2016 總統就職典禮 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The inauguration of President of Taiwan, 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), took place on May 20, 2016. She is the first female president of Taiwan. She is in office during a time when her party, the DPP, has the majority in the legislature, making the Taiwanese government a majority DPP government.

The inauguration celebration started with the formal proceedings inside the presidential building.

Then the story of Taiwan’s history was covered through a performance. It started with the indigenous peoples on the island, and the arrival of Europeans. The description of indigenous peoples was not very sophisticated, as the narrator described the European missionaries as people that changed the indigenous people’s backward cultures and that the indigenous people loved to sing and dance. As part of moving Taiwan forward, we should also move away from bigotry and prejudice against indigenous cultures and people. I also have never understood why the indigenous groups are lumped together and dance the same dance, when they have separate languages, cultural practices, songs, and dances. It would have been nice to see them represented fully, instead of just by different costumes.

The 1600s brought 清朝 (Qing dynasty) rule to Taiwan. The narrator even mentioned that this was when Taiwan became 殖民地 (colony) of 清朝.

As the production moved through different eras of Taiwanese history, I, like many others, wondered how the era of the Republic of China rule would be represented. The 228 Incident and the White Terror era was fully represented. The terror of the time was performed for all to see. A part of history that was previously hidden, whose secrets have not all been revealed, was on display during the inauguration.

The modern Taiwan included the new immigrants to Taiwan. There were dances from Vietnam, with Vietnamese songs. It was a true look into the future of Taiwan: the modern era, mixing history and the present.

There were three music groups that performed, and sang in different languages: Amis, Hakka, and Taiwanese. The highlight was obviously 滅火器, who sang the old new classic 向前行, and the new new classic, 島嶼天光, the anthem of the Sunflower Movement.

There was a 排灣族 (Paiwan) chant before the national anthem to bless the land. The national anthem was then mixed with the melody of chant in a way that made it sound celebratory. The national anthem has the melody of a dirge, so it was nice to hear a different take. Even though the melody was upbeat, the lyrics were unchanged, and still had the same language as the party song of the KMT.

Tsai opened her speech by saying hello in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and 排灣語 (Paiwan). Not only does this represent the population of Taiwan, but it also represents Tsai’s own ancestry as she is of Hakka, Min-Nan, and Paiwan descent. The complete text of speech is available, as is the English translation.

In her speech, Tsai touched on the major issues impacting Taiwan: stagnant economy; social safety (including the care of the growing elderly population); social justice; cross-strait issues; and diplomacy.

In regards to Taiwan’s own history, Tsai is looking to the past to make amends. The establishment of 真相與和解委員會 (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) will work to find the truths of the aftermath of the 228 Incident and the White Terror era. Also, she stated:


The new government will address issues concerning indigenous peoples with an apologetic attitude. My administration will work to rebuild an indigenous historical perspective, progressively promote indigenous autonomous governance, restore indigenous languages and cultures, and improve the livelihood of indigenous communities.

Apologizing to the indigenous peoples is something that has needed to happen for a long time now. Often we speak of the atrocities of the KMT, but we do not speak nearly enough about the way the indigenous peoples have been treated historically by Han migrants from China since the 1600s. It’s about time that we right that wrong, and give back what we have taken from the indigenous communities. After all, they are the original Taiwanese peoples.

When it comes to cross-strait relations, however, Tsai is definitely not looking towards the past.


The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.

Notice in the entire speech, she never mentions 中國 (China) or 大陸 (continent; often referred to as mainland in English). She calls it 兩岸 (literally “both sides”; “both sides of the Strait” is implied). She does not mention the 92 Consensus by name, only referring to it as


the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait (SEF & ARATS), when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground.

She states past events as historical truths, but not necessarily current truths. I like the change in nomenclature, and am looking forward to her policies in dealing with the governing party across the Strait.

At the end of the inauguration was a very historical and tear-jerking moment. The song 美麗島 (Taiwan the Formosa) was previously banned because of its connection with the independence movement. So for it to be sung at the inauguration really showed how far we have come.

It’s amazing to think, that Taiwan has now moved from being under Japanese rule, to being under KMT martial law, to being a democracy, to a majority DPP government, all within my grandparents’ lifetime. And after 20 years of direct presidential elections, a female president is elected. I also love how the color on the 總統府 (Office of the President) website is now an aqua color: a mix of blue and green. We are moving into a new era of Taiwanese politics. It is no longer just about the two major parties, but Taiwan as a whole moving forward.

This is a great time for Taiwan. I sincerely hope that Tsai can lead the way she wants to, and is able to do all she can under the circumstances. And I hope all Taiwanese will keep Tsai’s slogan in their hearts as they enter this new presidency and government:


My translation:
Is the country extraordinary?
The country is extraordinary because of you.


Election 2016

I spent the end of the 2016 election coverage in tears. That wasn’t much different from the end of the 2012 election coverage. But the difference was that this time, the tears were for joy and relief. Taiwanese people have spoken through their votes and what they want is change.

民進黨 (Democratic Progressive Party; DPP) not only won the presidency through 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), but also, for the first time, the majority of the legislature. 時代力量 (New Power Party), a brand new party, has become a major third-party in just one election cycle.

The press conference was a breath of fresh air.

The text is available at Tsai’s election website. Notice how carefully the terms 臺灣 Taiwan and 中華民國 Republic of China are used.

Although the election ended with happiness, the hours before the election started was filled with anger when a disturbing apology video from 周子瑜 (Tzuyu) was released. I do not want to describe the whole situation (it is also currently unfolding), but it is pretty well explained in the link. I only saw the beginning of the video because I could not keep watching. Her first sentences and her demeanor was really chilling. She looked absolutely terrified, and those words were just horrendous. I think for anyone, being forced to denounce one’s nationality is one of the scariest things. I think the only time I was equally disturbed on this level was seeing the violence unfold on March 24, 2014. I sincerely hope that no matter how this settles, Tzuyu is able to continue pursuing her dreams.

For now, we celebrate a little for the DPP, keep Tzuyu in our thoughts, and keep our wishes and hopes alive. The hard work has already started for 蔡英文 and the newly elected members of the legislature. 臺灣加油!

Ma-Xi meeting and the media coverage

The minute I heard about the Ma-Xi meeting, I knew it was going to be a field day in the media. Everyone would want to cover it. But was anyone going to get it right? Probably not many. Of course the academics and people study and follow Taiwanese politics would have their own opinion, and that would be published. What would everyone else see?

The reports from the AP and the like. Reporting the status quo and giving minor concern to the protests happening in Taiwan. The words “Republic of China” are no where to be found, as wiping away decades of history and refusing to acknowledge that the Republic of China took over an island of people. The common words “the 1949 split” further dilutes history. A “split” did not occur – the Republic of China fled China, took over Taiwan, and imposed martial law. A “split” also implies that something was whole and can be put back together, which pretty much just follows the old stance from the PRC and the ROC.

The report from the New York Times was better. It outright calls Ma “the leader of the Republic of China.” It also took quotes from academics and opposition leaders and provided background to different points of view. I think there was also an equal emphasis on the protests in Taiwan that happened before Ma left for the meeting.

The KMT could not fall further than it already did, but it looks like this meeting is making it more and more unpopular. The KMT has had internal issues for the past couple of years, leading to a drastic fall during the last election, which was in late 2014. Ma then resigned as party head and the newly elected mayor of New Taipei City, Chu, became the head of the party.

If there’s anything similar between the two heads, it’s that they have a habit of reversing previous statements. Ma said in 2011 that he would not meet with the heads of state from China during his presidency if he was re-elected. Now, with seven months left of his presidency, he’s meeting the highest leader of China. When questioned about this statement shortly after the Ma-Xi meeting was announced, Ma said that he only meant not in China, and this meeting would be in Singapore. After Chu was elected mayor, he made a promise that he would fully serve as mayor and not run for president. That promise did not last long. The previous KMT candidate for president was ousted; Chu has taken the spot, and has now taken a three month leave to tend to election duties. Some mayor!

These few things summarize the issues with the KMT in a nutshell. None of their politicians can keep their word. The latest decisions, from the cross-strait trade agreement to the Ma-Xi meeting, have all been done behind closed doors. So how can we trust them with the future of Taiwan? We cannot. I thought a really clear message was sent during the 2014 election, but the KMT seems either completely deaf to it or feels that it is completely above it.

“The Search for General Tso”: expanding the Taiwan story

Recently, I watched the documentary “The Search for General Tso.” For those in the U.S., it is currently available on various digital mediums (such as Netflix, Amazon.com, iTunes, etc.) for streaming, rent, or purchase. The name of the documentary in Chinese is 尋找左宗棠, and was released in May in Taiwan, and can be seen at 高雄市電影館 (Kaohsiung Film Archive). The purpose of the documentary is to find the origins of the dish called General Tso’s chicken, or 左宗堂雞. The dish becomes a starting point to discuss Chinese food in America, and the history of Chinese immigration and Chinese people in America. The documentary includes interviews with prominent scholars on Chinese in America, which includes prominent scholars on Chinese cuisine and history from the U.S. and Europe.

The documentary takes an American focused view, so its target is probably American audiences. In one part of the documentary, we travel to 湖南 (Hunan), the home province of 左宗堂. We meet scholars who show us around his hometown, where there is an hotel and an elementary school named after him. We see his home, and a large statue dedicated to him. But when it’s time to explain his significance in Chinese history, those interviewed are in a studio or office, and are people in America and Europe.

It is not until the end of the documentary that we learn that one of the people we met in China is a descendent of 左宗堂, who is now a 左宗堂 scholar, and was basically showing us his family history. But this is already far after there was a humiliating scene where the filmmakers gave him a fortune cookie: not knowing what it was, he asked if it was edible; upon biting down, he found the piece of paper inside. I assume the filmmakers did not bother to explain to him what the cookie was, just so they could get the reaction of him eating a piece of paper.

I was starting to get annoyed at that point in the documentary. It’s a silly way of showing that people in the East do not know about something that was obviously concocted in the West. Since I’m sure the filmmakers knew that already, they should have had one of their historians point that out, rather than humiliating someone over the fact that he didn’t know how to eat a fortune cookie, or that people did not know the Americanized 左宗堂雞. Hint: if it has American broccoli, people in the East probably will not recognize the dish as a Chinese dish.

It is not until the end of the documentary that it is revealed that the true origin of 左宗堂雞 is from Taiwan, originated by chef 彭長貴. We are taken to Taiwan for a much too short interview with 彭長貴 (who is now in his 90s) and his son, 彭鐵誠. Footage of chefs at 彭園 was edited with other cooking scenes in a way that it is not until 彭鐵誠 holds the plate and says, “This is how we make General Tso’s chicken,” that we know the footage was of the original being made.

There is no introduction at all to 彭園, which began as a restaurant founded by 彭長貴. It is now a restaurant corporation run by 彭鐵誠. The restaurant corporation is famous for its banquet halls and fine dining. Chef 彭長貴 has been called 湘菜之神 (god of Hunan cuisine) and 國宴御廚 (chef of the state banquet) by the media.

The story of 彭長貴 is glossed over and not given the recognition he deserves in the documentary. However, his story is not lost in Taiwan. The following videos are in Mandarin. This Taipei Times restaurant review of 彭園 includes a good summary of the story of 彭長貴 and his restaurants, in English.

The following is a documentary on the life of 彭長貴.

This news clip has footage of 彭長貴 (at age 96!) recreating his 左宗堂雞.

This news clip introduces the dish and includes interview with 彭長貴. Notice in the beginning the host says to the audience, “左宗堂雞 is a famous dish that you thought may have come from China, but it really is from Taiwan.”

The 左宗堂雞 that 彭長貴 made famous is a banquet-style, high-end dish. The following clips are cooking shows where chefs show home cooks how to recreate the dish (there’s a mix of Mandarin and Taiwanese in these clips).

This first clip has a funny alternate 左宗堂雞 origin story. This show focuses on making a dish for less than 59元 (roughly $2 USD).

This cooking show focuses on health, so the recipe has been slightly altered.

The following was produced by 新光三越 (Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store) to teach viewers how to make 左宗堂雞 for Mother’s Day.

Overall, I found “The Search for General Tso” to be a good documentary. As a documentary about the history of Chinese people in America, the history of Chinese cuisine in America, and the history of Chinese restaurants in America, it does an exceptional job. It touches on all the important aspects of the greater culture that the dish represents. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of Chinese culture and Chinese cuisine in America. It is a documentary that needed to be made, to recount the origins and evolution of American Chinese cuisine, as well as the experience of Chinese immigrants in America. I especially enjoyed the clips with Cecilia Chiang, and it reminded me that I still need to watch the documentary about her, “Soul of a Banquet.”






Sit-in at Ministry of Education continues

As part of the ongoing protest against high school curriculum changes, students have continued an over 24 hour sit-in in front of the Ministry of Education. Protest groups have announced a rally at the Ministry of Education at 7pm (August 01 2015).

Since the latest break-in and sit-in occurred, the international news and news wires have picked up and written about the situation.

BBC: “Taiwan students storm education ministry in textbook protest”
Voice of America: “Taiwan Students Protest Student Leader’s Death”
NY Times Sinosphere blog: “Protesters Upset Over Textbook Changes March on Taiwan’s Education Ministry”
Associated Press: “Taiwan students storm legislature, Education Ministry in curriculum protest” (via LA Times)
Reuters: “Textbook protest: Taiwanese students storm education ministry” (via The Sydney Morning Herald)

Update to protests against high school curriculum changes

The latest round of news started with the Ministry of Education announcing it would seek charges against students arrested on July 24 for breaking and entering. Among those that would be charged were journalists, who also protested against arresting journalists and defended their rights as members of the press. In response to the unprecedented news of the MoE suing students, an English translation of the news was published on 新頭殼.

Sad news broke the afternoon of July 30, when it was reported that 林冠華, a member of a student group protesting against the curriculum changes, was found dead from an apparent suicide. The Taipei Times articles “Student protester commits suicide” and “Curriculum Protests: Interview: Lin gave interview three days before death” are good reports in English.

Students broke into the MoE at roughly 1:30 in the morning on July 31. As of 11am, they were still there, calling for the resignation of the current head of the MoE. Note that the head of the MoE has never had direct discussions with students regarding the curriculum change. The response to the students is that the minister has events away from the office and will be unavailable.

The latest news is that 立法院 (the Legislative Yen) will hold a discussion at 3pm on July 31 to determine if an emergency session will be called to deal with the issue of the curriculum change.

For those following the news, 新頭殼 has organized all their articles on the issue. 苦勞網 has also been updating their facebook page. And of course, there is the facebook page of 北區反課綱高校聯盟.