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Su Beng’s legacy lives on in Taiwan museum’s spring roll event

Su Beng Memorial Museum keeps Taiwanese history, tradition alive

Director of the Su Beng Memorial Fund Huang Min-hung (黃敏紅).

Director of the Su Beng Memorial Fund Huang Min-hung (黃敏紅).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As volunteer Eva Jiang (江秀瑾) cooks a pork and vegetable stir fry in the kitchen, a delicious yet familiar air filled the Su Beng Memorial Museum on the evening of Jan. 27.

The museum is Taiwan independence activist Su Beng’s (史明) former residence. The apartment was converted into a museum and opened in 2021, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) present at the opening ceremony.

Su Beng Memorial Fund director and museum caretaker Huang Min-hung (黃敏紅) coordinates volunteers and greets guests with a cheery smile. It was a busy day for her as nearly 50 people had signed up to come.

It’s the museum’s annual runbing (Taiwanese spring roll) event.

Guests help themselves to runbing, a kind of Taiwanese spring roll.
Guests begin wrapping their runbing. (Taiwan News photo, Michael Nakhiengchanh)

“Runbing is a kind of spring roll, but it’s not fried like the American version,” Huang said. “It’s a very healthy kind of food. It has cabbage, dried radish, bean sprouts, meat, and all kinds of stuff.”

“This event was first hosted by Su Beng some time before 2003, though we have been on and off ever since. When Su Beng was still around, there was one time we had 200 people come. The event is always a lively affair,” she added.

Born Lin Chao-hui (林朝暉, later Shih Chao-hui 施朝暉) in Taipei's Shilin in 1918, Su Beng was many things; part historian, part guerilla, part spy, but all Taiwanese. To his last breath, Su Beng never relinquished his goal of achieving Taiwan independence.

Su Beng’s legacy lives on in Taiwan museum’s spring roll event
A fully wrapped runbing. (Taiwan News photo, Michael Nakhiengchanh)

Su Beng grew up during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) in Taiwan, later studying political economy at Waseda University where he became enamoured with Marxism. After graduating in 1943, he went to China to participate in the war against Japan.

There, he assisted but never formally joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He later became disillusioned with the party and returned to Taiwan in 1949, just as the Kuomintang (KMT) were retreating to the island as well.

Neither a fan of the CCP or KMT, Su Beng plotted to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who he considered a dictator. In 1951, his plot was discovered by the KMT, which prompted him to immediately flee to Japan.

Exiled but not defeated, Su Beng opened a noodle and dumpling restaurant in Ikebukuro, Tokyo while penning his famous historical work “Taiwan’s 400 Year History” at night after work hours.

Su Beng’s legacy lives on in Taiwan museum’s spring roll event
Su Beng at this restaurant "New Gourmet" in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. (Su Beng Memorial Museum photo)

“Su Beng spent most of his life in exile in Japan,” Huang explained. “There, he wrote ‘Taiwan’s 400 Year History,’ which covers Taiwanese history from a Taiwan-centric perspective. To me, this is Su Beng’s greatest contribution to Taiwanese history,” Huang said.

Su Beng returned to Taiwan in 1993. He continued to advocate for Taiwan independence through events such as his Taiwan Independence Motorcade as well as by delivering lectures.

On Sept. 20, 2019, the centenarian passed away at Taipei Medical University Hospital due to multiple organ failure.

Although Su Beng is now gone, his legacy is preserved by the museum and his students.

In the afternoon, the director of the museum and the master’s student Chen Bo-han (陳柏翰) delivered a lecture about the museum’s newest exhibit on the second floor. The exhibit introduces Su Beng’s underground activities during his exile in Japan.

After the lecture, Huang announced it was dinnertime. Hungry stomachs began to wrap their runbing, some returning for seconds and even thirds.

Su Beng’s legacy lives on in Taiwan museum’s spring roll event
Guests enjoying their runbing. (Taiwan News photo, Michael Nakhiengchanh)

Huang then broke out the wine, as hearty laughter filled the room while guests continued to eat runbing into the night.“I never really liked formal banquets, so this event is more free and lively. I like that kind of atmosphere and today was just that,” Huang said.

Speaking about the importance of the event, Huang explained, “We host this event because Su Beng respected and celebrated Taiwanese culture. We want to keep Taiwanese traditions alive while also letting young people know more about Su Beng and what he did for Taiwan,” she said.