July 8, 2004 — TAIPEI (Reuters) - Nationalist Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will be buried at last -- three decades after his death and after his successors failed to realize his dream of reclaiming the Chinese mainland from Mao Zedong's communists.
Chiang fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland in a bloody civil war and died on the island in 1975.
His remains lie embalmed in a "temporary" mausoleum in the northern Taiwan city of Taoyuan, awaiting a proper burial on the mainland.
His son and successor as president, Chiang Ching-kuo, also lies in Taoyuan awaiting a permanent resting place.
The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that descendants of the Chiang family had asked the government to hold a state burial for the late presidents and to entomb them in a military cemetery in Taipei.
From a Reuters report on ABC News.
I mentioned this to a Taiwanese friend who said:
Why bury him? Why not dump him into the sea to feed the fish. No, wait, the fish would get food-poisoning.
That's how much he is loved in Taiwan. From his death in 1975 until after the end of martial law in 1987, schoolchildren were taken to the mausoleum to walk past the embalmed bodies, just as Soviet citizens used to have to visit the tomb of Lenin until he was finally buried a few years ago.
Feelings towards his son and successor as dictator are more mixed, as the Reuters piece mentions:
Chiang Ching-kuo is respected for ending martial law in 1987, shortly before his death, thus unleashing the democratic forces that broke his family's dynastic grip on power and eventually ended the Nationalist Party's half-century rule in Taiwan.
It's politically significant that the two Chiangs are to be buried - a recognition from the nationalist camp of Taiwan's de facto independence. The Guomindang officially believes that the government in Taiwan is the legitimate government of China as a whole and therefore opposes Taiwanese independence. (Making them uneasy allies of the Chinese Communist Party against pro-independence movements in Taiwan). This is the background to these comments in the Reuters piece:
Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), once a lawyer for rag-tag underground dissidents, swept to power in the 2000 presidential election and was narrowly re-elected for a second term in March this year.
"We will let history judge the deeds of the two Chiangs. But we welcome the fact that the Chiang family now sees Taiwan as their eternal and only home," said DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang.