Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Buddhist Nazis???

I arrived in Taiwan at the beginning of August around 1 am at Chiang Kai-Shek International airport. I then got in a car and headed to the hotel I was supposed to be staying at. One of my most vivid memories of my first few moments in Taiwan, was looking out that car window and seeing an image similar to the one below, posted on the entire side of a large building.

I had been traveling for about 30 hours, but I was certain that my mind wasn't playing tricks on me, and there was, in fact, a giant Swastika in broad display. Over the next couple months I noticed these symbols everywhere. The picture above was taken at the world's largest active temple, in Puli. I asked several friends about it, but the only answer they could give me was that it was "some kind of" religious symbol (I've also discovered that many Buddhists know very little about the Buddhist religion).

So after doing a brief internet search, here's what I learned:

The symbol has been in use for well over 3,000 years. Shards of pottery from ancient Troy show that it has been in common use since at least 1000 BCE. Ancient China, India, and Japan all contain archeological artifacts decorated with it. There is even some evidence that Native Americans have used it. The word swastika is sanskrit, meaning- "su" good, "asti" being, and "ka" as a suffix... literally "A good being."

During the 1800s, when the countries in Europe were mighty empires; Germany wasn't even a unified state until 1871. To counter these feelings of youth and insecurity; German nationalists began to use the symbol because of it's link to the ancient aryans (although the symbol they chose is actually a reverse swastika- running counter clockwise). They believed, quite ridiculously, that the Aryans were a pure race and were the ancestors of modern Germans. Then in 1935, Hitler declared the red and black swastika flag to be the official flag of Germany. The rest, as they say, is history.

For the last 3,000 years, the swastika had been a symbol of sun, life, and good-luck. But now, it is hard for most people to imagine it representing anything other than hate and death.


At January 30, 2008 at 11:30 AM , Blogger steph said...



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