Monday, August 30, 2010

Other Important Events

I will use today's blog to describe some important events in Taiwan (other than my Junior High related history) in the early 1950s. As you may know, Taiwan was under Japanese rule for fifty years before 1945. This means that there were two generations of Taiwan-born children who never learned or even heard that they were Chinese as they grew up! When Japan declared their "unconditional surrender" at the end of WWII, the Taiwanese people were not very happy about having to adjust to another ruling authority, this time from China. My uncle, Chen Cheng-chang (陈庆章), was part of the Chinese army sent to recover Taiwan from Japanese hands. He was later assigned to the Station in Zuo-ying as a "company" leader (with a rank of lieutenant colonel) to protect the harbor near Kaoshung with several big canons. Remember? Visiting my uncle, who was my Mom's younger brother, was the main reason we went to Taiwan to start with.

The following summarizes some of the big events which I remember that took place during those few years:

1946: Quite a number of local riots took place, including ones at
Budai, Hsinyin, and Yuan-ling (布袋, 新营、and 员林); these three led to a much bigger riot later.

1947: On Feb. 28th a riot occurred on the whole island; there were a lot of killings and much looting. This was the famous so-called 228 incident.

1948: The Taiwan governor Liu tried to establish his authority.

1949: Marshall Law was declared and Nationalist China started to retreat to the Island.

1950: The KMT (the nationalist party) used high pressure control during the so-called white terror period. Quite a number of intellectuals were killed as "spies".

1955: The American-sponsored three star general, Sun Li-ren (孙立人), was arrested as he was protecting a "spy". No one knows what happened to him even today!

1956: All university level schools started using a uniform "entrance examination", one exam for all universities. Students all had to take this ONE exam in order to gain entrance to a specific department in a specific university. One's entrance to both depended completely on one's grade in this single exam. One could, for example, list first choice as Chemistry Department in National Taiwan University, second choice as Physics Department in National Taiwan University, etc. Then, depending on your exam grade and how you compared with all other students, you would be admitted to one of the choices on your list – or told that you had failed to gain entrance to any. In this case, you would have to try again the following year, as the exam was given only once annually.

This last policy sealed the fate of all intellectuals of our generation. One single exam determined the futures of many young men and women's lives.  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mr. Liu-ge (牛哥先生)

Liu-ge, (real name李费蒙19251997), or Buffalo Brother (literal meaning of his pseudonym name), was a famous artist of our time. He started his work in Taiwan during our Junior High School years and became quite famous later. Many newspapers carried his comics or cartoons about our lives during that time. Many times his work was on the edge of what was allowed and what was not allowed to be published. The following comic strip and cartoon are the only ones I could find on the web to show you his style. The comic strip was trying to show that a Western dinosaur is different from a Chinese dragon. To paint a dragon the most important part is its eyes.
The second one is a cartoon with his famous signature on the bottom left. It implies that to mold you into a modern "James Bond" (Chinese Chu Liu-ceon 楚留香was a James Bond like character in Chinese Gong-fu novels) requires jumping out of the old-fashioned genie's bottle.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

More about this Special Song

When we were in Junior High, clearly we sang our national anthem more than any other song. Every day we sang it at least once in the morning. Just like when practicing religion, daily pray is necessary! The second most sung song was the one which I mentioned earlier: "fighting communism and resisting Soviet Russia". Besides the link at the end of last blog, you can find the words of this song in another link: or find it at: . The words are shown below:

打倒俄寇 反共产,反共产
消灭共产, 杀汉奸,杀汉奸

For people who are not used to reading Chinese, I will translate the words here below.

Defeat the Soviet Russian enemy, fight against communism, fight against communism!
Destroy and eliminate Chu and Mao, kill all spies, kill all spies!
Recover the mainland, rescue our people, rescue our people!
Obey our leader, accomplish our revolution, accomplish our revolution!
Practice the Three People's Principles, rebuild our republic, rebuild our republic!
Construct a new China, long live our republic, long live, long live our China, the republic!

It was so matter of fact, so much a part of our routine life, that I am not at all sure that we paid any attention to what the words meant to us l! The only requirement was to sing it as loud as we could, else we would have to repeat it again and again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fight Communism and Resist Soviet Russia (反共抗俄)

Starting from Junior High until half way through our college education, for a total of about 8 years, we had to "learn and practice" a proper political attitude. In the classroom, we studied the " hree people's principles" or related subjects, and wrote and discussed many papers about the meaning and the actions necessary to achieve the goal of achieving these principles. On the parade ground or the athletic field, we learned a lot of songs, such as "Fight communism and Resist Soviet Russia". Janice asked me if I remember any of these songs; I could not! She asked me why? She can remember clearly all the songs she learned at that age. During my college years, I was even an "instructor", charged with teaching everyone in one of the Training Centers to sing these songs. How can you not to remember any?!!! Well, you can see that my heart was not in it! It was just a routine - doing these rituals without thinking about it. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one to have "two faces" when it comes to following the political path. On the one hand, you learned how to write an essay to get a good grade or sing a song as loud as possible; on the other hand, you know where the reality lies. Fighting communism and resisting Soviet Russia were so remote to us that they made no impression on my mind. The following pictures are good examples: one is a cigarette package, another is a wedding invitation.

In 1952 October, the Chinese Taiwan Youth "Fight Communism and Save-the-Country Union" (中国青年反共救国团) was officially established. Everyone in school became a member or an associate member. We saw the slogans everywhere! For example, another slogan, "Kill the pig and plug out his hair, fight commies to return the Mainland" (杀朱拔毛,反攻大陆). "Pig" in Chinese sounded the same as "Chu" (Chu De was a famous Chinese Communist Marshal) and "Hair" sounds the same as "Mao" (as in Mao Tze-dong). These slogans were printed on the bus or train tickets, on the cigarette packages, medicine bottles, and certainly on large and small public buildings. The over-whelming amount of propaganda saturated the whole society. My defensive instincts just automatically tuned them all out! The following cartoon depicts the life, another aspect of many slogans, in mainland China during that time.

Another worry of the Chiang Regime during that time was communist spies among the general public. Therefore slogans about preventing spies were also posted in every corner of all the cities to alert citizens' attention.

There is a song on you tube with the name "Fighting communism and Resisting Soviet Russian", maybe you like to hear it: :

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Other Close Friends

Since traveling to school and back was an important part of our everyday life at Banqiao, the schoolmates who got on and off the train at the same station naturally became close friends. We had time to share both happy and sorrowful moods of the moment, and this provided us with a process of diversion necessary (?) for the growing up process. The following picture was taken to celebrate this togetherness; two students were in my class (left and right front), Chen Jia-jen (陈家 帧) and Sung De-qian (宋德谦), the other two in the second row were not in my class. Zu Je-Ze (徐继志) on the right was in the class next to us; he was a bit older than us and was always the one who stopped us from carrying out our naughty ideas such as jumping off the train and back up while it was moving. I forget the person's name on the left; maybe someone will help me to remember him later.

We five had a couple of other pictures taken together as well. 

 As you can see, we just did not have a lot of opportunities to take pictures together. (My wife tells me that she has no pictures from her junior high days so perhaps we did not do too badly!) Considering the number of years that have passed, it is amazing that I still have at least a few pictures left to show you. I have in my possession one more picture we took as a small group, I forget the occasion for which we were together for this shot. Wu Sing-Yung (吳興蓉) was sitting on the left. Lin Ze- que (林子宣) and Chou Wu-show (周武修) were in the front row and Taotze and I were standing in the back.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Then and Now

My class graduated from Banqiao 56 years ago. It is a long time regardless of what human measure you use to gage time. Changes are expected. But the changes my class has experienced during those 56 years have been so huge that everyone in my class feels that we have lived in two different worlds. As an example, I will show you a few scenes of the Banqiao campus then and now, where the space remains the same, but the passage of time has made everything different! Of course, the changes in Taiwan may be more dramatic than in other places. However, our classmates have certainly seen a wide range of life styles and expectations.

Then: the gate we used to enter every day

The same gate 15 years later, you can still recognize it!

The field we used when we were out of the classroom, with one pave basketball court

The parade we did on special occasions

The classroom we used daily

Now: the gate today

Some fields, classrooms and the gym today

The parade and the band today

More classrooms with a Confucius Statue today

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Unforgettable Episode

At the Banqiao Junior High School Reunion, in the Canadian Rockies early this summer, we were talking about our teachers. I mentioned our music teacher Bi to the group. My good friend Taotze immediately jumped in to ask if we remembered his problem with the teacher. That was certainly an event that he did not and could not forget. During one of Bi's music classes, Taotze off-handedly said something which implied that the music teacher would not be there teaching if she had been able to practice her profession elsewhere. Teacher Bi was furious! She reported to the school official that Taotze's behavior was not acceptable and she requested Taotze's dismissal. I remember our classroom teacher Tu went to talk with her, trying to ease the tension. Taotze, in the end, received one "large strike" on his permanent record. In China, it was then a very severe punishment, as one would be kicked out of school forever on his or her third large strike.

When I look back on this episode, while I was close to Teacher Bi and enjoyed her classes, it was clearly an overreaction on her part. Teacher Bi seemed to have forgotten that she was dealing with a fourteen year old boy! Just like everywhere else in the world, music and arts were never considered as serious academic subjects. They were never included in any entrance exams for high school or college. The whole society looked at them as luxuries. Taotze's comment was just an honest reflection of the time. But that was exactly Teacher Bi's frustration and her painful wounds resulted from society's general attitude. I am sure that Taotze was also hurt deeply and this episode was imprinting in his memory forever.    

Monday, August 9, 2010

Other Teachers at Banqiao

Since every subject was taught by a different teacher, and some teachers left Banqiao after just one semester, we had quite a number of teachers. Here I am going to mention just a few, those about whom I can remember some tidbit.

Teacher Miao (苗) taught us math; she was a very experienced able teacher. 

Teacher Liu (刘)also taught us math. Perhaps she was substituting for another teacher, I am not sure. However, she was unsure of herself and had a lot of problems in the class.

Teacher Bi (畢华雯) taught us music. She liked me and I liked her. Her encouragement gave me a good start in the enjoyment of music for my whole life. I remember that she invited me to her home at least once, but I do not remember why.

Teacher Yang (杨) was our Boy Scout leader. I was in the Bugle and Drum Corp. I remember we had five people playing bugles and five or six playing drums whenever we had a parade or ceremony of some kind. (I was always one of the drum players, since my mother was weary that I might catch TB by playing a common Bugle.) I believe that Yang was in charge of the Corp. We were afraid of him as he never smiled.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Classroom Teacher

For all 12 years of pre-college education in Taiwan, each classroom had an assigned classroom teacher, as I have told you before. They were responsible for maintaining order in the class whenever there were no other teachers in the classroom. For students, it was important to get along with their classroom teachers as they were the ones who assigned the final grades on "discipline" for the semester. Yes, "discipline" was a separate item listed in your semester report card besides all the other subjects you took during the semester and physical education. The classroom teacher not only gave a grade but also wrote comments on each student in the class listing everything parents of the student should know.

If I remember correctly, our first year classroom teacher was Jiang Shaw-chu (姜啸秋). I am not one hundred percent sure of this although I do know that he was one of our teachers. I called a classmate Tu Shu-min (杜淑民) this morning and he was not sure either. Jiang was our Chinese teacher, a very nice older man with a very special twang which he used to read Chinese poems and other classical literature. He was very lax and did not pay much attention to our discipline.

For the last two years of our Junior High, our classroom teacher was a young man who had just graduated from the University, Du Tie-Ye (凃天怡). He taught us English. He was very enthusiastic, and cared about us very much. He treated us like adults; everyone appreciated him. Another responsibility for the classroom teacher at the end of a semester was to give out report cards. In contrast to the US custom, to encourage competition the report cards were given out in order of academic grade point average. The student with the highest grade would be the first to receive the card from the teacher. Then he could walk out of the room, waving his card as he skipped away. Just imagine how you would feel if you were the last one to pick up your report card! 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It was in Junior High School that I started my interest in photography. First I found a used 35mm camera which someone had left in our home. Since nobody at home knew how to operate it, I did a test and trial method in order to learn how to use the camera. The film was too expensive for me to really try it out and see if it truly could take a picture. Finally I took one roll, and it worked fairly well. Then I decided to change the camera in order to double the number of pictures per roll of negatives. I inserted a blocker, made of card board, inside the back of the box so that only half of the film was exposed at each push of the shuttle. Then I would wind forward only half the film each time. Believe it or not, it worked! So I had a camera that could take up to 72 pictures for each roll of film. But developing the negatives was still out of my financial limit, so I did not take many pictures.

Then accidently one of my classmates, Wang Zi-Tao (王之道, see below, this picture was taken on campus) mentioned to me that he usually developed his film and his pictures in school. I begged him to show me how.

It turned out that our Fine Arts teacher was in charge of a darkroom belonging to the school. He had allowed Wang to do all his work in the darkroom. Wang had a key to the small room next to the teacher's office, right across from the front of our classroom. During after school hours, I learned from Wang how to develop negatives, to print pictures, and to enlarge pictures. Clearly, he was way ahead of everyone in this aspect.

Later on, I changed a very small room beside a toilet room at home, right across from my bedroom, into a darkroom. The only problem was that the room had a window, therefore I had to wait until it was very dark outside before I could develop my negatives. I took the picture of Taotze and me which was in my last post and developed it in my home darkroom.

Photography became my lifelong hobby. It started with a used camera while I was in Junior High. Now, I am using four active cameras and I have lost count of how many cameras I have had so far in my life-time!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Junior High School

Since compulsory education ended at primary school in the 1950's, Junior High School students had to pay for their tuition. I do not know the statistics of how many people continued their education, but I am sure that there was quite a number who did not continue after the sixth grade. Most of the students in Junior High School were 13-15 years old, equivalent to students in 7th to 9th grades. None of the Junior Highs in Taipei City were co-educational, as was the case in a few larger cities outside Taipei such as Taichung, Tainan, and Kaoshung. Other schools were partially co-educational. In Banqiao Junior High School, both male and female students were admitted; however, they were separated into different classrooms. In 1951, there were three classes (fifty each) of male students, and one female class. All class activities were separate and different. Each class had an assigned classroom teacher; he or she checked the rolls, maintained class discipline, and communicated with students in the class and their parents. Other teachers came to the classroom to provide the academic lectures. The students remained in the same classroom for most of the day. A student in the class was usually elected or appointed to be the class leader. The class leader issued the "stand up" order to the class when a teacher entered the classroom, then issued the "sit down" order to the class when the teacher was ready to talk. Another responsibility of the class leader was to report to the room teacher what had happened in the classroom when the teacher was away.

Academic subjects included in Junior High School were: Chinese, English, math (algebra and geometry), geology, nature, history, and one or two of the following: fine arts, music, physical education. English was a totally new subject for everyone; we started with the alphabet on the first day! I had an older gentleman teacher, I remembered. He was not very demanding, perhaps fairly relaxed! I remember asking him if there was a difference in pronunciation between "L" and "N". He told us that they were similar, and not to worry about them. I was never able to hear the difference between these two letters. I had to apologize to every one of my General Chemistry classes later in life. I told them that when they heard "atomic lumber" in this class it was always "atomic number".

There were other things that happened besides academics in Junior High School. We learned how to play ping pong, basketball, arm wrestling, and other games. When we had a break between classes, I remember that we would arrange the tables together (they were rather small) so that we could play 10 minutes of ping pong. There would be several games going on in one classroom. And then we shuttled and dashed the tables back before the next teacher came in. For basketball we had to run to the court first, play hard, then rush back to class! Every minute was precious, we would not waste any.

I learned another fun thing to do in Junior High - developing negatives from camera film. I will talk about this next time!