With mixed messages in Japanese and moves stirring up hard feelings in mainland China, Madonna’s Taiwan leg of her Rebel Heart Tour left people with lots to talk about.

After her first show on 4 February, an image appeared on Madonna’s official Facebook page showing the star’s face inside a color-reversed image of the “Blue Sky with a White Sun” emblem—the same emblem that can be seen in the top-left corner of the Republic of China’s current flag.

On the surface, the image doesn’t appear to be anything too controversial, but it turns out that this particular symbol is used by the country’s Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang of China, or KMT) who until this year had been the sole ruling party of Taiwan as it evolved from an autocratic government to multiple party state.

The KMT was also in charge during the White Terror, in which tens of thousands of political opponents where imprisoned and/or executed. With connections to a period of martial law that lasted from 1949 to 1987, it’s understandable that people in Taiwan would be sensitive about the symbol’s use.

To put it another way, it would be like Madonna appearing in Japan’s Rising Sun Flag or her own country’s Confederate Flag and if either World War II or the American Civil War had ended in the ’80s.

▼ Something along the lines of this

Madonna Image: Amazon

Despite the cultural misunderstandings, fans still flocked to see the pop legend perform for the first time in their land and according to tweets and video from the shows, spirits were high.

As we could see, during the events Madonna appeared with the full Taiwanese flag, which was far more acceptable to people there. However, when news of it reached mainland China, the longstanding feud over Taiwan’s actual independence was reawakened.

According to BBC News, net users in the People’s Republic of China had this to say on social media.

“Is Taiwan a country? I am laughing to death…you are just a region.”
“Disgraceful act, what kind of message are you sending to China?”
“What a cheap way to get attention from the mainland. Your music isn’t very welcome or known in our country anyway.”
“Did you run out of your cone-shaped bras and had nothing better to wear?! Stupid western woman with no modesty.”

So it would appear that the Material Girl had chosen sides and in all likelihood will not be performing on the mainland anytime soon…

But wait! At the same shows someone on stage was heard shouting “I love China!” BBC reports it as Madonna herself, while Record China is saying it was a DJ.

While such a statement in Taiwan would cause the hairs the backs of neck to stand up as if Madonna flubbed a note during the opening of “Like a Prayer,” it didn’t appear to diminish the crowd’s overall support during the two nights.

In fact, Madonna was so pleased that she posted a message of thanks on Instagram and Twitter.

If you’re a westerner, nothing about this would appear especially suspicious. But to the Taiwanese, it was as if Madonna posted a picture of herself with Russian script in the background while thanking New York.

This is because she is standing in front of a bunch of Japanese writing which outlines the Five Principles of Reiki, a Japanese alternative medical practice most known for its massage-like therapies. In case you’re curious, they are:

Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be grateful
Work honestly
Be kind to everything and yourself

Although not nearly as provocative since Japan and Taiwan are on relatively good terms with each other, it still caused some to wonder if she really knew what the difference between Taiwan and Japan was. It was also a perfect capper to an overall culturally confused concert appearance.

Now, it could have very well been that Madonna, who’s no stranger to controversy, had intentionally tried to flare tensions between the countries along with embedded messages of love. However, it seems more likely that her camp had made a series of well-intentioned gestures without fully understanding the complexities of Asian history and relations.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Right, Beiber?

Source: Record China, Livedoor News, Toychan (Japanese), BBC News (English)
Top Image: Twitter/@Madonna, Twitter/@HsinYu_Tama, Facebook/Madonna
Video: YouTube/falconknight