Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Japanese monuments damaged in Beitou stoke fears

IGNORED:Local residents have for years pushed for three tablets to be awarded cultural heritage status, but their calls have gone unheard, an art historian said

By Chang Kai-hsiang and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Damage to a tablet in Taipei commemorating Japanese educators is pictured on Tuesday last week.

Photo courtesy of Hsiao Wen-chieh

The discovery that three Japanese monuments in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投) have been defaced has stoked fears among heritage conservationists that anti-Japanese xenophobia is on the rise, sources said.

The damaged monuments are a tablet known as the “Taiwan felicity stone;” a tablet dedicated to the eighth-century Japanese Buddhist monk Master Kukai as well as a tablet memorializing six Japanese teachers who were slain in 1896 by insurgents.

The Taiwan felicity stone on Danfengshan (丹鳳山) bears the inscription in Japanese: “Taiwan: Be forever felicitous.” It became a tourist attraction after its discovery in 2014 by local historians.

Last week, mountain climbers found the tablet’s previously evenly cut edges were broken off, apparently by strikes from a blunt instrument.

The Master Kukai tablet, also on Danfengshan, has had its inscriptions scratched out, sources said.

A tablet on Chihshanyen (芝山岩) commemorating Japanese teachers who were killed in the area, an event known as the Chihshanyen Incident, was found to have a red X spray-painted on its surface.

Chihshanyen was the location of the Japanese colonial government’s first Japanese-language school in Taiwan.

The lynching of the teachers prompted Tokyo to order the erection of the tablet which bore an inscription composed by then-Japanese prime minister Ito Hirobumi.

Beitou-based art historian and heritage conservationist Hsiao Wen-chieh (蕭文杰) said local residents have for years pushed for tablets to be awarded cultural heritage status, but their calls have gone unheard.

Following the alleged acts of vandalism, conservationists renewed their efforts and filed additional appeals to the government to protect local monuments, Hsiao said.

“I urge the Ministry of Culture to take action over such matters instead of waiting for the public to do its work,” Hsiao said.

None of the allegedly vandalized monuments have been granted cultural heritage status and as a result, there would be no penalties for the perpetrators even if they are caught, the Ministry of Culture said.

The ministry said it is to begin evaluating the cultural value of the monuments in relation to granting them heritage status.

However, the Taipei Park and Street Lights Office said the tablet commemorating the murdered Japanese teachers is in a public park and therefore falls under its jurisdiction.

Vandalism of park monuments violates Article 354 of the Criminal Code and is punishable by a prison sentence of less than two years or a fine of less than NT$500, it said.

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