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«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»

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See Brown, Melissa J. Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power and Migration on M. Turner, © 2008 However, Taiwan’s tenure as a province of China lasted only briefly, as after China’s failure during the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), Taiwan (including the Peng-hu islands) was then ceded to Japan in 1895, in accordance with the Treaty of Shimonoseki.25 During Japanese colonisation, Taiwan had become a reliable ‘sugar bowl’ and ‘rice basket’, producing agricultural products, for Japan’s home island. 26 When Japan declared war against China in 1937, the colonial regime began to ‘desinicise’ the Taiwanese, the majority of whom were ethnic Chinese, and instead started to install a colonial Japanese culture with the ‘Movement to Create Imperial Subjects’. 27 Apart from a ‘name-changing campaign’ (adopting Japanese names) and a policy that only allowed the Japanese language to be used in public spheres, any ‘un-Japanese’ culture was either prohibited or otherwise ‘objectionable’.28 For example, traditional Chinese religions practised in Taiwan were eliminated whilst Japanese Shinto shrines were introduced; Japanese style wedding and funeral services were encouraged whilst Taiwanese operas and puppet plays were forbidden. 29 Furthermore, the Japanese imperial power even encouraged the Taiwanese to serve in the war and to ‘“die beautifully”, if need be – in the Imperial Japanese military’.30 Research has shown that between 1941 and 1945, some two hundred thousand Taiwanese joined the armed services, of which Changing Identities. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, p 42 and p 52.

See Brown, ibid., p 53. Also in Lamley, Harry J. ‘Taiwan under Japanese Rule, 1895-1945:

The Vicissitudes of Colonialism’ in Rubinstein (ed), op cit, p 202.

See Morris, op cit, p 16. In Chapter 3, I will investigate a show, which was held at wine and sugar factories built during Japanese colonisation.

Ibid., p 17.

See Lamley, op cit, pp 240-241.

Ibid., p 242.

See Morris, op cit, p 17.

M. Turner, © 2008 more than thirty thousand of them sacrificed their lives for the Japanese Emperor.31 After the Second World War, the defeat of Japan led to the restoration of Taiwan to China, whose Nationalist government was the recognised ruling power in China and which was a member of the Allies. From 1945, Taiwan was taken over by a one-party system, the Chinese Nationalist government, which continued to hold a fifty-year monopoly of political power on the island until the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election in 2000.

The civil war in Mainland China between Nationalist and Communist forces ended with the victory of the Communists in 1949. Soon after that, the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975), the soldiers of Chiang’s KMT army and over one million civilians fled to Taiwan and proclaimed Taipei the provisional capital of the ‘Republic of China’ (ROC).32 Taiwan then became a military base for the Nationalist Chinese soldiers to fight the Communists in order, ultimately, to reclaim the whole of China. The KMT was thus eager to implant traditional Chinese culture and values on the See Lin Ji-Wen. Research into the Wartime Mobilisation Structure of the Late Japanese Period 1930-1945. Taipei: Daoxiang Publisher, 1996, pp 217-227.

The Republic of China is commonly known as ‘Taiwan’ or ‘Chinese Taipei’ and it is often confused with the ‘People’s Republic of China’ (PRC), which refers to Mainland (Communist) China. The name ‘Republic of China’ was first proposed by Dr Sun Yat-Sen, as the national term during a revolutionary alliance’s meeting in Mainland China in 1905, and was officially adopted in 1912 after more than two thousand years of dynastic control, ending with the Qing Dynasty, the imperial power in China for more than two hundred and fifty years (1644-1911).

Thus, 1912 is referred to as the first year of the ROC. At the beginning of 1928, the Republic of China was ruled by the KMT as an authoritarian one-party state. In 1949, the KMT government in Nanjing relocated to Taiwan after losing the civil war against the Chinese Communists. The Republic of China was therefore re-established in Taiwan and continued to declare itself as the sole authorised government of China, despite the fact that the PRC denied the legitimacy of the ROC government. More information can be found in Fenby, Jonathan. Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the China He Lost. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2003, pp 27-367 and Taiwan: Government Information Office, Republic of China. http://www.gio.gov.tw/mp.asp.

M. Turner, © 2008 island whilst in China itself, the Chinese government, guided by communist doctrine, was beginning to criticise traditional values by declaring the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). As a result, it is Taiwan that has maintained the essence of traditional Chinese culture and language; Confucian patriarchy has, therefore, been preserved in Taiwanese society.33 To summarise Taiwan’s colonial history, I propose a chronological list, as follows: the Dutch conquest (1624-1661), Spanish occupation (1626-1641), Chinese settlement (1661-1895), Japanese colonisation (1895-1945) and Nationalist control (1945-1987).34 Owing to this kind of intricate history of Taiwan, postcolonial literature is useful to identify some possible ideas of Taiwanese identities. At this point, it should be emphasised that before the Han (Mainlanders) came to settle in Taiwan in the late 17th century, the aboriginal people had lived in Taiwan for thousands of years. Since my research aims to explore the complicated ideas of Taiwanese identities, it is indispensable to being with investigating the existence of the aboriginals who currently number ‘some four hundred thousand, about two percent of Taiwan’s population’.35 Shih Shu-Mei also proposes the same view and states that ‘“[c]lassical Chinese culture” was one of the legitimizing mechanisms for the [KMT’s] rule of Taiwan – the logic being that the Republic of China in Taiwan, not communist China, was the preserver of the authentic Chinese culture […]’. Shih, Shu-Mei. Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations Across the Pacific. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007, p 4.





The Dutch did not occupy the whole of Taiwan, therefore the Spanish still held some part of the island during the Dutch colonisation. I determine the period, from 1945 to 1987, as the time of the Nationalists’ control. It is from the time when the Chinese Nationalist government took over Taiwan from the Japanese to the time when martial law was revoked. Despite the fact that the Chinese Mainlanders still held the power in many aspects of the Taiwanese people’s lives at the early stage of the post-martial law era, I still determine the ending of ‘Nationalist control’, to be the time when martial law was suspended in Taiwan. In Chapter 1, I will address in more detail Taiwan’s even more complicated historical narratives and conflicts after it was taken over by the Chinese Nationalist party after World War II.

See Morris, op cit, p 7.

M. Turner, © 2008 There are (political) debates about the origins of the aboriginals in Taiwan (which includes fourteen groups of lowland peoples and nine groups of mountain people), the most recognised of which may be found in the ‘Theories of Southern Origin’.36 In these theories, the aboriginal tribes are all descendants of settlers from around the Malay Archipelago, including Indonesia and the Philippines, where the Austronesian languages are used.37 Being marginal in Taiwan’s society and historical narratives, they were not recognised as the ‘first arrivals’ or the ‘original inhabitants’ (Yuan-Chu-Min) of Taiwan, until Lee Teng-Hui’s (Taiwan’s first Taiwan-born and democratically elected president, 1992-2000) speech at the ‘Taiwanese Aboriginal Cultural

–  –  –

schoolbooks, state that the Han immigrants pushed the aboriginals from the Western plains into the mountains, thus ‘the mountain aborigines are the descendants of these displaced plains peoples’.39 However, Melissa Brown asserts that ‘[m]any plains [a]boriginals did not migrate; of those who did, many migrated only a short distance from their original villages’.40 Plains aborigines who did not flee to the mountains have long since been sinocised (or Chinesised, or Chinesified) in Han society.

The ‘Theories of Southern Origin’ is proposed and supported by several anthropologists, including Dutch Indologist Hendrik Kern, Canadian missionary George Leslie Mackay, anthropologists Janet Montgomery, Miyamoto Nobuto, Shih Ming and Michael Stainton.

Details about their arguments in support of the ‘Theories of Southern Origin’ and the numbers of different aboriginal groups can be found in Stainton, Michael ‘The Politics of Taiwan Aboriginal Origins’ in Rubinstein (ed), op cit, pp 27-42.

Ibid. These arguments have proved that the saying that Taiwan has an ancient-historical relationship with Mainland China is not true, but merely serves political purposes. Shih Ming also addressed this argument in Ming, Shih. Four-Hundred-Year History of the Taiwanese People. San Jose: Paradise Culture Associates, 1980, p 15.

In Lee’s speech, he argued that ‘[a]boriginal people in Taiwan must definitely not place themselves outside the whole society of Taiwan. People must have self-confidence and be far sighted, and no matter what, integrate into the larger whole of society bringing out the special characteristics of aboriginal people as part of the mainstream’. See Stainton, op cit, p 42.

Brown (2004), op cit, p 35.

Ibid., p 255.

M. Turner, © 2008 For centuries, the Han had viewed the aborigines as ‘barbarians’ and they were either ‘raw’ (Sheng) or ‘cooked’ (Shu) according to their degrees of sinocisation (or Chinesisation or Chinesification). In other words, no matter how ‘raw’ or ‘cooked’ the aborigines are, they have integrated into Han’s society to some extent. St é phane Corcuff states that ‘Taiwanese intellectuals have started to show that the multiplicity of Taiwanese historical experiences invalidates a linear history of the island viewed through the Han Chinese prism’.41 I therefore demonstrate that the complexity of Taiwan’s (ethnic) history cannot be simply studied through the history of the Han’s immigration to, and their subsequent development of, the island.

During my research period 1996-2003, there were only two major women’s

exhibitions which invited aboriginal artists to participate; Mind and Spirit:

Taiwanese Women’s Arts in Taiwan (Fine Arts Museum of Taipei, 1998) and Journey of the Spirits (Kaohsiung Fine Arts Museum, 2000-2001). However, these two shows were curated largely to celebrate the power of sisterhood without a strong notion related to the central concern of my thesis, therefore, I have not included them in my research. As to the fact that no aboriginal artists participated in the exhibitions selected in my research, I shall briefly examine some artworks produced by them before investigating selected shows.

Aboriginal Taiwanese are considered to be skilful in fabric arts and they are Corcuff, Stéphane. ‘Conclusion: History, The Memories of the Future’ in Corcuff, Stéphane (ed). Memories of the Future: National Identity Issues and the Search for a New Taiwan. New York and London: M.E. Sharpe, 2002, p 249.

M. Turner, © 2008 fond of using beads as materials for their embroidery. One of the known aboriginal women artists who produces embroidery and fabric works is Ruei-Sz-Ruo-Sz, and one currently well-established aboriginal artist is Wu Diing-Wuu Walis (a half aboriginal). Wu created The Invisible Project (2001-2002) [fig 2 and fig 3], which consists of historical photographs of Taiwan’s aboriginals and a video installation revealing their fate, being killed or expelled by Chinese Han or the Japanese colonisers during their ‘development’ of and occupation of the island. The historian, Pan An-Yi, describes how Wu’s passion for creating art concerning the aboriginal is ‘a result of the rising consciousness of marginalised groups in the post-martial law era’.42 Wu’s work, covering issues of the marginal parts of Taiwan’s society, has a similar motivation to that of my own research, also aiming to reveal the stories of hidden women whom are considered to be the victims of Chinese (and also Japanese) patriarchal ideology.

The fact that there are not many aboriginal Taiwanese artists exhibiting their works in official museums or galleries indicates that there exists a sense of preference for Westernised, rather than indigenous works. The Taiwanese who are ‘more’ Westernised are mainly Han, rather than the aborigines, the majority of whom still maintain their traditional lifestyle and culture.

Additionally, artworks and exhibitions which explicitly examine issues of national and gender identity are mainly produced and curated by Hans, who

–  –  –

prejudice against the aboriginals when selecting artists for contemporary Pan, An-Yi. ‘Contemporary Taiwanese Art in the Era of Contention’ in Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Contemporary Taiwanese Art in Era of Contention. Exh. Cat., Taipei, 2004, p 39.

M. Turner, © 2008 exhibitions, which highlights the fact that there is a sense of superiority in those who appear to be ‘Westernised’ rather than those who are comparatively more ‘traditional’ in the Taiwanese artistic community.43 The issues of Westernisation will be addressed throughout this thesis, as Taiwan is confronting the trends of globalisation and seeking its position in the contemporary world environment.

Taiwanese Women and Transnational Feminism Women, being the inferior sex in Confucian philosophy, have struggled to maintain a consistent gender identity and their position in Taiwanese society

–  –  –

Movements have played an important role in the changing social environment as they have helped to visualise women artists’ practice. Before examining Taiwanese women’s art in more detail in the light of my research, I shall give an outline history of Women’s Movements in Taiwan.



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