Weng Jian, PhD Candidate, Department of History, National Taiwan University
At 9 p.m. on March 18, 2014, in protest against the government unilaterally pushing through the “Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services” without wider consultation, a group of students occupied the debate chamber of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Nobody had anticipated this undertaking; it came about by accident. Rapid online dissemination of information about the event more than made up for lack of media interest and gradually gave rise to broad sympathy and support for the protesters. What began as a single night’s haphazard protest ended up as an almost month-long movement and spawned a variety of public movements of all sizes. The people marched in the streets against the machinery of the state, standing up for the values of democracy and the rule of law.
From a long-term perspective, it is still hard to determine how what came to be called the Sunflower Movement will affect Taiwan’s future. What is certain is that when future generations look back at this period in history, it will not be something that they can ignore. The historical records of the movement will remain and enable later generations to determine its meaning and value and, perhaps more importantly, to judge it fairly.
Yang Tsui’s 2014 book The Indomitable Rose: A Mother and the Sunflower Movement is also an important testimony to the movement, not only because the author’s son, Wei Yang, was a major participant. When the author and her husband, Wei Yi-chun, were young, about the time that martial law was ending, they were active members in the Taiwan democracy movement. Yang Tsui’s grandparents, Yang Kui and Yeh Tao were also active in resisting the Japanese during the colonial era and also became political prisoners when the Kuomintang came to Taiwan. The entire family history is closely bound up with the destiny of Taiwan’s democratic development. More importantly, this book is mainly composed of Facebook posts made while the protest was taking place, and social media was where the movement gathered its energy. The book’s form and content give it a special depth and power. It has a certain rationality, and it records both the direct happenings of the protest and more peripheral details, as well as Yang Tsui’s and Wei Yang’s reflections on the movement itself and on Taiwan’s future. Sometimes the writing is emotional: this is a mother writing about her son getting involved in a protest movement and inevitably she feels both worry and pride; it is also someone who was herself a protester when young watching the new generation take up the torch. The book contains her reflections on and confessions about both past and future.
This book could be a demonstration of awareness, or it could be an expression of emotion, depending on the reader’s approach. However, whether one looks at it from an individual or a community perspective, Taiwan’s destiny is closely bound up with its history. As the author says in the book, every participant has to strive to understand herself/himself through this process of realization, to reconsider the meaning of one’s life. And this is also the best way to understand this book: by reading what she has written, every reader has the opportunity to think over her/his own experience and find a new way to turn to the future.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|