July 2-8, 2012
Editorial: Developing new and unique Taiwanese stories
Translated by Lydia Ma
Now that summer vacation is finally here, many churches have begun to hold summer camps for children. Most of these summer camps include art lessons, English lessons, and Bible stories. However the curriculum being used for this year’s summer camp at Taipei East Gate Presbyterian Church is a book called “Taiwan: True and Beautiful”. This curriculum, published by East Gate Church in collaboration with Taiwan Church Press, presents biblical teachings as well as distinguished Taiwanese heroes and purposely excludes art classes.
Before the term “children’s camp” became popular in the past 20 years, “summer schools” were offered in many places across Taiwan. These sessions over the summer were first introduced around 1921 by Chiang Wei-shui who founded “Taiwanese Cultural Association” for the purpose of educating the masses. The classes sought to teach young people about local culture and help them develop as sense of national identity.
Chiang was one of the most important figures in the colonial resistance movement in his time. He observed that Taiwanese had developed a “chronic disease” in the past 200 years under the rule of the Manchu dynasty and the Japanese government. He saw that society was filled with moral decadence, materialism, shallow mindsets, laziness, opportunism, and lifelessness among other ills. He once wrote that Taiwanese people “do not bother to look ahead and only focus on immediate petty gains.”
For this reason, Taiwanese Cultural Association began to promote its own summer schools and call on talented youths and students who had studied abroad to become speakers. These summer schools were later promoted across the country and Taiwanese began to slowly rid themselves of their colonial mentality and develop their own sense of national identity.
It seems like Taiwanese’s customs of “not bothering to look ahead and focusing only on immediate petty gains” has gotten worse under the past and present KMT government. This problem has been further compounded by confusion over their identity as the KMT began to spread lies or revise Taiwan’s history and forbid people from telling their own stories. There was a time when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s life and actions were grossly embellished in order to paint him as a national hero.
A more recent example is the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) revision of Taiwanese history books under the direction of the Ma administration. According to reports, the MOE recently changed school textbooks so that references to “China” appear instead as “Chinese Communist Government”, thus dragging the national understanding of Taiwan back to “One China, two interpretations”. Furthermore, the MOE has gone to great lengths to promote a “Greater Chinese Culture” at the expense of Taiwanese multiculturalism.
Taiwan’s national circumstance and Taiwanese’s understanding of their own identity right now seems to be worse than in 1921. That is the reason why we need a non-governmental curriculum to awaken people’s hearts and minds. We hope that “Taiwan: True and Beautiful” will help today’s children the same way Chiang Wei-shui’s “summer schools” helped children during his time.
Because stories are important means of awakening a sense of national consciousness, we hope that the stories in this book, which include famous stories of indigenous evangelists, doctors, and historians that are well known amongst Taiwanese churches, will also become well-known by the general public in due time. We hope that these stories will become unique Taiwanese stories for future generations to read and that they will go a long way in nurturing and awakening a sense of Taiwanese identity.