ideologies.

The fact is the 228 Incident was not just a Han-versus-Han affair, since Taiwanese Aborigines were also a part of it. For example, Uyongu Yatauyungana of the Tsou tribe, whose Chinese name was Kao Yi-sheng (高一生), led Tsou youths who took part in the resistance in the mountains of Alishan (阿里山). Many Tsou Aborigines, including Uyongu Yatauyungana himself, were killed, leaving the tribe with sorrowful and fearful memories of the Incident. There were also plenty of Aborigines among the many people from the Hualien area who lost their lives. One of them was Walis Shumin of the Truku tribe, also known by his Chinese name Lin Ming-yung (林明勇), whose suffering tells us that young Aborigines in Hualien also died in the Incident. However, given a culture that generally pays more attention to western Taiwan than to the eastern area, and the relative power and influence of various ethnic and linguistic communities, the true story of multiethnic involvement in the 228 Incident in Hualien has generally been reduced to a singular perspective.

Nearly all the victims of the Incident were men, but the greatest impact among their relatives was surely borne by their immediate families — especially their mothers and wives — yet these people who were most deeply affected hardly feature in the official records. Take for example the wife of Dr Chang Chi-lang (張七郎) of Fonglin Township (鳳林), Hualien County. Surviving family members said this is what she said she saw: “The ox cart wobbled along the road in the glow of the dawning sun, but what it carried was despair that came like a bolt from the blue — three icy cold bodies, blood-spattered and caked in mud. One was my husband who had served as a delegate to the National Assembly; the other two our sons who had become doctors like their father. At that moment, all I could see before me was darkness, and from that day on there would be no other colors in my life.”

It is harrowing to think of the suffering of those young widows, some pregnant with children orphaned before they were born, and this Taiwanese Hakka woman who lost her husband and sons. All of a sudden the family breadwinners were gone, and the women had to endure the White Terror that followed.

These things could be a source of Taiwanese historical values, or be made into world-class literary works, but sadly, decades after the events unfolded, most people’s memories of the 228 Incident are stuck in an almost single-gender perspective and in the politics of interethnic conflict, while overlooking its deep influence on the whole society.

The number “228” represents an occurrence that everyone in Taiwan must bear on their shoulders. Whatever view people take of it, the Incident continues to reverberate from one generation to the next. The odd thing is that many Taiwanese prefer to hide their heads in the sand and avoid the true significance of the Incident.

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