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Chiang Kai-shek’s Statues in Keelung

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Formerly Taiwan’s public places, schools, parks, and government offices featured approximately 45,000 statues of the former president of the Republic of China (ROC), Chiang Kai-shek.[1] Although the removal of Chiang’s statues and symbols of oppression began in the late 1980s and 1990s, thousands of statues still stood in public spaces well into the 21st century. Since the start of Taiwan’s political democratisation, their fortunes have changed. In 2002, the government brought about an end to the legal provisions mandating the display of Chiang in public spaces and embarked on a process known as “de-Chiang-kai-shek-ification” of the Taiwanese landscape, which involved the renaming of multiple places bearing Chiang Kai-shek’s name.[2] Simultaneously, greater freedoms of speech enabled the victims of the White Terror — the political repression of Taiwanese civilians during the period of martial law — to express their grievances publicly. This has led to a period of democratic pluralism of historical narratives, during which the statues became sites of contention between divergent experiences of the past. For the victims of the White Terror, especially the February 28th Incident and the Keelung Massacre, they were a perverse reminder of the personality cult behind the person deemed responsible for the atrocities. On the other hand, for many older Taiwanese, including those who came from the Mainland, former soldiers, and their families, Chiang remained an icon symbolising the years of resistance against communist China. They might remember the martial law era as a time of economic growth, industrial development, and the expansion of the middle class.[3]

While many people continued to revere the past leader to the extent that his statues were sanctified in several temples across Taiwan,[4] others began to dispute the presence of Chiang’s statues in public spaces. This resulted in a variety of creative acts of iconoclasm, some of which had started before the global movement opposing the persistence of statues honoring colonial oppressors, famously referred to as “Rhodes Must Fall,” in March 2015. These acts of iconoclasm multiplied concurrently with the movement.[5] The statues of Chiang were dressed up in ridiculous attire, covered with various writings pointing out the past brutalities of his rule, some were decapitated, and many were felled.[6]

Yet strolling through Keelung’s streets, one can hardly notice the iconography of the martial law period. Instead, it is the era of Japanese colonialism that has been increasingly memorialised. Searching for places where Chiang’s statues once stood, one notices just how thorough the removal of the leader’s iconic image has been, and that their disappearance was not solely due to citizens’ iconoclasm, but rather also due to local and state government policy. Chiang Kai-shek statues have been removed from several prominent locations in Keelung, including the Guomen Square in front of the train station, the Zhongzheng Park overlooking the harbour, the Shiqiuling Fort[7], the Kangfu Temple[8], the Martyrs’ Shrine, the Police station, Keelung’s Cultural Centre[9], as well as from many schools in the district.[10]

The absence of mass-reproduced statues from the past, which one might still expect to see, begs some further questions: What has happened to them? What are the socio-political contexts behind their presence and absence in public spaces? And finally, how have the meanings within the landscape where they once stood changed through time? Looking into the iconoclasm and removal of Chiang’s statues in Keelung can hopefully shed light upon the dynamics of “transitional justice” and historicization operating in contemporary Taiwan.[11]

Chiang Kai-shek at Guomen Square

Image of Spray Painted Chiang Kai-shek Statue in front of Keelung's Train Station. China Times.
Photograph of Spray Painted Chiang Kai-shek Statue in front of Keelung’s Train Station. Source: China Times. [12]

The most recognisable and publicised example of the transformation of public space lies in the heart of the city. Arriving in Keelung by train, bus, or ship, one invariably arrives to Guomen Square and Maritime Plaza, located in front of the railway and bus stations. The square was constructed in 2022, creating a new image of the national port of Keelung, replacing the old roundabout intersection, featuring a bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek, with a dry deck fountain. While the fountain is not operating, it is inconspicuous; apart from its circular floor plan, there are no signs of the former statue nor any trace of the roundabout it replaced.

For nearly six decades, Chiang Kai-shek’s statue stood prominently at the heart of Keelung. When it was erected in 1962, it became an enduring fixture in the daily lives of its residents, serving as a constant reminder of authority emanating from Taipei. [13] However, the statue’s presence and subsequent disappearance were not without historical precedent. Since 1917 and up until 1949, a different statue occupied the same location: a bronze representation of Kabayama Sukenori 樺山資紀 (1837-1922), the first Japanese governor-general of Taiwan. The monument commemorated Sukenori for his instrumental role in developing Keelung City, including the construction of the Keelung Port and railway, while functioning as a reminder of a different, colonial, authority in Taipei.[14] The turning point arrived with the Nationalist Party of China, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), when they arrived in Taiwan. At that time, the statue of the former colonial leader was dismantled and briefly replaced with a statue representing a ship’s anchor. Eventually, the ship’s anchor was replaced by a statue of Chiang Kai-shek in the very same spot. The statue was accompanied by an inscription by Yu Youren (1879-1964) that read “The Saviour of the People” (民族救星), which aimed to propagate Chiang’s purportedly benevolent, salvific leadership role. The statue was a creation of sculptor Chen Zhaoming 陳昭明, notable also for crafting a bronze statue at Hsinchu Railway Station. Observing this transition in the present day, we see that it underscores how historical symbols and cityscapes can reflect shifts in power. The events of this era resemble an earlier episode from fifty years prior, demonstrating a cyclical pattern wherein changes to urban landscapes are wielded as instruments by the powers-that-be to redefine political symbolism and shape collective memory.

However, in the 21st century, the placement of the statue continues to be a subject of controversy. For many Keelungers and visitors of the city, the statue of Chiang has held increasinly little significance. After the end of the martial law era, the statue was seemingly forgotten, hidden behind the foliage of tall trees surrounding the roundabout. Nonetheless, for the victims of White Terror its was still a deeply disturbing and painful reminder of the past. To them, it symbolized the atrocities committed by the KMT regime. The continuous presence of the statue at the very site where, in 1947, the KMT soldiers massacred hundreds of Keelungers on Chiang Kai-shek’s order, infuriated those who suffered under the regime’s persecutions.

Seeking to come to terms with the past and hoping to make the violent past, which had been erased, once again visible, has led to continuous protests demanding acknowledgment for the February 28th Incident and the Keelung Massacre on March 8th. The protestors, organised through the Facebook group called “Unlimited Support—Taiwan-wide Installation Art ‘Jiang’  無限期支持-全台裝置藝術’蔣’,” decided to take matters into their own hands and spray-painted Chiang’s statue with powerful slogans: “Never Forget 3/08 勿忘 3/08,” “Keelung’s Big Butcher 基隆大屠殺,” “Create a Republic 創建共和,” “Get Rid of Authoritarianism 去除威權,” “Practice Justice and Criticise Thoroughly 實踐正義清算到底.”

However, the local government, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Mayor Lin Youchang, responded to the iconoclastic actions by prosecuting the perpetrators who publicized their acts on Facebook. While the local authorities did not take the statue down immediately after the protests, they developed a plan for a larger change in the urban design by renovating the waterfront of the city. It was during the renovations in 2022 that the statue was finally removed and relocated to the famous Cihu Park in Taoyuan, where hundreds of Chiang’s statues have found their new home. Prior to the renovation, the municipal legislative council debated the removal of Chiang’s statues with divergent views expressed by the KMT and DPP councillors.[15] As such, the decision to remove the statue was not merely a reaction to the protests seeking historical justice, nor was it a direct response to Tsai Ing-wen’s law “Act on Promoting Transitional Justice” (2017), which advocated the removal of symbols commemorating authoritarian rule and its leaders across Taiwan (article 5).[16] Instead, its relocation was seemingly only a side effect of the decision to improve the waterfront of the city for citizens and tourists alike. In 2022, when the project was completed, Mayor Lin Youchang’s approval rating was above eighty percent, which suggests that the renovation of the city and the removal of Chiang’s statue were largely supported by the residents.[17]

The transformation of public space in Keelung, exemplified by the succession of statues from Kabayama Sukenori to Chiang Kai-shek, encapsulates the intricate relationship between history, power dynamics, and societal memory. The above analysis reveals a contested memory of the past, where different perspectives on the past remain contested. Through protest movements we have seen that memories of a silenced history can once again be made visible, yet simultaneously, the continuous changes to the cityscape promoted by the local and state institutions indicate a continuous presence of politics of memory and forgetting.

Keelung Martyrs’ Shrine

Let’s delve into whether analogous dynamics of contested memory and the politics of memorialization are also evident in other instances of Chiang Kai-shek statues across the city. A particularly illustrative case is the statue that once occupied the space in front of the Martyrs’ Shrine, inviting an examination of its presence, absence, and the spatial transformations surrounding it.[18]  At the center of this narrative is the Martyrs’ Shrine, originally established as a Japanese Kotohira Shinto Shrine in 1912, which underwent significant changes during KMT rule starting in 1946.[19] As many Shinto Shrines in Taiwan were dismantled, significant ones were repurposed to honor fallen soldiers and statesmen of the Republic of China, with Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine offering a vivid example. Unlike the dismantling of Kabayama Sukenori’s statue, the KMT repurposed the former Shinto Shrine for nation-building purposes, eventually reconstructing it in a different architectural style.[20] Nonetheless, the transformation of the place was not only nominal but at a later point also physical; the shrine was eventually razed and rebuild in a different architectural style. Analyzing the transformation of the shrine, which later hosted Chiang’s statue, is pivotal in understanding how  political process later known as “Sinification” of Taiwan became intertwined with Chiang Kai-shek’s cult of personality.

Unveiling the hidden social processes within this relationship demands a dual exploration of nominal transformations of the place and the shrine’s architectural metamorphosis. The Shinto Shrine, situated on the slope of the Dashawan mountain east of Keelung city, shared a historic bond with Ishizaka Park 石坂公園, named after the Japanese businessman and researcher Shōsaku Ishizaka, who established the park in the 1930s and later donated it to the Keelung Government. Together with the Shinto shrine the park became one of the emblem of the Japanese colonial influence, often depicted on Japanese postcards from that time. However, the end of the Japanese colonial period brought about crucial changes to public spaces, which included the reconstruction of the park and its renaming to Zhongzheng Park 中正公園 in honour of President Chiang Kai-shek. Simultaneously, the Shinto Shrine was repurposed into a Martyrs’ Shrine, commemorating the fallen soldiers. Such renaming practices extended throughout Taiwan, reflecting the KMT’s political ideology and the process of “Sinification” in the island’s landscape. Many places throughout Taiwan were renamed according to KMT’s propagated ethical notions, streets in Taipei were renamed with place names from mainland China, and various streets and districts received the adopted names of Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen, Zhongzheng and Zhongshan, respectively.[21]

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Moreover, Chiang’s adoption of the name “Zhongzheng,” meaning “central uprightness,” carried a rich tapestry of connotations, which were forcefully woven into Taiwan’s physical and symbolic landscape. In adopting the name Zhongzheng, Chiang purposefully aligned himself with the legacy of Sun Yat-sen, also known as Sun Zhongshan 孫中山. Sun’s chosen name carried a profound connotation, evoking the “central mountain,” that signified not only Sun’s relation to the mythic Yellow Emperor, said to preside over the Mount Song 嵩山, but also implied Sun’s claim over China’s territory.[22] Sun’s elevation to the status of the “Father of the Nation” (國父) and his emblematic role as the heir to Chinese mythical figures, including the Yellow Emperor, and Kings Yao and Shun, laid the foundation for Chiang’s strategic alignment with Sun’s legacy. Consequently, Chiang aimed to assert not only his connection to Sun Yat-sen but also to the lineage of imperial leadership.

Furthermore, the name Zhongzheng was associated with one of the recurring concepts in the Chinese Classics 經學 and (neo)-Confucianist discourse: “the Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness 大中至正.” [23] The concept was primarily used to characterize the way of the sage, the ethical ideal, exemplified by kings Yao and Shun or Confucius himself. It was likewise used in the naming of one of the Ming and Qing dynasties’ religious temples, the Hall of Central Uprightness 中正殿, situated within the Forbidden City — the former centre of imperial power.[24] Implicit within Chiang Kai-shek’s name was thus the suggestion of his rightful place within the Forbidden City, symbolizing his envisioned governance of China in alignment with the (neo)-Confucianist ethical ideals, widely propagated through the New Life Movement and beyond. Renaming the park to Zhongzheng Park, thus, reinforced the KMT’s political vision of a unified Greater China and evokeed Chiang Kai-shek’s pivotal role in perpetuating the legacy of China’s imperial tradition.

Nevertheless, the initial nominal alterations in the immediate post-war era served as a prelude to a more profound metamorphosis of the Zhongzheng Park and the Martyrs’ Shrine that unfolded during the late 1960s. In 1969, the Martyrs’ Shrine underwent a significant architectural overhaul, drawing inspiration from “Chinese” imperial design motifs. Most of the shrine, along with its Torii gates, was torn down and replaced with Northern Chinese Palace-style architecture, resembling the Forbidden Palace. The Torii gates, symbolic of the shrine’s prior role in Shinto, were exchanged for “Chinese-style” Pailou Gates 牌樓, inscribed with the characters Zhongzheng Park 中正公園.[25] The transformation thus extended beyond names, materially reshaping the landscape according to KMT’s conception of Taiwan’s “Chinese” identity.

The interior of Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine further underscores this process of “Sinification.” Notably, the shrine’s flooring features a large depiction of a dragon, which is juxtaposed with the memorial tablets devoted to the fallen martyrs as well as the Yellow Emperor, described as “the distant ancestor of the [Chinese] people 民族遠祖皇帝之神位.” Furthermore, one of the tablets honours the spirit of Koxinga, a revered Ming loyalist general and a popular folk hero, who has been deified and continues to be worshipped throughout Taiwan.[26] This thematic alignment — especially the recurrent inclusion of the dragon motif in conjunction with the Yellow Emperor — can also be observed in various martyrs’ shrines across Taiwan. Its repetitive propagation may have later served as inspiration for the Taiwan-born singer Hou Dejian to compose the immensely popular song “Descendants of the Dragon” 龍的傳人 in 1978. In other words, the mythic history of the Chinese people was strategically employed to reshape the collective perception of Taiwan’s landscape, imbuing it with a distinctively “Chinese” character in the eyes of the KMT.

In light of the aforementioned context, we can finally understand the significance of Chiang’s statue in front of the Martyrs’ Hall, celebrated with an inscription “Eternal Leader 永懷領袖.” While Chiang Kai-shek was not enshrined within the Martyrs’ Hall itself nor is it known exactly when the statue was erected, the strategic placement of it on the axial line leading to it carried profound implications. With a gaze directed towards the tablets commemorating the martyrs, the Yellow Emperor, and Koxinga, this positioning symbolically anticipates Chiang’s future deification to a status akin to that of Chinese mythical figures, casting him as a symbolic heir to the Chinese imperial “tradition” as well as a successor to the former Taiwanese folk hero Koxinga.

Furthermore, the reconstruction of the Martyrs’ Shrine completed in 1972, assumes an even broader significance when scrutinized within the macrohistorical framework, especially in light of concurrent developments within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The tumultuous period of the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命 was marked by the so-called campaign against the “Four Olds,” which targeted remnants of old ideas, culture, customs, and habits. It led to public spectacles of the obliteration of sites and artefacts representing these “Four Olds.” In response, Chiang Kai-shek initiated a counter-campaign, a political and cultural movement called the Chinese Cultural Renaissance 中華文化復興, inaugurated in 1966. The movement aimed to counter the “destruction” of culture observed in the PRC, by promoting “Chinese” culture, values, and identity, not only within Taiwan but also on an international scale. Growing international recognition of the PRC as mainland China’s legitimate government, culminating in its formal recognition by the United Nations in 1971, likely provided additional impetus for the KMT’s decision to position itself as the “guardian” of “authentic” Chinese culture. Against this backdrop, the alterations to Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine acquired a heightened significance, reflecting the global political dynamics and the battles over defining what “China” and “Chinese” means. Seen in this light, Chiang’s statue at the Martyrs’ Shrine was not only meant to portray Chiang as the heir to the “authentic” Chinese tradition but also as its principal custodian.

It is evident that the transformation of public spaces according to the Cultural Renaissance movement was not confined solely to Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine. An analogous evolution was observed in the Taipei National Martyrs’ Shrine, which served as a model for subsequent reconstructions of Martyrs’ Shrines across Taiwan, including the one in Keelung. In Taipei National Martyrs’ Shrine, a similar architectural metamorphosis took place in sync with the unfolding narrative of the Cultural Renaissance. Initially embracing its Shinto appearance, the shrine was demolished in 1967 and the construction of the new architectural complex began, which mirrored the Northern-Chinese Palace style—a design inspired by the Forbidden Palace.[27] These changes to martyrs’ shrines across Taiwan were in harmony with the government’s strategy to eliminate the remnants of Japanese colonial monuments, while actively fostering the propagation of “Chinese” culture.[28] They stand as compelling instances that demonstrate the Cultural Renaissance in motion, working towards remaking Taiwan according to their notion of what “Chinese” culture was.

Though the professed aim of the Cultural Renaissance was to venerate and safeguard such “Chinese” culture as a response to the Cultural Revolution, [29] it is paradoxical and somewhat ironic that the above cases also exemplify the movement’s implicit role in the dismantling of local cultural heritage, deemed “foreign” or “non-Chinese. Looking carefully for the remnants of the old Keelung’s Shinto Shrine nowadays, one can, however, still notice that the base structure of the shrine has remained the same. Furthermore, a couple of Komainu lion-dogs and stone lanterns typical of Shinto shrines can still be found in its vicinity. Perhaps these elements of Japanese state-religion were not deemed antagonistic to the broader shift to “Chinese” architectural motifs and were integrated into the new appearence of the shrine filled with KMT’s markers of “Chinese-ness.” The reconstructed shrine thus functioned as a mechanism for validating the authority of the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, propagating a cohesive national identity tethered to them, albeit with some decontextualised remnants of the Shinto shrine still remaining. Enough of the existing architectural attributes were replaced and repurpused with purportedly “Chinese” ones to efficiently propagate the narrative of the KMT’s and Chiang Kai-shek’s political continuity within the “Chinese” tradition.

If we once again jump to the present day, we see the signs of aging and neglect of the shrine. Nonetheless, the spring and autumn ceremonies continue to be carried out annually by the mayor of Keelung, signifying the continuous importance attributed to the Martyrs’ Shrine within the local context.[30] In the 2010s the statue of Chiang at the Martyrs’ Shrine likewise endured a series of defacements and spray-paintings, which demonstrates a parallel process to the one observed with Chiang’s statue at the Guomen Square.[31] Eventually, a decisive step was taken during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21—the statue was removed. No replacement object or inscription was introduced to fill the void left by its absence. This act of removal is more than a mere reflection of evolving historical judgments on Chiang’s legacy. It also demonstrates a shift in the larger narrative in relation to the “Chinese” identity, whether that means a KMT’s or the PRC’s conception of it. The once-prevalent “Sinocentric” viewpoint that proclaimed Taiwanese as the “descendants of the dragon” has been gradually losing support. In an intriguing turn, the entrance to the Martyrs’ Shrine now boasts not one but two commemorative plaques, celebrating the contributions of Ishizaka Shōsaku, the founder of Ishizaka Park. It was under his guidance that the Shinto Shrine once hosted “Keelung Night School,” fostering an environment for Keelungers to pursue education. Curiously, these commemorative plaques symbolize the resurgence of erased history back into the physical landscape—a history that had once been effaced from the collective experiences of the cityscape. The removal of Chiang’s statue combined with the symbolic return of the previously erased colonial history, thus indicates — to co-opt David Wang’s phrase — a “post-loyalist” encoding of the landscape, where the relationship to the past is increasingly ambivalent, multifaced and convoluted, opening up new ways of imagining the future, trapped neither by the Japanese colonial nor the martial law timeframes.[32]

Zhongzheng Park Statue

Situated about a hundred meters away, perched above the Martyrs’ Shrine, Zhongzheng Park hosted a second Chiang Kai-shek statue, overseeing the harbor with an authoritative presence. This statue meticulously depicted Chiang Kai-shek in a frontal pose, clad in his signature raincoat adorned with a Zhongshan suit collar, donning his military hat, and gripping a pointer firmly in his right hand.

The statue, too, became a target of vandalism in 2016, as it was drenched in red paint and adorned with messages denouncing Chiang’s association with the Keelung Massacre.[33] This act of defiance was reflective of the broader global movement, catalyzed by events such as »Rhodes Must Fall«, which resonated across the US and the UK. This movement demanded the removal of contentious statues commemorating colonialists and slave traders, igniting a comparable fervor in Taiwan, as the scope of iconoclastic actions expanded. Coinciding with the intensification of this international social movement, iconoclastic tendencies burgeoned in Taiwan, drawing inspiration from the waves of protests on the opposite side of the globe.

However, despite the growing momentum of the social movement, the statue within Zhongzheng Park remained in place until 2022. The catalyst for its eventual removal was the construction of a new pedestrian bridge connecting two sections of the hill. The municipal government, still led by Lin Youchang, opted for a strategic course of action. Rather than responding directly to the protests, the decision to remove the statue was intertwined with the renovation plans for a section of the park. This approach provided an opportunity to revitalize the park while concurrently addressing the statue’s contentious presence. In the aftermath of its removal, the area that once hosted the statue gradually embraced a resurgence of nature. Fresh foliage veiled the space, and today, no traces remain to hint at the statue’s former presence, once again indicating the presence of politics of memory and forgetting.

National Keelung Girls’ Senior High School

IMG 7605 scaled
Photograph of Chiang Kai-shek’s Bust at the Former Shinto Shrine at Keelung Girls’ Senior High School.
IMG 7598 scaled
Photograph of Chiang Kai-shek’s Statues in front of the Main Building of Keelung Girls’ Senior High School

Situated just a short stroll away, on the opposite side of Zhongzheng Park, rests Keelung’s Girls Senior High School, a public school, established during the Japanese colonial period. In 2022 the school commemorated its centenary, yet interestingly, within the school’s premises, not one but two statues of the former president, Chiang Kai-shek, still remain, proudly positioned within the park behind the main edifice.

The statue nearest to the school’s main building depicts Chiang in a poised stance, donning the iconic “Zhongshan” suit, a gentle smile adoring his visage, and a walking stick clutched in his right hand. Constructed as recently as 1989, this sculpture typifies the mass-produced images of Chiang that proliferated during that era. This is evidenced by a number of strikingly similar statues, which have found their new home in Cihu Park. Impressively, this statue has eluded instances of iconoclasm, perhaps due to its seclusion within the gated and guarded enclave of the school.

A second rendering of Chiang on school’s premises takes the form of a bronze bust, mounted atop a pedestal on the hillside slope. The inscription below it “Three [Principles of the] People, Establish the Country 三民建國,” deliberately forges a link between Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People and the nation-building pursuit encapsulated by the phrase “Establish the Country 建國.”  The place, where the statue was erected, once harbored a Japanese Showa garden, established in 1928 to commemorate Emperor Hirohito’s inauguration. Later evolving into a Shinto shrine complete with Torii gates by 1936, it retained its architectural features until 1972, when the Torri gates and the shrine were pulled down and supplanted with Chiang Kai-shek’s statue. This metamorphosis, thus, mirrors the transformation of the nearby Martyrs’ Shrine, underscoring the intricate interplay between Chiang Kai-shek’s cult of personality, the processes of “Sinification” and nation-building during the Cultural Renaissance movement.

Since these statues exist primarily within the gaze of school residents and visitors, and the decision-making behind their removal is not in the domain of the municipal government but rather the school administration, it is plausible that the school leadership has elected to retain them. Regardless of the rationale behind their continued presence, the statues offer us a glimpse into the historical undercurrents sweeping through Taiwan’s memory landscape, which was for so long regulated by the directives of a one-party state. Nowadays, the statues serve as counterpoints to Tsai Ing-wen’s policy of state-directed removal of Chiang Kai-shek statues from public spaces and institutions, a policy that itself exemplifies the ongoing curation of collective memory, albeit in resistance to earlier such practices.


The above examples demonstrate a consistent effort to remove Chiang Kai-shek statues from the public sphere. This drive has originated from various quarters, including activist groups, local organisations, municipal government, and even as a state-level government policy. However, the relationships among these entities are not always straightforward and frequently overlap. While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government initiated the removal push in the early 2000s and met with resistance, the activist movement gained momentum during the 2010s, paralleling the global »Rhodes Must Fall« movement. The culmination of these processes in Keelung has led to the eventual removal of the majority of Chiang’s statues. The ones that remain are in a handful of schools, such as Keelung Girls Senior High School and thus not in the decision-making domain of political authorities.

Looking into the historical context behind the installation of some of the statues in Keelung revealed the dynamic interplay between Chiang Kai-shek’s personality cult and the “Sinification” of Taiwan during the Chinese Cultural Renaissance. The analysis revealed that alterations to the physical landscape were used as a mechanism for asserting control over collective memory, social identity, and historical narratives. The removal of Chiang Kai-shek’s statues must therefore be understood as a response to these underlying hegemonic processes, with an equal aim to counteract the role such monuments play in symbolically absolving the KMT’s historical role from its responsibility for the repression during the martial law era.

Embedded within the intent of the “Act on Promoting Transitional Justice” was the aspiration to establish a liberal democratic constitutional order, fostering a coexistence of diverse and potentially conflicting social identities, collective memories, and historical narratives. However, the ongoing state-directed removal of authoritarian symbols raises questions about the realization of this intention. While the social movement against Chiang’s statues aimed to rectify the dominance of hegemonic narratives and the invisibility of the victim’s narratives by foregrounding the latter, the state-led removal of controversial statues intervenes in the processes of historicization and memorialisation of the recent past at scale. In doing so, it risks erasing these hegemonic narratives from the public domain. While moving the statues to Cihu Park results in the creation of a historical archive, thereby preserving them as evidence of the past, their displacement is nonetheless a questionable intervention that exerts control over collective memory and historical narratives, precisely because it ensures their invisibility and decontextualization. This is furthermore highlighted by the fact that the sites, where the statues once stood, were transformed in a way that has erased all evidence of their previous signification. While the removal of statues may be experienced by many as a form of  “transitional justice” and a means of moving beyond past political narratives, doing so at scale begs the question, whether their state-promoted erasure is not, in itself, an example of selective politics of memory and forgetting — a method of exerting control over the social imaginary.


[1] Yang Huei Pang. 2014. “Taiwan and Chiang Kai-Shek’s Fangong Dalu.” Asian Affairs 45, no. 1, 86. DOI: 10.1080/03068374.2013.871843; Kirk A. Denton. 2021. The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-martial Law Taiwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 158.; Jeremy E. Taylor. 2006. “The Production of the Chiang Kai-Shek Personality Cult, 1929-1975.” The China Quarterly 185. 96-110. DOI: 10.1017/S0305741006000063.

[2] Jeremy E. Taylor. 2010 “QuJianghua: Disposing of and Re-appraising the Remnants of Chiang Kai-shek’s Reign on Taiwan.” Journal of Contemporary History 45, no. 1: 181–196. DOI: 10.1177/0022009409348030

[3] See Denton, The Landscape of Historical Memory, 144.

[4] Vladimir Stolojan-Filipesco. 2022. “The Second Life of a Political Cult: Official and Popular Reappropriation of Chiang Kai-shek Statues in Post-martial Law Taiwan.” East Asian Journal of Popular Culture 8, no. 1:131-148. DOI: 10.1386/eapc_00066_1.

[5] Seeking to decolonise public spaces from the hegemony of the icon, the struggle to topple monuments became a tool for enacting social justice and democracy, recognising the rights of the minorities and marginalised, and a means of dealing with contested heritage.

[6] Quentin Stevens, and Gabriele de Seta. 2020. “Must Zhongzheng fall?” City 24, no. 3-4. DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2020.1784593.

[7] Unknown. 2019. “Walking Wildly at Keelung Historic Sites…. I Feel Like Being Held Hostage 基隆古蹟大亂走…..感覺被挾持似的走不停.” Published 17. March 2019. Accessed 15. May 2023. https://protozoa.pixnet.net/blog/post/46905140.

[8] ­Unknown. 2012. “Keelung Yingge Rock Trail 基隆鶯歌石山步道.” Published 1. September 2012. Accessed 15. May 2023. https://blog.udn.com/yuhyng/47731069

[9]  Lu Xianxiu, Lin Jiadong 盧賢秀、林嘉東. 2015. “Demolition of Chiang Kai-shek’s Statue Investigated by Keelung’s City Government 拆蔣介石銅像 基隆市府被調查.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 5. May 2015. Accessed 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/society/breakingnews/1308130

[10] Lin Jiadong, Yu Zhaofu 林嘉東, 俞肇福. 2018. “The Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in the Keelung City Police Station Will Be Moved to the Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Park Within 2 Months 基隆市警局內蔣介石塑像 2個月內將移兩蔣文化園區.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 1. March 2018. Accessed 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/2352323. Both Xinyi School and Police Station removed their statues. Personal visits to the sights.

[11] Zheng Yinyao 鄭進耀. 2018. “‘Chiang’s Immortal Spirit’ ‘Bronze Statue of Chiang is My Saviour’ in Those Years They Carved the Bronze Statue of Chiang ‘蔣公陰魂不散’ ‘蔣公銅像是我的救星’ 那些年他們雕的蔣公銅像.” Mirror Media. Published 20. July 2018. Accessed 15. May 2023. https://www.mirrormedia.mg/story/20180720web002/.

[12] Chen Cailing 陳彩玲. 2021. “Graffiti and Paint on the Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Keelung Roundabout Before it was Demolished ‘Settle the Score in the End’ 基隆圓環蔣公銅像拆除前遭潑漆 四面塗鴉「清算到底」. China Times 中時. Published 3. March 2021. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://www.chinatimes.com/realtimenews/20210303001638-260402?chdtv.

[13] The United Daily Newspaper 聯合報. 2007. “The Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Front of the Train Station Hides in the Bushes 車站前蔣公銅像 躲在樹叢.” Published March 01, 2007. Archival Resource via CrossAsia.

[14] National Repository of Cultural Knowledge. 國家文化資料庫. 1923. Archival number: 0005757664. Accessed online: https://nrch.culture.tw/view.aspx?keyword=0005757664&s=102077&id=0005757664&proj=MOC_IMD_001.

[15] Lu Xianxiu 盧賢秀. 2018. ” The Statue in Front of Keelung’s Train Station Affecting the Traffic, Calls for Relocation 影響交通 基隆火車站前圓環銅像喊遷.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 25. April 2018. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/life/breakingnews/2406160.

[16] Executive Yuan. 2017. “Act on Promoting Transitional Justice.” Laws and Regulations Database of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://law.moj.gov.tw/ENG/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=A0030296.

[17] Chen Cailing 陳彩玲. 2022. “Over 80% for 3 Consecutive Years, Satisfaction of Lin Youchang’s Governance has Won Silver連3年逾8成 林右昌施政滿意度摘銀.” Yahoo News. Published 15. September 2022. Accessed on 15. August 2023. https://tw.news.yahoo.com/news/連3年逾8成-林右昌施政滿意度摘銀-201000458.html.

[18] Keelung for a Walk. ND. “‘Taiwan Culture’ Keelung’s History: Where did the Shinto Shrine go After Japanese Left — Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine?【台灣文化】基隆的歷史:日本人走後神社去了哪裡—基隆忠烈祠?” Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://keelung-for-a-walk.com/zh/看看/4562/.

[19] Josh Ellis. 2021. “Keelung’s Martyrs Shrine (基隆忠烈祠).” Published 12. August 2021. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://www.goteamjosh.com/blog/xiandong.

[20] Pan Yingru 潘映儒 . 2013. “The Construction and Competition of the Meaning of Sacred Space ─ From Taoyuan Shrine to Taoyuan County Martyrs’ Shrine 神聖空間意義的建構與競逐 ─從桃園神社到桃園縣忠烈祠.” Academic paper. https://hdl.handle.net/11296/f22cn4.

[21] Huang Wenchuan. 2018. “A Comparison of Politics of Street Names in Taipei and Shanghai.” In China: A Historical Geography of the Urban, edited by Ding, Y., Marinelli, M., Zhang, X. (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham). DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-64042-6_7.

[22] Marie-Claire Bergère. 2000. Sun Yat-sen. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Stanford: Stanford University Press. vii-viii.

[23] Marc Andre Matten. 2012. “The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.” In Places of Memory in Modern China, edited by Marc Andre Matten (Leiden, Boston: Brill), 61.

[24] Ester Bianchi. 2008. “Protecting Beijing. The Tibetan Image of Yamāntaka-vajrabhairava in Late Imperial and Republican China.” In Images of Tibet in the 19th and 20th Centuries, edited by M. Esposito. Études Thématiques 22.1, 339.

[25] Yi-chih Huang. 2023. “The Republic of China and Confucianism: Architectural Rites in the Discourse of the Postwar Taiwan State 民國與儒家: 戰後台灣國家論述下的禮制建築.” TFAM Museum. Revised 1. June 2023. Accessed on 5. June 2023. https://www.tfam.museum/Journal/Detail.aspx?id=1048&aID=1072&ddlLang=zh-tw.

[26] Personal visit to the site.

[27] Han Cheung. 2022. “Taiwan in Time: Civilians Enter the Martyrs’ Shrine.” Taipei Times. Published 28. August 2022. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2022/08/28/2003784279.

[28] Yi-chih Huang. 2023. “The Republic of China and Confucianism.”

[29] Wang Shou-Nan. 1987. “Chiang Kai-Shek and the Promotion of the Chinese. Cultural Renaissance Movement.” Chinese Studies in History 21, no. 2: 69. DOI: 10.2753/CSH0009-4633210266.

[30] Guo Shixian 郭世賢. 2021. “Keelung Zhongzheng Park’s Martyrs Shrine Autumn Ceremony National Memorial Ceremony Lin Youchang Paid Tribute to the Martyrs 基隆中正公園忠烈祠秋祭國殤大典 林右昌向先賢烈士致敬.” ETtoday News. Published 2. September 2021. Accessed on 15. May 2021. https://www.ettoday.net/news/20210902/2070212.htm.

[31] Liu Liren 劉力仁. 2015. “The Statue of Chiang in Zhongzheng Park the city Government is Considering Relocation 中正公園蔣公銅像 市府考慮遷移.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 15. January 2015. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/local/paper/847559, Lu Xianxiu 盧賢秀. 2014. “The Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Zhongzheng Park was Spray-painted, the City Government Urgently Cleaned It 中正公園蔣中正銅像噴漆 市府緊急清洗.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 27. August 2018. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/society/breakingnews/1091223.

[32] David Der-wei Wang. 2013. “Post-Loyalism.” In Sinophone Studies, edited by Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards (New York: Columbia University Press): 93-116.

[33] Wu Zhengfeng 吳政峰. 2016. “Don’t Forget the 308 Keelung Massacre! The Statue of Chiang Kai-shek was Painted to Look Like Street Fighter General Whirlwind 勿忘308基隆大屠殺! 蔣介石銅像被潑漆成快打旋風將軍.” Liberty Times Net 自由時報. Published 9. March 2016. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/1627075?fbclid=IwAR26RbM0AAtBQO6kEe-dX60eEYOZq4VMAqU0Is3nGeBg4riKrwpT7V6LYZA.

Image Sources:

Image 1: Chen Cailing 陳彩玲. 2021. “Graffiti and Paint on the Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Keelung Roundabout Before it was Demolished ‘Settle the Score in the End’ 基隆圓環蔣公銅像拆除前遭潑漆 四面塗鴉「清算到底」. China Times 中時. Published 3. March 2021. Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://www.chinatimes.com/realtimenews/20210303001638-260402?chdtv. Photo by Chen Cailing.

Image 2: Keelung for a Walk. ND. “‘Taiwan Culture’ Keelung’s History: Where did the Shinto Shrine go After Japanese Left — Keelung’s Martyrs’ Shrine?【台灣文化】基隆的歷史:日本人走後神社去了哪裡—基隆忠烈祠?” Accessed on 15. May 2023. https://keelung-for-a-walk.com/zh/看看/4562/.

Image 3: Author’s Photograph.

Image 4: Author’s Photograph.

Image 5: Author’s Photograph.

Author: Tilen Zupan

Follow Tilen:
Tilen is a graduate student of transcultural studies at Heidelberg University on a research and travel visit to Taiwan. He is currently writing his master’s thesis on the propagation of iconic images of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. Previously, he lived in Ljubljana, London, and Shanghai, completing his studies in philosophy and Chinese philosophy. He plans to continue his academic research in transcultural and intellectual history as well as philosophy, focusing on the creation of knowledge through visual media. In his spare time, Tilen enjoys hiking, drinking tea, and discussing ways to subvert systems of power.

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