The flag of Taiwan carries a natural element–the sun. This drew my attention from the moment we entered Taipei.
Because I found the Japanese people’s connection to the natural world fascinating (and refreshing), the meaning of this stylistic sun interested me. Turns out, each of the 12 points on the star represents a month of the year.
The colors on the flag represent the Three Principles of the People–an important concept in Taiwan’s history. Blue represents democracy. Red, nationalism. And white, the star, which we’ve already linked to the months of the year (an indirect reference to seasons?), represents the people’s livelihood.
The Three Principles of the People, a.k.a. The Three Great Principles, originated with the political ideology of Chinese Nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen. The fact that the flag links socialism with the year and the people’s livelihood is interesting to me, but probably a topic for someone smarter.
(Warning: editorial comment: If you are reading this and you live in the U.S., you may think you know what socialism is, but I submit that we’ve thrown the word around pretty liberally in the past few years. It is a simple, objective concept really. In the U.S., for example, the concept of public lands, public resources like libraries and museums, and certain roads and highways, have roots in socialism. While I am a capitalist, I thank goodness for the tenants of socialism when I drive, read or hike. My apologies to readers who are now scratching their heads wondering why I’m wasting space on this.)
If you go to the Web site for Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture, located under the Executive Yuan, and click on agricultural products, you’ll see them arranged by season. Anyone who has been patient and forgiving enough to follow my blog so far may see the immediate connection I saw. A government Web site organized by agricultural and natural seasons? Reminds me of Japan! Or Japan reminds me of Taiwan! (It’s all in your POV, right?) Kumquat and jujube join this list of key agricultural products. (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a kumquat, but the word makes me giggle. I’m certain that I’ve never had a jujube, but I found several waiting in my room, thanks to Davis Wu at USMEF Taiwan. Davis put lots of fruit and snacks in my room! Now that I’m writing this blog and adding photos, I know what the heck those little furry fruits on a stem are! They are so cute! Now, do I peel it like a kiwi, or…?)
Taiwan’s population currently rests at about 23.3 million. In comparison, Tokyo’s metro area boasts about 35 million, when you count it all together. GDP in Taiwan is $902 billion US. The official language is Mandarin Chinese (I can tell the difference between Japanese and Mandarin now that my ear seems tuned to it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to say this six months from now, but for now, the two sound very different to me, with Mandarin sounding much more guttural.)
Taiwan’s political system does not fit traditional models. The President of Taiwan leads the government as head of state, followed by the vice president–both positions must get the popular vote to serve, in elections held every four years. This sounds familiar, but from there it differs significantly. The President appoints his cabinet including a premier; the premier heads the Executive Yuan. A Legislative Yuan also exists, with 113 seats. The President appoints the premier without needing approval by the Legislative Yuan, and the legislature can pass laws without regard for the President, as neither the President or the premier have veto power. Thus, negotiation between the two branches might not happen if the two are of opposing parties. Other yuan include judicial, control and examination.
I’m set to begin meetings on Monday–today I will tour the National Palace Museum, which holds many of China’s national treasures and the largest and finest collection of Chinese art in the world. The core of the art collection once formed the imperial collection in Beijing. The museum also holds a collection of Buddhist artifacts inherited from the Forbidden City. In fact, the vast collection requires constant rotation for public viewing. I heard last night the museum will be moved to a new, larger location in the future.
“Be not the slave of your own past … plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson