My first week at Su Beng's (Part I)

I can't believe that I've already been in Taiwan for over a month!

For the past week I've been staying at Su Beng's. My stay with him started on February 27th. The following day, on February 28th, Su Beng was invited as a special guest to speak at a 228 memorial service to commemorate the February 28 Massacre at the Holy Mountain in Nantou, and I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany him there.

The February 28th Massacre refers to an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang, and resulted in the massacre of 20,000-30,000 civilians, many of whom were organizers calling for government reform and the intellectually elite.

228 Incident (The Terrible Inspection)/ Jun Li (Rong-zan Huang) (1916-1952)/ Woodcut Printmaking/ ca. 1947

228 Incident (The Terrible Inspection)/ Jun Li (Rong-zan Huang) (1916-1952)/ Woodcut Printmaking/ ca. 1947

For those who don't know about the 228 Massacre, here's what led up to the bloody massacre (otherwise feel free to skip this paragraph):

On February 27, 1947 a woman selling contraband cigarettes was struck by an officer of the Monopoly Bureau. The crowd protested and this led to larger scale public protests on February 28th. The Taiwanese had been frustrated with the corruption, mismanagement and unemployment that they'd experienced since the Chinese Nationalist Party (aka Kuomintang) had arrived in 1945. The Chinese had taken over most political and judicial offices, and state monopolies in tobacco, sugar, camphor, tea, paper, chemicals and cement, just to name a few. The price of rice had inflated 400 times it's original price. Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Chinese Nationalist troops to crackdown and declared martial law. What followed was the 40 year reign of White Terror in which people were harassed, executed, and jailed for their dissent. For further reading on the 228 Massacre visit: TaiwanDC.org or this Wikipedia entry.

I'm so glad that I had this unique opportunity to commemorate 228 with Su Beng. We took the high speed rail from Taipei to Tai Chung, which only took 45 minutes!

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The Holy Mountain is located in central Taiwan and is a part of the Taiwan Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation that was set up by Dr. Yang Hsu-Tung in 1996. The Taiwan Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation's mission is to educate the Taiwanese people and illuminate the world with the core values of democracy, liberty, human rights, freedom, and independent national sovereignty. It is a place where many of the martyred spirits of Taiwanese people who have died for fighting for these core values especially around the time of February 28, 1947 and during the subsequent White Terror era have been commemorated.

The altar to worship martyred spirits of those who died because of the 228 Massacre.

The altar to worship martyred spirits of those who died because of the 228 Massacre.

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Lunch with Su Beng before going to the 228 memorial rock commemorating victims of 228. (Left to right: Bin Hong, me, A-Diong and Su Beng)

Lunch with Su Beng before going to the 228 memorial rock commemorating victims of 228. (Left to right: Bin Hong, me, A-Diong and Su Beng)

When we arrived at the site of the 228 memorial rock I suddenly felt a flood of tears as the ceremony began. I had no idea that I'd be affected like this. I'm not even sure that I can fully comprehend all the emotions that I felt. It was a complex rush of emotions- sadness, frustration and anger. I suppose knowing the significance of what has happened in the past- all the injustice, sacrifice, pain and suffering- raised some really deep seated emotions that I didn't know I had. Fortunately I wasn't a blubbering mess the whole time, just during the first 5-10 minutes. After I discretely let the tears flow I felt fine.

Years ago, I came to a similar realization when I was trying to learn Mandarin Chinese. I realized that I somehow had a psychological block in learning the language. Why the psychological block? Because I knew that when the Chinese Nationalists came to Taiwan, the Taiwanese were 1) forced to speak and learn Mandarin Chinese and 2) banned and punished for speaking their native languages. After understanding the root of my block and seeing language simply as a tool for communication, I have since then learned to speak Mandarin Chinese at a conversational level. 

The 228 rock commemorating victims of the 228 Massacre. It reads: The 228 Taiwan Divinities preside over this stronghold

The 228 rock commemorating victims of the 228 Massacre. It reads: The 228 Taiwan Divinities preside over this stronghold

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Su Beng speaking at the 228 memorial service at the Holy Mountain. Photo courtesy of: 廖建超

Su Beng speaking at the 228 memorial service at the Holy Mountain. Photo courtesy of: 廖建超

There was also a statue and plaque commemorating Lin Mosei (林茂生) who was the first Taiwanese person to receive a PhD from Columbia University. Tragically he disappeared days after the 228 Massacre.

There was also a statue and plaque commemorating Lin Mosei (林茂生) who was the first Taiwanese person to receive a PhD from Columbia University. Tragically he disappeared days after the 228 Massacre.

The Chinese characters on the left side of the bell, 氣蓋山河護台保國 from top to bottom can be loosely translated as: May the air above the mountains and the rivers protect Taiwan. Metaphorically, it means: Guarding Taiwan with immense righteousness. The characters on the center of the bell 自由鐘 translate as: Liberty Bell. The characters on the bottom of the bell 台灣即地大菩薩 can be loosely translated as: Bodhisattvas here in Taiwan. The metaphorical meaning would be: For those who have become great Bodhisattvas in saving Taiwan and protecting her people at this moment in this place.

The Chinese characters on the left side of the bell, 氣蓋山河護台保國 from top to bottom can be loosely translated as: May the air above the mountains and the rivers protect Taiwan. Metaphorically, it means: Guarding Taiwan with immense righteousness. The characters on the center of the bell 自由鐘 translate as: Liberty Bell. The characters on the bottom of the bell 台灣即地大菩薩 can be loosely translated as: Bodhisattvas here in Taiwan. The metaphorical meaning would be: For those who have become great Bodhisattvas in saving Taiwan and protecting her people at this moment in this place.

The Liberty Times Newspaper (自由時報) reported on Su Beng's participation in the 228 memorial at the Holy Mountain. The Chinese language news article can be read online by clicking here.

The Liberty Times Newspaper (自由時報) reported on Su Beng's participation in the 228 memorial at the Holy Mountain. The Chinese language news article can be read online by clicking here.

We spent the night in Nantou and took the Taiwan High Speed Rail promptly back to Taipei the next morning and then went straight to the Taiwan Association of University Professors luncheon, which Su Beng had been invited to.

A group photo taken at the end of the Taiwan Association of University Professors luncheon on March 1, 2014. Photo courtesy of: 許文輔.

A group photo taken at the end of the Taiwan Association of University Professors luncheon on March 1, 2014. Photo courtesy of: 許文輔.

Talk about a busy schedule! I've been kept quite busy just keeping up with Su Beng's schedule during my stay with him. He certainly has quite a bit of energy for someone of his age and is still quite sharp.

The following days were filled with daily visits by different people, such as Neil Peng, a noted journalist.

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There's also been some intrigue which I can't go into right now, but perhaps I will in one of my books- either the ACCIDENTAL BIOGRAPHER ebook that was offered as a perk for my MAKING HISTORY crowdfunding campaign or in the biography of Su Beng.