November 12 – Happy Birthday, Sun Yat-sen

Posted on November 12, 2014

PRC in pale yellow.
ROC in bright red.
To the east, we have...China! And to the west, we have...China!

As long as I have been alive, there has been tension about Taiwan and China. The Republic of China ruled mainland China and claimed sovereignty over Outer Mongolia from 1912 until 1949, when a civil war ended in defeat for the ROC. The winner of the Chinese civil war was the Communist Party, who set up a new nation called the People's Republic of China (PRC). 

The government and many people of the ROC fled to Taiwan and the smaller surrounding islands.

And for decades, both the ROC and the PRC claimed to be the “real” China. For a while, both Chinas were forthright with intentions to, eventually, take control over the other. The enormous, populous PRC has always maintained that it is the only legal representation of China and has always claimed Taiwan as one of its provinces. Until 1992, the ROC maintained its goal of “taking back” the mainland—and even China's seat at the U.N.!

Of course, this big mess left the whole world struggling with the question of who to recognize as a country, and who to set up diplomatic relations with. Awkward is way too tame of a word for this mess!

What does all of that mess have to do with today?

Well, today's famous birthday, Sun Yat-sen, was a Chinese revolutionary who helped wrest control of China away from the conservative Qing Dynasty, who refused to adopt knowledge and technology from other nations. Sun was a medical doctor, but he quit practicing medicine in order to endure countless difficulties along the way to revolution against the Qing government. Finally, he helped found the new Republic of China and was elected its first president.

Sun Yat-sen ended up dying of liver cancer in 1925—he was only 58 years old! And unfortunately, there was quite the power struggle after he died—arguably, the split between the two Chinas coming right out of that power struggle. If Sun had lived to be 88, I wonder if there would have been such a split?

At any rate, Sun Yat-sen is one of the people that is honored, even revered, both in the ROC and the PRC.

Some stuff about Taiwan...

  • According to the Snarky Nomad, instead of the high school students changing classrooms in order to switch teachers and subjects – and milling around and bumping each other during changing period – the students stay put and the teachers switch classrooms. That sounds sorta kinda efficient, BUT:  
(1) That means that the students are sitting WAY too much. And they are sitting in the same place in the same room, next to the same kids – all day long! That's...pretty terrible in some ways, and I guess okay in a few ways. I guess you better hope you get a seat you like, next to students you like, on that first day! Because that's it, all day, for the rest of the year!
(2) I would hope that a biology class would have different STUFF in the room than a world history class, and that both would have different stuff than a physics class, art class, or government class. The fact that the teachers, not students, switch classrooms makes me wonder if there are any interesting subject-specific maps or posters or equipment or lab set ups or materials at all!
  • A lot of people who live in apartments live in tall, skinny apartments that have three stories and just two rooms per story. So, Taiwanese people are probably going up and down stairs all day long!

  • Apparently, there are so many 7-11s in Taiwan, you can easily take a picture of a 7-11 from inside another 7-11! (Like this photo, right, taken by Lord Koxinga.)
  • Garbage trucks play music, like ice cream trucks in the U.S., so that business and home owners can hear them coming and run outside to dispose of their trash!

  • Notice, there is a 7-11 in the photo!
    There are quite a few “night markets” in Taiwan. Some of the favorite street foods purchased at these markets include oyster omelets and “stinky tofu.”

  • OK, this one is just upsetting: More than one restaurant in Taiwan has a toilet theme. Not only do customers sit on toilets, they also eat out of bowls that look like miniature toilets!

  • Two more sorts of themed restaurants available in Taiwan are a Hello Kitty cafe and a Barbie-themed restaurant.

  • Taiwan (the island) used to be named Formosa.
  • The entire island has free Wi-Fi!

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