Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chinese timeline

The other day, while walking underground from Zhongshan Station to Shuanglian Station, passing one bookshop after another, I came to one with classic books like Journey to the West, which I plan to read in its entirety. After browsing for awhile, I approached the counter to purchase the book about the Monkey King's journey westard, and then noticed a thin booklet called Zhongguo lidai dashi nianbiao中國歷代大事年表 (Chronology of the Great Events of the Successive Chinese Dynasties). It is actually a fold-out timeline of Chinese history, from the mythical Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns down through the mainstream dynastic line. It also lists the capital cities and important events for each dynasty.

Unlike most such timelines, this one does not end with the fall of the Qing Dynasty, but instead continues and ends with the Republic of China. There is no Peoples Republic of China and the last time Beijing was the capital was during the Qing Dynasty.

Instead, the last capital city listed is Taipei. Interestingly, the first major event of the Taipei period of the Republic of China is the Cultural Revolution. Other events include the entry of China into the UN, and Our Country's (woguo我國) retreat from it; the death of Chiang Kai-shek and rise of his son, Chiang Ching-kuo; the lifting of martial law in the Taiwan region, Chiang Ching-kuo's death and Lee Teng-hui's selection as president; the establishment of ties between China and Korea, and the breaking of ties between Our Country and Korea; the first provincial, Taipei, and Kaohsiung elections; the first democratic elections; and the changing of the ruling party.

Some issues stand out: the timeline basically accepts the Kuomintang's (KMT) version of Chinese history, in which the Republic of China is the culmination and legitimate heir to the dynastic line. This was after all the view of the ROC government during the reign of Chiang Kai-shek and his son--the KMT was legitimate and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were the usurpers. The KMT's historical mission, as it saw it (perhaps still sees it) was to retake the Mainland, really to restore the authority of the true ruler. It is the age-old story of the Mandate of Heaven.

However, the fact that the timeline ends with democratic elections and the KMT's loss of executive power (temporary?) might be an indication of a more subversionary reading. Perhaps, it is meant to show the movement towards democratization, and highlight its lack on the Mainland. It will be interesting to see how the creators of this timeline alter it after the next elections.

That raises the question: who are the creators? Are they blue or green? It seems highly unlikely that they are green, though ending the timeline with the election of Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party could point to this. But representing the Republic of China on Taiwan as the true successor to the Qing Dynasty hardly strikes me as a green position. It would seem as if the creators are more likely from the blue camp.

I did a google search of the timeline's publisher--Yih Chyun Press (益群). That, I now know, is the publisher and distributor of Falun Gong's materials. How does this affect our interpretation?


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