Saturday, September 08, 2012

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Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall changing of the guards

9/08/2012 Taiwan Explorer

Last week I happened to be free one a weekday and I decided to visit a place I have visited only few times during my stay in Taipei: The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. The colossal concrete neo-classical Chinese building is one of the city's landmarks and has recently become a tourist magnet for visitors from China (or from 大陸 "the Mainland", as it's commonly referred to in Taiwan). I arrived at the main hall with the big Sun Yat-sen statue right around 3pm. I saw a huge mass of people inside and I was curious about what's going on. I went up there and peeked inside: The changing of the guards ceremony was in full swing and lots of tourists from the Mainland were surrounding the soldiers and shooting snapshots of them. When I saw all that, a strange feeling came over me... I will go deeper into this further below, but first I would like to share some of my photos with you taken during the ceremony:

A soldier preparing to change his position.

Perfectly outstretched arm signifies his impending departure.

Stepping down from the mini-stage and turning left.

Soldiers meet in the middle and pay respect to Dr. Sun.

Chinese tourists were excitingly taking photos.

Some of them literally had their mouths open.

This guy was very passionate about capturing every moment.

Everybody in that room seemed to have a great respect for Dr. Sun (including me).

The video was not shot by me, but it shows pretty much everything I saw.

The strange feeling I mentioned above was related to the ambiance in the hall during the ceremony. I was wondering about what do Mainlanders think, when they see ROC soldiers perform the changing of the guards ceremony? I think for a lot of them it must be a very confusing, maybe even a conflicting experience. I felt as if they were thrown back a hundred years ago to see something they are not allowed to see. The ROC is supposed to be wiped from the face of the earth since the end of World War II, so the official mantra in PRC (a.k.a. China). But that is obviously not true and I believe most of these visitors knew that already before they flew over to what they see as the »breakway province« for the first time. I don't think the average Mainlander tourist in Taiwan doesn't know the reality outside China's history books; I believe they know very well what is Taiwan all about, but they have to be careful to not talk about it too loudly (back at home and while visiting Taiwan). It's hard to guess what's going on in every person's head when they saw the changing of the guards, but I have a wild imagination and I thought, that most of them must have felt something like: »Wow, this is the real China, this is how our China should be! I wish the KMT would've never lost and retreated to Taiwan... I feel touched to see this...«. Maybe my imagination was completely wrong, but that's what I thought most of these visitors felt in that moment.

Dr. Sun, also known as Zhongshan, from the side.

One country, two systems or one father, two children?

What must a visitor from the Mainland feel, when he visits Taipei, which is full of places remembering the times, when the KMT defined their country? Do they secretly admire the ROC (a.k.a. Taiwan) or do they despise it? The communists have after all bolstered an incredible economic boom in the past three decades, while the KMT seems to be a relict from the history books, not something they know from personal experience. How do they digest all this reality, when they come to Taipei? I have no idea, but if you happen to be a PRC national who visited Taipei, I would love to hear more about this from you. It's a fascinating topic for me.

Check the Sun-yat Sen Memorial Hall from the outside>>

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