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September 24, 2017

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President Ma pays homage in person to the Yellow Emperor

Taipei, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou made himself the first head of state to pay homage in person yesterday to the legendary Yellow Emperor.

The Yellow Emperor, believed to have founded China as a nation more than 5,000 years ago, has a mausoleum on the Chinese mainland.

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek made it a rule for the Republic of China to pay homage from Taiwan to the Yellow Emperor on National Tomb-Sweeping Day on April 4 after he moved his Kuomintang government from Nanjing to Taipei at the end of 1949.

But President Chiang never paid homage in person. Nor did his son, President Chiang Ching-kuo. They appointed the minister of the interior at the time to perform the ritual by proxy.

That tradition has continued in Taiwan under Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. As a matter of fact, Chen wished to terminate the tradition but he didn't dare for fear of repercussion.

President Ma decided to preside over the rites in person. Accompanied by all his government leaders from Premier Liu Chao-shiuan on down, the president went to the Martyrs' Shrine in Yuanshan to worship the Yellow Emperor in China.

They sang the Republic of China's national anthem as the starter. Ma then burned joss sticks, laid a wreath, and offered fruit, cloth and wine to the mythological national founder. He read a eulogy before he concluded the rites by bowing three times to the west, where the Chinese mainland is located.

Tony Wang, Ma's spokesman, said the president wanted to pay his respects to the Yellow Emperor on National Tomb-Sweeping Day in person to stress the importance of China's ancestor-worshipping tradition.

But the precedent-making ceremonies at the Martyrs' Shrine, rebuilt on the site of a Japanese Shinto temple dedicated to the war dead, are meant as a show by President Ma of his unprofessed commitment to maintain an umbilical relationship between Taiwan and the People's Republic.

Incidentally, that Shinto shrine was burned weeks after it had been dedicated, because an American bomber shot by ack-ack crash-landed on its roof in the spring of 1945. The shrine was made of wood all over. It burned like a match box.

Ma is doing what he can to improve relations across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing, on the other hand, doubts his sincerity.

The best and easiest way to show his sincerity is to reinstate the National Unification Council made to cease to function by President Chen. Or to sign a peace accord with President Hu Jintao.

Either of the two ways demonstrates the Kuomintang government's commitment to eventual unification with China. But President Ma dare not do either lest he should be condemned by the Hoklo majority in Taiwan for selling out their country.

By worshipping the Yellow Emperor from Taipei, the president, a son of a Chinese mainlander, hopes Hu Jintao will understand he is committed to the Chinese nation, which is one though there are two separate political entities on both sides of the strait now.

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