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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

今天從北大東門地鐵站搭到了圓明園站出站後,就到了圓明園。以前只有在國中歷史課本看到圓明園的照片,現在圓明園旁就有了地鐵站。我更難想像一百多年前英法聯軍破壞圓明園那副景象,可能還有很多人死在這兒!更難想像以前清朝的皇帝、太監、妃子、大臣也曾經走在這塊土地上,這種感覺,真的很難形容。至少,這些人是不會走過台灣那塊土地上的。

走進了西洋樓遺址,看到許多西洋的建築風格,不過看到的也不是真跡,是之後仿真跡所復健的。然後走到一個迷宮,很難理解為什麼要花了這麼多工夫,設計了這樣一個真人迷宮,真不知道那時候的人在想什麼?據我有限的歷史記憶,那時候時局很亂,世界局勢改變,當時還是有人過著不食人間煙火的日子啊。

北京是個有著沉重歷史的城市。不過這些歷史古蹟感覺好像也不是那麼備受這裡的人民重視,可能就跟空氣一樣自然吧。不知道以前國中歷史為什麼本國歷史會包含中國歷史,如果我接受的是另外一套歷史教材,可能這個地方對我的意義,就會減少許多吧。

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* ‘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. alec’s avatar

    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。

    而我當時寫的意思應該是,可是我12年前學校教的歷史沒那麼強調台灣自己的歷史,主要還是著重在中國歷史,所以那時候(小時候)我真的覺得自己還是個中國人。我現在覺得這跟台灣哪一個政黨執政有很大的關係,好像會影響歷史教育的走向。1997-2000那時候台灣還是國民黨執政,我是那時候讀初中的,所以我的歷史概念是在那時候被塑造出來的。高中我讀理工類組,所以就沒有再常接觸歷史了。

  2. alec’s avatar

    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->………->元->明->清->民國(中華民國)直到現在,而且那時候(西元1998年, 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. Kai’s avatar

    This sentence:

    不知道以前國中歷史為什麼本國歷史會包含中國歷史,

    …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?