- Illustrations: L. H. -
A Peasant Family
“My father’s family was originally from Zhangzhou, in Fujian Province. They came to Taiwan during the reign of the Xianfeng emperor (r. 1850-1861) of the Qing dynasty.
They settled in the middle of the mountains and tried to cultivate the land as they had in China. But this new environment did not allow them to live decently with their usual crops. However, they realized that this environment was very favorable for the cultivation of tea.
The living conditions were really difficult. My father and his brother had to walk three hours to get to the school in town.
This did not prevent my father from devoting himself very seriously to his studies. Thanks to government scholarships, he was able to leave Nantou to study political science at the National Taiwan University in Taipei. After graduation, he settled in that city.”
A Family of Waishengren
“My maternal great-grandfather was a high-ranking Kuomintang official in Hebei province. But when the family took refuge in Taiwan in 1949, they lost everything.
In Mainland China, my maternal grandfather studied medicine. He had to interrupt his studies because of the war. When he came to Taiwan, he became a teacher.
Afterwards, the whole family moved to Taipei. Life was very difficult then. To survive, they set up a small street stand where they sold breakfast: soy milk, shaobing, and fried doughnuts (youtiao).
It was only thanks to government scholarships that my mother and her two brothers were able to continue their education.”
Memories of War
“When the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression broke out, my maternal grandmother was studying in a girls’ school. She and her classmates fled from southern Hebei to Shanxi province. They were only able to carry a small amount of food with them and survived by drinking water from the streams along the way.
Afterwards, my grandmother joined a guerrilla group. She had to be trained in the use of weapons. One day, when she didn’t know that her rifle was loaded, a bullet went off and almost killed the group’s horse.
After his arrival in Taiwan, my great-grandfather helped many people. That’s why every year, many people came to our house to celebrate his birthday. They all sat down together to play mahjong.
During these games, they liked to reminisce about the past. They would talk about the Civil War, the defeat and retreat of the Kuomintang. They often said that during the war against the Communists, they had nothing to eat, and had to make do with drinking the water dripping from stalactites.”
A Weapon Buried in the Backyard
“During the Japanese occupation, my paternal great-grandfather bought a rifle to hunt wild boar. A few years later, the police came to arrest my grandfather on suspicion of illegally possessing a weapon and participating in the February 28 (1947) uprising.
My uncle went to the police station. There he learned that my grandfather had been denounced by someone. Determined to find the weapon, he walked eight hours up the mountain to my great-grandfather’s house. He finally found the rifle buried under a pile of wood: It was completely rusted. He waited until nightfall to bury it.
It was only later that we realized what had happened: Someone had had a dispute with a policeman and shot him in revenge, without anyone seeing him. To clear his name, he had accused my grandfather, who was sentenced to 120 days in prison.
Thanks to my father’s efforts, my grandfather obtained the status of victim of the events of February 28 and the White Terror, and was able to receive reparations.”