Cutifying Dictators? Only in Taiwan. Maybe.

Mommy, can I have my photo taken with the two cute little men?

Pretty much any long-term ex-pat in pretty much any country must have heard or uttered the smug cliché “Only in (insert country name),” when looking condescendingly on some absurdity of life in their adopted home. It’s usually accompanied with a wistful shake of the head and, implicit cultural arrogance notwithstanding, is usually tinged with something approaching affection.

 I’ve probably said it dozens of times:

  • Helmetless family of seven on a scooter? Only in Taiwan.
  • Punch-ups in parliament? Only in Taiwan.
  • Strippers at funerals? Only in Taiwan.

Of course, you’ll immediately see that the problem with these “only ins” is that they’re not. While we might feel that Taiwan does these things in its own inimitable fashion, scooter nutcasery can be found throughout Asia (and further afield), and Taiwan – as I have previously observed – can no longer even rest on its laurels when it comes to legislative fisticuffs. As for funereal pop-tart pole dancers … Actually, we might have to give them that one.

This disclaimer aside, I’m putting forward what I feel is a pretty cast-iron candidate for O.I.T. status: The Cultural Resort of the Jiang(s) (兩蔣文化園區) at Daxi (大溪) in Taoyuan County (桃園縣). Surreal is the word my biking buddy used to describe and I can’t think of a better one.

CCK’s personal ambulance – a big ol’ chevy.

Pop dukes would make any emergency trips is this Cadillac.

Coming up the hill from town as a detour on our ride from Yonghe (永和) to my wife’s hometown in Toufen (頭份), we were half dead. A cop at the old town gate had given us directions and told us it was 3-4 km. He was probably about right, but it seemed a lot longer. This climb was what triggered the savage cramp/muscle spasms that plagued me for the next seven hours or so. Still, I’m glad we made this stop. We didn’t stay long and didn’t even bother to check out Old Peanut’s mausoleum, but it’s the Cihu Sculpture Memorial Park (慈湖紀念雕塑公園) that makes this place a must-visit.

After a brief look at CCK’s final place of mouldering (where a sign tells you to “bow or show your respect”), we rolled down the hill for a few minutes to the main event. The seated red statue of his-nibs that greets you at the entrance to the park doesn’t prepare you for what’s inside: 150-odd statues and busts of the old git in different sizes, colours and (invariably chipper and benevolent) poses and attitudes.

The lakeside park itself is very pretty and as nice resting place as a persom as unpleasant as Chiang Kai-shek could hope for. Of course it was just meant to be temporary stop-off before he was restored to his home of Fenghua (奉化) in Zhejiang (浙江) province after the glorious recapture of the motherland. Unlucky, mate.

Good afternoon, all. So glad you could make it to this reeducat – sorry, brotherly love session brought to you by the G’imo!

 We didn’t actually check out Chiang’s mausoleum itself as we were pressed for time, but the statue park is breathtaking in its bizarreness. As residents of more than a decade, we’d both heard about this place. I was pretty certain that the mausoleum and the statue drop-off were at the same location, but my cohort felt they couldn’t possibly have dumped all these discarded remnants of the CKS personality cult at the very place where he was laid to rest. I began to wonder if I had imagined reading it.  

These statues were earmarked for the scrapheap during the DPP’s years in power, when people finally had enough of looking at this fucker every time they walked out of a train station or into a park. (I have remarked elsewhere that he still lords it up in some spectacularly inappropriate locations, such as the Zhongzheng Park (中正公園) in Chiayi (嘉義) opposite the museum dedicated to the artist Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波), a man who Chiang had shot in the street for daring to ask for Formosan participation in government.) It would be too weird, my friend quite reasonably felt, to plonk them here. As we approached the lakeside, though, there they were in all their glory. 

The Benevolent Lake.

Benevolence incarnate!


None of the visitors seemed to find anything remotely awry about this. Perhaps they’ve been taken in by the guff on the Taoyuan tourism bureau Web site that refers to “a ceremony for the removal and donation of the first bronze sculpture of Jiang”, courtesy of Kaohsiung County government in 2000. It was so kind of all these local governments to “donate” these national treasures. (Most of the statues have plaques saying where they came from, usually accompanied by some fawning gibberish. 

I defy you to get to the end of this without a feeling of nausea creeping over you.

(Click to enlarge) Even by the standards of KMT revisionism, this is special. The “defeated Formosa” is obviously a mistranslation of “the retreat to Formosa” but the rest is inexcusable crap.

The tourism bureau site also informs you that “if you look carefully, maybe you can find someone even greater than Jiang Jie-shi in the park.” Alas, try as I might, I couldn’t locate any representations of god.

Should any of my astuter readers (OK, that’s a big ask form a field of about three) offer Lithuania’s Stalin world to counter my O.I.T. claim, I can only stress that the absurdity of the park at Daxi, and its distinct O.I.T.-ness lie in the decision to stick the unwanted statues next to the mausoleum. Uncle Joe’s cadaver does not sit aside the admittedly bonkers theme park in the Baltic nation.  

Finally, the signs at the park (see right and above) take the biscuit. You would think they might tone down the hagiography just a notch, but they actually go into overdrive with the effort to whitewash any unsavoury aspects of the “great man’s” legacy. (What amazes me about the frequent references to his “greatness” here is not so much the standard, predictable omission of any wrongdoing but the fact that we are never given anything close to an explanation of why he was great. Why not just have descriptions and explanations without all this propaganda? To anyone with a cursory knowledge of the facts, the movement in completely the other direction is so obvious that it’s embarrassing. But that’s these lot all over: utterly unaware of how ridiculous they look.)

I leave you with this gem from a sign outside one of the entrances/exits to the park (as with the others, click to enlarge):



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