2015年5月2日 星期六

1950s Part 8: Rare friends

In the entire history of US-Taiwan inter-relations, Gen Dwight Eisenhower remains the only US President that had ever officially visited Taiwan (1960). Less noted were tours by US VPs, among them, Richard Nixon (1953), Hubert Humphrey (1966), and Spiro Agnew (1970, 1971). To the common folks, pomp and circumstances always trump diplomatic intrigues. After spending hours waiting in the sun, just to catch a glimpse of and enthusiastically cheer for the visiting heads of state, life is good, afterwards.
An embroiderer in a shack, refugee from China, pinning his hope of
returning home on Eisenhower and CKS 
In the 1950s, trips to Taiwan taken by heads of state were, however, rare. And among the most prominent were two monarchs from far far away, the Shah of Iran Pahlavi (1919-1980) and the Lion King of Jordan Hussein (1935-1999).
Shah of Iran 伊朗國王巴勒維陛下 and CKS, May 14, 1958
The history of the ancient Persian Empire is familiar to most school children in Taiwan. The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BC) was often regarded as the equivalent to Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in both scope and grandeur. A visit paid by the Emperor reigning from the Peacock Throne therefore had generated a huge buzz. We were also all fascinated by tales of the Shah's coronation and reception, and the romance between the Shah and his queen(s). The fact that the Shah was actually meeting Taiwan's need for international support further endeared him to the people of Taiwan.

The Shah's itinerary in Taiwan was quite extensive. Arriving at SongShan Airport greeted with military honor, His Majesty met with dignitaries in Taipei on the first day (May 14). The next day, he went to Taoyuan to tour the Shihmen Dam, to HsinChuang to chat with a farming family, then attend a banquet in his honor at the Presidential Palace. Next day, a review of military exercise followed by visits to military bases in southern Taiwan before retiring to Kaohsiung Grand Hotel. The whole May 17 was scheduled for tours of industry and the National Palace Museum in Taichung. Then off to SunMoon Lake to spend the night at 涵碧樓 with dinner and a special Peking opera show, hosted by VP Chen-chen. The Shah returned to Taipei on May 18 and gave a reciprocal banquet honoring CKS and Mme Chiang. He left for Japan on May 19 and was sent off with military honor again at SongShan Airport.
King Hussein 胡笙國王 with CKS, March 9,1959
Almost a year later, an Arab king came calling. Tales of the Arabian Nights were also well-known to the children of Taiwan - even though most if not all had ever met an Arab before. King Hussein's tour of Taiwan set off unbounded imagination very quickly. And the title, the Lion of Jordan, instantaneously conjured up an image of a fearless fighter. That was exactly what the respect shown King Hussein by the people of Taiwan. His Majesty arrived in SongShan Airport to great fanfare before arriving at the Grand Hotel for a brief rest prior to starting the itinerary, which was as busy as that for the Shah of Iran. Most notable was that at the time, the first Islamic mosque was being built in Taipei (清真寺 on HsinSheng S Road) and King Hussein actually paid homage to the mosque, albeit still under construction, much to the delight of all Muslims in Taiwan.

People in the know always condescendingly told us that it was really all quid-pro-quo. That would not be surprising in the cynical world of international diplomacy. Nonetheless, even six decades later, we still remember this, "A friend in need is a friend indeed".

[Photos courtesy of Taipeimarc]

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