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Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005 - 4:58 p.m.

Symbol, Irony, Metaphor.


In 1949 Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek, the leader of the Kuomintang government, evacuated his government from China to Taiwan as the communists rose to power on the Chinese mainland. Before he died, he gave instructions for his body not to be buried in Taiwan, but (eventually) in China. Those instructions were strictly followed and the coffins of the Generalissimo and his sons, lie horizontally in a park (and not a mausoleum, because a mausoleum connotes permanence), their embalmed feet pointing at the mainland. The vision of a Kuomintang China must not be laid into the ground, especially Taiwanese ground.


Today, Taiwanese politics can be characterized as a tense stand-off between the pro-Green parties (anti-unification forces) and the pro-Blue parties (pro-unification forces, mainly made up of the Kuomintang). Once, the Kuomintang was against unification with communist China - it believed it would one day reclaim the mainland militarily, to have a China on Kuomintang terms. But fifty years after 1949, these two bitter enemies, the Kuomingtang and the Chinese Communist Party, have been forced to become reluctant allies against the pro-Green movement. Any China, Kuomintang or Communist, is better than no China (defined as China without Taiwan). This just goes to show that man's greatest enemy is not another man - but irony.


A liberal, western academic couches his opposition to China's insistence on re-unification with Taiwan using the following metaphor: ''This situation is like a woman who has already been divorced from her husband. They are separate and live separate lives. The husband has no right to ask or insist that she return.'' A spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs replies, ''That argument is absurd. The situation is not like that at all. The China-Taiwan situation is more like a father who has had a disagreement with his son. The son leaves, and the father is pained to have him back. This is exactly the story of the Prodigal Son in your (western) bible.'' The imposition of a narrative is nothing, without the imposition of the metaphors that are used, because men will always quarrel using metaphors.

Epilogue: Absurdity

The pro-Green government of Taiwan wants to pass a parliamentary Bill that will in effect, legally compel the Generalissimo and his sons to be buried in Taiwan, to lay to rest the symbol of re-unification with China. It is ironic because the Nei-Shen-Ren (this literally means the inside people, and refers to the native* Taiwanese who form the backbone of the pro-Green movement) have always wanted to expel the Wai Shen Ren (this literally means the outsiders, and refers to the Chinese who evacuated to Taiwan in 1949). The tussle of the burial/ non-burial of the Generalissimo continues to this day.

Perhaps absurdity is the metaphor of the human condition.

*the word native is used arbitarily, as a catch-all for Chinese who migrated to Taiwan circa 1500. There are also Indigenous / Aboriginal tribes who migrated even earlier to Taiwan (perhaps from the Philipines); these tribes claim to be the original inhabitants of Taiwan, and view the Han Chinese (Nei Shen Ren and Wai Shen Ren) as interlopers.


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