First Half of June With Su Beng

June 3rd

On this day I went with Su Beng to meet 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-wen), the chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party. Su Beng and Tsai Ing-wen have met before, but this was the first time that Su Beng has ever set foot into the Democratic Progressive Party's headquarters. It was truly a historic moment, so much so that a couple of newpapers reported on it. Click here to read a Chinese language article from 自由時報 (Liberty Times) about Su Beng's visit.

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 Me, Tsai Ing-wen and Su Beng.

Me, Tsai Ing-wen and Su Beng.

 Tsai Ing-wen and Su Beng.

Tsai Ing-wen and Su Beng.

June 4th & 5th 

The Taipei National University of the Arts held a two-day lecture and workshop series from June 4th to June 5th callled Su Beng's Revolution Workshop/History and Taiwan Revolution.

 Signage for  Su Beng's Revolution Workshop/History and Taiwan Revolution  at the Taipei National University of the Arts.

Signage for Su Beng's Revolution Workshop/History and Taiwan Revolution at the Taipei National University of the Arts.

JUNE 4: When I arrived at the registration desk, I saw this piece of artwork depicting a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with a caricature of Su Beng on it instead of Colonel Sanders.

Why this piece of artwork? What's the significance behind it?

During the 23-day occupation of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, which led to the birth of the Sunflower Movement, Su Beng personally delivered boxes of KFC for the students and activists encamped there. KFC also happens to be a favorite food of Su Beng.

There are several phrases written in Chinese characters around the bucket of fried chicken on the mural, which pertain to Su Beng. Below are the phrases with English translation for each offered in parentheses.

 

At the top, in the center: 

史明    左獨大佬    (Su Beng Taiwan independence forerunner)

 

On the left from top to bottom:

獨立台灣會    (Taiwan Independence Association)

台灣獨立連合會    (Taiwan Independence Alliance)

台灣人四百年史    (The Taiwanese People's 400 Years of History)

台灣革命武裝部隊    (Taiwan Revolutionary Armed Forces)

刺殺䉃介石    (Attempting to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek)

 

On the right side from top to bottom:

蒸餃    (Steamed dumplings)

新珍味    (The New Gourmet *NOTE: This is the name of Su Beng's noodle shop in Ikebukuro, Japan, which sells dumplings and fried noodles)

民族主義    (Nationalism)

社會主義    (Socialism)

反帝國主義    (Anti-imperialism)

 

At the bottom center:

六月四日-六月五日    (June 4- June 5)

 

 More signage for Su Beng's Revolution Workshop/History and Taiwan Revolution at the Taipei National University of the Arts.

More signage for Su Beng's Revolution Workshop/History and Taiwan Revolution at the Taipei National University of the Arts.

 

JUNE 4: On the first day, Na Su-Phok, one of the authors of 史明口述史 (THE ORAL HISTORY OF SU BENG) spoke about Su Beng.

In late 2009, Su Beng was hospitalized in Japan for kidney failure, after which he was able to return to Taiwan. Initially, Su Beng continued to be hospitalized in Taipei. It was around this time that Su-phok and others began interviewing Su Beng, while he was still in the hospital. At first, they weren't sure about how to go about doing their interviews so, unbeknownst to me, Su Beng's assistant Bin Hong shared some audio recordings of my interviews with Su Beng, with them. I had started interviewing Su Beng in 2004 and by 2009 I'd already returned to New York.  I only learned of all this when I met Su-phok in March.

After Su-phok's talk there was a break for lunch and in the afternoon Su Beng arrived to give the first of his three-part talk. Professor Kai-Huang Chen, who had invited Su Beng to speak at this two-day workshop series made some introductory comments.

Su Beng's assistant Bin Hong also made some opening remarks. 

As Su Beng spoke, supertitles  (in Chinese characters and sometimes English) were simultaneously typed and projected on the screen behind him. Su Beng speaks Taiwanese during his talks, but sometimes he'll sprinkle in English, Mandarin Chinese or Japanese terms. The team of students who provided the translation did an excellent job of keeping up with Su Beng!

I have heard Su Beng speak several times these past couple of months and I have to say that this particular talk was definitely one of the best to date because he spoke more about his personal experiences, more than he usually does. He talked about growing up in Taiwan during the Japanese era, attending Waseda University in Japan, his time in China, returning to Taiwan (after the 228 massacre and arrival of the KMT), his escape to Japan (after his plot to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek was discovered) and his return to Taiwan in 1993. I think that some of what he said- especially about what Taiwan was like after 228 and the arrival of the KMT- really hit home for a lot of the students in the audience. I could see it in their faces. Many were moved as they listened to what Su Beng had to say that day.

A photo of Su Beng resting during the break.

One of the cameramen from a crew that is working on a documentary film about Su Beng was on site and shooting as well.

 

JUNE 5: Su Beng gave part II and part III of his talks.  In the photo below, if you look to Su Beng's right, you'll see a team of three students standing by the podium; this team of three students provided the simultaneous translation during Su Beng's talks.

Here's a photo that I snapped during the break of Su Beng and his book, THE TAIWANESE PEOPLE'S 400 YEARS OF HISTORY.

 A team of three students stands behind the podum, ready to provide simultaneous translation of what Su Beng is saying.

A team of three students stands behind the podum, ready to provide simultaneous translation of what Su Beng is saying.

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A group shot taken on June 5th, the last day of the two-day workshop series.

 

After all of the goodbyes, and photos Su Beng wanted to take me to Ji San Giam, which is in the Shilin district of Taipei. Ji San Giam is my approximation of how you pronounce 芝山巖 in Taiwanese. It is the place of my ancestral home in Shilin.

Su Beng is also from Shilin and in fact, one of my granduncles was his classmate and good friend. I didn't know about these connections when I first heard about Su Beng and reached out to him.

We went to see the rock on the side of the hill on which the words of my great, great granduncle (潘永清): "洞天福地" were carved. Loosely translated "洞天福地" means "This place is paradise."

It was a long walk up, and not only that, it was also raining that day! But Su Beng insisted on walking up all the stairs to see the rock.

 Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

For me, this place does have a deeply personal meaning. It really is an extraordinary piece of family history. I've heard stories about my great, great, granduncle, who apparently was a man of substance and influence in the community. And I'm so appreciative that Su Beng brought me back there.

  Read right to left: 洞天福地 translates as: This place is paradise

Read right to left: 洞天福地 translates as: This place is paradise

 Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

June 7th  & 8th

On Saturday, June 7th Su Beng spoke at National Chung Hsing University (中興大學), located in Taichung. His assistant Bin Hong was invited to make some opening remarks. I was also asked to say a few words, which was a complete surprise to me and a bit of a challlenge since I had to speak publicly in Taiwanese. Speaking publicly in English is already hard enough, never mind having to do it in another language! 

Su Beng took to the stage, again with simultaneous supertitles appearing behind him. This time the translation was provided by his assistant Bin Hong.

Su Beng's talk that day was recorded and uploaded in two parts by 曾大地 on YouTube. Here's part I of Su Beng's talk (in Taiwanese): 

Here's part II of Su Beng's talk (in Taiwanese): 

 

On the following day, JUNE 8th, we visited Mr. Yang's woodcarving shop in Sanyi.

Mr. Yang has been working on carving this wood plaque- based on the photograph of Su Beng and others behind it.

Afterward, we went to Miaoli and visited 龍騰斷橋, which is an elevated train track that collapsed due to an earthquake during the Japanese era of Taiwan.

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And then we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we were back at the high speed rail station to head down to Tainan for Su Beng's next speaking engagement that evening.

That evening (June 8th) Su Beng was to speak at the Masa Loft in Tainan.

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 Su Beng's preparatory notes.

Su Beng's preparatory notes.

It was a packed house with standing room only left.

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Here's a group shot taken (June 8th) at the end of the evening before Su Beng headed back to the high speed rail station and back up to Taipei that night.

June 10th

I noticed that there were 994 likes on The Story of Su Beng Facebook page that I created- to share news about Su Beng and anything related to my project to document his life. So I "asked" people on Facebook to like it and Su Beng did too. 

I never would have expected what was about to happen next!

Ultimately, The Story of Su Beng Facebook page got over 500 new LIKES in less than 24 hours which is over half of the 994 LIKES it had when I first "asked" for help to get to 1000 LIKES. It seems that Su Beng has quite a powerful network of supporters on Facebook. I've noticed that on average his posts and photos get hundreds of LIKES at a time. 

I will definitely be maintaining The Story of Su Beng Facebook page once I return to New York, so that's another place where you can go to get more timely information and updates about Su Beng. Click here to view The Story of Su Beng Facebook page. As I wrote on The Story of Su Beng Facebook page, your support is important because that page and this website www.aboutsubeng.com are the main two English language sources of news, events and translations of information related to Su Beng. 

June 12th

During my time in Taiwan, I've met with Su Beng on a weekly basis, to continue interviewing him for the biography. On this particular day, I had compiled a whole list of questions for him, but when I arrived at this residence at Shin Juang, he had something else in mind and he ended up taking me out for dinner because my date of departure from Taiwan was fast approaching!

At the dinner Su Beng told the other guests that, "Miss Lin will be leaving Taiwan soon," and toasted me. I was really touched.

After dinner we paid a visit to the Taipei City Tsai Jui-Yueh Dance Foundation. And what a lovely night it was!

 Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

Photo courtesy of: Bin Hong

 Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong

Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong

 Photo courtesy of : Syyi Lin

Photo courtesy of : Syyi Lin

JUNE 14TH & 15TH

On June 14th I was back at the Taipei train station with Su Beng to head down to Taichung and Changhua for "Our Country, Our Dream."

This would be my last trip with Su Beng before leaving Taiwan on June 18th and returning to New York. I had been feeling a bit anxious since I didn't get a chance to really interview Su Beng  on the 12th. My time was coming to a close I wasn't sure how I'd find the time to ask him all of the things I'd planned to ask him on the 12th. 

Traveling around with him these past few months has been a priceless experience and I am certain that Su Beng is not going to be slowing down anytime soon!

 Bin Hong going through Facebook updates with Su Beng.

Bin Hong going through Facebook updates with Su Beng.

JUNE 14: Su Beng at the Mazu Hall in Changhua for "Our Country, Our Dream."

 Su Beng signing his name upon arrival at the Mazu Hall in Changhua. Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong.

Su Beng signing his name upon arrival at the Mazu Hall in Changhua. Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong.

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A photo of an artist's portrait of Su Beng.

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  Mazu , goddess of the sea standing in the far corner of the room.

Mazu, goddess of the sea standing in the far corner of the room.

Su Beng's assistant, Bing Hong made some opening remarks.

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And then Su Beng had a few words for the audience. 

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  Mazu , goddess of the sea.

Mazu, goddess of the sea.

Since I hadn't been able to ask Su Beng the questions I'd planned for our June 12th meeting, I had a late night interview session with him that night. It was the end of the night after we had had dinner and visited the home of a friend! It's a good thing that Su Beng and I are both night owls. There will probably be some more follow up Skype calls between Su Beng and I, after I've returned to New York.

 Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong

Photo courtesy of : Bin Hong

 

JUNE 15: The following day, Su Beng was invited to make some remarks at the Changhua International Exchange Exhibition.

 Ramon Santacana (one of the exhibiting artists), Su Beng and myself.

Ramon Santacana (one of the exhibiting artists), Su Beng and myself.

As I walked out of the exhibit hall I immediately recognized the distinctive style of my friend and artist Leigh Wen. So of course I had to take a picture with her gorgeous paintings.

 Photo courtesy of: 徐德章

Photo courtesy of: 徐德章

After Su Beng and several others had spoken, there was a luncheon. There I met a few of the artists whose work was being displayed at the Changhua International Exchange Exhibition. 

In the afternoon we had some free time so I was able to walk around the exhibition hall with Su Beng and to take a look at some of the artwork that was on display. When I asked Su Beng what kind of art he liked, he said abstract art, and then he said that one of his favorite painters is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

With so many artists around, someone suggested that this would be a great opportunity to draw Su Beng's portrait. So two artists sat down impromptu and started sketching Su Beng.

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And then two became three...

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Here's the first completed sketch of Su Beng. The hardest part about doing this for the artists was probably the fact that Su Beng kept nodding off. During the sketching, the artists would periodically ask Su Beng to look up and to raise his head slightly, so that they could see his face better.

The two sketches below are by the same artist.

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6.15.14 SB Sketch.JPG

 

In the weeks before I was to leave Taiwan, I had several moments of witsfulness. It was hard to believe that my trip was coming to an end, but I was ready. I had had the chance to meet with people, and to gather some much needed background research. While staying at Su Beng's residence and traveling around the island with him these past couple of months, I have gotten some incredible insights from him. On top of all that, I've witnessed so many historic moments with the occupation of the Legislative Yuan and birth of the Sunflower Movement. What timing! It has been a packed and intensely meaningful trip.

I am so grateful to the very many people who have supported my project to document the life of Su Beng. I feel privileged to be able to write this man's biography. I am continually amazed by Su Beng- his energy, drive, sharpness of mind, generosity and intuition.

Thank you to those who I've met with and interviewed, those who have provided me with resources related to my background research, those who have and still are helping me along the way, those who have given me support- morally and yes financially- you made this trip possible for me! The list is endless. One thing is for sure, I know that I will feel as though I am missing out on things in Taiwan when I return to New York.