A rose by any other name

Democracy Hall

As many of our readers already know, the Taiwanese government has re-named the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taibei, now known as the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. This is actually sort of interesting, as lots of states have to deal with the “problem” of old historical monuments. This is a particularly big problem for the CKS memorial, as it is HUGE and right in the middle of town. I used to walk across it every day to change buses and stopped in to see the movie about his life about 50 times. The movie was unimpressive, but the AC in the place would lower your core temperature to the point you could walk a mile in the Taibei summer without breaking a sweat. Although there have been some protests about the renaming, the bigger problem is the symbolism. The tiles are all blue, as a symbol of the Nationalist Chinese flag. Will they be painted green? Also, the dimensions of the building are symbolic.

The square shape of the building represents the spirit of the mean and of rectitude (chung-cheng which is also Chiang Kai-shek’s name); the three-tiered staircase symbolizes the Three Principles of the People; the two-tiered eight-cornered roof eaves, built in the shape of the character jen (man) and coming together at the pao-ting converge with the sky, symbolizing revered Mr. Chang’s belief that “Heaven and Man are One”1)

Of course one could come up with Taiwanese justifications for these dimensions, which is probably what was done in the first place. It seems, however, that this will be yet another chapter in the fight over the past. Chiang actually did quite well for himself. Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang’s actually called attention to his Christianity, which was not allowed in the case of Sun. Mao had to suffer the indignity of having other revolutionaries honored in what was orginally his space. Chiang’s statue is still all by itself, and its hard to see what they can do with it.


Of course Chiang has had to suffer the ultimate indignity. The museum of his life has been replaced by an exibit on the Taiwanese democracy movement, whose chief enemy was of course Chiang. If they keep changing memorials like this Taibei will become St. Petersburg.

  1. Frederic Wakeman “Funerary Rites: The Remains of Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung” Representations 10 (Spring 1985 


  1. Actually I don’t think the Taiwanese will come up with justifications for the measurements. That’s not really their thing.

    You say:

    Chiang’s statue is still all by itself, and its hard to see what they can do with it.

    Actually, they’ve come up with a good solution. The doors have been locked. Permanently.

  2. Well, closing the doors would work. Would also help keep people from reading all the inscriptions. Does the door still glow with a mystical light at night, or is it dark?

  3. From EastSouthWestNorth, it seems that in fact the ‘re-naming’ of CKS Memorial Hall isn’t quite as simple as the Taiwan government or its Ministry of Education snapping their fingers and hanging a pair of green-tinted banners.

    More complicated, as this blog post from 23rd May discusses, the ‘re-naming’ also incurred stepping on some pretty large Taipei toes: the KMT mayor & the city’s director of cultural affairs, who apparently assessed the Ministry with an NT$100,000 fine for defacing the memorial with the banners (see: here)…

    It seems that this political tug-of-war goes on as the Mayor has sought to rename the Presidential Plaza as the ‘War on Corruption and Democracy Plaza’, a swipe at his competitor in the island’s capital.

    Like so many, I used to study in the surrounding park, sometimes catch an outdoor performance in the square stretched out at the foot of the memorial, ever so occasionally actually entering the building for a glimpse of the car. I’d be interested to hear from those on the spot what the current status of the memorial behemoth is, or what the tenor of Taipei opinion is toward another bit of DPP revisionism/restoration.

  4. This particular renaming is long overdue. In what other democratic country can you see such a memorial to a dictator? I think the huge statue inside should be moved to a museum or a statue park (with the thousands of smaller CKS statues) where future generations will be able to see the forced hero worship which went on even after Taiwan had become a democracy. Of course, there will be controversy. The Taipei mayor’s father was a KMT general.
    The DPP government usually goes about things in a rather unprofessional manner. This all started with former Premier, Su Cheng-chang’s call for the attractive outer wall to be knocked down. Renaming is all that was needed. No need to open one of the few peaceful areas in Taipei to the traffic.

  5. This entire issue is simply a carefully choreographed scam by a jack-monkey incompetent racist pig and his Party of theives, the DPP.
    And anyone that agrees with the DPP on this issue about renaming the CKS memorial has sadly become infected by Taiwan’s very, very slick con artist President via his Skin Head (Taiwan Version) Racist manifesto’s. Please for the sake of helping yourself and avoiding an embarassing situation in your future when your labled a racist fool – set a side an afternoon of study and absorb what is REALLY going on. You need to take an unbiased approach and
    after awhile (if your not racist to begin with) you will get the real picture.

    I am not interested in stating my opinion on the late Dictator Chiang, I respect each person’s point of view, but the DPP’s new Ministry of Silly Names is
    a real, real bad idea. The government might as well make things a lot easier by erecting “Coloreds Only” style signs of 1950’s Alabama over, on and around everything in Taiwan that the Nationalist Chinese TAIWANESE CITIZENS (who have the same equal rights as the Native Taiwanese citizens of Taiwan)hold dear to them, respect and consider their cultural birthright! And there are MILLIONS of these Taiwanese, they are not a tiny extremist group.

    The DPP has ruled Taiwan for 7 years and the first five years, Nothing was said about the need to rename the CKS memorial, this so called Transitional Justice was nothing more than an idea that did not fit the Taiwan situation because it would be BASS ACKWARDS! All instances of Transitional Justice were used because the Dictator and his memorials that were being eradicated had left the country he dictated in total economic and/or social ruin. Taiwan was th exact opposite under Chiang and it is in fact barreling into economic ruin by the demcracy that replaced it. Which, when presented against the OVERWHELMING amount of evidence that Chen’s democracy is not only just as corrupt as the KMT’s one party rule but it is horribly worse and embarassing incompetent in all other comparisons in governments right accross the board! A judgement would clearly be reached in any independent democratic court that for a someone who is deliberately destroying a country because they DONT CARE about half the people of that country to do so because of transitional justice against the person before them that had deliberately did everything humanly possible to Build a country and they cared about ALL the people of the country it would be in fact a transitional INJUSTICE!

    Until a day comes that someone in the DPP gets off their ass and shows democratic ethics, and makes decisions for ALL of Taiwans citizens equally and at least one tiny sqeek from prosperity that it is awaikinging. No body has any right to tear down or down grade anything that was for the people that prospered by the government that protected their equal rights and together as one, the republic EARNED culturally and by golly a degree of respect shown towards any Taiwan citizen that holds the era of prosperity (which it was on all counts)very dear to them.


  6. Attn: Macca
    If I tell a group of people only part of a story, only the real bad parts of about a leader, and I do it repetively, and against a deliberate backdrop of ethnic pride, I bet you eventually because some people begin to ignore the leaders famous good points and think of him mostly in a bad light more and more people will follow and one day – regardless of historical facts that leader becomes a tyrant in the eyes of the the group of people.

    Here is the Bad person…..
    This leader called 75,000 troops in to put down a rebellion, it was only one city in his country and it could have been handled differnently but this leader chose switft, shoot first ask questions later action. which resulted in lots of blood, thousands more people eventually died then in Chiang’s 228. in fact this event that at face value was the same as what chinag is held responsible for, with the same decisive decision on how to respond to an uprising of the nations people but two completely different results. Chiang Quashed his rebbelion without full scale war this meant a fire was put out but because no war happened and eventually would have justified the original tough murdurous action the fire never completely went out, it smoldered for 40 years, until a gang of racist theives saw the smoke and decided that old smoldering fire is our ticket to the top, then once there we will rob them all! The other leader was dealt a much nastier hand, his hitting hard against the cities rebelion lead to full scale civil way it lasted for years and when it finally ended over 620,000 lives were lost that are 100% because of the initial decisons made by the leader. He too is a Tyrant, A murder! and in fact if there was no war to justify the original reasons he made as a nations leader to supress an insurection by his nations citizens. we could possibly have all the history books recording HE WAS A MURDERER just like Chiang Kai Shek. AND we could very well have people from that countries South this very day demanding that leaders memorial be LOCKED UP forever – Just like in Taiwan. Amazingly, both countries have memorials to their leader who quashed their simialar rebellion and remarkably both memorials have him seated like he is a temple god!

    Abraham Lincoln and his quashing of the rebellion at Fort Sumter, Charleston South Carolina thankfully is not viewed as a murderer – but then again the USA has not allowed a racist group of Southern Boys with an old score to settle into the presidency yet, Like Taiwan mistakenly did in 2000.


  7. Trace, you claim people are not being unbiased, you aren’t either.
    Each party has misdoings of their own. I just think that KMT having full control of both Executive and Legislative Yuan is just so fucking dangerous for the Taiwanese. No matter what any politician say, including Ma Ying-jeou, KMT’s ultimate wish is – and has always been – reunification with China.

    By the way, the monument isn’t closed anymore, it is open for the public since some time ago.

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