What Would You Tell Allie, a 6 Year-Old Taiwanese American Adoptee?

Recently, Lora C., the loving mother of 6 year-old adoptee Allie C., messaged our TaiwaneseAmerican.org Facebook Page to ask for our advice about how to help her child learn about and accept her identity as a Taiwanese American. I was moved by how much Lora was willing to share with us and how she regarded us as a potential community resource, given that their family lives in the Midwest, where there are relatively fewer Asian Americans. Even though I was uncertain about how I could help, I arranged to speak to her the following day to see if I could offer some of my personal advice from past experiences working with Taiwanese American children and teens. Throughout our conversation, I was touched by how open and curious Lora was to my experiences and thoughts, as she seemed to comb through my words and stories to find answers to prepare her daughter for the experiences she might face in the future. I was equally impressed by how her 6 year old embodied a strong, independent “wise old soul.” Although I shared my personal opinions and the discussion was productive and encouraging, I still felt it was important enough to bring this issue regarding identity formation of young children (and especially a growing Taiwanese American adoptee population) to the forefront knowing that many of you, our readers and followers, may have thoughts and advice of your own to share. Lora has consented to me reprinting her original message publicly with the hope that you might engage in this important discussion and share your advice and stories. She looks forward to anything you have to say.

Read Lora’s message below, and then share your thoughts on three questions I have for you:

Dear TaiwaneseAmerican.org,

I am looking for advice about how to handle a situation we have encountered at our daughters school. If you can shed some light in our direction, it would be very helpful and much appreciated.

Our school has invited a group of Chinese exchange students and teachers to visit for several weeks. Because the community we reside in is not very diverse, our daughter has enjoyed going to school and visiting with these Asian students who seem familiar to her in ways that some of her Caucasian American friends might not. It has been a nice cultural experience for our daughter up until now.

The problem is that when an older Chinese student/teacher asked our 6 year old daughter where she was born, our daughter stated that she was born in Taiwan. The Chinese teacher gave a little laugh and told our daughter in front of her fellow classmates that Taiwan was the same as China. She told our daughter that she was Chinese. Our family has educated our daughter otherwise. We continue to educate our daughter and our family about the history of her birth country and encourage her to be a proud Taiwanese American.

Our family is not Taiwanese. However, we understand and strongly believe in Taiwanese Independence. Our 6 year old has become a little quiet and perhaps confused about her identity. I’m not sure that she trusts what I am telling her now… She told me that since I am not Asian that I might not understand the facts and I might be wrong. Maybe Taiwan is China.

I have shown her the map, I have shown her the flag, I have shown her the currency, I have shown her a birth certificate. I have tried to explain the political differences, but she is too young to understand.

My heart feels heavy because I don’t want my beautiful intelligent child to be misled and confused. I wish for her to be proud and connected to the Taiwanese American community.

How do I help her and how do I educate our school to encourage them to ask these Chinese exchange students to keep political views to themselves? I worry that my little girl may be confronted with opposition from other students if they are being educated incorrectly.

Thank you for any help you can offer our family.

Sincerely,
Lora C.

On behalf of TaiwaneseAmerican.org’s staff, we thank you Lora for trusting us with information about your situation. Through your adoptive experiences, you, Allie, and your family are part of our Taiwanese American community now, and we hope we can continue serving you in the future.

We believe our followers and community members may have interesting experiences and stories of their own to share and learn from, so we invite you to comment below. Please note that due to the sensitivity of the topic involving a young 6 year-old child, we will not tolerate comments that are inflammatory, insulting, or racist in nature. We, however, do appreciate a diversity of honest and open thoughts, opinions, and ideas to help Lora and Allie through this period and into her future.

We invite you to respond to any or all of these questions:

1) How would you advise Lora, who is not of Taiwanese heritage, to teach her child about the Taiwanese American identity and culture?

2) If you were in the situation described above, how would you specifically address the school and the Chinese exchange students and teachers? Or how would you help Allie make sense of her confusion?

3) If you were to write Allie a letter of encouragement, what would YOU say to her? Please start with “Dear Allie” and keep in mind that she is currently 6 years old. Some of these letters will be shown to her or saved for her as she grows older.

EDIT: “I spoke with Allie about what you are doing with the letters and she is very excited. I’m not sure that she really understands what we’re doing but when I told her that you might be posting a few pictures, she insisted that she take part in sending you a few. I had to promise her that I would send you these pictures… I mentioned that she liked to have some ‘Say-So’ in just about everything, didn’t I?” –Lora C.

Well, here you go Allie! We’re so happy to know you and your mom. Welcome to our big ol’ Taiwanese American family! –Ho Chie Tsai

66 Responses to “What Would You Tell Allie, a 6 Year-Old Taiwanese American Adoptee?”

  1. Lora, you’re doing a great thing by educating Allie as much as possible about Taiwanese culture and identity. I’d keep focusing on the positive, so that her associations with Taiwan and Taiwanese culture aren’t so much about choosing one side or another, but just enjoying the benefits of being a Taiwanese American. Whether it’s food, cartoons, cute little toys or even some Taiwanese kiddie music, all of these things will help her develop positive associations with all things Taiwanese.

    I was born in the United States and don’t feel I fully developed an understanding of my Taiwanese American identity until high school, despite visiting Taiwan many times throughout my childhood. It’s a really complicated situation for anyone to understand, so I think you should give her time. I joined clubs in high school and college that helped me find my niche and better understand my own background.

    As for the visiting Chinese group, I think it’s good to focus again on the positives they have in common: maybe she can learn some Chinese from them, or talk about shared festivals like Chinese New Year or the Mid-Autumn festival. I don’t think the Chinese group is being malicious, just parroting what they’ve been taught and told their whole lives. It’s great that you’ve already tried to explain the situation to Allie, but if she’s not understanding it right now, I wouldn’t push it too hard. If the teachers at school can help drive the conversation toward topics that can be shared and enjoyed by all, I think that will give your daughter, and her classmates, an enriching experience.

    Good luck with everything! Allie is lucky to have adoptive parents that are so willing to embrace her Taiwanese American identity.

  2. What a lovely family, and how touching that they are so concerned about their daughter’s situation with those Chinese students at school! As a Taiwanese American (born in Taiwan, daughter of parents who are fiercely pro-Taiwan Independence), I’ll take a crack at answering some of these questions. If you have any follow up questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I am happy to share any other experiences I had growing up as a Taiwanese American:

    1. The Taiwanese American identity and culture is a beautiful one. There are many resources for learning about it – for example, http://www.taiwaneseamerican.org has a list of Taiwanese resources and organizations that may be useful for you to explore, depending on where you live in the U.S. I found that as a kid, my parents never explained the full political situation to me (as it’s so complicated) but once I hit high school, they started talking to me about it (the history with Taiwan’s being under Japanese rule, their experiences as kids living under the rule of the KMT, the diversity of people in Taiwan – aboriginals, Hakka, etc.), and over time I really grew to appreciate what a wonderful place it is to be from! As she gets older, she can also read about Taiwan online or in books. Many universities have a Taiwanese American Students organization (I joined mine), and most big cities will have some sort of Taiwanese American organization that holds festivals and otherwise raise awareness. There’s also the Taiwanese American Citizens League (tacl.org) that has community outreach programs all over the country (including youth outreach).

    2. Regarding the situation with the Chinese teacher, wow! Reading it made my blood boil! This type of thing has happened to me before; usually when meeting Chinese people from the mainland. What I’ve learned to do is be polite and not engage (because I’m not going to convince them of anything). So for example, this has happened to me before: someone from the mainland says, “Are you Chinese” (that’s the way they usually approach it) and I say, “I was born in Taiwan.” Usually after that they say, “So yes, you are Chinese” and they dismiss it and move on. At that point, if it isn’t someone I know well then my usual custom is to say nothing, but know in my heart that I’m NOT Chinese, no matter what this random person may say. Now, if someone specifically asks me to explain the difference, I will say something like, “I am from Taiwan. I consider myself to be Taiwanese. It’s not the same as Chinese. There’s a very complicated history there, but I do not consider myself to be Chinese. We have a different language, culture and food.” Then if they seem interested, I might tell them a little more about it. And if they are Chinese and try to argue with me, I’ll say, “Well, we can agree to disagree. We are in the United States now, not China, so at the end of the day I’m an American of Taiwanese heritage. Thanks.” In the meantime, all of my close friends know that I feel strongly about this, and they respect that. So ultimately it’s usually people I don’t know well who make that assumption, but I’m not interested in challenging them publicly. That’s been my way of dealing with it.

    3. Dear Allie – You are a bright and intelligent young lady, and you have a background and heritage of which you should be very proud. Taiwan is NOT the same as China! Don’t let anyone else tell you different; those people just don’t know any better because they haven’t been taught it. One day I hope you will get to go back and visit where you’re from. It is a beautiful country. You have been given a beautiful opportunity to teach people about your background, and help them learn about how each of us is unique and different, but how we’re all part of the human race and we have much to teach each other. I wish you the best in life; you are really going to change the world! Best, Rachel (another Taiwanese American girl)

  3. As another mother of a child adopted from Taiwan who is also 6 years old I look forward to hearing the responses and I am thankful for your your community has embraced Lora and Allie 🙂

  4. Hello Lora, it’s very encouraging to hear that you are trying your best to educate your daughter on her identity as a Taiwanese American. It has also been very difficult for me to fully explain the differences between Taiwanese and Chinese to other peers who are not as aware of Taiwanese history/culture. Though Allie is too young to understand the politics behind it all, I think it is important for you and your family/friends to continue affirming her identity as a Taiwanese American. Facing oppositions from others is inevitable, but it is important that Allie receives a strong support when facing these challenges.
    I know that the Taiwanese American community is very proud to have a member like Allie, and very grateful for the support of people like you, Lora!

  5. Lora: Thanks for sharing your journey! Your love for Allie and your desire to help her learn about her heritage is admirable. First of all, there are tons of Taiwanese Americans in the Midwest. Don’t hesitate to ask on the TaiwaneseAmerican.org Facebook page if anyone lives near your city and happens to be parents with kids Allie’s age. I bet there are.

    I’d especially encourage you to check out TAF, Taiwanese American Foundation (http://www.tafworld.org/). Their conference each summer in Illinois has been formative to thousands of kids around the country, including kids who have been adopted from Taiwan. You can also contact anyone at TAF and they’d be happy to introduce you to parents of Taiwanese American kids who are close to Allie’s age, and who live probably not far from where you live!

    There’s likely a Taiwanese association or Taiwanese American church near you (there’s tons all over the Midwest). (Even a Taiwanese grad student group at your nearest college or university is a great place to connect with people and Taiwanese cultural events.) If you contact them, I’m sure there are many parents who would love to meet you and to introduce their kids to Allie for a play date! Most Taiwanese associations and churches have frequent picnics, and also host events such as traditional Taiwanese dance performances or concerts. Your nearest university can probably let you know of Taiwanese related cultural events, too. Good luck!

  6. Hi Lora,

    I work at a new cultural facility for Asian Americans that will be opening soon, and one of my responsibilities is to help build our library and resource center. Seeing as that I’m Taiwanese American myself, I was adamant on making sure that our library is stocked with a bounty of books for Taiwanese American children as well Chinese Americans. One thing that I think is very important is continuing to expose your daughter to books, films, pop culture, etc. that include Taiwanese Americans.

    Off the top of my head —

    Grace Lin – Taiwanese American author who writes many children’s books and young adult books. Her Year of the Dog series is wonderful and delves into some of those Taiwan vs. China identity issues in a way that’s relateable to children.

    Lily Birmingham – Adventures of Fearless Girls (from Taiwan)

    please feel free to ask TA.org to pass along my contact to you if you want to discuss more suggestions!

  7. Allie, be proud of your heritage and learn as much as you can… I had many of the same issues and confusions growing up. At least your new family are more honest and open with your adoption. I am Taiwanese, not Chinese, I was adopted as a baby from Taiwan from a family with 8 children to a family of me being the only child to an American Navy Officer and a Taiwanese immigrant, I was always under the impression they were my biological parents. However, growing up in the states in 70’s and 80’s, everything had to be American and English, I was forced to relinquish my Taiwanese cultural heritage… Not until I was 19 did I ever meet my biological family with total shock, and it took another 20 years to start accepting them as my distant family. And just last month, was the first we had a visit from one of my brothers and his family.

    I now live in a very political lifestyle, my American husband is a City Councilman and we also have our own businesses, thus living out our American Dream, but sometimes you just have to put politics aside. I have my own children now, and they are teenagers, however with a heavy heart for the lack of my true heritage, I had the idea of getting my surrounding community to collaborate, celebrate and educate one another of the diverse Asian Cultures. Especially in a community with a shortage of the Asian demographic (I felt alone), however slight the growth in the Inland Empire of Southern CA (much less the population than the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas) it was a difficult idea for many locals to understand and accept. So, with a lot of trials and tribulations of this massive project, it turned out to be a success.. And now, working on our 4th year of the his program, with a PARADE, MUSIC, MARKET, FASHION, TEAS, CHILDRENS VILLAGE, LIVE PERFORMANCES, ARTS & CULTURAL DISPLAYS, FOOD AND FIREWORKS, we openly collaborate, educate and celebrate the numerous Asian Cultures with over 35,000 people of all ages in our community on a yearly basis.

    Allie, life is very confusing, and it doesn’t seem like it really matters right now, but like I said, embrace you heritage and always keep it close, for when you grow up and have your own children you will want them to know about their ancestors and distant family. I hope Lora will take you back to your homeland someday and see how truly beautiful it is, not only the land and people but the culture too.

    Best to you and your family.
    May Lynn Davis

  8. Hi Lora,

    You embody everything a parent should be; you’re strong for your child, you protect her but never fail to educate her at every turn, and you’re doing all you can to do what you feel is right for your child. That alone tells me that Allie will be an amazing human being. Taiwan is an interesting place, in that while its flagship city (Taipei) did not keep up in terms of urban development with some of the other East Asian powerhouse cities, Taipei, and by extension Taiwan, has been quietly building a unique culture that Taiwanese Americans all over the U.S. have come to wholeheartedly appreciate. At six years old, all Allie needs to know is that she comes from a beautiful and quirky place, with many endearing cultural concepts and some of the kindest people in the world.

    With regards to the situation at school, approaching it as a “political” discussion might yield little return, simply because there are those who do not view it as a political thing but as a simple truth as real as death and taxes. In these cases, this discussion is moot and what the school needs to realize is that there are two places with two different systems of government, two different economic set-ups, two entirely different currencies, and two very different cultures. There’s a reason Americans don’t need a visa to visit Taiwan, but do when they visit China. It’s hard to call the two the same country given these differences.

    Dearest Allie, you are so fortunate that your parents seem to love you with all their hearts and want to do everything they can to learn and to do right by you. You’re luckier than most, and you should know that growing up as a Taiwanese American is a fantastic thing, because you have access and roots in two incredible places that you’ll love in different ways. Don’t forget to learn some Mandarin along the way… it’s a poetic and musical language!

    All the best,
    Patrick

  9. Dear Allie,

    The most important thing to know is that you are whoever you want to be. I call myself Taiwanese-American because what I have learned is that this culture is something I can be proud of.

    You can choose who you want to identify as, but before you do that, remember to listen to what everyone has to say. The Chinese teacher that you met has one point of view. Your parents have another. Learn everything you can, and then more– remember, in the end, you know yourself best.

    Sincerely,

    Alicia

  10. Jimmy Kuo

    For a 6 year-old, perhaps a good way to explain the China/Taiwan issue is, “You are a beautiful and smart girl from Taiwan. So wonderful that the people from China want you to be one of them.” This will turn all such future encounters into compliments.

  11. My advice to Lora is no different than that of a Taiwanese American parent trying to bring up a child born in America. Exposure of the child to the culture and traditions of Taiwan. Being in a place where there are no other Taiwanese Americans around is a bit harder. Maybe she lives near a major university and they have a TSA or something like that where there are Taiwanese/Taiwanese Americans around that may have events that they can attend. TAC and TAF are also events that they can attend. Food is always a good way to introduce someone to a culture. Maybe getting the cookbook from NATWA and trying to cook with her would be a good way to get her to understand some of the culture. Encouraging her to learn and being open minded is the best thing to do.

    As for the Chinese teacher/student, I would say talk to them and the school officials. Make it clear to them that you have your beliefs and they have theirs. They should not be forcing their views on your daughter. Regardless of what other people may say or do, the ultimate decision of how Allie identifies herself is up to herself. When faced with new information/experiences, all Allie can rely on is what she has learned. It sounds like she had some confusions and as long as she is willing to talk to you about it, then she will be fine in the long run.

  12. Dear Allie,

    I was born in America but grew up in Taiwan, but you were born in Taiwan and growing up in America. There are many things similar of China and Taiwan, but to truly understand it, spend time with Taiwanese people, or better yet take a long vacation to Taiwan. Simply, learn about the Taiwanese culture and understand your roots. Understand the situation Taiwan is going through. When you do, speak up for it. If no one hears it, speak up louder and louder. We are here and we will resonate with you and trust me, it is a beautiful sound.

    Love,
    Just another Taiwanese kid.

    To Lora:
    I think it is amazing of you to want to teach Allie of her roots. I hope to see more parents, no matter the ethnicity to teach their children of their roots. My best advice is for her to experience it. I’m not talking about a 1 week fun vacation in Taiwan, but a trip for her to really experience the culture. Once again, thank you for teaching Allie her roots. Best of luck in the future and would love to see how Allie grows up.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this, Ho Chie! This is a topic near and dear to my heart! A little background about myself. Like Rachel, I am Taiwanese American. Born in Taiwan, we immigrated to the US when I was 8 years old. Growing up here, we gradually learned Taiwanese history, alongside my parents who were also learning for the first time. Ironic that we had to leave Taiwan to learn about Taiwan. When I married my Caucasian husband, we decided to build our family through adoption. In 2008, we adopted our now 5 year old son, James, from Taiwan. We went back to Taiwan again in 2010 to adopt our now 3 year old daughter, Deborah.

    Lora is my good friend from our Taiwan Adoption Community. We’ve discussed at length the answers to your first two questions, so I won’t rehash all that again. But I would like very much to write a letter to Allie.

    ‘Dear Allie,

    You are right and your teacher from China is wrong. I’m sorry those visitors from China confused you. Taiwan is not the same as China. Your Mommy and Daddy are telling you the truth. I know because I was born there, too. The Taiwanese are not Chinese. We have our own language, our own art, our own history, even our own food! A lot of food! Maybe one day, our families can go back together for a visit. That would be fun! I love your new shirt, by the way. Wear it proudly! I’m wearing mine!!

    Love,
    Joanna Ah-yi’

  14. 1) Lora, I was fortunate to grow up in D.C. where we had a Taiwanese Sunday School. Their webpage has some good resources if you would like to learn some phrases (http://taiwaneseschooldc.org/ and http://taigie.taioaan.org/). I’m not exactly sure where in the mid-west you are, but maybe reaching out to someone in NATWA (http://www.natwa.com/) will help you find a community of Taiwanese families to help you. There’s also a TECRO in Kansas (http://www.taiwanembassy.org/US/MKC/mp.asp?mp=47) And when she is older, I recommend watching Formosa Betrayed. You will also find that people will mistaken Taiwanese for Thai and tell you that they would love to visit Phuket 😉

    2) I don’t think addressing the school will help with the differences between China/Taiwan. I’m actually pretty paranoid, though, because when I visited China, I told people my grandparents moved from Hong Kong to the States, leaving me as a 2nd generation “Chinese” that would explain why I don’t speak Chinese; I also told my friends that in China, I am Chinese. I tell my cousins not to say they’re Taiwanese when they visit China. To the Chinese, Taiwan is forever theirs. However, I would educate other people who don’t understand the differences or who are willing to learn. I can’t tell you how happy I was when one of the females in my unit said that a Soldier thought she was from Taiwan when she told him she was Thai 🙂

    3) Dear Allie, You are so lucky to have a loving Mom and Dad who wants you to know where you came from. I hope one day you get to visit Taiwan. I just want you to know that Taiwan is *not* the same as China. I grew up speaking Taiwanese – that was my Amar (grandma) and Akofng’s (grandpa) language. I don’t understand, read, or speak Chinese. We do have some of the same foods and holidays, but a lot of the Asian countries share them too, not just China and Taiwan. We have our own foods (Bubble Tea, Beef Noodle Soup, “Taiwanese Meatballs,” fried bread, stinky tofu), our own money, our own government, our own language, and our own history. Be proud to be from Taiwan! 🙂

  15. You may suggest your daughter that : [01]: You, mother / father must be the real TEACHER for your daughter. [02]: so many teachers at school; especially these “temporary” teachers who just with a short-time to stay . they just post some little, different opinion only.
    so many various / differnet / unique opinions from teachers at school.
    [03]: conclusion : your daughter and YOU parent may get the best answer for your daughter.

    Best regards,
    Max Lu { my facebook : Max Lu [ MaxSenior ] }

  16. Dear Allie,
    My name is Emma and like you, I was born in Taiwan moved to Canada ( if she gets confused about Canada vs US, feel free to substitute…) when I was very young, now, I work in China, where your Chinese classmates come from. I heard about Chinese students telling you that you were Chinese, but you have always been told you are Taiwanese. Confusing huh? We are not the only ones that get confused.
    For example, if we look at pictures of horses and donkeys they look very very similar, and they actually share the same grand grand grand grand parents, but you wouldn’t say they are they same right? Or if you look at cats and lions, it also gets confusing. The Chinese are like the donkeys, they are also confused themselves and actually a little jealous of the horses (many Chinese people told me secretly they want to be Taiwanese!), because horses, like us, are much cooler. You remember your mom showed you the Taiwanese flag? Flags are like names or labels for a “horse” and a “donkey”, if they were they same thing they would have the same name, right?
    So Allie, be proud that you are Taiwanese! We are different from Chinese but we don’t have to fight or argue with them about it because what they think will not change what you and I are, let them say what they want to say because they are just being donkeys.

    With much love,
    Your fellow Taiwanese friend,
    Emma

  17. She is Taiwanese true, but ethnically Chinese. Just like how I am American because that’s where I was born but that doesn’t negagate the fact that I am ethnically Chinese as my ancestors were from China. My dad is Taiwanese, but ethnically Chinese.

  18. Dear Lora,

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am a Taiwanese American ESL teacher for international students coming to the U.S. to learn English and my co-workers and I encounter this kind of situation every semester – I call it a suppression of identity. Often, the problem occurs when a student from Mainland China tells a student from Taiwan that they’re really also from China. As a teacher, I tell my students (btw, they’re college-age) that often in America, we can choose our own identity. Another person can’t choose who I want to be. So if I want to be Taiwanese, no one else can say “No, that’s wrong!”. Same applies to anyone of any identity (gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, etc). I tell my students that because in America, there are people of all sorts of backgrounds, we don’t know “what they really are” so we let them decide. That’s the most respectful way. Now, I understand that this is difficult for Allie to understand since she is still young. I think a good theme to frame all of this for Allie is that we should accept all people and their opinions of who they are. That might be an easy way for her to understand that there is nothing wrong in saying “I am from Taiwan” or “I am Taiwanese American”. I think your effort to help Allie understand who is she and where she is from really shows how great of a parent you are! I would love to read more from TaiwaneseAmerican.org about how you decide to handle this situation and what method seems to help Allie understand best.

    Best of luck,
    Eric

  19. Dear Lora,

    I think the easiest way for Allie to understand and re-affirm her identity as a Taiwanese-American might be so speak/spend some time with other Taiwanese-Americans (or just Taiwanese people in general), just like how she got to spend some time with the Chinese exchange students.

    Instinctively, she probably feels her identity has been denied by the only Asian people she has met and because she is so young to understand the politics of it all, she probably just needs to experience ‘being’ Taiwanese to understand that there is a difference in being Chinese and Taiwanese (despite some similarities).

    Maybe going on a mini-road trip to the nearest Taiwanese-American community centers or museums (or even TA grocery stores or restaurants?) where Allie can see and speak to them in person, might be helpful in helping her feel more comfortable with her identity and her Taiwanese heritage.

    As for educating the school and requesting politics to be left out of classrooms, I think speaking to the teachers (and/or principals if necessary) about your concerns should do the trick. Based on your letter (which I have to say, is very well written) I am sure you will have no trouble getting your point across.

    All the best,

    Amy.

  20. Allie, When you get into high school, I know it sounds like a long time from now, ask your mama and papa to send you to TACL’s LID camp! It’s a very fun place to meet new friends and learn about the differences between being Chinese and Taiwanese. I hope camp is still around in six years…

    Lora, I think it’s fantastic that you’ve reached out to the Taiwanese community for advice! If you browse around tacl.org, you’ll find two programs: LYF and LID. I’m pretty sure LYF is for younger children but I’m not sure. When I went to LID camp, Ho Chie himself has told us about some camps that he’s run! In my opinion, the easiest and most enjoyable way for Allie to learn is to go to one of these summer camps. Sorry i’m not that experienced. Hope you and Allie find the answer you’re looking for!

  21. I too am a parent of a daughter adopted from Taiwan, and feel very blessed to have Lora and Allie as friends. I am so proud of Lora for handling this in the way that she has, and reaching out to get the answers that Allie needs to help her identify with her roots.

    Thank you all for helping and taking the time to answer.

  22. allie 你好~
    台灣雖然小, 不過還是很有特色。中國大,人多。 不過不要讓他們的聲音蓋過我們的。台灣生的,就不要害羞說自己是台灣人喔~!

    Hi Allie~
    Taiwan may be a smaller country, but it is still unique in its own way. China has more land, and more people. But don’t let their voices obscure ours. Since you were born in Taiwan, then don’t be shy to say “I am Taiwanese!”

  23. Hi Lora,

    This is how I thought of the China/Taiwan issue as a Taiwanese-American kid growing up, by using a US history parallel. In this case, the Revolutionary War. To a British point of view, the American colonists fighting for independence were “British” and like China, they don’t want to let go of what they considered theirs (ie. telling Allie she’s Chinese as soon as she told them she’s from Taiwan.) However, the Americans considered themselves Americans, just as the Taiwanese consider themselves not-China. Of course, my childhood self made several oversimplifications, but it worked for me when I wanted to explain my stance to other people.

    Perhaps you could turn this into a research project for you, Allie, and the family, provided Allie is interested and feels like she’s in charge. Also speaking with my childhood self in mind, there’s nothing worse than an unwelcome research project.

    You can do it (加油)!
    Jen

  24. Dear Allie,
    Welcome to the Taiwanese-American family. You are about to discover the wonders of having two cultures that make up your identity. You are going to encounter a lot of people that question your background, but you have a very loving family and should realize you are blessed in multiple ways. There is no such thing as 100% anything these days, we are always going to grow and change from the experiences we have in life. Your identity is what you want it to be; we have all had moments in our lives where we stop and go “who am I? what do I want to be?” And those questions will follow for the rest of your life, but as long as you have the strength to know your own moral values and be willing to adjust and accept other points of views you will be just fine. Don’t let the harsh words or actions or others phase your individuality, understand that they haven’t had the opportunities like you do and aren’t blessed the way you are (having two cultures). Know that you are NEVER alone, you have two families that love you very much, the one that you live with now and your new-found Taiwanese-American family. If you ever feel lost, confused, or scared don’t be afraid to ask for help; but if you ever feel excited, happy, or just want to talk we will always be around to listen to you.

    In regards to your confusing history lesson, you are a descendant of the Chinese, Han, people. But just as you are Taiwanese-American, the Taiwanese people have been blessed with the cultures of China and Japan. China and Japan have a history of competing to determine which one has the superior culture. A large amount of Chinese people immigrated to Taiwan because of its fertile land and new opportunities. But around 1891 (you’ll have to check the dates, I’m not an exact historian!), Japan occupied Taiwan and began spreading their culture to the Taiwanese people. The Japanese occupied Taiwan for 51 years, as you can determine, created this dual culture within Taiwan as part Chinese and part Japanese. You are from Taiwan, which isn’t really Chinese or Japanese or anything else; and that’s what makes it Taiwan.

    Think of yourself as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While you can have a sandwich made of entirely peanut butter or jelly, it is the combination of the two that make it super tasty! Don’t let politics prevent you from discovering your own identity. Just be you, whoever that may be right now, and be patient with those that don’t understand. There is no reason to label yourself as anything but a good person who is kind to those around them and lights up a room with a smile! I suspect you’ll be just fine, make lots of sandcastles (since I see lots of pictures of the beach!) We are all here for you. Happy discoveries!

    From,
    Kristin

  25. Christopher

    Moderator: Please try not to censor harmless comments that are against your beliefs. Historical facts are detailed below. If you don’t approve, feel free to censor opposing viewpoints and be just like the nasty Communist government on mainland China.

    Republic of China (Taiwan) is simply a loser of the Chinese Civil War that NEVER ended. No peace treaty or armistice has been signed. During the retreat to Taiwan, the ROC government took almost ALL of the treasures within the Forbidden City and emptied China’s coffers. The ROC has historically claimed sovereignty over ALL of China, including the mainland. From 1949 to 1971, the ROC occupied the seat of China in the United Nations, even though it governed only the province of Taiwan. Only recently has the ROC abandoned its claim over all of mainland China. Sun Yatsen and Chiang Kai-shek are founding fathers of modern China and the KMT. I’m sure you know they are national icons in Taiwan as well. They are Chinese heroes and would be turning over in their graves if they knew some people are trying to claim Taiwan is not a part of China. If Taiwan wants to be independent, perhaps try overthrowing the ROC government. The Republic of China is a glorious CHINESE government that overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. All Chinese are proud of the ROC’s accomplishments. To deny that people from Taiwan are ethnically Chinese is to spit on your history. If Taiwan is really an independent nation, please feel free to join the United Nations, kick out the ROC, destroy your flag, return stolen artifacts from the Forbidden City back to China, and prepare for a war that will definitely come. Go ahead, sacrifice the lives of millions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait so you can enjoy proper independence.

    An old Chinese saying goes:
    分久必合,合久必分

  26. It’s okay to be Taiwanese to distinguish oneself from mainland China’s government. However, please don’t try to pretend Taiwanese people aren’t ethnically Chinese. Chinese history prior to 1949 is also Taiwanese history. Many Chinese love Jay Chou’s music. Jay’s music is often labeled as 中國風 or China Wind. Take note that Jay didn’t call his music Taiwan Wind. Denying the fact that all Taiwanese people share Chinese heritage is simply blasphemous and downright wrong. Please understand there’s a difference between nationality and ethnicity. Thank you.

  27. I was born in America and without really knowing the politics, I’ve have mostly had a strong association with my Taiwanese identity. These are some of the things I can remember about my identity:

    1) I first became aware of my identity at age 6 when my teacher asked me to ask my parents about my heritage. I remember thinking I was Chinese but went home and asked my mother anyways. “We are from Taiwan” is all I can remember her saying, and this has stuck with me ever since. I reported this back to my teacher and she was very excited. On international day, when all the classes learn about a different country and participate in a school parade, our country so happened to be – surprise – Taiwan. My mother cooked some taiwanese dishes for me to take to school (noodles and Taiwanese style donuts i think) and we learned to eat with chopsticks. Later on, we made shirts with the taiwan flag painted onto it and “TAIWAN” written across it and paraded around school in our new taiwan shirts. Now that I think back upon that memory, I think its pretty awesome that my teacher was so excited for me to show my culture to the rest of the class and respectful of my heritage.

    2) I went to the local Chinese school from age four to age twelve. Even though I really detested having to spend my Sundays in school and all the tedious homework, this gave me a good foundation for learning the Chinese language to which I still use (late 20s). My family and I would to the other aunties homes for parties like Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year.

    3) In middle school, I kind of lost my identity. I went through one of those “I am not asian” phases. I quit Chinese school and wanted to be ‘normal’, not Taiwanese. Can be typical for this age, but still sad =(

    4) At the end of eighth grade, my family took a trip to Taiwan where we met some relatives and toured the island a bit. My brother enrolled in Taiwan’s “Love Boat” program, a language and cultural summer program in Taiwanese for overseas youth of Taiwanese descent. At the last minute, my parents asked me if I wanted to enroll in baby love boat and I said, sure why not. This was a turning point for me because it was the first time I met other second generation taiwanese who were from places all over the world, like California, Germany, England, Japan, etc. It made me realize that I was not alone and there were people just like me all over the world, struggling to speak mandarin and walking around in tank tops and flip flops. This is when I first fell in love with taiwan – and it gave me back my ‘asian pride’.

    5) In college, I was very excited to learn that my school had a Taiwanese American Students Association. I joined and got to help organize a lot of great cultural events, like night market, hot pot night, dumpling night, etc. This was also the first time I learned about Taiwanese politics, and I was exposed to organizations like ITASA, FAPA and Formosa Foundation.

    6) I kind of got a bit tired of the Taiwanese student scene & political debates after a while and I decided it was more worth my time to understand American politics more rather than get so involved with Taiwanese politics. Still proud to be Taiwanese American, just needed a break from it.

    7) A year after college, I quit my job and took a trip to Taiwan to study mandarin at Shida University. This was one of the best decisions of my life, and I learned a lot about my heritage and grew as a person during the 5 months that I stayed there. Love Taiwan so much now, and I try to go back whenever I can, usually every couple of years.

    This is long but I hope it helps. I am really proud of who I am and my Taiwanese American identity. I hope little Allie is able to find her true identity as well.

    —————

    Dear Allie –

    Identity is something you create for yourself. If you want to be the known as the first woman on Mars, that’s for you to decide and pursue. If you want to be an artist that paints gigantic murals, that’s great too! Once you decide who YOU are, don’t let anyone take that away from you or decide for you. Same thing with your cultural identity. If you want to be apple pie, girl next door “American,” and nothing else, be that girl and be proud. If you decide you are Chinese, or Taiwanese, or Taiwanese American or whatever, in the end, that’s up to you too. Just try to know why you are what you are in case anyone is curious. If you are respectful of other people’s opinions, then they should extend that courtesy to you as well. Good luck, there is a lot of beauty in this world. Keep your eyes and your heart open and you will get to experience a lot of it.

    Hugs,

    Lynn Ah-yi

  28. Jimmy Kuo

    I find it disturbing to hear someone say to me, “You are descendant from Han” without even knowing me. Please don’t do that to an individual unless you actually know the person’s biological history. It is the same as “What are you?” “I’m an American.” “No, you’re not!” Please use the statement in the context of, “A majority of the population of the island is …” Don’t assume it to be true for everyone.

    So, until you know Allie’s biological history, please don’t say that to her.

  29. @Daniel Please read and understand Taiwan’s history beyond the crap that the PRC and ROC spew. China is just one of the many influences of Taiwan’s history and culture. Taiwan’s history includes the aboriginals, Spain, Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese. as for your statement that Taiwan’s history before 1949 was Chinese, I would have to disagree. My family(as far as I can research) has been in Taiwan since the 1800’s. So for many people in my family, China is a foreign country like any other country. My grandparents speak fluent Japanese and it’s due to the Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, so we were not part of “Chinese history” as you like to claim. Taiwan’s history does not include the Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward, Rape of Nanking, and many other events that happened in China since 1949. Conversely, China did not experience the 228 Massacre, White Terror of the ROC/KMT government, Kaohsiung Incident, and other events. For the Chinese one of the most hated enemies is the Japanese because of events like the Nanjing massacre but for most Taiwanese, the Chinese(ROC/KMT) has killed more Taiwanese than the Japanese. Taiwan has a history and culture that contains many influences beyond just China. Every country around East Asia has been an influence on each other, but that does not justify any claims that other countries are part of China. Even the Chinese concept of the “Han Chinese” is just a false ideology built out of more propaganda than historical truth. Ethnic Han is just a small part of the population of China but since the Han was glorified in Chinese history, people like to claim they are “Han Chinese.” Please study more history than what the Chinese government gives you before you make claims that other people do not understand their history and culture.

  30. @Christopher I really don’t see the moderators censoring anything but also it’s the right of the site operators to see how they want to run their site. This site is not claiming to be an impartial news site, it’s a community site. So I don’t really see any basis for charges of censorship. Your accusation that this site acts like the PRC government is just amusing.

    As for your “historical” arguments. Yes the Chinese civil war never officially ended. No one really won or lost the war since it never officially ended. For a long time the Communist forces of Mao was losing and had to retreat which is why the Long March happened. The ROC government seems to have the spoils of war and usually the “losers” don’t have that. Either way, the Chinese civil war is a moot point now. As for the ROC occupation of the UN seat, it was the ROC government that was part of the Allied forces during WWII not the PRC government since the PRC did not exist back then. The UN permanent Security Council seat was for the allies of WWII so that rightfully did belong to ROC. ROC Constitution did claim to be rulers of all of China decades after 1971. The National Assembly of the ROC included the original elected representatives of the provinces of China until their deaths and the NA was dissolved in the 1990’s. Sun Yatsen may be the founding father of the ROC but to most Taiwanese it doesn’t mean much. CKS to most Taiwanese is just a murder nothing more. They maybe icons to the KMT and it’s supporters, to most Taiwanese they don’t mean much. It’s why most of the CKS statues were removed in Taiwan. There weren’t much SYS statues around. The PRC government has been rewriting the history and there is no real respect for SYS in China. The PRC has been systemically remove references to the KMT and democracy on SYS’s grave in China. I do wish CKS and CCK’s remains would just be shipped back to China where they wanted to be. China’s history is only one of many influences of Taiwan’s history. I can tell by your glorification of the ROC that you believe in the greater China theory. The problem is that you believe that to be ethnic Chinese you have to be part of the country of China. There are plenty of Ethnic Chinese around the world but most of them do not believe in being part of China. HK and Macao do not want to be part of China. Ethnic Chinese in Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, and Korea have no desire to be part of China. The ROC is an occupying force without a real mandate to rule Taiwan. The ROC and PRC were not signatories of the SFPT which established the UN. I’m all for kicking out the ROC and the ROC flag is not my flag. As for the artifacts, the people of Taiwan has as much right to it as anyone else, since China is part of it’s cultural heritage, god know if those artifacts were in PRC, they would have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. As for the fight, it’s up to the people of Taiwan how they want to proceed, if true democracy and freedom is worth the fight. I can tell you if the Chinese invade my homeland they will get a fight from me.

  31. @Mark The KMT has won the past 2 presidential elections with more than 50% of the vote. Though the party has been a dictatorship for a few decades, wasn’t it a KMT member, the son of CKS who allowed democracy for Taiwan? I’m sure the KMT still has many supporters in Taiwan and not everybody wants to get rid of the ROC flag. Taiwanese are certainly divided when it comes to certain identity issues. Also, being ethnic Chinese means you are willing to admit so but it doesn’t mean your nationality is Chinese or that your home is Chinese govt territory. There are many Irish and Italian Americans living in New England. Obviously they don’t think New York is the territory of Ireland or Italy. Comparing Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to places like Thailand and the Philippines is incorrect in my opinion. The former 3 were ceded to foreign powers by the Qing dynasty (China) due to losses in war. I think Hong Kong was lent to the UK for 100 years so territorially, it’s still China. On the other hand, Taiwan was given to Japan for perpetuity but even then, it has been under Chinese rule (including dynastic rule) for far longer. I’m sure you can argue against this point but I believe ethnicity and nationality can be separated. It doesn’t do any harm to admit many Taiwanese are ethnically Chinese. I also understand that not all Han Chinese share the same DNA. Any so called ethnicity in modern times is not entirely based on DNA and are what you call “false ideology”. It’s disrespectful to people who call themselves Han or Tang. Besides, it’s like saying there are no true ethnicities and everyone can call themselves ethnically African/Middle Eastern since that’s where modern humans came from. Also, North Korea and South Korea are separate independent states but they both make up Korea. People living there are Korean, though they can choose to emphasize specifically which part of Korea. Their civil war never ended either. I don’t think that’s a moot point. We obviously don’t share the same opinions. I can accept that.

  32. Gerhard Erasmus

    Dear Lora,
    You did make one very accurate statement. Your daughter is too young to understand. She is only six. For a child that old, her identity starts with how she fits into her family and immediate surroundings and community. You are probably going to get a lot more trust from her if she views herself as more importantly part of your family and then her immediate community than as Taiwanese American. While the idea of Taiwanese American is great, she is firstly American. She may have been born in Taiwan, but she is first and foremost part of your family and of her current community which includes and is probably very limited to other American citizens and children. If she is very sure about whom and what she is and where she fits in, then it might be a better time to extend that into her heritage, but six is too young.
    There is a lot to lot to learn about Asian and Taiwanese culture, but teaching it too early is going to confuse her and make her uncertain of where she belongs and if she is truly part of the family and community from which she will inevitably receive the most of her love and support as she grows up and develops into an individual with her own opinions.
    As for the China Taiwan issue, all of the comments are personal opinions based on certain facts. The same could be said for religion. Regardless of what you believe religiously or politically, there are people who are going to disagree with you. Children can be taught from a young age that those with different opinions are not bad and maybe not wrong. My kid loves apples. I hate them. I buy apples for him to eat and make it clear that although apples are healthy, I would rather eat bananas or something else. I also make it clear that when someone says they don’t like apples, it isn’t about being wrong or right and there are good people who like apples and bad people who like apples and vice versa. That is something a young child can understand. Whether she is Chinese or not because of where she was born, and which country belongs to which one, is a little above her level of emotional and intellectual development. That she is American with an American family who loves her and of which she is very much a part is a much more relevant and appropriate message at this stage. Don’t force young kids into learning things they are not ready for.
    So in short, an answer to the three questions
    1 – Find a few groups with Taiwanese children in them or groups who do things that are Taiwanese such as teach her a traditionally Chinese instrument like the Pipa and let her visit Taiwan a few times with you as a tourist.
    2 – You could address the issue with the school, but wouldn’t a better approach be to start teaching your kid how to deal with these things? Kids with parents from different races Taiwanese and Caucasian, for example, have similar problems. Children can from a young age learn to deal with these problems and it equips them better to deal with conflict and bullies and other problems later on in life.
    3 – Allie,
    I saw your pictures at the beach. They are lovely and you are a very pretty girl. I am sure you like swimming. Fish also like to swim, but if someone tells you that you are a fish because you like to swim, that will be really stupid right? You are not a fish and you know that. So I think you can go to the beach many more times and swim as much as you like, with your family who loves you very much. Maybe next time you can send us pictures of everyone in your family. My son also likes to swim. His mommy is Taiwanese, but his daddy isn’t. His daddy is a lot more like your mommy. Maybe one day you can meet him.

  33. Dear Allie,
    First of all, I have to say that I love the pictures you chose to be posted in this article! You are lovely! My name is Marijane and I’m also an adoptee from Taiwan. I was adopted when I was 4 months old from Taipei, and my parents were Caucasian like yours. I understand how weird it must be to hear different people talk to you about who you are and where you are from. When I learned that I was Taiwanese, I was also confused about whether I was Taiwanese or Chinese. A close friend of mine who is Taiwanese and my biological sister from Taiwan both told me that because I was BORN in Taipei, Taiwan, I’m Taiwanese. When people ask me what my background is, I tell them, Taiwanese. I have chosen to answer in this way because I was born in Taiwan and my birth family lives in Taiwan. I had to decide for myself how I would identify myself and what I would tell people when they asked me where I was from. I have another close friend who is an adult and grew up in Taiwan. When people ask her about her background, she tells them that she’s Chinese, from Taiwan. So, only you can decide how you want to answer people because it’s YOUR identity, and you should feel good about that. I hope this helps. I wish you all the best! If you ever have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me via my email: [email protected]. Take care!

    Hi Lora,
    I’m Marijane, also an adoptee from Taiwan! As you can see from all the responses here, identity is viewed differently by everyone. I think it’s great that you’re teaching Allie to appreciate her birth culture. So important for adoptive parents to foster that connection because inevitably some of it will become lost. I have spoken to some of my Taiwanese friends who grew up in Taiwan, but currently reside in the U.S. and they have told me that “If you are born in Taiwan, you are Taiwanese, if you are born in China, you are “mainlander” or “Chinese.” Furthermore, I think it depends upon who you ask and whether they are located in Formosa, the Mainland, Midwest U.S. or coastal U.S. I believe some Taiwanese/Mainlanders are still concerned about such issues, and others, not so much. Personally, I identify with being Taiwanese, mainly because I was born in Taipei. However, I mostly identify ethnically with being “American” because I was raised in the U.S. As much as I wish that I had a deeper connection to my birth culture, I do not and greatly regret it. That’s why I think it’s important that adoptive parents honor and nurture an appreciation for their adoptive child’s birth culture. I hear from some adoptive parents that their children reject their cultural roots because they want to “fit in” and be like their peers. I think that it’s one of the greatest disadvantages of inter-country adoption, but understand that assimilation to the predominant culture is largely unavoidable. I think that if you continue to keep Allie’s connection to her birth country alive as much as possible, she will appreciate it much more later in life. As for the identity question, Chinese or Taiwanese, Allie will have to decide for herself how she wants to identify herself. You can instill an appreciation for Taiwan, but ultimately she will need to decide. In the end, I think she will be happier in making that decision independently. Please feel to contact me if you have any questions! Wishing you and your family all the best. Marijane

  34. @Daniel CCK only started the reforms because he knew there was no way for the Chiang family and the KMT to keep dictatorship control anymore. The National Assembly members from China were dying of old age so the old way of them rubber stamping the election of CCK to the presidency was also disappearing with new National Assembly members. CCK was also dying with no legitimate heirs to pass along the dictatorship. The KMT’s membership grew to include more non-China born members and LTH was gaining power in the party. The relations with Us had been changing so the blind support of the KMT was going away. KMT could not sustain it’s grip on power any longer. Reforms weren’t because they wanted do it for the welfare of the people, it was because they were afraid of a coup that would take them out of power. It was better for them to control things from a financial standpoint instead of the military. The PRC learned that also with the 1996 election results. It’s why the PRC has turned towards economic takeover of Taiwan now instead of a military one. Over the years of talking to Chinese people(from China and post 1949) I have come to realize that they are similar in that they hold the “Chinese ethnicity” as some grandiose ideology. They are awed by the millennia of history and romanticize it as something great that people should not go against. It has become this sort of monolith that is used to trample the identities of people. As Taiwanese, it’s just a part of the varied history and cultures that has influenced Taiwan. It’s about as relevant to me as Ireland has on an 5th generation Irish American in New York or China has on a 5th generation Chinese American in San Francisco. Taiwan’s connection to China has been limited throughout it’s history. Aboriginals arrived on Taiwan centuries ago not from China but from other islands. Many Chinese left China because they didn’t want to be part of China and settled in Taiwan. People like Koxinga and the CKS came to Taiwan in desperate hopes of reclaiming their power in China and brought the attention of the Chinese government to Taiwan. Taiwan didn’t become important to the Qing until the western powers wanted to claim Taiwan as it’s own. Taiwan existed centuries before the Qing and it existed very well with very little Qing influence until the late 1800s. I can tell you from family history that Taiwan was not seen as being very desirable place to own land during the late Qing. One of my great grandfathers was a land magistrate in the Qing government on Taiwan. He basically owned a lot of land that people abandoned on Taiwan. Taiwan has a history and culture that is distinct from the “Han Chinese” monolith. Does the Taiwanese culture contain the culture from the Chinese, yes. But is it the monolith that most “Han Chinese” want it to be, no. The people who want to call themselves “Han Chinese” is perfectly fine to do it, just don’t expect to use it as an excuse to claim that Taiwan is part of China. Hey if you believe in the theory of evolution, we all came from apes so I should be able to call all humans apes. Should we all be swinging on vines, eating bananas, and picking insects of of each other’s hair? HK and Macau have lived under the control of foreign countries and their culture has been changed by that experience. The experience of the people in Qingdao was also changed by the rule of the Germans. Who do you think built the brewery that Qingdao beer is made from? HK and Macao may have been leases but the people there have very little desire to be part of modern China. Like the ethnic Chinese in many other countries, modern China is just another place to do business and where their ancestors came from. It’s not a country they want to be part of or ruled by. I see where you are going with the Whole Korea thing and I would it it applies to the post 1949 KMT people but it does not apply to the 80% of the population of Taiwan who has been separated from China for at least 100 years. To the 80% it’s like saying the US should be part of Great Britain because that was the last country to rule the US. Every time someone wants to claim Taiwan is part of China I am always reminded of on of my school assignment when I was little in Taichung. We were given a map of China and was told to color in where our family came from. So I was looking Taiwan on the map but since this was the 70’s in Taiwan, the education system was China oriented under the KMT martial law so Taiwan wasn’t on the map. (Just goes to show even the KMT doesn’t see Taiwan as part of China.) Anyways, I was looking to color in Chunghwa where my family is from but couldn’t find it. I asked my mom how to accomplish the assignment, her response was basically just color here and be done with it. She just figured most Taiwanese came from Fujian province and to just color that. Out family has been on Taiwan for so long that China was just a past that has very little relevance to us. You want to identify yourself as “Han Chinese” that is your choice, just like Allie will choose how she identifies herself. There is very little historical backing of the view that Taiwan is part of China. It’s the PRC and ROC that want that, it’s not the will of the people of Taiwan.

  35. I am not Taiwanese, but like Lora, I have an adopted daughter from Taiwan. She is NOT ethnically Chinese. She is 1/2 Amis and 1/2 Puyuma. I understand that many Taiwanese are ethnically Chinese at some point in their lineage, but not all are.
    Thank you all for your (mostly) positive and helpful comments. We want our daughter to know who she is, where she comes from, and to always be proud of both!

  36. @Mark You seem riled up so I apologize if I offended you. Your family is probably pro green/DDP. Nevertheless, the pan blue coalition is still very strong in Taiwan. The predominant culture in Taiwan is still Han Chinese. If not, then the mainland population wouldn’t be consuming so much of the pop culture in Taiwan. 康熙來了 is quite popular over there lol. Only about 2% of Taiwan’s population is aborigine. Though many people may be mixed, but still… The seats reserved for aborigines in the legislative yuan are pretty much iron clad blue seats. Last time I checked, sovereignty status is determined by governments. Having slightly different culture or being on a land that used to “undesirable” doesn’t give justification for self determination. If that wasn’t the case, Palestine and Quebec would be independent countries… Inner Mongolia would be returned to the Mongolians, Western US to Mexico, Falklands to UK, etc. I love the ROC and its flag. As long as it’s the ROC, Taiwan will remain Chinese (doesn’t mean it’s PRC btw).

  37. Dear Lora,

    Hi, I wanted to thank you for reaching out to our community for support. I have been thinking about your question all weekend. I have to admit that hearing your story emotionally shook me up. I am a second generation Taiwanese American woman and although I am not a transnational/transracial adoptee, I have on-and-off for the past five years given thought and a substantial amount of research on one day adopting a child from Taiwan. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot from reading blogs of Asian American transnational adoptees and their unique experiences. I also recently graduated from a graduate program where I studied child development.

    I hope that the information I share can be helpful for you and your family. I’ve tried to organize it into sections to make it easier to read.

    THE BIG MICROAGGRESSION

    A key experience of being Taiwanese American is a lifelong struggle for self determination, freedom, and identity. People have always been telling my family what we are.

    The first Chinese explorers came to Taiwan and told the native people living there that they were subjects of the Chinese Emperor, but when the natives got too rowdy, a later emperor disavowed them as subjects. The Japanese pointed guns at the people and told them there were subjects of the Empire of Japan. Later on, the Nationalist KMT would flee China and colonize using White Terror, killing dissidents and brainwashing school children, punishing them for speaking Taiwanese and telling them they were the true citizens of the Republic of China.

    Today, China points a thousand missiles at Taiwan and tells the people living there that they are a part of China. As for Taiwanese Americans living in the United States, Americans point at us as well, telling us to speak English, to assimilate into the majority culture, that all Asian cultures are the same anyway, that we should just be “American.”

    As a result, it is not at all unusual for a Taiwanese American person to experience this “you’re not Taiwanese” stuff either from a Chinese person or an American, or even from another person from Taiwan. I remember being told that “Taiwan wasn’t a real place” by another little girl on the playground when I was six. According to her, the only three countries I could possibly be from were Japan, Korea, or China. Growing up, I remember wishing I was Chinese and wanting to say I was Chinese. It was so much easier to say “I’m Chinese” than to explain to someone that “Taiwan” and “Thailand” are not the same thing, or just to avoid the potential argument from declaring “I’m Taiwanese.” It was tempting to just see myself as Chinese because so many characters in pop culture were Chinese and so few are Taiwanese—there was no Taiwanese Barbie, but there was Mulan. Your daughter may not know this, though, and the only real way you figure this out while growing up in the US is by seeing other people like you go through it.

    It is in fact an almost universal Taiwanese American experience…the difference being that most Taiwanese people may be able to commiserate with one another or learn how to be resilient from one another and find support in Taiwanese family members or friends who go through the same thing. Simply hearing “That happens to me, too” can be meaningful and supportive.

    A similar situation happened to me when I was a kid. My 4th grade class of 28 kids had at least 18 Asian American kids in it (it was a GATE class in Southern California) and we had a project where we learned about everyone’s ethnic background and made a big diagram on the wall showing where everyone was from. My teachers decided to just put all the Chinese and Taiwanese kids together under Chinese (diagram with the label “Chinese” and 16 stick figures.) Fast forward to open-house back-to-school night, where a bunch of Taiwanese parents got together and insisted that this be corrected. I think eventually it was changed to read “Chinese and Taiwanese.” Better than nothing.

    What your daughter experienced is what psychologists call a “microaggression.” Microaggressions are “common verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile or negative slights to marginalized groups.” Cringe-inducing microaggressions are often experienced by transracial adoptees and their families (“is he yours?” “so exotic” “must be so grateful” “her real family”), which will be on top of the microaggressions your daughter will experience as a woman, a Taiwanese person, an Asian American woman, and a Taiwanese American young woman. To learn more about microaggressions, visit (http://www.microaggressions.com/)

    As a parent, it is helpful to address microaggressions when they occur or are present, to show your child that it is okay for her to have emotional reactions to them, to validate her feelings, and to process them. For example, if a stranger at the supermarket makes a microaggressive statement about your daughter or your family, afterwards it would be helpful to process what happened by encouraging her to talk about it. It’s okay to name it when someone says something hurtful, even if they didn’t mean to–because no matter whether or not someone “means to” it can still hurt.

    What happened to your daughter around Taiwan, though, isn’t something that happened because she is an adoptee, because it happens to almost all Taiwanese people. Being an adoptee and the ONLY Taiwanese person in her family just means her resources to help her to cope with the specific “you’re Chinese” microaggression are more limited.

    THOUGHTS ON THE TEACHER AND A FAILURE OF LANGUAGE

    I definitely had a strong emotional reaction to hearing your story and felt anger toward what the Chinese teacher said to your daughter. The reality is that this teacher has no idea what it is like to be Taiwanese and to experience that specific, invalidating, microaggression. The Chinese people who try and invalidate my Taiwanese identity don’t know what it is like to have a Taiwanese identity. She doesn’t know what it is like to experience the self confusion of being Taiwanese. She may not be aware that Taiwan is extremely diverse…I am not sure what your daughter’s ethnicity may be…(what generation of Chinese, Japanese, Aborigine, Austronesian, Spanish, Dutch, Vietnamese, Filipina, etc.)

    My brother and I still wonder about our ancestry and even receiving some DNA results hasn’t really assuaged our curiosity–even though the results I received showed a DNA mix (part aboriginal/Austronesian–probably Paiwan or Ami, part Southern Chinese) that is pretty much seen only in Taiwan. To say that we’re “just Chinese” completely invalidates every other culture that has originated or settled on Taiwan. To say that we’re “just Chinese” completely erases our distinct history and furthermore, actually continues to propagate the same imperialism and oppression that Taiwan has experienced for the past several hundred years.

    When people get into arguments with me and insist that I am Chinese (arguments! About who I am–as if they know better than I do when they barely know anything about me or my family history!) I like to pull out this line: “Some of my ancestors are from China, but they’ve been in Taiwan longer than longer than white people have been in America.” So I won’t deny that I have some Chinese ancestry, but I will absolutely state that my identity as someone with that ancestry is not going to be as significant as my identity as either a Taiwanese person or an American. Depending on your own family heritage that might be helpful to explain to your daughter. You have a certain physical appearance due to your (English/German/European/Sicilian/etc. etc.) heritage, but that doesn’t make you of that country or even an ethnic member of that group if you identify as just white American, for example. (I personally avoid using the word “Caucasian” because of the racist history of that word.) This works for me because my family is benshengren, though.

    I think there is definitely a failure of language because of the concept of Hua Ren. There are several different ways to say “Chinese” in Mandarin, but only one way to say Chinese in English. There is also a huge, oppressive history of Han Chauvinism in China and the conceptualization of that ethnic group allows people from China to lay claim to all who have those roots. (In that sense, someone who is a third generation Chinese Peruvian would be seen as more Chinese than a white person who has spent their entire life in China, since the Peruvian would have Han ancestry.) In a lot of ways, the concept of “Han” has functioned like the way “whiteness” has functioned in the United States. It’s possible to both acknowledge that your daughter may be of Han descent (especially if she has any ancestry recent or distantly from China) and also acknowledge that to generalize that all of Taiwan falls under the Han umbrella is invalidating and oppressive to other minority groups in Taiwan.

    Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I just want to emphasize how inappropriate it is for any teacher to try and define a child’s identity like that. It would still be inappropriate even if it happened to a Taiwanese child who is not an adoptee.

    It would be inappropriate for a teacher to tell a child who identifies as black that he is “African American because it is the same” (it is not). It would be inappropriate for a teacher to “correct” a child who is non-gender conforming and identifies as a “boy” that he is a girl. It would be inappropriate for a teacher to tell a child from a Protestant family that she is “Catholic because they’re the same.” It would be inappropriate for a teacher to tell a child who identifies as being from the Cherokee Nation that she is “American.” It would be inappropriate for a teacher to tell a student who is Oaxacan that she is Mexican or for a teacher to tell a student who is Mexican that she is Spanish just because Mexico was once a Spanish colony. Just as it would be inappropriate for a teacher to tell your child, who identifies as “American,” that she is not American, but Asian.

    That teacher behaved inappropriately. She may not have realized it was inappropriate, and she may not have meant for it to hurt. She may not recognize the societal “privilege” she experiences as someone who is Chinese over someone who is Taiwanese. She might have thought she was being helpful, or felt that as a Chinese person she was entitled to talk over a Taiwanese person’s identity and erase it. The fact that she would say something like that in her position as a teacher to a confused six year old is incredibly tactless and appalling. The fact that she would say something like that to a transracially adopted child who will already struggle with her cultural identity as a diasporic Taiwanese American throughout her life is, at least to me, heartbreakingly cruel.

    When it comes down to it, the teacher laughed at your child for expressing her self identity. That is completely insensitive and unprofessional.

    UNSOLICITED TAIWANESE AMERICAN ADVICE

    I guess now that I’ve laid out how I felt, I can try and offer a little bit of advice. First, though, I want to acknowledge that I don’t really know you or your family circumstances. I offer this advice in good faith and hope I am not operating on any poor assumptions!

    1) Over the past few year’s I’ve blogged about my experiences as a Taiwanese American, particularly my experiences with the “You’re not Taiwanese, you’re Chinese” microaggression. I’ve publicly posted these personal stories here and you are welcome to read them if you want to learn more about what it is like for Taiwanese people to experience this microaggression: http://quirkytaiwan.tumblr.com/tagged/personal-essay

    2) If a teacher did this to my kid, I would complain. Loudly. I would try and talk to the school administration, anyway, and ask them to speak to the visiting teacher. I would want to make it clear to the teacher that she is not supposed to invalidate any child’s identity because it is unprofessional and harmful (see above.) Furthermore, I would demand that the teacher apologize to my child in my presence. I don’t know how well that request will go over at your school, but that is exactly what would need to happen for me to feel satisfied if this happened to my child. I know it feels different because you are not Taiwanese and your child is–but in this case I don’t think your race, ethnicity, or nationality even matters because as your child’s parent it is your responsibility to teach your child about where she comes from and her cultural roots. It is not the teacher’s responsibility to do this. The teacher laughed at your daughter. The teacher disrespected your daughter and your family. To the school administration, it should not be about politics or your family, about this teacher treating all of her students with respect regardless of how they identify.

    3) I am not sure what you have said to your daughter or not yet but based on your letter you’ve mentioned things like a map, and flag, currency. These are powerful arguments for an adult (even though the Chinese teacher doesn’t buy it) but if I would suggest anything, it would be to step back from politics and bring it back to your daughter and your family’s personal story. I don’t know how open your family is about adoption, but if you do have an adoption story, I would talk about it. I would talk about how “the mommy who carried you in your belly” was from Taiwan, and how she was “your Taiwan Mommy,” or, whether or not she is old enough to remember, I would talk about her “Taiwan ah-yis” (ah-yees, aunties or foster moms) who took care of her when she was a little baby so Mommy and Daddy could come adopt you. I would talk about how Mommy and Daddy had to get special papers and tickets and fly on an airplane to visit Taiwan, and what it was like to look out the airplane window and see the island, and the fun stuff Mommy and Daddy got to see or do in Taiwan when they brought you home.

    I would say, “Sometimes people who aren’t from Taiwan don’t know very much about it, so they think it’s exactly the same as China. That’s because they don’t know a lot about Taiwan.” Depending on her critical thinking skills, she may be able to come up with other examples that are sort of similar to this situation. I would also talk to her about how people sometimes make assumptions about other people, and how it can hurt. You can explain that what the teacher did was make an assumption that was incorrect, and how it is not helpful to make assumptions about other people. Another approach might be to note “It’s interesting that people from China and people from Taiwan have a lot of things in common!” to help her bridge friendships with the kids from China. “Even though you are Taiwanese, I bet there are a lot of things that you guys both like!”

    4) If it is at all possible, please consider moving to a more diverse community with Taiwanese American people in it, even if it means saving up the money or changing the way your family lives a little bit (eg. sprawling farmhouse to a smaller home in the suburbs.) From all the blogs and articles I’ve read about adult Asian American transracial adoptees one of the biggest regrets they express is feeling alone and left out in their homogenous, predominantly white communities for looking different. They wish they had met or known more people who looked like them. Their parents may have sent them to cultural camps, transnational adoptee sleepovers, or even summer trips back to the country they were born in, but nothing can substitute for being around other people who share your ethnicity and live in the United States.

    You learn things like how to code switch, how to pick out the right make up, how to fold dumplings, how to navigate your career as an Asian American, etc. not from people from your country of origin, but from people who share your ethnicity and live in the United States. You learn how to handle insensitive comments like the one from this teacher or the ever-frequent “where are you really from?” question asked of Asian Americans. And the only way to learn Taiwanese is from being around another Taiwanese speaker, as it is an oral tradition. You learn how to feel good about yourself for being Taiwanese. If you want her to be proud and connected to the Taiwanese American community, this will help so much! (And it may be a fun adventure for your entire family, to learn what it is like to live in a more diverse community and to experience what your daughter experiences!)

    5) I disagree with what other commenters are saying about your daughter being too young to explore her ethnic heritage. Based on the existing research on child psychology and racial/ethnic identity development, kids begin to notice race early and they experience the impact of being a minority early on, particularly if their community is not diverse. It’s important for parents to talk to their children about these experiences to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with them, the child, and that any feelings of confusion, alienation, or distress they feel are due to bigger, systemic factors. It takes all Taiwanese Americans a while to learn to balance what it means to be both simultaneously Taiwanese and American, and there are periods where your child may flip back and forth. It’s okay to explain to kids that it’s possible to be both at once.

    Best of luck to you and your family!

    Marissa

    Website Links:

    http://microaggressions.com
    http://quirkytaiwan.tumblr.com/tagged/personal-essay

    Websites written by Taiwanese adoptees:
    http://beyondtwoworlds.com/
    http://exiledsister.wordpress.com/

    Two websites written by Asian American adoptee and social worker Jae Ran Kim–a must read!
    http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/
    http://jaerankim.wordpress.com/

  38. Lora,
    It’s amazing to see how enthusiastic and passionate you are in learning the Taiwanese culture in order to educate your daughter. Like what other people have mentioned, because Allie is still very young, it hard for her to distinguish the difference between the Chinese and Taiwanese nationalities. I was born in San Francisco, but was raised up in a traditional Taiwanese household. I, myself, did not understand what Taiwanese meant beyond being born in Taiwan when I was in middle school. When I went to Taiwan as a child, I told all my Taiwanese relatives that I was American. Even though I knew how to speak Mandarin, I kept my mouth shut and let my family do all talking for me. I was too proud to be an American to speak Mandarin to my relatives. I felt like I was better than them because I knew English. It wasn’t until I was in college when I truly identified myself as Taiwanese-American. For the first time in 18 years after 5 years of Chinese school, 2 trips to Taiwan, and 5 years of attending to Taiwanese camp, I called myself Taiwanese-American. No matter how immersed I was in the Taiwanese culture as a child, I finally accepted my heritage as a young adult.

    I had a friend in middle school who is half-Taiwanese and half-Caucasian. Her father is a couple of generations Taiwanese-American and did not know how to speak Mandarin. As a result, my friend essentially grew up in a white household. After college, she went to National Taiwan University to learn Mandarin. When we met in Taiwan last year, she knew more Mandarin than I did! I was surprised that she is able to text in pin-yin and speak Mandarin fluently. I am first generation Taiwanese-American and grew up in a traditional Taiwanese household, yet my friend is more immersed with the culture than I am. My point is that it does not matter what type of household Allie is raised in. As she grows older, she will most likely want to learn more about her Taiwanese roots. Ask Allie how she identifies with herself and be supportive. I called myself Chinese when I was young and my family did not correct me.
    As my last input, I suggest visit the nearest Chinatown so Allie can familiarize herself with the atmosphere and food.

    I hope my spiel helped you!

    Dear Allie,
    Throughout your lifetime, you will face many obstacles about your nationality. In elementary school, my classmates would say, “Chinese” as they move the sides of their eyes up, and “Japanese” as they move the sides of their eyes down. Because most of my friends in middle school were Asians, our classmates would call us the “Asian Mob” whenever we hung out. I told people that I was ABC, American Born Chinese because as a child, ABC is an easy acronym to remember. In high school, we had a huge population of Asian students who would hang out with each other. I was too embarrassed to be associated with them so I made Caucasian friends. On the standardized tests, I bubbled in “Chinese” because frankly, I did not care about what race I identified with. This all changed once I went to college.

    During my freshman year in college, I met many students from around the world. I grew up in a small predominately white town so to hear someone say he/she is from El Salvador or Cambodia, I was blown away. It inspired me to call myself Taiwanese-American because honestly, how unique does that sound as oppose to being an American?! The more I told people about my nationality, the more I became proud of it. People started asking me more about Taiwan because to most people, it is an unknown Asian island. This encouraged me to educate the community about my culture. Whenever I met someone who was also Taiwanese, I got excited because Taiwan is small and to meet someone from there was a big deal to me. Even though I grew up in a traditional Taiwanese household, it wasn’t until 18 years later when I identified myself as Taiwanese-American. When I participated in the US Census, I made sure that I was tallied as Taiwanese-American.

    The take home message is that as long as you know where you are from and how you identify yourself, whether it’s American, Taiwanese-American, Chinese, or something else, you get to choose who you are; no one should tell you otherwise. Don’t let your peers or society tell you who you are. You are your own individual.

  39. Allie,
    Hi how are you? I heard from your Mom that you are making many new Chinese friends from China. You are a very lucky girl. Your family loves you very much. And it is great you are making new friends. So you are from Taiwan but your new friends tell you you are from China. Who is right? Well let me tell you that Taiwan is a very special country and the more you learn about it the more you will learn about yourself. You will also learn more about your other home the USA. First let me tell you what makes a country. Your Mom told you many of the same things. Please understand that most of the time this is true but sometimes there are exceptions. Each country has its own president, its own money, its own flag, its own language, its own rules, and its own passport. A passport is a special book that your country gives you so you can travel to visit another country. If you travel in your own country you don’t need it but if you travel to another country you will need one. It works kind of like a door bell. When you want to visit a friend’s house you have to ring their door bell. If they want you to come in they will open the door. Just like if you want to go to a different country. You have to show them your passport. Once you show them your passport they will decide if they will let you come into that country to visit. These are just some examples. USA, Taiwan, and China all have different presidents, different money, and different flags. China and Taiwan however have the same language. So do USA and England but USA and England are still different countries even though they have the same language.
    Now think about your home. Who owns it? Mommy and Daddy right? It is possible that some day your family might move to a new house and a different family might move into your home. Even though the house is the same new people live there. Now I am not saying your family is going to move, we are just playing pretend. The new family could be your new Chinese friends, or they could be from Mexico, or they could come from anywhere. Each family has its own rules, language and may be different than yours. A country is very similar to a family; just it is made up of many families that share many of the same things such as a flag, president, language, money, etc. They may not share everything the same but will share many things. So for example most people in USA speak English but it doesn’t mean everyone does.
    Now let’s get back to question about your friends and why they say Taiwan is part of China? Why do they say that? Well it is because it is what they believe and is what they were taught. If you ask them they will say you are from China. If you ask someone else they will say you are not you are from Taiwan. This is because different people believe different things and are taught something different. Remember when I said that if someone else moved into your house the rules, language etc might be different that they are from your home? Well the same is true for a county. As I said many families make up a country. So if many families leave a country or many families move into a new country everything that makes up a country changes. Maybe the families don’t move but they decide to change their language, or their flag, or all these small things that make up a country, then the country changes. So to answer your question, yes Taiwan is Taiwan. Other than language Taiwan is very different than China. But Taiwan in the past was many other countries as well (just like many different families can live in your house.) Taiwan used to have many island people who lived in Taiwan. This was before Taiwan became a country. There were many small families and they all had different languages and family rules. Then there were people called the Dutch. They were very strong and were the very first people to own Taiwan. The Dutch gave Taiwan its first name Formosa. In Dutch Formosa means “beautiful island” because Taiwan is a very beautiful island. The Dutch were white people and they wanted the local families to make very big farms to grow much food. But the local people didn’t want to do that. They thought the food was too much. But the Dutch still wanted to grow very big farms so they could make much food. Since the local families would not do what they wanted they needed to find someone else to help them. The Dutch went to China and brought many families to Taiwan to farm the land. The Dutch brought many many families to Taiwan to farm. One day the Dutch had a big fight with the people of China. The Dutch lost and the Chinese people made the Dutch leave. Then one day China had a war (big fight) with Japan. Japan won. So China had to give away some of their land to Japan. Taiwan was given to Japan as a gift. So many Japanese families moved to Taiwan. Taiwan’s flag became the Japanese flag, children at school were made to only learn Japanese. So as all these things changed and Taiwan became part of Japan. For 50 years Taiwan was part of Japan. That is longer than both you and I have been alive. Then World War Two began. This was a time when many countries were fighting with each other. Even people within their countries were fighting with each other. It was a very sad time in the world. Japan and China were fighting with each other again. This time Japan lost so Taiwan was given back to China. The problem is that China was having a war in itself. Many families in China were fighting and were split into two groups. Let’s say one group was blue and the other group was red. The red group became very strong and didn’t like the blue group. The blue group was afraid of the red group so the blue group of people ran away to Taiwan to live. The blue group of people became the school teachers in Taiwan. They told the children that they cannot speak Japanese anymore and made them learn Chinese. Many years later the blue group’s families became many in Taiwan so Taiwan became a blue country. China is still red today. Now China and Taiwan do not fight anymore. But because of what they believe they are very different. So today, children from China learn that Taiwan is part of China. Children in Taiwan learn that Taiwan is not China. Many children in the USA and many other countries don’t even know this story. Some children have never even heard of Taiwan.
    Now let me tell you another story. The USA and England used to be the same country too. Some people lived in Europe and some people lived in America. Many many years ago England was mean to people who lived in America. We did not want England to be mean to us anymore. We wanted freedom and we wanted to be able to raise our families how we thought best. We had a fight with England and we fought for what we believed. We won, we gained our freedom and then all the families decided to create our country and home the United States of America. So now the USA and England made-up and are very good friends. England now agrees that freedom is very important and that families should have happiness. I believe that Taiwan and Chinese people are friends and can make friends. Like I said before many Chinese children believe Taiwan is China because that is what they learned in school. What children learn in USA, China, Taiwan, Japan, England and many other countries are different so we may not always agree or have the same ideas. Even so learning something different is not always a bad thing. Learning different things helps us come up with new ideas how to solve problems or think up ways to make tasty food. Because everyone learns something different the more friends you make the more you can learn. You might learn something new. You might learn something about yourself. You don’t have to agree with what someone tells you and you don’t have to make them agree with you. But by sharing what you have learned and listen to others you might learn something new even about yourself and your family. Love and what you believe makes your family, love and what many people believe together makes a country. Through learning and love you can learn more about yourself.
    Allie you are a very lucky girl. You are an American and a Taiwanese. Both are very kind people. People from China are also your family because many people who live in Taiwan today also came from China. Because China and Taiwan do have many similarities you can learn much about Taiwan by making Chinese friends. You can also learn much about China by making Taiwanese friends. Everyone has questions about who we are and where we came from. Sometimes we don’t get the answers we want and sometimes we don’t even get the answers we seek. And even if we do get answers it doesn’t mean we will understand. Fortunately, we are not defined by where we came from but rather honesty, integrity, and the choices we make.

  40. To be Taiwanese means so many different things now, because Taiwan itself is so diverse. I’d feel uncomfortable simply telling a child like Allie that they are of Taiwanese heritage and nothing else, because it ignores the beautiful mess of cultures that have made Taiwan what it is today. No one cultural group on that island can claim to represent the whole of it; like the United States, it is the mixture of it all that makes it unique. I cannot deny that my own heritage is both Chinese and Taiwanese. The fact that I am both does not mean that they are the same; rather that they are intertwined. Does that make me any less Taiwanese? I hope not. To me, Chinese culture is a part of Taiwanese heritage today, just as Hakka, aboriginal, and all other local customs that have existed for generations make up what you call Taiwanese heritage.

    That’s what I would want her to understand. That this is not a Taiwan vs. China thing, that it’s not as simple as being Taiwanese and not Chinese. It’s about acknowledging and exploring the uniqueness of the diversity and multiculturalism of her own Taiwanese heritage. All of it is beautiful, and none of it should be denied.

  41. @Daniel I’ve been disagreeing with Chinese people for a very long time so none of it riles me up or offends me any more. Nothing any Chinese people have to say about Taiwan is a surprise or new. It’s the same old things rehashed. You made the wrong assumption about my family. My family members are all along the spectrum of politics in Taiwan. Regardless of the politics, my family’s main goal is to help the community. Some are members of the KMT because during their time, there was no other choice but to join the KMT in order to get things done in the community. The Chinese consuming pop culture of Taiwan doesn’t automatically mean Taiwan is “Han Chinese” dominated. One of the most successful cross cultural pop item was Meteor Garden which was actually based on a manga from Japan. Japanese manga/anime has been an influence all over East Asia for decades. One of the more well known characters world wide is Hello Kitty from Japan. Korean serial dramas is making its way around East Asia along with kpop. So by your logic, since China is also consuming Japanese and Korean pop culture, then Japan and Korean must be “Han Chinese” dominated and part of China too. I’m sure the Japanese and Koreans would disagree with you on that. The aboriginals are a small percentage of the overall population but their culture and history as part of the overall Taiwanese heritage. Opportunist people like aboriginal representative May Chin who lived most of her life ignoring her aboriginal heritage but only now “embrace” it for political and economic gain is just despicable. Sovereignty means autonomy and it is not a definition tied strictly to governments. Regardless of the delusions of the Chinese people in thinking that Taiwan should be reverted back to China, reality is that it never happened. PRC never ruled Taiwan and ROC was just an occupying force. Self determination by the population of Taiwan is the only way to resolve the issue of Taiwan’s future. Quebec had its own self determination vote in 1995 with its secession referendum. Palestine is a non-member observer state in the UN. I’m all for the “autonomous” area of PRC to be independent but the PRC government have used the military and population in order to control these places. The resettlement of “Han Chinese” in Tibet to change the population demographic and suppression of Uyghur population are many tools employed by the PRC to control these areas. As for the Western US, that was the result of a war between the US and Mexico. Texas fought for its independence from Mexico before joining the US. The Falklands are part of the British Overseas Territory, that’s why the Union Jack is part of it’s flag. It’s Argentina that does not support the self determination of the Falkland Islands and want it as part of their territory. The ROC is just an occupying force that has not been removed. Taiwan is not just “Chinese”. Taiwan is a place of diverse cultures and it’s own history.

  42. @Mark I think I can only agree with you once the ROC is no longer in Taiwan. When the Republic of Taiwan is declared, I’ll be perfectly content with everything you’ve said. All Taiwanese should evict that “occupying force” so Chinese people would stop viewing them as kin.

  43. @Daniel Taiwan’s history will be remembered as long as there is people to pass it down or it’s written down and preserved. Culture is something that is always revolving. For the ROC Chinese it’s seen as something that emulates what it was when they left China 70 years ago. For the PRC it’s what they have morphed it to be. What the ROC and PRC has in common is the desire to selectively use the Chinese history to gain power. The people of Taiwan, be it Aborigines, Hakka, Hoklo, etc., have done our best to preserve our history and cultures despite the occupation of the Japanese and Chinese(KMT/ROC). Decades of forced education and language in Taiwan did not eliminate all of the other languages from being spoken or passed down. Years ago, I attended a performance where a friend sang an aboriginal song that was taught to him by his grandmother. The sad part about it was that no one really knew what the song meant because no one alive knew the language anymore. It meant the language and the culture was lost. As long as the people of Taiwan are willing to pass on their culture to the next generation, occupying forces like the ROC will never succeed in destroying the cultures. The Chinese can claim all they want about what Taiwan is but it is up to the Taiwanese to decide who they are. I like it when Taiwanese Americans will correct others who purposely or mistakenly think we are Chinese. My close non-Taiwanese friends know enough about me to correct others when they ask if I am Chinese. The major gripe I have with the ROC Chinese is that they are still living with the delusion that somehow they will take back China from the PRC and be able to go back home. That’s where the real problem is, they do not see Taiwan as home. Taiwan is not a priority to them, China is. the ROC Chinese could be part of Taiwan culture but they choose not to be part of it and want to eradicate all others. The problem is that Chinese see that culture/ethnicity equates to nationality. They see kin as to mean “children” that needs to be brought back to the fold instead of like a fifth cousin that shares the same history but is still different.

  44. Taiwanjuli

    Dear Lora,

    I know it is difficult for you to talk to a young kid about difference between Taiwan and China, there is no fast way to teach history but only step by step, and I know eventually you will make it, here I would like to share with you article and few internet link. You could explain it in simple to your lovely daughter.

    Sincerely,

    Taiwanjuli

    ………………

    link from

    http://www.taiwancenter.com/sdtca/articles/10-05/6.html
    San Diego Taiwanese Cultural Association

    Taiwan, China share little culture
    By Chen Ching-chih
    Published on TaipeiTimes
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2005/09/16/2003271896

    Early last month, a legislator asked a group of Taiwanese-American professors how best to address a question posed by some US Congressional aides: Why won’t the Taiwanese, who have a shared culture and ethnic origin with the Chinese, simply accept Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China?

    ………………

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2004/08/29/2003200689

    Data links early settlers to African diaspora

    DIFFERENT STORIES While genetic research puts this land on a main route of early humans’ dispersion, anthropologists tie early settlements to the Pearl River Delta

    ………………

    Polynesians came from Taiwan says new study

    http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0713-rhett_butler.html

    Polynesians, history’s greatest seafarers who settled islands across a vast area of ocean from Madagascar to Easter Island, originated in Taiwan, according to a new genetic study published in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.

    The study looked at mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along virtually unchanged from mothers to their children, to determine that clear similarities exist between nine indigenous Taiwan groups and ethnic Polynesians. Most Taiwanese today are decended from mainland Chinese who have arrived in the past four centuries. Jean Trejaut and Marie Lin of Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei lead the study and found that Taiwanese aboriginal populations have likely been genetically isolated from mainland Chinese for between 10,000 and 20,000 years.

    ………………

    Immunoglobulin Allotypes among Taiwan Aborigines: Evidence of Malarial Selection Could Affect Studies of Population Affinity

    http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol74/iss3/3/

  45. I would like you to know that our family feels so blessed to have this information to share with our daughter. It has been such a wonderful and heartfelt experience to be encouraged by such insightful, knowledgeable and inspiring people.

    We were encouraged early on in our adoption process to address adoption issues separately, and thus far we believe that Allie is adjusting beautifully and age appropriately. We truly feel like we have a handle on that end of the spectrum, but we know in our hearts that help was needed in this area.

    Unfortunately the only Taiwan Adoption group that I am aware of at this time, is just not equipped to address such critical issues as identity and can’t offer much more than kinship. Because of so many conflicting feelings and beliefs about Taiwan’s culture, heritage and Independence, the group ultimately wound up arguing amongst the members and nobody walked away any wiser from these discussions. I have felt many of these discussions to be discouraging and quite frankly, emotionally draining. So while I have chosen to stay in close contact with several members of this group, ultimately I felt that it would be in our best interest to not be actively associated with it.

    Again, I can’t express our gratitude enough. Our hearts go out to those who have openly displayed their letters of encouragement. The knowledge, history and genuine love and support that has been shown is more appreciated than you will ever know!

    We cherish this article and each one of your letters dearly. I’m looking forward to printing out this post along with all of these treasured letters and making a scrap book for Allie. I’m certain that growing up and having this useful information and genuine support will only make her that stronger!

    Thank you again from heart.

    Sincerely,
    Lora C. and Family

  46. Catherine

    Dear Lora,

    I hope you will permit one more answer to your letter.

    I’m what you would call ‘native Taiwanese’; I was raised in a Taiwanese-speaking, pro-independence household in the States. I think the tendency of people in my parents’ generation, who were discriminated against pretty severely by Nationalists and post-1949 immigrants, was to create a Taiwanese identity that drew its strength from the duration of our families’ residence on the island (a ‘prior claim’, if you will – although obviously aborigines had an even more ancient right) and from the distinct cultures, languages, and sub-ethnic groups that had both been preserved and allowed to evolve over time, as a result of this lengthy isolation from the mainland. My parents, too, grew up in a time when it was shameful and even dangerous to identify as Taiwanese. None of the recent arrivals they knew wanted to think of themselves as Taiwanese, and many ‘natives’ shunned the label as well.

    Growing up, I always encountered people who insisted that I could not be Taiwanese because there was simply no such thing; I could only be Chinese. So I doubled down on an essentialist, oppositional definition of ‘Taiwanese’, seeking an ‘authentic’, ‘pure’ identity that I could present to people and say, ‘Look! I told you we were different!’ Like my parents, I equated being Taiwanese with being Hoklo, Hakka, or aboriginal. I felt unreasonably upset at polls that showed a significant portion of the populace identifying themselves as ‘Chinese-Taiwanese’; in order for the latter to exist, I felt, it had to be something entirely different than the former.

    I have to say that graduate school changed all of my thinking about this; I work on early modern Europe, nothing to do with my cultural and ethnic background, but I was finally able to see how our understandings of culture, nationality, ethnicity, etc. are constructed at particular moments in time, in response to certain pressures and for the purpose of achieving certain aims (I know, History 101, but it was a real light bulb moment for me!) I began to see how it would be to our benefit, as people who loved Taiwan, to define ‘Taiwanese’ in a more inclusive way, so that people who thought of themselves as ethnically Chinese, or who had a foreign-born parent (like so many children born in Taiwan these days) could also claim, share in, and strengthen this identity. If one of the goals is statehood, the recognition of a Taiwanese nationality on the diplomatic stage, it behoves us to make this label open to anyone who lives on the island and supports peace, democracy, and self-determination, no matter what language they speak, when their ancestors arrived, or what their appearance may be.

    This is from a plaque hanging at the National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan (http://www.nmth.gov.tw/enmain/): ‘Who are the Taiwanese? People from all parts of the world who once visited Taiwan used different languages to name this island and its inhabitants. But how do those who live there regard themselves? Taiwan is composed of different ethnic groups with disparate languages and cultures. Thus the term “Taiwanese” is a form of self affirmation impossible to define with a particular language or ethnicity. All those who identify with and are concerned about Taiwan, who love and accept Taiwan, and who wish to live together in this land can declare with a loud voice “I am a Taiwanese.”’

  47. Catherine

    And here is what I would say to Allie 🙂

    Many powerful empires have tried to claim Taiwan as their own. Because of this, it has always been a mark of bravery to call yourself Taiwanese. It isn’t easy, because you have to be on the side of the little guy and continue to stand up for what you believe in. By raising you to be strong and courageous, your family is already teaching you what it means to be Taiwanese. This is a great gift and one that will serve you well no matter where life takes you. Thanks to you and your family for sharing your story!

  48. Danielle :)

    Another adoptive mama. We adopted our daughter from Taiwan in 2008. I am feeling so encouraged by the comments here. We have a new arsenal of information for her when she asks. (We know it’s coming!) We are living in a very diverse city in the Inland Empire in Cali and feel SO blessed to have as many cultures around us as we do! But more than once we’ve been corrected when people ask, “what is she?” (Yes, that’s how they ask!). She knows very well where she was born. We are proud and grateful for her birthcountry and look forward to visiting again soon, for a sibling, Lord willing. Thank you all for being so open to giving information for us to share with our kids! We consider our family 1/3 Taiwanese, so it is humbling to be welcomed here 🙂

  49. Dear Allie,

    There may be times in your life when you feel in some way, “I’m *not* the one.” You may feel apart from Taiwan, or other Taiwanese. I know, because I’ve felt this way for a long period of my life. This phrase is one I’ve uncovered for myself as there were many times in my life where I felt rejected in some way or another.

    When I was just 2 months old, my father passed away. My mom and her family all moved from Taiwan to the US and I always noticed how out of all my cousins, I was the only one without a father. I would ask all my uncles, “where’s my father?” Without being conscious of it, I began telling myself, “I’m *not* the one who gets to have a father.”

    Later on, my mother married my step-father, and though we are totally great now, when I was growing up, he was quite open about how I was not his real son, and treated me as lesser than my half brothers. Again, I always felt, “I’m not the one …” who gets to have two Taiwanese parents (my step-father is Caucasian), and I’m the oddball.

    Even as an adult, when I became more in touch with the Taiwanese American community, the story of “I’m not the one …” came up again, as I sometimes felt out of place for not having grown up among a lot of other Taiwanese or Asian-Americans (except my cousins). Who were all these Taiwanese Americans with long standing communities of other Taiwanese friends, etc?

    Then at some point, I realized, I am THE ONE. I’m the ONE who got everything I got, and nothing I didn’t get. I had a loving father who helped bring me into this world. I have a loving mom who just wanted me to have a father. I have a loving step-dad who did his best in a situation that wasn’t easy for him. No, I didn’t grow up with tons of Taiwanese American friends, but I have dozens of awesome cousins, and I have an awesome Taiwanese American community now.

    When it came to being Taiwanese, I realized, I was trying to fit into an imagined mold of what that was: not me. But I finally realized, I am THE PERFECT Taiwanese person, because I am ME, and I can’t be anyone else, nor would I want to be.

    So, Allie, whenever you have the slightest inkling, that you’re not the one, remember that you ARE. I hope you never experience that and always have the strength and understanding to know that you ARE not just the perfect Taiwanese person, but the perfect person for you.

    with Love,
    Tom Yeh

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