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NATMA July 2023 US-Taiwan Medical Exchange Conference & 2G Trip

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

July 2, 2023

Taiwanese Opera

Cheryl Wu, MD

In July 2023, NATMA launched an inaugural trip back to Taiwan with 2G (2nd generational Taiwanese American) physicians, dentists and healthcare professionals to promote friendly exchange with our Taiwanese counterparts, and to get reacquainted with our homeland. Under the direction of our national chaper president, Dr David Yang, a group of 15 of "2G" descended in Taipei at the end of June of 2023.

On 7/2/23 Sunday, our members got to the hotel at Howard Plaza Hotel in the Da’an district in Taipei City. We boarded a tour bus (I personally am not a tour groups person, so this is literally my first time on a tour bus around a country!), and proceeded to the National Theatre in Taipei. Taiwanese Opera is an art form that tells stories of old (some historical, some fictional) in stage form, sung in Taiwanese.

Fittingly, our show, 臥龍, (translated to crouching dragon) was a story of intergenerational difference, familial and governance expectations of the son of a well known consiglieres and military advisors during the Three Kingdom Period. The play centered around the political advisor, 諸葛亮 Zhu Geliang, and his confidant and best friend, 劉備 Liu Bei, the founding emperor of 蜀漢 Shu Han, during 220-280AD, an incredibly tumultuous era in Chinese history. The play actually opened with a scene about the second generation, 諸葛瞻, Zhu Gezhan, Zhu Geliang's son, who questioned his high position in government. He headed off the play by singing, did I attain my post because of actual merit, or because I have a famous father. The play also gave voice to the son of Liu Bei, 劉禪 Liu Chang, who went down in history as one of the most ineffectual emperors - to the point his nickname became synonymous with “imbecile”, even in modern Chinese language. I did not know this tidbit of Chinese history, and my new friend and seat mate, Gary Chuang (a dermatologist in LA), told me all about it.

The play touched upon such perennial topics and themes as intergenerational expectations, the “2Gs"' resentment to their fathers, who are both giants in history as general and consigliere, and the fathers' absenteeism due to their mission in uniting central China. It was a beautiful and refreshing take on one of the most famous friendships in Chinese histories, and the burden and legacies their sons carried, as well as their mutual understanding and friendship. Looking back, it was a great foreshadowing for the rest of the trip.

The character Zhu Geliang was played by the inimitable 唐美雲, who thanked everyone after the play, with laser sharp memory and even sharper wit. A true sight to behold.

My hot take - I loved that the play didn’t focus on the brilliance of the general and his well known advisor, but on the complex and difficult feelings of their children. But - I do long for the day women’s voices are included and represented. The arts are a well known medium to smash traditional ideas and societal roles, allowing us to question what we’ve accepted as the norm. 

After the play, we went to the Theatre Cafe and had a large feast of western fares, and met the beautiful Dr 田知學 Valis Tanapima, an emergency physician at Cheng Hsin General Hospital in Taipei, and regularly appear on television as a medical expert, and a part of our Taiwanese NATMA 2G Chapter.

We went back to the hotel for an early start tomorrow.

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