Shadows at Yangmingshan

The following article appeared in today’s Taipei Times:

The Chinese Culture Hall at Chungshan Hall, Yangmingshan, where the Republic of China’s National Assembly sat from 1966 until it’s disbandment in 2005.

On the 45th anniversary of his death, Chiang Kai-shek’s footprints can be found all over Taipei’s national park

Nowhere are the effects of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) postwar Sinification campaign more visible than in the toponymic revisions that the regime undertook after assuming power.

Taipei’s streets were renamed after Chinese cities or quintessentially Chinese values, and with the kind of self-aggrandizing flourish to which the party was partial, the process even referenced itself, Guangfu (光復) — which translates as “retrocession” — becoming a mainstay of urban nomenclature. Above all, the KMT’s top brass was memorialized: the given names of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) — Zhongshan (中山) and Zhongzheng (中正) — were conferred on locations islandwide.

Name changes extended beyond the cityscape: if the KMT was unable to literally bend nature to its will, then it sought at least to exert nominal mastery by replacing age-old designations with signifiers designed to invoke a glorious, supposedly shared, past.

Rechristened to commemorate Master Yangming, the soubriquet of Chiang’s favorite Ming Dynasty scholar Wang Shou-ren (王守仁), Taiwan’s northernmost national park is one example. Yangmingshan (陽明山) was known as Grass Mountain (草山) during the Qing Dynasty in reference to the silvergrass on its higher reaches. Toward the end of the Japanese era, it attained national park status as Daitonshan, a Nipponizaton of Datun (大屯), a volcanic mountain range within the reserve. Adding his name to one of the park’s peak’s (Zhongzhengshan, 中正山) for good measure, Chiang also left his mark in more tangible ways: Yangmingshan is dotted with monuments to the KMT’s efforts to transpose its muddled history to Taiwan.

To read the full article, click here.

About the Author