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Sculpture park keeps memory of Chiang Kai-shek alive

Sculpture park keeps memory of Chiang Kai-shek alive

By Lillian Lin CNA Staff Writer More than three decades after his death, Chiang Kai-shek, the man, the legend, the hero or the villain, may have become irrelevant to the majority of young people in a vastly changed Taiwan. But the Taoyuan County government has been working to preserve the memory of the late president by establishing a park that features scores of his sculptures.
"I didn't know much about President Chiang Kai-shek until I joined the staff of the county government," said 26-year-old Liu Ya-ping who works in the Taoyuan County government's press liaison section.
Cihu Sculpture Memorial Park, close to Chiang's final resting place and the site of what was known as his favorite holiday resort, was established in Taoyuan County in 1997.
Scattered throughout the park are more than 150 statues of Chiang in full figure, bust, seated, standing, and one astride a horse. They were collected from schools, cultural centers, government offices, military bases and business establishments around the island.
They had been pulled down between 2006 and 2007 by the then government of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in a campaign to get rid of the vestiges of Chiang's legacy in Taiwan.
"When it was established, the park at first did not attract much attention until after 2000 when the new DPP government launched its anti- Chiang movement and many statues of the late president were removed from schools and government establishments to the Cihu park," said Liu as she gave a guided tour of the area.
Pointing to the largest seated statue in the park, Liu said the cracks in the bronze piece look like wounds all over Chiang's body and symbolize the political reality in Taiwan over the past years.
The giant statue had occupied a prominent spot in the lobby of the Kaohsiung Cultural Center for years, but in February 2000 the Kaohsiung County Government decided it should be removed.
The statue was dismantled by the city government, under the leadership of incumbent Mayor Chen Chu, in the wee hours of March 14, 2007 and it was agreed that it would be sent to the Cihu park.
"The Taoyuan County Government was more than happy to accept the statue, but did not expect that it would arrive in Cihu years later in more than 200 pieces," said Liu.
When the 8-meter high piece was dismembered, fierce confrontations broke out between those who cherished the memory of the late president as a strong leader who helped the people of Taiwan weather many storms and those who saw him as a symbol of totalitarian rule.
"The dismemberment, even of a statue, was considered much too cruel and it attracted immense media coverage," Liu said.
However, the media blitz afforded greater publicity for Cihu Sculpture Memorial Park, which was to be the new home of the statue, she added. When the Taoyuan County Government received the pile of scrap metal in 2007, it set about finding the technical expertise and financial support to restore the piece.
One year later, on March 15, 2008, the reassembled statue was unveiled at the sculpture park, but the cracks in the metal were apparent, rendering the look of a severely wounded Chiang.
"This is the most photographed statue in the park, probably because of its size, and probably because of the 'scars' it bears, " said Liu.
The park has been drawing increasing numbers of visitors from around the island, and also tourists from abroad, including many from mainland China.
"In much the same way that the Berlin Wall was a symbol of the Cold War, the sculpture park and its surroundings signify some very important years in contemporary Chinese history, " said Eddy Chang, director-general of Taoyuan County government's Tourism Promotion Department.
For more than two decades, the "Cave Hotel" in Back Cihu, hidden among the trees, was where Chiang and his family celebrated his birthday each year, Chang noted.
The late president named the area Cihu -- which means compassionate lake -- in memory of his mother and because it reminded him of his hometown in Zhejiang Province in China.
Back Cihu was also a command post from which Chiang planned to launch a counterattack against the Chinese Communists and stage his return to the mainland, declassified documents have revealed.
Chiang and his Kuomintang forces withdrew from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan in 1949 after they lost the Chinese civil war to the communists.
The Chiang residence on a small hill in Back Cihu and the nearby pond and forest paths are now open to the public, although only 600 visitors per day are allowed to enter the resort.
In the Cultural Resort of the Chiangs, "from the sculpture park to the Back Cihu residence, memories of Chiang Kai-shek abound, and Taoyuan County will try to preserve them in the hope that visitors will appreciate their importance," Chang said.