Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender

By Sheldon Hsiao-Peng Lu | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Constructing a Nation Taiwanese History and the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien June Yip

One of the most crucial factors that binds a group of people into a "nation" is "the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories,"1 a shared heritage which, through repetition, creates and reinforces a sense of historical continuity and sense of community. Since its retreat from the Chinese mainland and assumption of control of Taiwan after World War II, therefore, the ruling Guomindang (Kuomintang) government has skillfully deployed the rhetoric of nation to integrate Taiwan into a larger "Chinese" cultural identity and to weave a seamless narrative of Chinese nationhood that ignores differences that could in any way separate the island from the Mainland. Chiang Kai-shek understood well the critical importance of constructing spatial and temporal continuity between Taiwan and the continent and insisted from the outset that "the promotion of civic education must pay special attention to the teaching of 'Chinese History' and 'Chinese Geography.'"2 Through what Benedict Anderson has called the "political museumization"3 of the Chinese heritage of the Mainland -- historical, sociological, aesthetic, and archeological-the Guomindang government has sought to consecrate Taiwan as the rightful heir to China's five-thousand- year imperial tradition. Conveniently elided from their accounts of the historical tradition, of course, have been the "interruptions" of the civil warwith the Communists, the retreat of the Nationalists to Taiwan, and, most important, its violent assertion of control on the island. Hence the institutionalized remembrance and careful preservation of a coherent "Chinese" tradition by the Guomindang government was coupled with an "organized forgetting"4 that included the systematic suppression of the island's aboriginal past, of local history, and of Taiwan's complex heritage of non-Chinese colonization, particularly its development under the Dutch ( 1624-1662) and the Japanese ( 1895-1945). In short, any historical experience that would mark Taiwan's differences from China has long been downplayed or omitted altogether from the official culture of the island.

Just as its native identity was organized into oblivion by historical and

-139-

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