Monday, November 23, 2009

Roger Cohen's "Them Bones" story goes over the top!

Bones! Bones! Them bones! -- the apparent Taiwan-French connection

by Them Bones
webposted: November 24, 2009

According to a recent article on Sept. 9 in the New York Times -- which I think
very few people in Taiwan are aware of, and thus this blogpost here -- a
finger bone from the body of the late Li Tien-lu, the great
puppetmaster of Taiwan, is allegedly buried in France under a plum
tree outside a private home north of Paris. In addition, a bone from a
finger of Li's son, who passed away this year, is also buried in that
rural French garden.

According to Roger Cohen, a highly-respected and veteran columnist for
the Times, a French woman who once studied puppetry with Li in Taiwan
in 1975 apparently arranged for someone to apparently exhume his body and take a
bone from one of his fingers and airfreight it over to France so she
could bury it in her garden. That's what the Cohen reported on
September 11, 2009

This story might not be true at all, but then again, it might be
completely true. Who knows where truth lies? It was reported in
the New York Times Weekly Edition supplement in the United Daily News
here, an English-language supplement that appears
as an insert every Tuesday.

As some readers might know, Master Li -- one of Taiwan's national
treasures -- died in 1998 and his son died in 2009. As far as I know,
they were both buried, or cremated, in Taiwan. Cohen's story is one of
those "East meets West" exotic set pieces, where a finger bone
fragment of a master puppeteer from Taiwan somehow gets later buried
beneath a plum tree in a remote village an hour away from Paris.
Prayers were said, wine was drunk, New Age beliefs were intoned.

Cohen says he knows about this story because he was at the re-burial
ceremony in France when it happened last summer. He has a home in the same town.
"We met under the plum tree," Cohen wrote. "Or rather India and China
(sic) met, and France too.
As the bells chimed from the 12th century steeple of technologoy.
Marrying East and West, past and future, life and death, the global
village lives."

Yes, Cohen said that Taiwan was in China. He really believes it.

When I asked Mr Cohen by email if he really believed that finger bone
fragments from Li and his son were really buried in France and if he
actually thought that Taiwan was in a country called "China", he said
yes to both

As background, Cohen wrote in his column: "Back in 1975, Claire
studied puppetry in
Taiwan with one of the great glove puppeteers, Li Tien-lu. They became
friends and, in later years, Li often visited [France]. Such was his
attachment to Cherence, France, and such peace he found in this French
village, that when Li died in 1998, he requested that part of his
anatomy find its final resting place here. At a ceremony in 1999, a
piece of bone -- believed to be a fragment of the great man's finger
-- was buried under the plum tree in France....[In 2009] Li's son
died. Naturally, he wanted to be close to his father. So arrangements
were made father and son, or rather tiny fragments of each, were
united beneath the plum tree."

When I asked Tom Brady, the editor of the New York Times Weekly
Edition, about the veracity of the claims that Cohen made about Li's
finger bone fragment being shipped from Taiwan to France and re-buried
there, Brady replied: "I've talked to Roger, and the standards
editor here at the New York Times, and all I can say at this point is
that we stand by the column."

If Cohen's tale is true, it is indeed an interesting addition to the
history of the Li family in Taiwan. I hope the United Daily News will
someday report the truthfulness of the story in its Chinese-language
edition one day so that the Li family can also see what the Western
press has said about it. If true, it deserves front page play. If it
is a French kind of New Age urban legend, Cohen should admit it, too.

Whatever the truth is, it's a great story. Taiwan's new French connection!


November 24 issue of United Daily News in Taiwan carried this letter today:

Dear Editor of the New York Times Weekly Edition in the UDN in Taiwan,
as edited by NYTimes editor Tom Brady:

Roger Cohen's Intelligence column ("Distant Echoes Under the Plum
Tree" -- Sept. 8 issue) was a very enjoyable read, and Cohen's column
is one reason I read the weekly edition of the Times that is inserted
in my local Chinese-language newspaper in Taiwan. His way of writing
about the global village we now live in, East and West, North and
South, makes this transplanted Bostonian feel right at home reading
the weekly edition here.


Them Bones

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