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Seqalu’s controversies expose forgotten wounds in Taiwan’s history

Popular Taiwanese epic leads viewers to question presentation of historical fiction in media

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(Facebook, Sequalu: Formosa 1867 photo)

(Facebook, Sequalu: Formosa 1867 photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The production and release of “Sequalu: Formosa 1867” has raised much discussion about the rights and wrongs in Taiwan’s history, amplified in recent weeks due to the show’s popularity.

"Seqalu" has fast become a trending topic in the country since its debut on Aug. 14, and the death of top billing star Camake Valaule just five days later drew further attention to the show as fans and even President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) mourned the loss of a great educator, who had dedicated his career to teaching and preserving Paiwan culture.

As the show gains momentum and TV audiences await the release of the fifth and sixth episodes, sales of the novel the series is based on, “The Flower of Ga Le” (傀儡花) and other works by award-winning author Chen Yao-chang (陳耀昌) have received a boost.

According to CNA, “The Flower of Ga Le” is now a top-selling novel at Taiwan’s largest online bookstore, Books.com.tw (博客來). This has surprised even Chen, who hopes that the popularity of the show and novel will “awaken people’s attention to their own history and politics.”

Seqalu’s controversies expose forgotten wounds in Taiwan’s history

Chen Yao-chang's novel tops bestseller list following Seqalu's success. (Books.com.tw screenshot)

However, when “The Flower of Ga Le” was announced as the original name of the show last year, it caused controversy and was subsequently changed.

“Ga Le” is a historical term with derogatory connotations used to refer to Taiwan's Indigenous peoples during the Qing Dynasty. While Chen said he had chosen to use the title for the show to remind viewers of past injuries that should be acknowledged, the show's name was ultimately changed to “Seqalu” to convey the spirit of “reconciliation and coexistence” reflected in Chen’s work.

Seqalu’s controversies expose forgotten wounds in Taiwan’s history
Seqalu gets its new name following controversy. (Facebook, Seqalu: Formosa 1867 photo)

Following the show's success, another controversy has arisen over Seqalu’s interpretation of history.

The series, marketed as a historical show, has been praised by President Tsai as a “unique and magnificent story born on the land of Taiwan,” and by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as a moving tale that proves audiences are the true masters of Taiwan. Yet the opposition Kuomintang party shared a Facebook post by Taiwanese writer and journalist Yang Du (楊渡) accusing the show of glorifying and romanticizing Charles Le Gendre, who “betrayed the Indigenous people’s trust and promise and led the Japanese military to massacre indigenous people.”

Some viewers have also said the show should not claim to be historical but rather an epic drama, as the plot not only weaves fiction into history but also focuses on the stories of made-up characters. By marketing Seqalu as a “historical” show, the production may lead some people to form inaccurate perceptions about Taiwan’s history and Indigenous peoples.

Director Tsao Jui-yuan (曹瑞原) said at the title revealing ceremony that he was prepared for the controversies the show might raise during production and broadcasting. He said he hopes this will allow Taiwan’s cultures to come together in their most complete form.


Updated : 2021-09-27 02:54 GMT+08:00