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The 228 Massacre: Taboos, Scars, Stigmas and an Essential Lesson in Taiwan History Ep 171

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

The 228 Massacre has been a taboo subject for those who have had family or lived through it and the White Terror Era that followed.

The Lunar New Year holiday and celebrations in Taiwan have just ended, but another national holiday will soon be here, the 228 Peace Memorial Day. But what is 228?

It’s been, 75 years and as you’ll hear from my guests on today’s show, it’s still a touchy topic. And frankly it’s not something that can be easily boiled down to a single date, February 28, 1947.

The first thing to know is that 228 is actually a misnomer because the events thought to have ignited the conflicts and that led to the massacring of tens of thousands actually happened the night before, on February 27th, 1947.

Also, tensions had already been mounting for quite some time before then. Two years earlier in 1945, at the end of World War II, the Chinese Nationalists (the Kuomintang) had fled from China to Taiwan bringing with them the Republic of China framework.

On the night of February 27th, Tobacco Monopoly Bureau agents tried to confiscate contraband cigarettes from a 40-year-old woman and brutally knocked her out. When an angry crowd gathered in protest, one of the agents fired a shot into the crowd killing a bystander. Within 24 hours, the incident had escalated into bloody violence and massacres.

Under the authoritarian Chiang regime, what followed was 38 years of martial law and the White Terror era. Anyone could be disappeared, executed or worse for just saying or doing the wrong thing, or for what was seemingly wrong in the eyes of the authorities. The people of Taiwan were horrified and terrified. Generations dared not speak of 228.

228 was absent from high school textbooks until relatively recently. Denial, distrust, suppression, and the passage of time have made it hard for many to come to terms with 228.

What I’ve presented is of course not the entire story but is meant to provide you with some basic background for the discussion in this episode of Talking Taiwan. If you were previously unfamiliar with 228, I hope that this has piqued your interest, and that you do some further research for yourself on the topic History is not about an isolated date like 228 but understanding its deeper context, significance and repercussions.

Since it’s the 75th anniversary of the 228 massacre we will be dedicating two episodes to this topic. In this first episode today, my guests Wei-Wei Chang, Michi Fu, Tsuann Kuo and Josephine Pan represent different backgrounds and generations of Taiwanese women. Each will share their personal perspectives and experiences related to 228, and thoughts on the societal impact of 228. Next week Michi and Tsuann will return to discuss their work with 228 survivors and their families through the Transitional Justice Commission. Special thanks to Michi for her help in assembling all the guests for these two episodes.

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by the Taiwan Elite Alliance 優社 and the Taiwanese United Fund.

The Taiwan Elite Alliance 優社 was established in 2000 to promote Taiwanese and Taiwanese American arts and literature, and to protect and enhance the human rights, freedom and democracy of the people in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese United Fund is an arts and culture foundation that celebrates the cultural heritages of Taiwanese Americans. Established in 1986, the foundation’s mission is to facilitate cultural exchange between the Taiwanese American community and other American cultural communities, hoping to enrich and expand our cultural experiences. To learn more about TUF visit their website  http://www.tufusa.org/ 




About this episode’s guests




Weiwei Chang was born and raised in Taiwan during the martial law era. Her parents retreated from China to Taiwan as refugees after World War II. She has been living in the U.S. for over 40 years. Six years ago, she retired from her job as a registered nurse.



Dr. Michi Fu is a second-generation Taiwanese American and a NATWA II member. She became a Taiwanese citizen after spending a sabbatical year as a mid-life adult. As a Taiwanese returnee, identity politics was an inevitable part of the ethnic identity development process. As such, she has been educating herself on Taiwanese history, including the 228 Massacre, that her family has traditionally remained silent about.




Tsuann Kuo, Ph.D. was trained as a gerontologist and has had both clinical and managerial work experiences in the United States before returning to Taiwan. Currently, Dr. Kuo works as an Associate Professor at the School of Medicine, Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung City, Taiwan. She is actively involved in a number of organizations as the President of Taiwan Association of Family Caregivers, the Executive Director of Taichung Dementia Integrated Care Center and the President of Red Cross in Taichung City.




Josephine Pan is a proud Taiwanese Hakka from Hsinchu. She immigrated to the US in 1980 after graduating from college, and worked as an Immigration Consultant/Paralegal for 25+ years. Currently, she is a business owner of JT & TEA (which imports and distributes several varieties of tea). Josephine is also Founder of Taiwan Elite Alliance, a registered nonprofit corporation in California since 2000, Board Director/Cultural Night Committee Chair/Former President (2011 – 2013) of Taiwanese United Fund (TUF), Coordinator for the Annual 2-28 Commemorative Concert. She has also participated in community initiatives such as LA River Clean Up and other cultural events promoting Taiwanese American culture.


 Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How each guest first heard of or learned about 228
  • How the 228 was a forbidden topic of discussion
  • How my guests and their families were personally impacted by 228
  • The Formosa Incident aka Kaohsiung Incident
  • The White Terror and Martial Law era of Taiwan
  • The writer who was sent to prison because of his Chinese-language translation of a Popeye comic
  • Why the topic of 228 has been so taboo
  • Tsuann’s grandfather who was a political prisoner during the White Terror era
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • What Tsuann’s relatives experienced and witnessed about 228
  • Why Tsuann decided to try to help 228 victims and their families
  • Green Island, the place where political prisoners were exiled
  • The case of a 15-year-old girl who was jailed
  • How political prisoners, after being released were ostracized by society
  • How things banned during the Martial Law era included books, music, art or any medium related to communism or that was critical of the Kuomintang
  • Personal accounts of people persecuted during the Martial Law era
  • The families whose husbands and fathers disappeared due to 228
  • What Josephine’s relatives experienced and witnessed about 228
  • The privileges and overrepresentation granted to the Chinese vs. local Taiwanese under Kuomintang (KMT) rule
  • The injustices in Taiwan’s society under the initial rule of the KMT
  • Why it’s important to remember and understand 228
  • The importance of healing from historic trauma
  • Canada’s residential schools
  • What Tsuann discovered about 228 survivors through her work with the Transitional Justice Committee
  • Why Josephine started organizing an annual concert to commemorate 228
  • How 228 became a national holiday in 1998 but has almost been cancelled as a holiday twice
  • Comparisons of 228 Peace Memorial Day with U.S. holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Memorial Day
  • My guests’ thoughts on whether or not 228 remains a national holiday
  • Indigenous Peoples Day
  • How to commemorate 228
  • What young people in Taiwan know about 228
  • What was previously taught to Josephine, Tsuann, and Wei-Wei about Taiwan in their textbooks when they were high school students in Taiwan
  • How the 228 massacre has only recently been included in high school textbooks
  • How the 228 massacre is being taught in high schools
  • The Jing-Mei Prison Museum in Taipei
  • Music that was banned during the White Terror era
  • Experiential ways to learn about 228


Related Links:

The 228 Incident: https://228massacre.org/



The 2021 228 Concert sponsored by Taiwan Elite Alliance and Taiwanese United Fund: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAR2dJ1wvwM&t=127s

Taipei 228 Peace Park: https://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002090&id=R3

The First 228 Peace Memorial Monument: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_228_Peace_Memorial_Monument

Chinese Nationalists aka Kuomintang: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang

Republic of China (1912–1949): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_China_(1912%E2%80%931949)

History of Taiwan and Republic of China (1945–present): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Taiwan_(1945%E2%80%93present)

Martial Law in Taiwan: https://oftaiwan.org/history/white-terror/martial-law/

Nine years lost to ‘Popeye’ (an article from the Taipei Times): http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2017/09/24/2003679025

The “Kaohsiung Incident” of 1979 (an article from Taiwan Communique): https://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1979.htm

Formosa Incident (an article from OFT- Outreach for Taiwan): https://oftaiwan.org/history/white-terror/formosa-incident/

Formosa Magazine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formosa_Magazine

The Kaohsiung Tapes (from Taiwan Communique): https://www.taiwandc.org/kao-tapes.pdf

International Human Rights Day: https://www.ohchr.org/en/aboutus/pages/humanrightsday.aspx

Taiwanese Hakka: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwanese_Hakka


Yao Chia-wen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yao_Chia-wen

A-bian (Chen Shui-bian): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chen_Shui-bian

PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder): https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

Green Island: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Island,_Taiwan

National Assembly Elections Coming Up (1991): https://www.taiwandc.org/twcom/tc52-int.pdf

Su Tseng-chang: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_Tseng-chang

Hsieh Chang-ting (Frank Hsieh): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Hsieh

Museum of Tolerance: https://www.museumoftolerance.com/

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr._Day

Martin Luther King Jr.:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Peoples%27_Day

Memorial Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day

‘Cultural genocide’: the shameful history of Canada’s residential schools – mapped (an article from The Guardian): https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2021/sep/06/canada-residential-schools-indigenous-children-cultural-genocide-map

HoChie Tsai, speaker: http://hochie.net/speaker.html

The Life Journey of a second generation Taiwanese American : Dr. Ho-Chi Tsai (from the Taiwanese American archives): https://taiwaneseamericanhistory.org/blog/mystories554/

Check out Talking Taiwan Episode 29 (One of our earliest episodes, so please excuse the sound quality): HoChie Tsai about TaiwaneseAmerican.org: https://talkingtaiwan.com/tt025-ho-chie-tsai/

In 2001, 228 was almost downgraded from a public holiday to a memorial day: https://www.taiwandc.org/twcom/96-no4.htm


228 almost canceled in 2009: https://www.qppstudio.net/public-holidays-news/2009/taiwan-to-consider-cancelling-228-public-holiday-002061.htm


Transitional Justice Commission: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitional_Justice_Commission#:~:text=The%20Transitional%20Justice%20Commission%20

921 (September 21, 2009) Earthquake: https://bit.ly/3uychlo

Taiwan’s Textbook Controversy and the Struggle Over Taiwanese History: https://newbloommag.net/2015/07/06/taiwans-textbook-controversy/

Taiwan Has Its Own Textbook Controversy Brewing: https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/21/taiwan-textbook-controversy-china-independence-history/

United States Holocaust Museum: https://www.ushmm.org/

Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park: http://museu.ms/museum/details/18264/national-human-rights-museum


Chiang Kai-shek: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Kai-shek

Gone but Not Forgotten: 7 Historic Sites to Learn More About the White Terror: https://taiwan-scene.com/7-historic-sites-to-learn-more-about-the-white-terror/

Martial Law in Taiwan (Chinese language article): https://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/trad/chinese-news-40593296

228-related Music-

1947 Overture by Tyzen Hsiao:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNCrnfhyUKw

228-related Movie-

Detention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq0K2ipTaPM

228-related Movie-

A City of Sadness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLcnPS3FgNo

228-related Museums-

National Human Rights Museum: https://www.nhrm.gov.tw/w/nhrm/index

Green Island White Terror Memorial: https://www.nhrm.gov.tw/w/nhrm/GI_Visit

Armenian Genocide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_genocide



Suggested Reading & Resources:



Formosa Betrayed by George H. Kerr: https://camphorpress.com/books/formosa-betrayed/


Remembrance & Resources: Learning About 228 (From TaiwaneseAmerican.org): https://www.taiwaneseamerican.org/2021/02/remembrance-resources-learning-about-228/

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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    • Thank You very much for citing our Talking Taiwan podcast episode 171 “The 228 Massacre: Taboos, Scars, Stigmas and an Essential Lesson in Taiwan History”.
      On next week’s episode, Dr. Michi Fu and Dr. Tsunann Kuo will discuss their roles in the Transitional Justice Commission’s work with 228 survivors and their relatives.

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