Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Last week I was very excited when I was contacted by Michael Richardson of the Boston Progressive Examiner. He told me that he was writing an eight part review of the English language version of Su Beng's book Taiwan's 400 Year History. The abridged English version is around 150 pages long, just a fraction of the Mandarin Chinese language version, which in its most recent form consists of 3 volumes; the first volume is over 700 pages, the second over 180 pages and the third is over 1500 pages long. Unfortunately, I can't read Chinese well enough, so I myself haven't read the Chinese language version of Taiwan's 400 Years of History. I have always thought that it would be wonderful if someday, someone would do a complete translation of the Chinese language version of the book into English or other languages.
Here is Mr. Richardson's first book review article:
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--author Su Beng (1 of 8)
March 13, 4:02 PM
By Michael Richardson
Su Bing is the pen name of Si Tiau-hui and means "history clearly" in the native Hoklo language. Commonly known as Su Beng throughout Taiwan, Bing is the spelling used in the English translation of his classic history book, Taiwan's 400 Year History. Born November 9, 1918, in Su Lin Town in Taipei, Su Beng attended college in Japan at Waseda University.
Su left Japan in 1942 and joined forces with the Chinese Communists. Su eventually became disillusioned with the totalitarianism of the Communist Party and in 1949 returned to the land of his birth where he quickly became active in the Taiwan independence movement.
In 1952, Su founded the Taiwan Army Corps and began stockpiling weapons to overthrow the regime of Chiang Kai-shek. After the plot was discovered Su had to flee to Japan as a stowaway to avoid capture and execution.
Su Beng opened a popular noodle shop to pay the bills while he continued his activism. Su began work on the history of Taiwan while he also indoctrinated visitors to his shop on Taiwan independence.
In 1962, the Japanese version of the book was published in Japan. In 1980, a Chinese version was published in the United States. The Chinese edition is in three volumes and is over 2,400 pages in length. An abridged English version was published in 1986. The book was banned in Taiwan under Kuomintang martial law that brutally controlled the island for decades.
Journalist Jack Anderson suggested the use of Bing rather than Beng to make it more friendly to American readers. Anderson gave a dedication to the book, "Truth and wisdom will free all people living on Taiwan."
Su Beng made clandestine trips to Taiwan risking his life to promote the independence movement. Su also became an international speaker with trips to the United States and South America to meet with Taiwanese expatriates following the publication of his book.
The book, the first history of Taiwan by a native Taiwanese author, has been hailed as a classic work of the island's political history. The tone of the writing reflects Su's early Marxist days but has been widely acknowledged as an objective historical work despite its pronounced perspective.
After martial law was lifted and Su Beng could return to Taiwan without facing arrest, the tireless champion of independence returned from his 40-year exile in 1993. Su Beng, now 90, lives in Taipei where he continues to speak out for self-determination, democracy and independence.
Because Su Beng's book was long suppressed and now is out of print, many are not familiar with his work. In the public interest of being better informed about Taiwan and its unresolved international legal status, a special Examiner multi-part book review covering the key points of Su Beng's research follows.
Here are my comments on Mr. Richardson's article:
Thank you so much for shedding some light on Taiwan and Su Beng's book "Taiwan's 400 Year History." This is one of the most accurate English language articles that I have seen written about Su Beng.
As his English biographer, there are two things mentioned in this article that I'd like to clarify:
1) The "visitors" to the noodle shop, that Su Beng indoctrinated were most likely invited and special arrangements were made for them to travel from Taiwan to Japan to meet with and be trained by Su Beng.
2) Regarding what you have written here: "After martial law was lifted and Su Beng could return to Taiwan without facing arrest, the tireless champion of independence returned from his 40-year exile in 1993." This is not entirely correct. When Su Beng returned to Taiwan from Japan in 1993, he had made one of his clandestine trips from Japan to Taiwan and news of his return was somehow leaked out and so he was actually arrested in Tainan somewhere on the highway while he was in a car driving from Kaohsiung to Chiayi bound for Ilan. He was charged and appeared before a judge. There are several outstanding charges against Su Beng, which are quite complex for me to explain here, but interestingly, he has never served a day in a prison for any of them.
You can read parts 2-8 of Mr. Richardson's book review here:
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Taiwan's aborigines (2 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Dutch imperial mercantilism (3 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Chinese feudal aristocracy (4 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Japanese imperialism (5 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Chiang 'secret agent' regime (6 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Taiwanese revolutionary movements (7 of 8)
Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Present tasks of the Taiwanese people (8 of 8)