Hsinchu Philharmonic

The Hsinchu Philharmonic Orchestra has invited me to conduct as a guest for their next two concerts. I'm excited about this because I worked with the group this past weekend. We played Mozart's Flute Concerto in G Major (K.313) and Beethoven's Sixth Symphony in F Major ('Pastorale'). The violinists and cellists are a young group but they navigate demanding passages with a real bloom on the sound. I'm delighted by the appointment and look forward to our collaboration.

Here are our concerts coming up. Each is sponsored in part by the municipal government of Hsinchu City. I hope you can make plans to join us!

2008 March 30 Sunday
15:30-17:00 (3:30-5:30 pm)

Outdoor Concert 戶外音樂會 'Mermaid in a Crystal Fairyland'
Hsinchu Park 地點:新竹玻璃工藝博物館前

This concert is part of the 2008 Hsinchu City International Glass Art Festival.
Admission is free to the public.

2008 June 15 Sunday
14:30 - 16:00 (2:30-4:00 pm)
Hsinchu Concert Hall

Repertory to be determined.
Tickets will be available at the box office.



2-28 Peace Day

2-28 Peace Park
Taipei, Taiwan
台灣 台北

©2007 Alton Thompson 唐博敦

Taiwan is quiet today in observance of February 28, a date that marks a tragic turning point in the island's history. That moment, the subject of a film to be released later this year, is described thus by historians at the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum:

August 15, 1945, the end of the Second World War, marked an end to the Japanese rule over Taiwan, and the arrival of the Chinese. The Taiwanese initially welcomed China with great joy and anticipation of the arrival of their counterparts from the 'motherland.' The euphoria quickly faded as China's Nationalist government brought a corrupt bureaucracy, economic hardship, and a deteriorating sense of public security. The mood of the Taiwanese fell from hope to deep despair. By its second year on Taiwan (1946), the Nationalist government authorities often found themselves in conflict with Taiwan society – these conflicts were the root of the large-scale bloodshed to follow.

On the evening of February 27, 1947, agents from the Monopoly Bureau in Taipei went to a neighborhood on present-day Nanjing West Road, where they confiscated contraband cigarettes from a woman named Lin Jiang-mai. One of the agents beat Lin on the head with a pistol, prompting the surrounding angry crowd to chase the agents. As the agents ran away, they fired their guns indiscriminately into the crowd, killing one person named Chen Wen-xi. The mood of the crowd, which had already been harboring many feelings of frustration from Nationalist rule, exploded like a volcano. The crowd protested to both the police and the gendarmes, but received no response.

On the morning of February 28, the angry crowd held another protest at the Monopoly Bureau Headquarters, later moving on to the governor's office to present a petition to Governor-General Chen Yi. To their surprise, the crowd was met by soldiers at the governor's office who shot at them, killing and injuring at least 10 people. A group of young Taiwanese took over the Taiwan Broadcasting Company Station (the present site of the Taipei 2-28 Memorial Museum) and announced the transpiring events on the radio, calling on the Taiwanese to voice their protests. Conflicts ensued across the entire island, with rioting in almost every city and town, setting the tone for opposition between the Taiwanese and the Nationalist army.

The unrest gradually faded from March 1 to March 5, as Taiwanese representatives from the Nationalist government and the provincial government members formed the '2-28 Settlement Committee.' The Committee negotiated settlement conditions with Governor-General Chen Yi, who agreed to government reforms raised by the committee. However, despite his promise to not bring any more troops into the city, Chen Yi made a secret call to the Nationalist capital on Nanjing requesting a dispatch of troop reinforcements to Taiwan.

In Kaohsiung on March 6, the day that the Settlement Committee issued its 'A Call to All Taiwanese,' General Peng Meng-chi ordered the execution of a number of Kaohsiung committee representatives. Peng also dispatched troops to a meeting of another Taiwanese group where they shot and killed many of the members.

On March 7, the committee issued its “Thirty-two Demands,” which included a call for political reform, and the demand that all army and navy posts on Taiwan be taken by Taiwanese. However, Chen Yi knew that reinforcements from Nanjing would soon arrive at Taiwan, and he suddenly turned hostile, ignoring the promises he had made with the Settlement Committee.

On the afternoon of March 8, the troop deployment from Nanjing arrived at Keelung Harbor. The troops started to kill people indiscriminately immediately upon their arrival, and Taiwan society plunged into panic. A 'cleansing of the countryside' proceeded, with innocent Taiwanese killed at random – the number of deaths is estimated between 10,000 to 20,000 people.

These events marked the beginning of martial law in Taiwan and the White Terror that accompanied it. For this reason the date February 28 has come to represent not just the losses endured in a single day, but over decades.

Eyewitness accounts

George H Kerr
Formosa Betrayed (1965/1992)
Eyewitness report by an American who served as vice consul at the U.S. consulate.

Allan James Shackleton
Formosa Calling: An Eyewitness Account of the February 28th , 1947 Incident (released 1998)
The account of a New Zealander who served as Industrial Rehabilitation Officer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Contemporary Reports

Tillman Durdin. 'Formosa Killings are put at 10,000.'
New York Times, 1947 March 29.

Peggy Durdin. 'Terror in Taiwan.' The Nation. 1947 May 24.
The 228 Massacre as documented in the US media

Internet sources

Wikipedia: 228 Incident

Jerry Griffin
Yale 1962: 'Real Life Real Time History' (2004)
Missionaries' accounts of protecting dissidents during the White Terror

Wikipedia Commons:
228 Incident of Taiwan, 1947
Historical images, art, images of victims and witnesses.

Green Island Adventures: 'A Modern History of Green Island'

Flickr photo set: Oasis Prison, Green Island

Loa Iok-sin: 'New documentary... the 228 Incident and the White Terror era through the eyes of the victims'
Taipei Times 2007.02.09

Official sources

Taiwan: Government Information Office, ROC

Taipei 228 Memorial Museum

Sixtieth Anniversary News

BBC 2007.02.27: 'Anniversary of deadly Taiwan riot'


Formosa Betrayed, from Formosa Films



Hate Poem

Hate Poem

by Julie Sheehan

Happy Valentines' Day.



Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 199th birthday of America's sixteenth president. He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky.

It's a safe bet that the world will little note nor long remember anything said about the man here. But to all the tributes that continue to be made I want to add one vignette.

When I travelled in Thailand last year I visited a museum devoted to Thailand's history and the people who have shaped it. Dioramas lined the halls, filled with skilfully executed wax figures. I walked from room to room, seeing how Thai farmers have grown crops and Thai families have raised children. I saw all of Thailand's kings, including Chulalongkorn, the revered monarch who abolished slavery, and his father, Mongkut, protector of the country's independence who features prominently in the book and film Anna and the King.

I rounded a corner. At a desk, with the Stars and Stripes stretched behind him on a wall, sat Abraham Lincoln. His stovepipe hat lay nearby. In one hand he held a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

And I felt humbled, and proud, all at once.

Lincoln's influence on Taiwan's history is no secret. Sun Yat-Sen looked to Lincoln for inspiration as he fought to establish a new, more humane society in China to replace imperial rule. His successor Chiang Kai-Shek saw the love Lincoln freely received generations after his death and hoped something like it could be his, when all was done.

Sun said his Three Principles of the People - nationhood, democracy, livelihood - were derived from Lincoln's ideal of government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'

When Chiang took power he taught the children of China, and later Taiwan, to regard Sun as 'the Father of Our Country.' Aware of the association of that title with George Washington in America, Chiang hoped posterity would see him as the Lincoln to Sun's Washington. Upon his death his party, the Kuomingtang, took the hint and built a memorial for Chiang whose inner chamber evoked the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC even as its architecture evoked Sun's Mausoleum in Nanjing .

A chasm gapes, though, between wanting to be a Lincoln and actually being one. Chiang's memorial in Taipei does not draw the admirers or prompt the hushed reverence Lincoln's memorial in Washington inspires every day. The difference lies in action. It is one thing to talk about democracy as a nice thing for the people to acquire some day, long after you and your cohorts have helped yourself to all the trappings of power and left the scene. It is another thing to take democracy as a fundamental right belonging to all, then order your life and destiny according to its verdicts--and then, when you see it threatened, fight to the death for it, expecting nothing for yourself in return.

That is what Lincoln did. That is why free people still light candles for him, freely, year after year.



Moving Up

We've moved up to business class from coach.

You can now find this blog using the following domain:


You say it doesn't make a big difference in your life? Hey, it made my morning.