Highlighting The Uniqueness of Taiwanese Identity on Double Ten

Happy Double Ten Day! I think this is the best way to describe this day without spouting a large dispute from people who are Taiwanese, in Taiwan, or just posting on Facebook to join in on the fun. Facebook (believe it or not) was actually what got me to think about October 10th and what it meant. People started saying “Happy Birthday Taiwan” but then there was conflict….

“It’s not Taiwan’s birthday!”

And then the arguing started.
(If you’re curious about Taiwan’s birthday, click here)

Janice performing in A-Mei tribe’s clothing in her high school’s international culture night. Click photo to see her blog post.

My friend Janice is in Taiwan for 10/10 celebrations and she posted about Taiwan . She summed up what it means to be Taiwanese American – the best that I’ve seen in a long time. She starts off:

In honor of Double Ten 10/10 today, I would like to share one of my most joyful moments in dance, and also pen a few thoughts on its implications. Although I am dressed here in Taiwanese aboriginal (A-mei) clothing, please don’t make the mistake of assuming that I am perpetrating their culture as a part of my Taiwanese-American identity. The Taiwanese government loves making aboriginal culture the face of Taiwan, but the reality is that no one cultural group on that island can claim to represent the whole of it; like the United States, it is the mixture of it all that makes it unique. My own Taiwanese-American identity is inextricably entwined with my Chinese heritage, but that does not make my claim to Taiwanese-American identity any less legitimate.

People often ask what it means to be Taiwanese and saying it is like United States is a very good answer. The island was originally inhabited by Taiwanese aboriginals, colonized by the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish as a trading post, claimed by Ming dynasty supporter Koxinga to overthrow the Qing dynasty, annexed by the Qing dynasty…hold on taking a breath here…ceded to the Empire of Japan after the first Sino-Japanese War, surrendered after World War Two, and finally established by the Republic of China as a base to overthrow People’s Republic of China and reclaim all of China. After all this history (quite a mouthful), Taiwan has infused a bit of each culture. It has become a melting pot of identities. Janice continues on:

I would love to see the breadth of Taiwanese identity showcased more often – it is not enough to simply plaster aboriginal culture as the epitome of autonomous Taiwanese identity and say, “Look! We’re not Chinese!” because this undermines the identity of those who have these roots, and treasure their Taiwanese identity. For a small country, Taiwan is amazingly ethnically diverse: all of it is beautiful, and none of it should be denied. No matter what your political feelings are about the history of the ROC, both the great and the ugly parts of it make Taiwan what it is today.

A lot of people I know strongly strives to disconnect Taiwan and China, but it is undeniable that Taiwan has a lot of its culture from China. Many times, those wanting to claiming Taiwanese culture and cut off China relations…well…Janice explains more.

I love Taiwan. When my father escaped the Cultural Revolution as a young man, Taiwan gave his life rebirth. It gave him an education, a wife, a family… a chance to live in freedom. Yesterday, when I heard my father sing the ROC national anthem for the first time, I cried. For those who draw clear lines between who is “bendiren” (local) and who is “waidiren” (foreign), how many generations does it take before you recognize someone as truly Taiwanese?

This is it, how many generations does it take before you recognize someone as truly Taiwanese. Over 80% of the people in Taiwan consider themselves as Taiwanese and that’s what’s important.

China may be my grandmother’s land, but Taiwan is my mother(‘s)land, and it has nurtured me throughout my American upbringing. This is not a matter of politics – it’s a matter of respecting each other’s identity. Identity is necessarily complex, both dark and light. But all of it is beautiful, and none of it should be denied. I am Taiwanese-American, but I am also Chinese, and the amazing story behind that gives me strength that is uniquely mine. Thank you, Taiwan. I couldn’t be happier to be here today with my family. Happy 10/10, all.

Unique is the right word for Taiwan. There are the good and the bad of Taiwan history, but it makes Taiwan how it is today. Respect is the right word for the future. Instead of fighting about who’s local and who’s foreigner, as long as we all recognize ourselves as Taiwan and spread Taiwan and its culture to others, its all that matters.

As for me, Double Ten Day is the official national day of Taiwan. Like the Republic of China flag (red, white and blue), it holds a lot of history, the good and the bad – but it is the official day to celebrate Taiwan for what its been through. To me, the birthday of Taiwan will be the day that Taiwan is officially, unanimously, undisputed-ably an independent country (entrance into the United Nations?).

Looking forward to celebrating Taiwan’s true birthday.