Do they know what history actually is?
Historiography refers to both the study of the methodology of historians and development of history as a discipline, and also to a body of historical work on a particular subject. Few laymen know what it is. The methodology is guided by the dictum of Leopold von Rranke, a founder of modern sourcebased history. Historians have to write “wie es eigentliche gewesen.”
The traditional translation of the phrase in English is “As it actually is.” But a more exact translation is “As it is actually seen ( by historians),” “gewesen” meaning “seen” in English. Historians may have different views of historical events and are free to write them as they have “actually seen.”
That is why British historians write the American Revolution as a revolt, Texan school textbooks condemn President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a reactionary, and some Japanese history textbooks claim there was no Rape of Nanking and Japan’s aggression on China is mentioned as “an advance ( ),” the latter a controversy that prompted an apology from the Chief Cabinet Secretary in 1982.
Though historians can write history as they actually see, the educational authorities have the right to censor school textbooks. Even the Vatican has continued to exercise the right of censorship. The censorship is done in accordance with the curriculum guidelines of the Ministry of Education in Taiwan.
Before World War II, Chinese
historians wrote a history of Taiwan as it was “actually seen” by them. After Taiwan was retroceded to the Republic of China at the end of the war, history textbooks published in Beijing and Shanghai were used in Taiwan. There was little mention of Taiwan. As a matter of fact, Taiwan was mentioned as a colony of the Dutch in the 17th century, which Koxinga terminated by driving the Dutch out, and then was annexed by Qing China that ceded it to Japan in 1895 for a halfcentury colonial rule before its retrocession in 1945.
Things began to change toward the end of President Lee Teng-hui’s 12-year-long rule and under President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party government. Curriculum guidelines were published to censor senior high school historical textbooks that make mention of Taiwan’s postwar historical events. Moreover, the history of Taiwan is no more part of Chinese history.
The new guidelines are considered to de-Sinicize and Taiwanize the history of Taiwan. On Jan. 27 last year, however, the Ministry of Education made a “fine adjustment ( )” in the curriculum guidelines, which went into force last Saturday. That angered the opposition party, which regards the revision as re-Sinicizing the history of Taiwan. Litigation was initiated against the “black box operation ( )” of the Curriculum Guidelines Review Commission (CGRC) of the Ministry of Education. The Taiwan High Administrative Court ruled in February that the CGRC failed to follow the procedural process and ordered publication of all oral debates taking place in all the CGRC meetings before making final adjustments. The court decision sired a Federation Against High School Curriculum Guidelines, which organized a demonstration before the Ministry of Education on July 23.
Twenty- four students, 11 of them below 20 years of age, six protesters, and three reporters intruded into the Ministry of Education and occupied the office of Minister Wu Se-hwa shortly after midnight à la the occupation by Sunflower student protestors on March 18 last year. Police arrested them for trespassing, but released them on bail after interrogation.
On the other hand, Minister Wu decided to prosecute the 24 students, while Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party and its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election and all of the party’s mayors and magistrates are demanding that legal proceedings be not initiated. One of the students, Lin Kuang-hua, committed suicide on July 30, his 20th birthday.
Lin’s death triggered a 500-strong sit-in protest at the Ministry of Education, naming Minister Wu the murderer and demanding his resignation. Ko Wen-je, mayor of Taipei, ordered the police not to drive out the protesting students. The protest has continued, while the Legislative Yuan is going to decide whether an additional session will be held to have the finely adjusted curriculum guidelines retracted.
Of course, the students do not know how the history textbooks were revised in line with the adjusted curriculum guidelines. In fact, few of those scholars who dispute the changes can explain why they should oppose them. Let’s review the opposed changes.
“Aborigines” or “indigenous peoples” ( ) have been changed only in Chinese into
, which in English mean exactly the same as the term originally used, though the opponents consider it to suggest the writings of Pepohuan ( : Plains aborigines). “The period of international competition” ( ) has been changed to “the period of international competition between the Han Chinese, the Dutch and the Spanish” ( · ·
), and condemned as Chinese chauvinism. “Rule by the House of Zeng” ( ) has become “Ming- Zeng rule” ( )— “rule of Taiwan by Zeng Chenggong” or Koxinga changed to “rule by Koxinga and his son and grandson” — and opposed as Sini- cization of Taiwan’s history. The fact is that the House of Zeng ruled Taiwan as part of Ming China.
“Japanese rule” has been rewritten as “Japanese colonial rule,” which is opposed as not objective, albeit Japan also uses the same term. “Takeover of Taiwan” ( ) has been renamed “Taiwan’s retrocession” ( ), and criticized as a historical judgment, though it actually is an euphemism meaning “recovery.” “Dutch and Spanish rule of Taiwan” ( · ) has been called “Dutch and Spanish arrival” ( ·
), which should be changed to “Dutch and Spanish intrusion into Taiwan” ( · ). “Multicultural development” ( ) has been changed to “Chinese and multicultural development” (
), and opposed because of the emphasis on Chinese culture. Omission of the Hamada Yahei and Matao Incidents has been criticized for not mentioning the importance of relations between Taiwan and Japan. The change of the “Qing court’s Taiwan policy” ( ) from “Qing China’s Taiwan policy” ( ) did not make it into the final version because it did not treat Ming and Qing as different dynasties. “Comfort women” ( ) is now described as being “forced to serve” (
), though some of them were not compelled, while Taiwan’s war of resistance against Japan (
) was newly added. The fact is that there is little cause to oppose all the changes, except for opponents’ wish to deSinicize the history of Taiwan and eulogize Japan’s colonial rule.