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Sunday, June 20, 2010


"Mainland"? Which "mainland"?

An obvious symptom of brainwashing in Taiwan (and elsewhere)

Because of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), for most of the past six decades, Taiwan's educational system has indoctrinated students with the concept that "my country" (我國/本國) includes Taiwan, the territory now controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC), and Mongolia. As a result, certain words used by Taiwanese reveal how deeply this indoctrination has penetrated.

An old Geography textbook used in Taiwan
Tim Maddog photo
(Click to enlarge)

While most elementary school students these days will state "Taiwan" (台灣) as the name of their country, and only an incredibly small minority will say they are from the "ROC" (中華民國), there's still a lot of deep-set confusion. As Professor Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰, AKA Jim Lee, of National Taipei University's Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture) explains in the piece I will translate below, the words we are exposed to on a daily basis affect our ability to see clearly and even to clearly form our own identity.

Here it is, 「大陸」「大陸」,哪個大陸? ("'Mainland,' 'mainland,' which mainland?") [translations, text coloration mine]:

People say, "This kind of person plays with this kind of bird" and "This kind of person uses these kinds of words" [both meaning: "A person is defined by the words they use"]. In the past, Taiwan's national identity has been a jumbled mess. From the different words that people use, you can spot the differences in people's sense of national identity and political affiliation.


Think back to the televised debate between Tsai Ing-wen and Ma Ying-jeou. Each time the PRC came up, Ma consistently referred to it as the "mainland" while Tsai referred to it more clearly as "China." The whole world knows that "China" refers to the country whose full name is the "People's Republic of China." But what about "mainland"? There is no country on Earth called "Mainland" [Maddog note: Though I've capitalized it here (as if it were the name of a country), it shouldn't actually be capitalized unless it's the first word in a sentence.] -- it's merely a geographic term which could variously refer to the Eurasian continent, the African continent, or the North and South American continents. So why say "mainland"? Because Ma identifies with China and considers Taiwan to be part of China. If he were to call the other side "China," it would mean that Taiwan is something separate -- something Ma could never admit. By calling China the "mainland," he means that the two sides belong to China and that the "mainland area" and "Taiwan area" are both part of that China. This actually belittles and disparages Taiwan.


For Ma-the-Chinese to call China the "mainland" isn't strange at all. What is strange is when supporters of Taiwan's independence use the word out of sheer habit, following others' use of "mainland" when they mean "China" -- this is a contradiction of their own principles.


The word "lùshēng" has recently entered Taiwan's vocabulary. This contains a similar meaning. "Lùshēng" is merely a short form of ""dàlùxuéshēng" ("mainland students"). To call Chinese students "lùshēng" is just as belittling and disparaging of Taiwan as using the word "mainland" instead of "China." A more natural short form would be "Zhōngshēng." How did that become "lùshēng"?


Another strange word which has appeared in recent years is "a-la̍k-á" [Maddog note: The pronunciation of that term is invariably Taiwanese, not Mandarin]. Many people call Chinese (people) "a-la̍k-á" with the middle word "la̍k" ["six"] having the same pronunciation in Taiwanese as the "lù" in "dàlù." "A-la̍k-á" itself bears a pejorative tone, but actually one may not realize that using this kind of tone to describe others can also belittle Taiwan, disparage the user, and show self-unawareness.


There are many more words used to belittle and disparage Taiwan. For example, calling Sun Yat-sen the "nation's founding father." Which "nation" is he the "founding father" of? Of course that would be the "Republic of China [ROC]." Don't say that even Sun himself didn't know he was called "the nation's founding father" by the Chinese KMT, but if he could know that some Taiwanese still call him the "nation's founding father," he'd be completely amazed because a year before he died, Sun appealed to Japan to allow Korea and Taiwan to become independent. For Taiwanese to call him the "nation's founding father," they must really be morons!


As for entertainers who wander off to China in search of money and who refer to the PRC as the "heartland," not even the word "moron" can describe what they are! When Taiwan was a Japanese colony, Taiwanese referred to Japan as the "heartland." However, during the Qing Dynasty, [what we now call] China was the "heartland." Present-day Taiwan doesn't belong to the PRC, yet people still use the term "heartland." People of Taiwan: How long will you humiliate yourselves like this?
One "mainland" which Professor Lee left out was Australia's. People in Tasmania will refer to the non-Tasmanian part of Australia as the "mainland" while people in New Zealand never do so -- because it's a whole other country. It's a good example to use with people who don't seem to "get it."

* A guy I met later on Facebook called in to New Taiwan Go Go Go (新台灣加油) to complain about so-called pro-Taiwan TV stations using the word "mainland." I posted the video on YouTube:

1:23 YouTube video: "Mr. Chuang wants green media to stop saying "mainland""

* Hena (Taiwanese for erhu, 二胡) player Kenny Wen is one of those who sold his soul to Beijing and was "forced" to call China the "heartland" (內地):

9:00 YouTube video: "Kenny Wen Teaches: How to sell your soul to the demons in Beijing"

* A Taiwan Matters post with links to videos of the entire debate referred to in Lee's piece: "Ralph Jennings pushes anti-Taiwan, pro-Ma propaganda"

* If you need help with the videos linked in the post at the link above, the Taipei Times translated the entire debate between Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) into English:
- Part One: Ma, Tsai lock horns in ECFA debate
- Part Two: Tsai questions Ma on job losses from signing ECFA

Words which mean things: , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At 5:51 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Taiwan Matters for this post,

do you have any proof that Sun meant Korea and Taiwan to be independent? Would be great if you could provide this and also integrate that into the English translation, as it is already in the Mandarin source.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Oops! I somehow missed that part. I'll fix it as soon as possible.

Tim Maddog

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Copenhagen said...

I applause you on this post!

I hate when celebrities use '內地' on TV shows. If they're so pro-China then they need to move there. Too many Taiwanese are so lost...They barely know who they are.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger misomoo said...

i never say da-lu when im referring to china. i always use tzong-guo and tzong-guo ren.
to hell with mainland china, the only mainland in my vocabulary is mainland taiwan!

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

TEWA, I've fixed the translation in the paragraph about Sun Yat-sen. Thanks for pointing it out. I'm still looking for verification on that info. If anybody out there has some info, either leave it here in a comment or send me an e-mail.

White Oleander, I've added a YouTube video at the bottom of the post about one such case: musician Kenny Wen. I wish all Taiwanese could see videos like that before they get the idea that going to China somehow means "easy money."

Tim Maddog

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Islander said...

Thanks for posting this. The Taiwanese are very confused.

Other confused phrases are:
中國人 (Chinese, people from the country of China)
should be 華人 (ethnic Chinese- could refer to citizens of any country that trace their ancestry to China)

外省人 (people from another Chinese province) should just be called 中國人 or if they are born in Taiwan, just don't call them 外省人. They are new Taiwanese.

At 2:23 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I insist on only calling our ugly neighbor "China". I don't care if whoever I'm talking to picks up on that or not, I don't explain myself but I never accept their use of the term "mainland".


At 3:51 PM, Blogger yet-ching said...

Ya I have seen harlem yu scold a taiwanese min nan singer on million dollar singer; when the singer referred to China as another ctry; Harlem corrected him, saying that it's 內地。Many other singers sucking up in China too, am so boycotting them. Thanks for your great blog; indeed a lot of people refer to China as Da Lu; even when they r supporting Taiwan continued independence

At 8:41 PM, Blogger  said...

The Republic of China is an exiled government. It simply DOES NOT have territorial sovereignty over Taiwan. Not surprisingly, the Chinese KMT has kept brain washing through its educational system.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Dezhong said...

Nice post! The lack of self-reflexivity is indeed striking. Even the DPP frequently uses the term "mainland China" in its platform on its official website. (http://www.dpp.org.tw/index_en/).

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Stormoen said...

Thanks for a good blog! Have you ever noticed how international politically correct (pro-china) observers write Mainland China in the beginning of their commentaries about China-Taiwan relations? But when addressing China affairs in relation to other countries than Taiwan, they have no problems addressing China as plain ‘China’. How can a country suddenly change name dependent on the context it is mentioned in?
Sometimes observers even forget to use their feigned reality of 'mainland' opposite to Taiwan (when the illusion of a country called the Mainland seems too ridiculous: For instance: “Is this tea from Taiwan? No it’s from the mainland. Which mainland, the main island of Taiwan? No sir, the Mainland!” Oh, you mean China”), and just write ‘China’ and Taiwan. By forgetting so, they reveal themselves: This ‘mainland’ perspective of reality is fallacious and propaganda which has been so much incorporated into the societies in Taiwan and the West that some people have stopped thinking about which kind of words they use and what they mean. Let’s start a ‘Mainland Taiwan movement’

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Copenhagen said...

I saw the video and felt annoyed with dumb ass people who decide to extend their career in China. I always called myself Taiwanese ever since I was a kid.

Now that I'm living in Europe and meeting young Taiwanese, I'm surprised at how confused they are about their national identity.

Anyway, I really like your blog and am so glad that someone is speaking out for the 'real' Taiwanese. Thank you.

At 11:42 PM, Blogger Beauty Chest said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to translate. I am so glad you wrote this blog entry. Being born in the US, I was left perplexed after many of my Taiwanese friends celebrated "ROC's 100th birthday". It saddened me to see that they called themselves Taiwanese and separate from Chinese yet did not know the meaning behind that holiday in Taiwan. I have better understanding of why they think the way they do now. Thanks so much Tim!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger nnnn said...

Hi Tim,
Thank you for this post. I am very pro democracy and for Taiwan to be recognized as a nation, have always called myself Taiwanese, and due to my lack of learning Mandarin when I was a child in knowing the full meaning of the terms, I have utilized the term "大陸"

At that point, I always believed Taiwan was a country and the term Da Lu was actually a derogatory term to refer to China, especially with references to “大陸妹" was never utilized in a positive light.

Looking forward to weaving through this informative site! Thanks for taking the time and dedicating your life to such a positive cause!

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great blog. Please continue the good work.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I came here after accidently stumbling across a post regarding Denis Chen's passport stickers. I do find it a good idea that Taiwanese people should start to call themselves just that what they really are ... "Taiwanese people" ... and they should make use of this in every way they can.
I personally think that the so called "One China" policy is an illusion and will never work. It is not up to the people of the PR China or the government in Beijing to decide about Taiwanese Independence or "Reunification" ... in my opinion only the people of Taiwan have the right to decided whether they wanna join the PRC or to be independent.
The point of view taken by the government of the PR Chinas about "taking Taiwan by force if necessary" is ignoring the facts which have been set in the past decades.
There is no "mainland" anymore ... and there is no "Republic of China" anymore ... both are concepts from a past long gone. Now there is only Taiwan and the PR China, and it is high time that the government bodies in Beijing as well as in Taipei start to recognize this fact and act and behave accordingly.
There is and will not be a successful military solution to this matter ... even if some "unteachable" in the Chinese PLA dream of coming across the Taiwan straight guns blazing ... there is only a political solution ... and as I said before ... the only one who can decide to join or to be independent are the people of Taiwan.


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