I’ve lived in Taipei for six months now, or a whole one percent of my life, so obviously I’m getting a bit jaded. My friend Daisy was here recently for a two-week vacation, however, and I got to see Taipei through the eyes of a tourist again while showing her around.
One of our stops was the former Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, now known as the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. This is the first time I’ve been back to the Memorial Hall (the site of many family photos back in the day) since it’s renaming, and it was interesting to see what the Pan-Green Coalition had done with the place.
The hall with its huge bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek is still in place, but around him are now hung 300 peace kites. An exhibit of photos from 2004’s Hands Across Taiwan (an event memorializing the 228 Incident) and paintings depicting life under martial law have replaced the honor guard that used to stand at attention in front of Chiang’s statue. One of the photos featured a doggie that had been recruited to form part of the human chain during Hands (and Paws) Across Taiwan. Look, it even has a little green ribbon around its neck. Aw, I love it when people politicize their pets:
Despite the new name and decorations, the original Chiang Kai-Shek museum is still in place underneath the Memorial Hall, with exhibits featuring Chiang’s personal documents, military uniforms, medals, photos and, oddly enough, his thermal undershirt, all topped with glowing, loving captions which basically state that nobody, including the Japanese or the Communists, ever put Chiang in a corner. But that’s not all! You can also meet the man himself:
He nearly gave me a heart attack. After walking through room after room of military medals and old documents, it is kind of a shock to encounter a wax-enrobed corpse (or, fine, a highly-realistic wax statue of a dead man). Hanging on the wall near him was a clock that a museum worker told me had stopped at the exact moment of Chiang’s death on April 5, 1975:
I am slightly dubious.
Anyway, it remains to be seen if the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall will keep that name, or if the kites and exhibits will stay there. If the Kuomintang wins the presidential election in two weeks, everything might very well be changed back. The subway station underneath the station is still called the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall station. In the meantime, the muddled, slightly surreal state of the Memorial Hall right now might encourage visitors to look into Taiwan’s extremely complicated modern history. I know my interest is certainly piqued.
Here are some other random photos from our visit:
Daisy falling into formation with some school children.
Me in a most fishy situation (my new boyfriend is actually a fish food dispensing machine. You pop some change in near his gill, and he poops out a roll of pellets to feed to his relatives in the nearby koi pond).
An old lady in a wheelchair left to sun herself in a corner.