Sunday, October 24, 2010

1 minute video pitch about Su Beng for TEDxEast

Beyond all that Su Beng has contributed to the fight for Taiwan's independence, I believe that his personal life story offers a powerful message that I want to share with the world.

Recently, I learned that I could enter for a chance to be selected to give a 3 minute talk at TEDxEast in New York, on November 11, 2010. All I had to do was to submit a 1 minute video pitch by October 24, 2010. It certainly wasn't quite as easy as it sounds, but I'm happy to announce that I've submitted an entry which you can view here:

TEDxEast brings the spirit of the TED conference to New York City- hosting some of the world's most fascinating thinkers, doers and teachers to inspire attendees to create greater impact with their ideas. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Noodle Shop That Could

These days, Su Beng is now in Tokyo trying to turn his noodle shop’s business around. But back in its heyday (in the 1960’s and 70s) it was quite the cash cow.

The address of Su Beng's noodle shop (2005). Photo by F. Lin.

Su Beng used the noodle shop's earnings to to fund the underground Taiwan independence movement. He recruited activists for his underground network, which was a sort of continuation of the Taiwan Army Corps (the group he'd organized to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek in the 1950s). In 1952 he had fled from Taiwan not only to avoid arrest, but also to protect the operatives of this group. At the time, Taiwan was still under martial law, which lasted until 1987. The February 28, 1947 (2-28) massacre, marked the beginning of this extremely oppressive period of time in Taiwan’s history. Protests had erupted over the brutal beating and arrest of a woman peddling cigarettes and the killing of a bystander. In response, the Chinese Nationalists cracked down on the people of Taiwan and 18,000 to 28,000 people were murdered. During the period of time which followed, known as the White Terror Era, Taiwanese people were prohibited from speaking their native Aborigine, Holo Taiwanese and Hakka languages, and political dissidents were jailed at a penitentiary on Green Island, located off the eastern coast of Taiwan. There were even assassinations of politically active Taiwanese in the U.S. and Taiwan, some of which happened in the 1980s. (To read more about 2-28, click here.)

In the 1960s Su Beng began inviting fledgling activists in Taiwan to meet with him in Japan. He'd then arrange and pay for each individual's travel expenses and accommodations. He'd even provide them with a modest allowance during their stay. Activists would undergo training at the noodle shop with Su Beng. His teachings involved discussions about why Taiwan should be independent and tactics for committing acts of urban guerrilla warfare- designed to destabilize the authoritarian rule of the Chiang regime (aka the Chinese Nationalist government) in Taiwan. In 1972, “The Revolutionary Army of Taiwan Independence” blew up railways in Taipei county, overturned military vehicles in Kaohsiung county and burned a factory of the Railway Bureau in Taipei.

Profits from the noodle shop were also used for bribes needed in order to obtain and smuggle out the Chinese Nationalists’ classified economic and statistical data; this data was reprinted and discussed in Su Beng’s Chinese language, Taiwan’s 400 Years of History (which was published in 1980). These statistics showed how the Chinese Nationalists’ (aka Kuomintang) civil servant examination system and procedures discriminated against the Taiwanese.

To read more about this topic in one of my previous blog posts click here.

After Su Beng left Japan to return to Taiwan in 1993, he set up the Taiwan Independence Action motorcade in 1994. The noodle shop's earnings paid for the purchase of a fleet of taxis and "propaganda trucks." Su Beng even provided the drivers of the taxis and vehicles gas allowance money.

A Taiwan Independence Action motorcade propaganda truck leads a string of taxis celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Taiwan Independence Action motorcade in Taipei, Taiwan (April 3, 2005). Photo by F. Lin.

For those of you wondering about the Taiwan Independence Action motorcade, I’m reposting quote from one of my previous posts to explain:

”The Taiwan Independence Action (獨立台灣會) motorcade has been making its rounds every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, for more than 10 years, since April 1994. Since returning to Taiwan in 1993, Su Beng has cultivated a grass roots following amongst taxi drivers and in 1994 Su Beng began organizing a group of taxis and trucks that form the weekly Taiwan Independence Action motorcade. On those afternoons, Su Beng himself would stand on a truck painted taxi cab yellow, with the words “獨立台灣會” or “Taiwan Independence Action” emblazoned on the side; he would speak over a megaphone and there would also be about 10 taxis in the procession. For nearly 2 hours, they would make their rounds around Taipei city and Taipei county.”

At present, the Taiwan Independence Action motorcade makes its weekly rounds in 3 major cities in Taiwan- Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Taipei.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Photos of Su Beng working at his noodle shop in Tokyo

Here are some photos of ninety-one year old Su Beng working at his noodle shop in Tokyo, which were recently posted on his facebook page!

The Genesis of Su Beng’s Tokyo Noodle Shop- PART III

With no one else selling Northern Chinese style dishes, the food stall was an instant success. In about 3 years time Su Beng had saved up enough money to buy a 2 story building which is where he opened the New Gourmet (新珍味) noodle shop. And so the food stall was closed. For years, Su Beng had been sending money earned from his food stall and later his noodle shop back into Taiwan to fund underground activists in Taiwan. Years later, in the early 1960s, 3 additional stories were built, making the building 5 stories tall.

It was here in the noodle shop that he wrote the Japanese language version of Taiwan’s 400 Years of History (which was published in 1962) and the Chinese language version (which was published in 1980). At first, he'd get up early in the morning to go to the library before opening the noodle shop to do some research. Libraries in Japan turned out to be a wealth of information on Taiwan, which had been a colony of Japan from 1895-1945. He would steal away some time during the day when business was slow to write the mammoth book.

"Su Beng" was the pen name he choose to write the book under to keep his identity secret. The character 史 (Su/Shi), means history and 明 (Beng/Ming), means clear. Taken together, they can be interpreted to mean to "clear history" or "clarify history." Later when word leaked out about his identity and the book he was writing, he had to write the book in secrecy. Ever since then, this nom de guerre seems to be the one that has stuck.

Su Beng’s 2000 page plus Chinese language version of Taiwan’s 400 Years of History. Photo courtesy of Su Beng.

NEXT: Learn how profits from the New Gourmet noodle shop paid for bribes to obtain the Chinese Nationalists' classified documents, funded activities of Su Beng’s underground network of Taiwan independence activists and their organized acts of urban guerrilla warfare.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Genesis of Su Beng’s Tokyo Noodle Shop- PART II

Su Beng decided that he’d make a living by opening up a food stall. Initially he thought about selling Taiwanese dishes. After all, the Japanese had colonized Taiwan for 50 years. But then he realized that there would be a larger market for Northern Chinese cuisine since less than three million Japanese had been repatriated from Taiwan after the colonial occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), but over ten million Japanese had been repatriated from Northern China. During World War II, many Japanese had been stationed in Northeast China and Su Beng thought that they surely must have missed many of the delicious Northern Chinese dishes that they'd had there. So he set up a food stall, selling Northern Chinese style dumplings and fried noodles near the Ikebukuro train station in Tokyo.

The food stall was a small space. Its footprint measured just 3 tatami mats. In Japan, square footage is commonly described in terms of tatami mats, which are commonly used as flooring in Japan. Tokyo tatami mats are said to measure .88 m by 1.76 m.

More than just a source of income for Su Beng and his partner Hiraga, the food stall was also a roof over their heads. Everyday they opened for business around 10-11am and closed up around 1 or 2am the next morning. With only running water, they'd use the washroom facilities at the nearby Ikebukuro train station and public bathes to bathe at the end of their long, greasy work days. At night, they slept in the stall's upper crawl space.

Ikebukuro train station (2005). Photo by F. Lin.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Genesis of Su Beng’s Tokyo Noodle Shop- PART I

This is the first of three parts explaining the genesis of Su Beng’s Tokyo noodle shop- which he is currently trying to rescue and revive.

When Su Beng's plot to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek was discovered in 1952, he was forced to escape out of martial law era Taiwan by stowing away in a ship exporting bananas to Japan. Though he survived the 5 day trip, and got safely off and away from the boat, he was later arrested for illegally entering the country.

After serving about 3-4 months, in a Kobe detention center, Su Beng was to be repatriated to Taiwan. But somehow "fate intervened" and when Su Beng was released, he was surprised to learn that he had been granted asylum in Japan. Suddenly he had to figure out how he'd make ends meet in post-World War II Japan, which was in shambles. However he was to make a living, he first vowed that he would continue his work for the cause of Taiwan. This meant that he'd need to have the means and flexibility to do so. Having been educated in Japan (at Waseda University), it would have been relatively easy for him to find a job, but he decided that instead of being under someone else's employ, it would be be best to work for himself.

At the time, many of the Taiwanese in Japan had opened up pachinko parlors, which had proven to be highly profitable. Pachinko machines are pinball-like machines used for amusement and gambling. When this was suggested as a "business proposition" to Su Beng, he rejected the idea. Not only was he looking for a way to earn a living, but for a way to fund the fight for Taiwan's independence, and to him it somehow didn't seem right to use gambling profits to fund the cause.

A present day pachinko parlor in Tokyo, Japan (2008). Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Serializing my posts

I'm going to try to do something different here by serializing some of my posts on specific topics since I realize that people don't always have the time or attention span to read long blog posts.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Su Beng at his noodle shop in Tokyo

Today I called Su Beng who is currently in Tokyo at his noodle shop in Ikebukuro. Though he needs to use a wheelchair to get around, he still manages to swim every day. He's been back there since late June, trying to reestablish his noodle shop's business. It's been tough. Business is just not the same.

After recently completing a draft of a sample chapter for his biography, I felt that I needed to talk to him to clarify a few things pertaining to the chapter. As always, he welcomed my call. His seemed to be in good spirits and his voice sounded strong.

He told me that it's pretty hot there in in Tokyo where the temperature is around 36-37 degrees Celsius, but he has no air conditioning there, just an electric fan. Being able to swim every day makes the heat a bit more bearable for him.

Sounds like he is planning to stay in Tokyo until November or December in order to try to get things up and running again at his noodle shop.

I am concerned about him being over there in the heat in his advanced age, but there is someone there looking after him. I also wonder how he can turn things around and what could possibly be done to improve the noodle shop's business.

In the coming months, I plan on having more telephone conversations with Su Beng, as I work through writing each chapter for the biography.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swimming Upstream

Su Beng has been a lot less ambulatory since he was hospitalized for kidney failure in Japan last November, but just recently, I heard from his assistant Bin Hong that he has taken up swimming in the mornings again. I am so heartened to hear this. For as long as I have known him, swimming has always been a part of his morning routine.

This man really has an amazing stamina and memory for his age. Most of my interviews with him, which were conducted at his residence in Sinjhuang, lasted nearly 6 hours. We'd start around 10:00 am, break for lunch and continue until 4:00 pm. As he talked to me about his life, he'd provide me with a historical context, effectively giving me a short history lesson in the process. I have found him to be extremely consistent as we have delved deeper into more detailed discussions of his key life experiences and many adventures. He has always been extremely generous- providing me with lunch in his home and has always accommodated my requests to meet and speak with him.

Since I have relocated to New York, we have continued to communicate via Skype and I look forward to more "virtual conversations" with him in the coming months. At times I am humbled by the magnitude of knowledge required to truly understand and tell this man's story.

In this caricature Su Beng is standing on the island of Taiwan which is surrounded by three sharks symbolized by the flags of China, the Kuomintang (aka Nationalist Chinese) party and United States of America. In his hand he wields a pen on one end and an ax on the other. The pen is one of his "weapons" to protect Taiwan; by writing Taiwan's 400 Years of History, he has awakened the political conscience of the people of Taiwan, giving them a sense of purpose and the will to fight for a free, and independent Taiwan. The ax is a weapon to kill the sharks circling Taiwan. And the globe has landed on Taiwan, symbolizing the need for the international community to keep it's eye on Taiwan. Su Beng believes that Taiwan needs more attention and support from the international community.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On May 20, 2010...

The Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade (獨立台灣會) and Su Beng called for a referendum on the free trade act between Taiwan and China (aka the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) and participated in a silent sit-in protest.

A protest to coincide with the second anniversary of President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) inauguration, was set to begin at noon in front of the Legislative Yuan on that day. Protesters planned a three day sit-in to increase pressure on the government to hold a referendum on its proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.

Read more about the 5/20 protest in these Taipei Times articles:

Here are some photos from that day:

The sign on this Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade truck reads:

Want freedom
Have to be independent first

The sign on the Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade truck reads:

Want democracy
Have to be independent first

Monday, May 10, 2010

Finished first draft of sample chapter for Su Beng's biography!

I have finished writing the first draft of an exciting sample chapter for the book proposal for the biography of Su Beng. The chapter I've chosen to highlight covers Su Beng's escape from Taiwan after his involvement in a plot to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek was discovered. In early 1952, after months of working as a laborer loading bananas onto the boats of a banana trading company, Su Beng was able to stow away in the cargo section of one of these boats en route to Japan. I've written briefly about his escape and the noodle shop that he eventually set up in Japan in a previous blog post here.

Of course I'll be sharing this first chapter with Su Beng himself and looking forward to some discussions with him over Skype about it, and other chapters that will be in the works soon.

Yesterday was the beginning of Taiwanese American Heritage week, and there's a facebook campaign going on to coincide with it. Participants are posting an image that reads "Taiwan is NOT part of China" as their profile photo to increase awareness of Taiwan's situation.

I've invited the tech-savvy 91 year old Su Beng who is on facebook to participate. So far it has generated some interesting comments and discussions for me on my facebook page.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More on Su Beng's March 14 appearance at Taiwan University

Lately I've noticed some new comments from people who have visited this blog and I want to thank everyone for their interest and encouragement. It is really very much appreciated. It is always amazing to see that people are finding my blog, reading it and interested in my project to document Su Beng's life.

Below are some photos from 文輔 許, which were taken at the Taiwan University event on March 14. You can see a slide show of photos from the event here: Bunhu Natea's album

Su Beng signs copies of "Crossing The Red Tide"

The March 14th event was reported on the evening news in Taiwan and you can watch it here:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crossing The Red Tide

At 9:00am on Sunday, March 14, 2010, Su Beng will be speaking at Taiwan University about his new book 紅色浪潮-封面初稿 (Crossing the Red Tide) and sharing some of his life experiences. Here's a brief translation of the above schedule of events for the day:

09:00-09:30 Registration and check-in

09:30-09:40 Opening remarks by Professor Lai (賴義雄) & Professor Chen (陳儀深) of the Taiwan Association of University Professors

09:40-11:40 Discussion panel/Paper presentation about Su Beng’s life and the Taiwan independence movement

Moderator: Professor Chen (陳儀深)
Panelists: Professor Lan (藍士博), Mr. Lin (林嘉立), Mr. Chen (張之豪), Mr. Yeh (葉紘麟), Mr. Wu (吳乃德)

11:40-13:00 Lunch break

13:00-13:30 Documentary screening

13:30-13:40 Singing performance by Wang Ming-Zhe (王明哲)

13:40-14:40 Su Beng talks about some of his life experiences

Moderator: Professor Liao (廖宜恩), Vice President of the Taiwan Association of University Professors
Panelists: Professor Liao (廖偉程), Professor Tsai (蔡丁貴), Professor Chen (張信堂), Bin Hong (敏紅, Su Beng’s assistant)

14:40-15:30 Question & answer session with Su Beng

15:30 Closing

This event is being organized by the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP)

For more information:

Call: (02)2362-8797

Register online here:

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm happy to report that Su Beng was released from the hospital on January 20 and is now working on writing chapters for his own biography, which will be written in Chinese.