Taiwan: Who Needs A Founding Father?

Dr. Sun Yat-sen on every NTD 100

Does Dr. Sun Yat-sen deserve the title of “the Founding Father of Republic of China (R.O.C)”? Is he really a flawless idealistic political leader and the hero behind the revolution that overthrew Qing Dynasty? Being a shared historical icon between the mainland China and ROC (Taiwan), the myth around Dr. Sun has been under scrutiny in Taiwan where people do not identify themselves as “Chinese” anymore. The preparation of the 100th anniversary of R.O.C marked by a documentary project on Sun Yat-sen's life has stirred up the controversy, both on mainstream and online media.

Taiwan-Republic of China-is going to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2011 and the Taiwanese Government has set up the “Republic of China (Taiwan) Centenary Foundation” exclusively for the preparation of a series of activity and promotion. A major celebration ceremony and march will be held along with many other events, contests, and media promotion all around Taiwan, and Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s biographical documentary is among one of them. This NT$20 million (US$627,000) documentary project is sponsored by Council for Cultural Affairs and is going to be carried out by the Republic of China (Taiwan) Centenary Foundation.

The controversy started when Chou Yang-Shan (周陽山), a former legislator of Legislative Yuan and now a council member of Control Yuan, and Hu Fu (胡佛), a scholar of politics and council member of Academia Sinica, wrote a joint open letter [zht]  to warn the Council for Cultural Affairs and the production team of this documentary project to “proceed with caution and carefully depict historical events” after Ping Lu(平路), a writer and advisor of this documentary, said that Sun was a figure who “even Vladimir Lenin would have ridiculed as naive and innocent.”

Ping Lu was criticized as “Frivolous and insolent” by Chou, who also claimed to investigate into the historical facts of the documentary using the power of Control Yuan member. The editorial from Taipei Times on Aug 18 accused Chou's action a major threat to freedom of speech.

Indeed, history is full of controversy in particular when people's identification is at odd with the “official history”. Blackjack tries to differentiate between ROC (China) and ROC (Taiwan)denies Sun Yat-sen being the Founding Father of “ROC (Taiwan)”. For him, the regime of ROC (China) had ended 60 years ago under Chiang Kai-shek:


The “Founding Father Sun Yat-sen’s debate” is wrong at the beginning. The Founding Father of ROC (Taiwan) should be Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek “the martial law President” was similar to Yuan Shikai “the Great Emperor of Hongxian(洪憲)”. The regime of ROC (China) came to an end in 1949 under Chiang Kai-shek. ROC (Taiwan) was born when Chiang Kai-shek became the new emperor.

Ching Hung Lin points out that the controversy is a reflection of the China complex among Taiwanese:


When Sun established the Republic of China, Taiwan was still under Japan’s rule. When Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum was built, Taiwan was still a Japan colony. During Dr Sun's lifetime, Taiwan was never a part of Republic of China, not at least under the ROC founded by Dr. Sun. Had Dr. Sun ever regarded Taiwan a part of China? or it was always owned by Japan? Had Dr. Sun ever thought of taking Taiwan back into ROC from Japan?


The different degree of attachment towards Dr. Sun – the great hero – indicates the depth of China complex – how much they are identified themselves with “Chinese” – among Taiwanese. Everyone living on this land can pose the following questions to yourself: how well do I know Dr. Sun? Does this national figure really matter to you? Or he is merely an image in our NTD 100 paper money?

Samhain believes that Chou is being self-defensive:


I say, Chou Yang-shan, who was from the Institute of San-min Doctrine, is “defending themselves” without much awareness.
Because, once the production of this documentary began, the “god” that they painstakingly constructed for the past century will possibly be destroyed.
The “deviated historical facts” that agitate these guys are the real historical facts, hehe.


Let’s put aside Sun's private life first.
Let ‘s focus on his public face.
After the establishment of Republic of China (or after the last Emperor of Qing Dynasty stepped down), how many world powers did “recognize” this new regime?
No one bothers to pay attention to Sun Yat-sen, and this is the fact.


One more thing: most of Sun's descendants are “foreigners” now, and probably no one is based in Taiwan.
Put aside the debate of whether Kuomintang is a ruling party in exile or not.
To speak bluntly, if Sun’s descendants themselves don’t want ROC, why can’t we throw it away altogether?

Torrent digs deeper into the history and suggests that Sun’s myth was a conscious construct by Sun and people after:


After the failure of second revolution against Yuan Shikai, Sun was exiled in Japan, and he blamed the failure to his comrades’ impure ideology and lack of solidarity. He then established Chinese Revolutionary Party in Tokyo, demanding complete loyalty to the leader. The oath of joining the party is as follows:
1. Fulfill the principle; 2. Obey orders; 3. Respect your duty; 4. Keep secret; 5. Live and die together; From now on, I will follow my oath to death. If I don’t, I would accept the ultimate punishment.


This is just like member of the triad society drinking blood for the union. Besides such organization that imitated traditional feudal solidarity, the oath also included “Every Chinese people has the right and obligation to join the party”, “If you join the revolutionary army before uprising, then you are entitled to become one of the First Honorable Member…on the day of victory, the First Honorable Members will all be registered as Founding Citizens who enjoy all privilege of political rights……Non-party members cannot obtain citizen rights during revolution time”. Such oath completely abandoned the principle of “All people of Republic of China are equal” listed in Provisional Constitution, but he still claimed to have “protected the constitution”.

Youtien thinks Chou is just repeating old Kuomintang’s position and narratives, while the audiences are actually expecting something else:


The questions is: audience may not want to build any objective knowledge (of Sun). This is the era when idealism is at its lowest point, and people are probably indifferent to this issue. They just anticipate that the debate will turn into another muddy fight and will again prove their contempt against politics; they may also expect this centenary documentary of ROC to become a footnote or resources for trampling on Kuomintang, criticizing Taiwan independence and attacking the Communist Party. To uphold culture and art while depreciate politics. People who are serious about history and Sun can compose their own reading list from multiple sources, and they do not need to be enlightened by another article or film. By the way, for many audiences who are already immune to ideologies might not want to investigate Kuomintang’s merits and demerits or the future of democratic politics. Instead, they may be more interested in exploring Sun’s romance and gossips for entertainment.


Now that we know the audiences’ expectation, the questions followed are: How could Sun have so many ladies fall in love with him as a guy who was in exile almost half of his life? How could he attract so many men of aspiration to follow him? How could the San-min Doctrine with so much mistakes to be believed whole-heartedly by so many? While we trace the hints of “Women–Revolution–Study” and research into related essays, we might find out: Sun Yat-sen was really romantic, naive, idealistic, sincere, merciful, and froward. And because of so, he dared to think, to do, to paint a future for China with his hands, to marry his friend’s daughter without any consideration, to overtly fight for the highest title in the revolution, to include diversified party members from different backgrounds into the aura of his doctrine, and to discriminate others without guilt.


Now, we know the danger of such personality, we see how many revolutionists changed after gaining power, and we therefore understand that impulse cannot solve problems and politics has no elixir. But for young people who still harbor ideals for politics and society, their characteristics are thus doubted and knowledge criticized, and so their confidence to taking a first step is gone.  In this situation, Sun Yat-sen the Founding Father can give energy to our cynical youth today. Not because of his first mythologized and then uglified doctrines and contributions, but his hot-blooded spirit that went all the way to the end even though the world returned only scoffs, scorns, and taunts.

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