Mainland Chinese tourists are scrambling to take photographs of Chiang Kai-shek—Taiwan's deceased Nationalist leader. This man, an impersonator of course, is actually Chiang's son's former bodyguard. Now a tour guide, Lee Teng-ko is bringing history back to life with his striking resemblance.
After losing China to the Communists in 1949, Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. Since then the Chinese regime has made the controversial claim that the island belongs to it—and is not a separate country.
But conflicting opinion aside, 80-year-old Lee is now standing at the frontline of Taiwan's tourism and is a popular hit—even with mainland tourists.
"I thought Mr. Chiang is no longer around but I see that he's here again. I was surprised. I was caught unprepared. He looks very much like Mr. Chiang, with the same kindness."
"In Hong Kong, people are not interested in politics, but of course seeing Chiang Kai-shek here, I feel very honored to have a photograph taken with him."
Lee was born in Taiwan. He moved to China as a child and eventually enlisted in the Nationalist army. He was sent to Shanghai, where he met Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, and went back to Taiwan as his bodyguard.
After Lee retired from the army, he kept a peach farm in Sacramento, California—where his resemblance to Chiang Kai-shek was first noticed.
"Once I was in Cihu mausoleum, an old lady saw me sitting inside a VIP room. The lady was shocked and reported to the guard saying that General Chiang resurrected over there. The guard came over and saw me, and he was surprised at my resemblance, too. I said, 'It is up to your judgment to decide how much I look like him. I will accept it if you say so.'"
Lee charges nearly $1000 U.S. dollars for each appearance. His agent is keeping his schedule to one appearance a week, to make sure the octogenarian stays in good health.