Freedom at last

Freedom Square - four characters just installed on the gate of Taiwan Democracy Hall, 8 Dec 2007

I saw the characters of 大中至正 taken down from the main gate of Taiwan Democracy Hall last night. Then tonight at 6:30pm the final one of the four characters 自由廣場  meaning “Freedom Square”, was put in place. They seemed to spend a lot of time adjusting the right hand part of the 場 into position. It still looks a bit wrong to my eyes.

Expect further controversy about this issue. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with aesthetics. I have already heard several people criticise the choice of script. I am no expert on this, but I welcome other’s comments.

A few other bloggers have also published their opinions and photos. Alton writes about the change. Poagao also has his say. And there were plenty of comments on my post about the issue yesterday.

Four characters removed from Democracy Hall

Main gate of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, 9:37pm 6 Dec 2007

9:37pm, 6 December 2007

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 4:52pm 7 Dec 2007

4:52pm, 7 December 2007 

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 5:26pm 7 Dec 2007

5:26pm, 7 December 2007

Taiwan Democracy Memorial Main Gate, 5:28pm 7 Dec 2007

5:28pm, 7 December 2007

Just before darkness fell on Taipei City this evening two workmen completed the removal of the four characters 大中至正 (dàzhōng zhìzhèng) from the main gate of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (國立臺灣民主紀念館). It was the latest step in the renaming of the Hall. Back in May the central government changed the name from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念館) to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. The four characters on the main gate also refer to Chiang Kai-shek. The government plans to replace them with 自由廣場 (zìyóu guǎngchǎng), which means Freedom Square.  

Lines of media satellite news vans at the main gate on Taiwan Democracy Hall on 7 Dec 2007

A crowd of a few hundred people and a huge media contigent gathered to watch the historic occassion. There was a small number protesting the change, while the vast majority were either in support or just wanting to witness the moment. There was also a large police presence and they formed a wall across the middle of the area in front of the gate. The red and blue protesters were kept on one side and the green supporters on the other.

A few other bloggers have commented on the name change. Michael Turton has written about AFP reporting on the issue. At Taiwan Matters Feiren has a post on the incident yesterday were several people were hit by a truck and one person was seriously injured. Spinning the Globe witnessed the incident. Tim Maddog also has some comments about this and other issues. 

Earlier this year I wrote about some of my ideas for transforming the space around the Hall. However, I know that many people in Taipei have a sense of attachment to the Hall. While I support the removal of the references to Chiang Kai-shek, I think more thought could have been given to the new names and there should have been some sort of process of consultation. Your comments and opinions are most welcome on this blog!

Ma Ying-jeou gets on his bike

Ma Ying-jeou sets off on his bike ride photo from China TimesTaipei's most famous jogger, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), has taken a new interest in cycling. Yesterday he set off from the southern tip of Taiwan on a ten day bike ride to the northern tip of Taiwan. 

Yam News reports:


KMT Presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou yesterday set off from Taiwan's southernmost point Eluanbi. He will ride for ten days and 640 kilometres on a "Youth going forward make Taiwan smile" bike ride. On 20 May he will reach Taiwan's northernmost point, Fugui Lighthouse. When Ma started the ride he raised his arm and shouted, "It feels great to leave behind Taipei politics!" [English translation by David]

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang at a Bicycle Day event on 5 May 2007Looking at Ma's bike ride blog it seems that Ma is riding a Merida bike. Compare this with a photo of Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) at a Bicycle Day event earlier this month. Su was dressed in Giant livery. It seems that major bicycle manufacturers in Taiwan are also divided along political lines. They are both wearing yellow jerseys, the color traditionally worn by the leading rider in a bike race. 

Chinese-language media and promotion for the event make much of the use of the word tiěmǎ (鐵馬), which literally means iron horse, but also means bicycle. Mǎ (馬), meaning horse, is also Ma's surname. 

I wonder what bright idea DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) might come up with to match Ma's effort.