Dear Taiwan (#2): Your Identity Predicament May Be Something We All Face

Dear Taiwan,

I went to the National Palace Museum a few days ago and learned more through observation than I did through the actual texts and explanations presented in the museum. And what I contemplated the most about was identity.

Most of the visitors to the museum were either Chinese or Taiwanese. However, I was surprisingly caught off guard as I witnessed a few Chinese parents show their children around the museum, yet the family conversed only in English — perfect English, I might add. They also seemed as if they were traveling and were likely born in the West.

It was at that moment that I realized race and nationality is something that cannot be easily identified as in the past due to interracial marriages producing mixed lineages and global travel expanding immigration. Thus, difficult to determine one’s ethnicity or lineage as times progresses.

While the Taiwanese have some Chinese lineage, some may also be mixed with hakka, aboriginal, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, etc. The problem the Taiwanese face is that they claim to be their own ethnic group/people (due to either the amalgamation above or something different), separate from the Chinese, but aren’t recognized as such. And when I asked a friend about this, she stated:

“I don’t deny having a Chinese lineage, but it goes very far back. It’s also difficult to trace who are still aboriginal or hakka today. And having been born in Taiwan, I’m born in this country and am Taiwanese; not born in China or a Chinese national.”

So does an amalgamation of lineage create a new lineage, culture, and people? I haven’t researched much on Puerto Ricans, but from the little that I have done, it seems that Puerto Ricans are the result of the amalgamation of different cultures and lineages. If that’s the case, would that also be the same for the Taiwanese?

Today there are Chinese-Americans. But what will they be called in 500 years from now when the Chinese American’s great grandchildren are Chinese-American-Mexican-Iranian-Israli-Thai-Mongolian-Algerian-German-Australian-Russian-Hungarian-Taiwanese? What do they identify as then? Or are they branched into a totally different sect, separate from their original Chinese descent? And most importantly, who gets to decide that?

I’ve heard Chinese-Americans say they don’t really feel Chinese and don’t feel they belong when they travel to China. Likewise, they feel they’re not really American. Furthermore, some of the Chinese of PRC don’t accept them as “legitimate Chinese” since they were born in the West. And I can sympathize with this myself.

I’m predominately Puerto Rican and born in the U.S. However, I feel out of place when I’m with Puerto Ricans, even though I’m very familiar with its setting and culture. They’re fully embraced in the culture, proud, and grew up around it, but not me. I don’t really feel “Puerto Rican”. When it comes to the U.S., the image is mostly white people. Thus I also feel a bit out of place in the U.S. myself and not really “American”.

Interestingly enough, my interest and place of comfort is Japan and it’s culture, yet I don’t feel “Japanese”. To be honest, I don’t feel I identify as anything. But none of this really bothers me, honestly. I just don’t feel that same sense of tight belonging/community and similar culture/background as the Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico or Chinese born in China or white Americans born in America. Though, I do wonder how it must be at times.

But the reason why this doesn’t bother me is because I look at myself and people beyond the car they own. The body, culture, and country that I was given is exactly that — things I was given. I’m not the things I was given. My being is confined to a body that has been labeled and categorized. Over time bodies diminish, cultures die, and countries fall — but our being is eternal, it’s who we truly are. This is why I can care less of what lineage I am or not, as it doesn’t phase me. What’s important to me is the identity of my being, not the identity of my body’s roots.

This sculpture is located at the North 2 entrance of Taipei Main Station. There's something humbling about this work of art. It's odd, though. While the child seems to be calm and towards his father (presumably), there's also a disturbing realization. From the boy's nose to his feet, there's a huge divider that separates the two from actually being together. It's as if the child knows that his time is limited with his dad and is hurting on the inside. While the dad grips the child with an expression of "it's going to be okay". But these situations of separation are never okay… – #taiwan #taipei #taipeicity #traveltaiwan #traveltaipei #taipeitaiwan #taipeitrip #taipei2016 #travelasia #asiatrip #storyoftheday #exploretaiwan #exploreasia #republicofchina #taiwanlife #taiwantravel #taipeimainstation #statue #statues #sculpture #sculptures #workofart #humbling #separation #thefeels #thefeelsarereal

A photo posted by Lindo Korchi (@lindokorchi) on

And as I contemplate such, I’m concerned that the issue of identity (in regards to lineage and nationality) will continue to grow and spark further confusion and stress. But if people focus on the identity of their being rather than the identity of the things they were given, I think they’ll be able to set themselves apart, think clearly, and carry themselves better. The problem isn’t interracial relationships and offspring, it’s the labels and categories that people are placed in because of their interracial lineage. But it’s silly to let lineages dictate your being.

Taiwan, you and your people aren’t the only ones facing this issue — we’re all beginning to face it as well. But we can let the categories and its position identify us or discard it to discover our own-selves.

Until next time,

Lindo Korchi