Do they know what history ac­tu­ally is?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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