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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times ROC uses Taiwan as war memorial

ROC uses Taiwan as war memorial

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Media reports say that while the government is planning an official commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war of resistance against Japan, the National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan has compiled Japanese colonial-era military propaganda songs played in Taiwan to promote the invasion of China and collected them on the official Web site celebrating a century of Taiwan’s recording industry. According to the reports, these military propaganda songs include the Imperial Japanese Navy anthem — the “Warship anthem” — Japan’s Patriotic March and the Manchukuo anthem.

Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) has criticized the museum, saying: “The National Museum of Taiwan History is the Republic of China’s [ROC] Taiwan history museum, not Japan’s Taiwan history museum. Collecting Japanese military songs is an insult to the Taiwanese and a distortion of ROC history. Are our ancestors who sacrificed themselves in the war of resistance against Japan deserving of this?”

However, the organizers at the National Museum of Taiwan History explained in a recent news event that the collection of military songs is the outcome of a long-standing search conducted in collaboration with National Cheng Kung University and that it is a collection of extremely valuable historical audio materials to be used when studying Taiwan’s history.

Using modern Internet technology, the organizers hope that these age-old assets of Taiwan’s popular culture, which were very hard to collect, will once again be heard in their original version.

From the standpoint of a Taiwanese historian, the key factor here is the digital reproduction of these historical audio materials, not that they are military propaganda songs about the invasion of China. This approach became the main principle of historical research and museum collections over the past century.

By the same token, in the case of the publication of the complete version of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) diary for academic research, if people felt facts were being distorted or hidden, they would question the credibility of the conclusions drawn from these materials. Today, no historical facts concerning Chiang are off-limits, so why must these Japanese colonial-era military tunes be concealed and regarded as such?

Moreover, in addition to songs by the well-known Chiang Wen-yeh (江文也) and Teng Yu-hsien (鄧雨賢), the history of Taiwanese ballads and popular music during the Japanese colonial era also includes the Taiwan March composed by Chen Ying-zhen’s (陳映真) father, Chen Yen-hsing (陳炎興), who was recruited by the Education Bureau of the Japanese governor’s office to compose a song in the style of Japan’s own Patriotic March.

The general public and researchers have long had the ability to interpret the historical significance of these historical audio materials. They would be unlikely to distort ROC history as a result, or disrespect those who sacrificed their lives in the war of resistance against Japan.

Why should it be that to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war of resistance against Japan it is necessary to ruin the Museum of Taiwan History’s painstaking effort to compile an exhibition to mark a century of Taiwan’s recording industry with such slanderous language?

Why should it be that the so-called “Japanese resistance memorial exposition” needs to be about the Imperial Japanese Army burning and looting, and the ROC’s heroic war of resistance against Japanese?

Where was the ROC when Taiwan was ceded to Japan? Where was the ROC Army when Taiwan was colonized by Japan?

Also, let us not forget about the 228 Incident, the White Terror era and the Martial Law era after the ROC took over Taiwan. Furthermore, the series of ROC “centennial” commemorative events in 2011 came with a lot of controversy before quietly fizzling out.

As this year is the 70th anniversary of the war of resistance against Japan, there will naturally be a series of commemorative events, not to mention the outrageous curriculum adjustments pushed through by the Ministry of Education.

Frankly, the new education curriculum will simply put more emphasis on commemorating the ROC’s heroic victory against the Japanese.

After the ROC government retreated to Taiwan in 1949, Japanese assets became Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) assets. Even the names of streets all over the nation were changed overnight: Minzu Road, Minquan Road, Minsheng Road, Sanmin Road as well as Zhongzheng Road and Zhongshan Road.

There are also a variety of heroic, anti-Japanese street names; the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to commemorate the ROC’s founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙); and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. There are simply too many to list. Present-day Taiwan is itself the longest, most complete commemorative exhibition of the ROC’s war of resistance against Japan.

One can only wonder how long the candidates in next year’s presidential election will continue to ignore Taiwanese history and remain in pursuit of their big presidential dreams.

Winston Chen is an associate professor of history at National Cheng Kung University.

Translated by Zane Kheir

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2015/05/08

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