I often used to stroll through the Taipei 228 Peace Memorial Park of an evening. It’s a rather very male-orientated location after dark, but a great place to meet friends, particularly around the gate that opens onto Ketagalan Boulevard. These young guys will always greet you with a smile and seem very friendly and willing to offer a hand to anyone who might need it, especially foreign visitors.
In the daytime, not far from that gate, you can visit the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, a testament to the brutality of the KMT dictatorship that ran Taiwan for 50 years. The old building used to be a radio station under the Japanese regime, I think. There’s not a lot to see or hear in English there but it gives you a bit of an idea of what went down during the massacres of thousands of Taiwanese that started on 28 February, 1947. Some of the protesters during these events actually took control of the station.
Outside, in front of the building and near the boards displaying rows of faces of the murdered, is a plant. Withered, half dead and very pathetic-looking, it is a giant white spider lily, known as a hamayuu in Japanese. Apparently this plant became a symbol of peace in Japan as it was the only form of vegetation growing in a 2-kilometer radius from the epicentre of Ground Zero, the point where the atomic bomb levelled Hiroshima in 1945.
On the 12th Memorial Service for the Victims of the 228 Incident in 2005 (I suppose people weren’t allowed to commemorate the event before 1993) it was given to then Mayor (and now President) Ma Ying-jeou as a symbol of peace by the Chairman of the 228 Incident Association Te-sung Liao on behalf of two Japanese citizens. Ma and various other officials then planted it here “in the hope that humanity, just like the hamayuu, will rise with vitality and determination to oppose war and pursue peace.”
If humanity’s hopes are tied to this plant then it looks like we’re all royally screwed, cos this plant is in a right old state. Amazingly, every time I pass, it is still clinging to life like a plant my mum got me for my room at uni years ago. I wonder if the KMT types are giving it just enough sustenance to hang on, just so they can sneer at the puny little Japanese weed.
Whatever, it’s pretty shabby way to treat something that was given in a spirit of humanity.