“Hey, what is 228 anyway?”
My ears perked up when I overheard two young people sitting next to me discussing the upcoming holiday. I was eating a late dinner after spending all afternoon at the library researching and writing about some of the more obscure victims of the 228 Incident, the infamous anti-Chinese Nationalist Party uprising in 1947 that was brutally suppressed.
“I have no idea,” the other replied. They proceeded to look it up online and appeared astonished at the new information, especially over the number of alleged victims. Virtually censored and seldom discussed until the late 1980s, it seems that many younger locals still see Feb. 28 as just another day off, not a day of remembrance to the thousands who lost their lives.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
I only had a cursory understanding of the incident before I started writing the history column Taiwan in Time five years ago, and throughout the years I’ve stumbled my way into some of the seldom-visited, cobweb-filled corners of the tragedy. But there’s still so much to explore, and I gained an even deeper understanding yesterday at the National 228 Museum’s new exhibition Scars on the Land (土地傷痕), which is the first of a three-part series on historic sites related to the 228 Incident in northern Taiwan, starting in Taipei and Keelung.
The show opened this past Sunday and runs until May 16, and generally covers events leading up to the uprising and the immediate aftermath. The second part, which opens May 20, will cover New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli and deal with the attempts to negotiate with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government before troops arrived from China for the final bloodbath, which is detailed in the last chapter, set for Aug. 19.
The exhibition is organized chronologically. The first few sites set the scene and may not directly relate to the incident or the victims. The museum building, for example, is listed as the former home of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, where its members in May 1946 slammed the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) rule of Taiwan after it took over in October 1945. These problems only worsened over the following two years until public frustration boiled over when police struck an old lady selling contraband cigarettes and accidentally shot a bystander during the commotion.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
Since the displays also provide a synopsis of the incident, those who don’t know much can start here without much difficulty, but make sure to check out the museum’s permanent exhibitions on the same floor.
The entire exhibition is in Chinese, but English and Japanese translations of most of the texts can be accessed by scanning a QR code at the entrance. The system is not exactly intuitive, unfortunately, as all translated texts are contained in one long Web page (www.228.org.tw/en_exhibition-view.php?ID=9) without an easy way to match the text to the corresponding display, though the photos onsite and photos online are a good way to match up the information. It would be a lot more convenient if each display were labeled with a number, but it’s not that complicated once you get used to it.
The only parts that aren’t translated are the quotes by various victims and figures involved, as well as a list of newspapers that were shut down in the aftermath and staff members who were arrested or killed.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
There’s no clear indication which direction to begin if you can’t read Chinese; start from the right hand side as you walk into the exhibition proper, and make your way around the room counter-clockwise.
A total of 20 sites, 18 in Taipei and two in Keelung, tell the rest of the story with interspersed commentary and historic images and documents.
The most rewarding part about the exhibition is that every site has a then-and-now photo comparison as well as a link to a Google map showing its location. All the sites in Taipei are located near each other in the western part of the city, which would make for an interesting walking tour. There’s also a map of where the various protesting crowds marched on Feb. 28, and history buffs can follow the footsteps of the fed-up populace.
Finally, there’s a video in the back of the exhibition space featuring survivors and experts talking in Mandarin, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and English about their experiences. It lasts for about five minutes and rotates between versions, respectively, with Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean subtitles. The sound quality isn’t that great, so even if you do understand the spoken languages, you might still need the subtitles.
Despite the minor inconveniences, it’s an exhibition well worth seeing, and hopefully the museum will consider the aforementioned issues for part two.
What: Scars on the Land: Midnight Commotion (土地傷痕: 午夜喧囂)
Where: National 228 Memorial Museum (二二八國家紀念館), 54, Nanhai Street, Taipei City (台北市南海路54號)
When: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 5pm, until May 16
On the Net: www.228.org.tw/en_exhibition-view.php?ID=9
In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe. Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of
April 12 to April 18 Hsieh Hsueh-hung (謝雪紅) stuffed her suitcase with Japanese toys and celebrity photos as she departed from Tokyo in February 1928. She knew she would be inspected by Japanese custom officials upon arrival in Shanghai, and hoped that the items would distract them from the papers hidden in her clothes. Penned with invisible ink on thin sheets, it was the charter of the Taiwanese Communist Party (台灣共產黨, TCP), which Hsieh and her companions would launch on April 15 under the directive of the Soviet-led Communist International with the support of their Chinese, Japanese
Well that wasn’t a particularly auspicious start. The town of Dawu deep in southern Taitung County is not, it turns out, the gateway to Dawu Mountain (大武山) Nature Reserve. From their reaction, it seemed that nobody in this tiny collection of indigenous-styled wooden houses and its post office had ever heard of the mountain. So I headed out of town on my rented scooter and followed a road that appeared to lead into the interior. Rice fields, power stations, pretty mountain roads and birds, but no Dawu Mountain. Heading back north on Provincial Highway 9, the views of radiant blue Pacific
Listen Before You Sing (聽見歌再唱) employs almost every device from the handbook of heartwarming and inspirational drama. While it works — as evidenced from the sniffles in the theater — it also results in a cliched and predictable production, albeit one that is hard to dislike. It’s even more moving that the plot is based on the true story of Aboriginal Bunun educator Bukut Tasvaluan and his Vox Nativa choir, which went from a ragtag group to a highly acclaimed outfit showcasing Aboriginal culture and singing techniques while fostering pride and confidence in its members. They have won numerous awards, and