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New 228 Museum in Taipei


Taiwan Culture Hall, Japanese Colonial Era

White Terror Era (1949 -1987)

228 Museum, August 14, 2011

I finally found time to check out the new 228 museum, which is about a 15-minute walk from my place in Wanhua (萬華), Taiwan. The building it is in previously housed AIT offices, so I have actually been there many times. I used to make use of the library when I lived in Yonghe (永和), just over Chung Cheng (中正) Bridge. The door to library was in the back and fed right into the stacks. Thus, I never really appreciated the beauty of the building's interior. They've also pulled down the fence in the rear. Now that it's an open space, more of the exterior is visible from the street.

The museum has been roundly criticized for providing scant information on 228, for doing a gloss over. I think this will be evident to anyone who enters the main gallery on the ground floor. It dons paintings of fish, bamboo and the like. There is a mock vintage theater. The film playing on a loop highlights a Western-looking female circa the sixties spinning a couple of hula hoops whilst playing the trumpet. There is also a warning in the documents' room that cameras won't be tolerated. When I went upstairs, a volunteer usher dipped and weaved through the viewers to single me out and tell me, for some reason (like I couldn't figure out a "no cameras" sign as well as anyone else), that I could not take shots. I still don't really get why I, of all the people in the museum, suddenly became the focus of her attention.

There are some pretty cheesy hands-on exhibits too. You can sign your name on a ribbon and say something like "Go Taiwan!" (加油台彎!), and hang it up on a pole if you like, for example. The information on the history of the building is interesting though. During the Japanese era, it was the Taiwan Culture Hall, a place people could take in displays of local art. After the Japanese surrendered to the Americans to close out World War Two, the building became home to Taiwan's first provincial senate. This is the English take on what occurred, which I did photograph. The bracketed words are my comments: 

"On May 1, 1946, the First Senate of the Taiwan Province [no insight into how Taiwan came about to be a province or the legality of the process is brought forth] held its inauguration ceremony in this building. The chamber was located in the 2nd floor auditorium in the right (North) wing; it was a significant palace of democracy [oxymoron] in postwar Taiwan.

Shouldering the expectations of six million Taiwanese people, the Provincial Senators responded to the many problems that arose after the National Government's take over of Taiwan in a way that not only pointed to the core of the issues, but in a way that always [probably an overstatement -- let's go with "usually" here] accurately reflected public opinion and rigorously criticized the government. The eagerness reflected in their political reform touched the people's hearts [ a.) I wonder what this political reform entailed because I have never heard of it b.) I bet there were a lot of people simply asking, "what the f*&^ is going on?"]. After the 228 Incident [do you mean "massacre"], most of the Provincial Senators stood on the front line of reform [source?]. Consequently, they were arrested or killed, and this left the impression that Taiwan's talent was being destroyed by governmental violence. That was why the building was chosen as the 228 Incident National Memorial Hall."

I think the last sentiment is pretty much accepted by anyone who has looked into 228. It was a power grab. The incoming KMT bureaucracy needed Taiwanese professors, doctors and politicians whacked so they could fill these positions. Calling the killing of some 30,000 people an "Incident" is a downplaying of what happened. It reads like an act of whitewashing something horrific and a dereliction of a proper accounting of history. 

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