Alongside a revival of local culture, “Old Taiwan” and the “Taiwanese way” — or literally translated, “Taiwanese taste” — have become fashionable again.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) appropriation of the name “Taiwan People’s Party” is a notorious example of this trend. Ko claims to be a successor of Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), a Taiwanese democracy pioneer in the Japanese colonial era, simply because both were doctors. What Ko apparently does not know is that Chiang was only one of several doctors in the original Taiwan People’s Party, founded in 1927. Other members of that party, including Chiu Te-chin (邱德金), Peng Ching-kao (彭清靠) and Wang Kan-tang (王甘棠), were also doctors, but Ko only sees Chiang.
Moreover, the first party’s original name was “Taiwan Public Party” (台灣民黨), which was agreed upon after several proposed names were put to a vote. Taiwanese back then might have been more self-disciplined in practicing democracy, unlike Ko, who autocratically decided the name of his party.
People’s ignorance of Taiwanese history clearly restricts how they imagine Taiwan and diminishes its culture.
If only all Taiwanese knew about democracy pioneers Ong Iok-tek (王育德) and Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂), who devoted themselves to the Taiwanese independence movement while studying for doctoral degrees in Japan, writing dissertations that are exemplary in their fields.
Knowing about them, Taiwanese would not so easily tolerate the “degree laundering” practiced by certain politicians who have tried to obtain credentials through plagiarism.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has worked to erase all memory of early Taiwanese democracy pioneers. As a result, some Taiwanese have become untroubled by the “status quo.” They follow established rules without imagining how things could be done differently.
“When half of the people in our society become accustomed to the status quo, all of society is deprived of the ability to imagine otherwise,” National Taiwan University history professor Chou Wan-yao (周婉窈) said.
Lack of creative thought would lead to “a fear of imagining our own ‘Academia Taiwanica,’ which shall be an institute without any pro-China academician,” he added.
Taiwanese should ponder her enlightening comments, especially as an Academia Sinica academician once said that there were no intellectuals in Taiwan before 1949. This person even considered plagiarism probes — a pursuit of justice — as “a personal dispute in academia” that is “relatively trivial.”
If Taiwanese had been more familiar with local authors Lien Wen-ching (連溫卿), who in the 1920s wrote Taiwan Language in the Future (將來之臺灣語), and Kuo Ming-kun (郭明昆), a lecturer at Waseda University in Tokyo, Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology would not be monopolizing the studies of those subjects.
People who read Wang Thiam-teng’s (王添?) 1946 article “On the May 5 Constitution” (對「五五憲草」管見) with care realize how sophisticated and knowledgeable Wang was. He was by no means a lesser constitutional theorist.
Official records show that Wang’s education was limited to Ankeng Public Elementary School and Chengyuan School, then a Taipei extension school.
Taiwanese cannot help but wonder what extraordinary contributions Wang would have made to Taiwan had he survived the 228 Incident.
Those who seek to diminish a nation first seek to destroy its history. A nation that is ignorant of its history can never become a great independent nation.
Chen Chun-kai is a professor of history at Fu Jen Catholic University.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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