A couple weeks ago, I went with my classmate Dave to the 228 Memorial Museum (228 紀念館), located within 228 Memorial Park (here is a link to its English-language Web site) as part of a class project.
The 228 Incident marked the beginning of forty years of white terror in Taiwan which only ended when martial law was lifted in 1987. During the 40 years of white terror and single-party rule by the Kuomintang, an estimated 140,000 Taiwanese were either imprisoned, executed or “disappeared,” and all discussion of the 228 Incident was forbidden. Our teacher, for instance, was not taught about the 228 Incident while he was in school.
The 228 Memorial Museum was founded on February 28, 1997, the 228 Incident’s fiftieth anniversary. The building, which was originally a radio station used by both the Japanese and Nationalist governments to broadcast propaganda, was taken over by protesters during the Incident:
The museum’s first floor introduces the background of the 228 Incident, while the second floor contains artifacts. Most of the captions are in Chinese, though I believe you can rent English-language audio tours. Some of the more important exhibits, including a bullets recovered from a mass grave at Gu-Keng Township (古坑鄉) in southwest Taiwan, also have English captions. The bullets from Gu-Keng are especially valuable because they serve as concrete evidence that massacres did take place during the 228 Incident and during the white terror.
There is a small rotunda on the top floor with photos of several victims of the 228 Incident:
Visitors are encouraged to leave notes in a special room at the end of the exhibits, which are then collected and preserved by the museum:
The 228 Memorial Park also has an interesting history. In the 1960s, it was a popular clandestine trysting area for gay men. In 1997, a statue of a Japanese general was torn down to make way for the 228 Monument in the middle of the park:
One of the things that I personally find most interesting about Taiwan’s history is that when I visited the country as a very small child, the country was still under martial law (though close to exiting it), which meant that discussion of the 228 Incident was still very limited. I know it sounds cliched to say that as a American, you tend to take your freedom of speech for granted, but it is somewhat surreal to think that at one point, I was in a country where discussion of an event that had clearly impacted a significant amount of people was verboeten. Honestly, it unsettles me quite a bit.
Anyway, my photos of the 228 Memorial Museum aren’t that great because my camera battery was running out, but other Flickr users have uploaded much better pictures. Our project was part of our mid-term report about buildings with both historical and cultural significance in Taipei; if you want to see the list our teacher suggested, check out our class blog (the links are to Chinese Web sites, but most of them have a button for their English counterparts).