If you’re looking to have monuments in your honour erected all over the gaff, seizing power and attempting to establish a personality cult is the standard way to proceed. Sure, you could actually try to discover something, attempt a scientific breakthrough, an artistic achievement or undertake some other action in altruistic service of your fellow man, but that kind of stuff requires talent, takes time and is more hit and miss. Besides, it’s never going to get you as many statues, memorials, plinths and what have you as you can have when you’re putting them up yourself.
For the average Joe bent on apotheosis, or at least some posthumous props, and lacking aspirations to dictatorship or genius, Madame Zhou Juan’s (週絹) case is instructive: Become a widow at a young age, look after your sprogs as best you can, practise fastidious filial piety to the in-laws and, well, that’s about it really.
The Zhou Family Widow’s Memorial is just down the road from me in Beitou, close to Beitou Elementary School, where my son goes to school. It’s a stone gate that was originally built in 1861, but was damaged by an earthquake in 1897. I’m not sure what state it was in for the next hundred years or so but it wasn’t until 1992 that it underwent extensive repair work.
A couple of years older (surely not that common, especially at that time?) than her hubby when he died aged just 25, Madame Zhou lived out her life “well regarded for preserving her chastity” (presumably in the face of advances from the numerous lotharios that stalked Beitou in those days). For this, and the other mundane “achievements” mentioned above, a gate was built to memorialise her, some 15 years after her death at the age of 58 .
A Qing governor of Fujian (福建) and Zhejiang (浙江) (and Taiwan?) who is referred as Liu Ke on the sign next to the gate but who, as far as I can determine, must have been Liu Yun-ke (劉韻珂 or 刘韵珂 in simplified) stumped up for Madame Zhou’s gate. What was that all about? Far be it from me to disparage the reputation of the virtuous widow, but I have to wonder why old Liu was so enamoured with her. Had he perhaps been paying the odd visit to Beitou on his tours of Taiwan to observe her exemplary piety and chastity first hand? One has to wonder.
Address: 63 Fengnian Rd, Beitou District (北投區豐年路一段六十三號). It’s about five minutes from Beitou MRT next to the small but quite twee Fu Tian Dai (付天代) Temple.
EDIT: Someone who is much more clued up about traditional Chinese mores and customs than I am has criticised this post as being “mocking” and “blatantly unresearched” both of which accusations are not without merit (the second is perhaps a little harsh: “poorly researched” would be fairer).
This post was obviously meant to be a bit of a laugh (OK, maybe it failed, and it was hardly my finest) and I’m surprised anyone would really believe it was disrespectful. Even if it was, it’s not like I’ve ever showed unbridled respect for the ‘traditions’ of any nation, religion or group. I was taking the piss and religion/social values are not exempt.
If I’d been mocking the late Queen Mum or, say, pre-Christian fertility rites maypole dances that still take place in Britain,I rather doubt the person in question would be hauling me over the coals.
The irreverence that pervades even some of my more serious posts is not tempered by concerns of offending some particular group. Positive celebrations of culture and history can be found alongside (attempts at) piss-taking satire. But I’m never seeking to belittle or ridicule any group just for the sake of it (with the possible exception of right-wing nutjobs, racists, xenophobes and prejudiced types, and bullies and ad hominem abusers who make the first move).
If I have go at any one in a serious or vitriolic vein it’s usually because I feel they have done something worthy of criticism. That’s clearly not the case here. I’m surprised that anyone would see it as such.
In terms of correcting the ‘unresearched’ aspect of the post, here is a link provided by my aforementioned interlocutor. The sign at the gate (btw I was going to call it an arch but, strictly speaking, it isn’t, as far as I can see) says Liu Ke commissioned it (I’m having trouble making out the Chinese in my rubbish photo but its looks like it has been translated right and its 劉珂). As I couldn’t find anyone by that name, I assumed it must have been ’Liu Yun-ke (劉韻珂)‘.
I am told: “Simply put, four years after her death, an official (who is now himself enshrined in Taipei’s Confucius Temple) learned of her story and memorialized to have an arch erected in her honor, with one Mr. Yan Yunke providing the stamp of approval, though at the same time little in the way of funds.It wasn’t until eleven years later, after a few grandchildren pooled their resources, that the arch was finally erected.”
I think you’ll see I had the time frame right (4+11 =15) but perhaps my guess that Liu Ke and Liu Yun-ke are one and the same was a misplaced thrust in the dark. Liu Ke is named on the sign as being the Governor of Fujian and Zhejiang, which later (during the very next governship, if I remember correctly) incorporated Taiwan under the Qing, but, as I say, I couldn’t find an official with that name. I was pretty sure it must have been the guy I linked to above (again, Liu Yun-ke – 劉韻珂) who was a leader during the Opium Wars and definitely Gov. of those provinces at the corresponding time) … As for Yan Yunke … I dunno.
SECOND EDIT: It was Liu Yun-ke. The “Yan” that my correspondent suggested was a typo. The “Liu Ke” on the sign at the gate must be a mistake, too.