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.