Diary of a Taiwanese in Beijing (note 3)

This is the third (and likely final) installment of translations from the facebook notes of a Taiwanese exchange student in Beijing. Read my preface of sorts to these translations, here.

In this note, Yi-jung’s visit to the old Summer Palace prompts some thinking about history teaching in Taiwan and mainland China.


A trip to the old Summer Palace (2010.12.3.2010)

I took the subway today from Peking University station to Yuanmingyuan station, and the old Summer Palace was right there.* Before, I’d only seen a picture of the old Summer Palace in my middle school history textbook, but now there’s a subway station next to it. I couldn’t believe that a hundred years ago, British and French troops destroyed this place, and maybe a lot of people died here. Even more difficult to imagine was that Qing dynasty emperors, eunuchs, concubines and courtiers had also walked on this land. This feeling is difficult to describe. At any rate, these people hadn’t gone to Taiwan.

Walking through the ruins of the European buildings, I saw lots of Western style architecture, but what I saw wasn’t authentic, but rather a simulated rebuilding. Then I walked into a maze. It was difficult to understand why so much effort was spent to build a maze like this, I really don’t know what the people of the time were thinking. According to my limited memory of history, the political situation of that time was chaotic, and the state of affairs worldwide had changed, but there were still people [i.e. the imperial court] who didn’t realise how explosive the times were.

Beijing is a city with a heavy history. However, I feel that these historical sites aren’t so important to the locals here, maybe [having them around is] as natural as breathing for them? I don’t understand why the history my middle school taught included mainland Chinese history in our national history**. If I was taught another version of history, maybe the meaning of this place to me would have decreased immensely.


去圓明園 2010-03-12





* ‘Yuanmingyuan’ is the Chinese name for the old Summer Palace. The Chinese means ‘garden of the full moon’ (correct me if I’ve got this wrong, readers).

** For ‘national history’, Yi-jung uses 本國歷史, referring to the Republic of China (中华民国) as her perspective is Taiwanese. The term I’ve translated (wrongly, but it helps to make the meaning clearer) as ‘mainland Chinese history’ is 中國歷史, literally ‘Chinese history’. In her clarification email when I asked about these terms, Yi-jung writes that this term includes 淪陷的大陸地區 – ‘mainland [China] which fell into enemy hands’ (no kidding). All this give me a big headache, as it does Yi-jung. “I think that [本国] and [中国] aren’t unequivocal terms”, she writes, “I’m not even clear about them myself. It’s an extremely complicated problem.” You got that right.


  1. Here we go, in this email Yi-jung makes her argument clear:

    因為現在台灣社會有一股不小的聲音,覺得中國, 中華民國,前者是外國,後者”當初”是外來的政權,台灣應該有自己的歷史,也就是400多年來的發展,而不是以中國歷史發展為重心的歷史觀。所以本國歷史,應該就是台灣自己的歷史發展,而中國歷史歸屬於中國歷史。


  2. I’m trying to wrap my head around it too. Here’s what Yi-jung wrote to me when I asked about it, which doesn’t quite seem to clarify what point she’s making:

    我那時候學的本國歷史,是中華民國往前推算,就是有一個朝代表,皇帝->夏->商->周->………->å…ƒ->明->清->民國(中華民國)直到現在,而且那時候(西元1998å¹´, 民國八十七年)學的中華民國版圖還包含外蒙古!! … 如果以現在台灣社會普遍說的本國,就是台灣了,不過可能十幾年前,本國還叫做中華民國,包含台澎金馬,和淪陷的大陸地區。

  3. This sentence:


    …is kinda odd to me. I’m having a hard time understanding why she would question the inclusion of Chinese history in ROC history courses. Am I missing something?

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