Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taipei's Huashan--a page in Taiwanese history

Sunday's United Daily News published an interesting comment about the history of Taipei's Huashan area under the title "Tracing the historical geography of Huashan: a page in modern Taiwanese history." 

Huashan is the local name for Zhongzheng's District's Meihua Neighborhood. It is best known these days for the Huashan Creative Park. Taipei Artist Village and Shandao Temple MRT Station are also in Huashan.

Huashan does not refer China's Mount Hua in Shaanxi, one of China's Five Great Mountains even though it uses the same characters.

During the Japanese colonial period, the Huashan area was known as Kabayama-machi (樺山町) in honor of Count Kabayama Sukenori, the first Governor-General of Taiwan.

Count Kabayama played an important role in Taiwanese history. In 1872, he made several visits to Yilan in connect with the Mudan Incident and he later led the invasion of Taiwan in 1895.

After the KMT took over Taiwan in 1945, Kabayama-machi was renamed Huashan. The first character of Kabayama's last name 樺, which means 'birch', is pronounced huà in Mandarin. The new name replaced 樺 with s similar character 華, which means 'Sino'.   華 is pronounced huá. The KMT left the second character 山  (shan) alone and dropped the Japanese 町 (-matchi), thereby sinicizing what must have been to Chinese nationalists a galling reference to the Japanese imperialist project in Taiwan.

It is interesting that many residents and visitors to Taipei mistakenly assume that Huashan refers to the famous mountain in Shaanxi. This reflects the tendency to subsume Taiwanese place names and history into Chinese referents.


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