Memorials are often established to commemorate the great deeds achieved by legendary national icons, and when it comes to Taiwan, one of the most renown memorials is the CKS Memorial Hall. Named after the man that led the nationalist government’s retreat to Taiwan, the square situates at the heart of Taipei, and hosts many of Taiwan’s iconic architectures and national institutions. The magnificent archway, the two palace style buildings that house the national theater and national concert hall, and the white memorial with octagonal roof make up the entire landmark.
The multi-purpose square has been used for numerous mass gatherings and hosted countless large-scale events since its debut in 1976. From celebrations to protests, the transformation of this square seems to chronicle Taiwan’s evolution in its recent history. Starting out as a landmark to commemorate one of the controversial figures in Taiwan’s national history, the square bears the marks of historic struggle, triumph and reconciliation. It is a place erected under a dictator’s name, but serves the diverse needs of this island’s citizens faithfully.
The history showcased inside the memorial may be considered by many Taiwanese citizens as the fabricated legacy of a tyrant, but the square itself never fails to respect citizens’ freedom, rights and opinions. If we take a look back at its 40 years of history, it is like reading a living textbook of Taiwan’s democratic history that documents the struggle, resilience, determination and the ultimate fruition of true democracy on this island. It is the symbol of Taiwan’s democratic progress, and the birthplace of the first functioning democracy in the Mandarin speaking world.
The decision to rename the square into Liberty Square in 2007 represents another height in Taiwan’s democratic movement. The lives lost along the way may never be brought back again, but the noble act of recognizing their struggles will separate Taiwan from its mighty yet fearful neighbor. Taiwan may need 3 more decades to restore its past glory, but its respect for humanity will continue to help it shine on the international stage. After all, the true meaning of democracy is the willingness and ability to uphold freedom and liberty.