Thursday, May 29, 2008

Taiwan, the New World

The Taiwanese people came to Taiwan in search of a new world. First the fathers of the fathers of the Austronesians came across the Taiwan Strait. Their descendants then from Taiwan sailed southeast and southwest to distant horizons, eventually all the way to Madagascar off Africa, and to New Zealand, and to Hawaii. Then afterwards, four centuries ago, the Hoklo crossed, then the Hakka, and they took wives from the Austronesians of the Western plains and upland hills. These all are the peoples of Taiwan.

They were pioneers as surely as the immigrants to the The New World of the Americas. Though their crossing was shorter, they shared the experience recounted by Clive Owen's character, Sir Walter Raleigh in the 2007 movie, Elizabeth: The Golden Years --

"Can you imagine what it is to cross an ocean. For weeks you see nothing but the horizon. Perfect and empty. You live in the grip of fear, fear of storms, fear of sickness on board, fear of the immensity. So you must drive that fear deep down into your belly, study your charts, watch your compass, pray for a fair wind, and hope -- pure, naked, fragile hope.

At first, it's no more than a haze on the horizon. So you watch. You watch. Then there's a smudge, a shadow on the far water, so you wait, for a day, for another day. The stain slowly spreads along the horizon taking form, until, on the third day, you let yourself believe, you dare to whisper the word, "Land." "Land!" Life, resurrection, a true adventure, coming out of the vast unknown, out of the immensity, into new life. That, your majesty, is the New World."

Finally in the New World of Taiwan, the refugees from China came in 1949 but their leaders were not in search of a new world; they held on to their old world of the overthrown Manchu empire and the warlords days. They tried to force the Taiwanese to become their subjects, and they set up a fiction of a "Republic of China" that had already been lost with their defeat in China by the communists.

We hope their descendants in Taiwan will embrace the New World.

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