Friday, April 29, 2011

Chiang Wei-kuo (蔣緯國)

Chiang Wei-kuo was Chiang Kai-Shek's adopted son. There is an interesting story about him on the internet which you may be interested in reading. The website is My two encounters with him occurred during the year I served as a reserve officer. He was at the time the commanding general of the Armored Vehicles Regiment. The whole unit spent days to prepare for his visit. Everything had to be spick and span. We were told that he would come to check dust everywhere you could imagine. The first time he came was to give some lectures to the officers group. I was introduced to him and he patted my back and told me to be good. My impression of him was that he was young and handsome, with a small stick in his hand. He certainly possessed a look of royal nobility. The second time we had an after dinner performance party for him and I was asked to sing an English song. I was worried about getting him upset, because he spoke German, not English! That might cause unpredictable consequences. However, he did not pay much attention to my singing and all ended well!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Preparing to go abroad

Taiwan in the fifties and sixties was economically very depressed. A college professor would make approximately $10~$20 a month, much less than a US soldier. To us, every American was rich. It would be heaven to be foreigner! For a college graduate, there were very few possibilities for the future, since there were not many jobs in the "better fields", such as engineering and the sciences. The majority of college graduates were trying to go abroad for further education. For those of us in Chemistry, we had to prepare two languages for flexibility. We started our English during our first year in Junior High School. After six years, we still had to take one more year in college. I added "speech and debate" in my college sophomore year to get an extra edge. Since the Chemistry major required one to have two years of German, it was easy for me to add one more year - just in case going to Germany to study became possible.

Since my military duty was quite relaxed (during my year of service after graduating), almost every weekend I was allowed to come home to Taipei. Besides visiting friends, applying for graduate school admission was my main task. Our university president Chiang, who had graduated from the Chemistry Department at the University of Illinois, wrote a recommendation letter there for me. Sometime in April, I was informed that a scholarship was being offered to me. The stipend was higher than the salary of my father, who was then in a position in Taida equivalent to the Vice President of Administration. Can you imagine how happy I was! How could anyone deserve this kind of luck?

My next worry was how to get money for the airfare to the US. It cost more than $1000 one way at that time, which was an astronomical figure to me! There was just no way for the ticket to come from my parents' pockets. I will tell you later how things worked out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More about Music at Banqiao

A while ago, in an earlier blog, I talked about our music teacher Ms Bi, who taught us during the three years in my Junior High School at Banqiao(see: Recently, a classmate and I were trying to remember a piece of music we learned at Banqiao . Believe it or not, he had kept some hand-copied sheet music from our class! His name is George Chu(朱 浩), and his Chinese name was still on one of the music sheets. And, more amazingly, at least one sheet was printed in the first year we went to Banqiao. That was exactly sixty years ago. You probably wonder if he was majoring in music, and/or if he was a music professional, to have such an intensive interest in keeping these old prints. No, he was neither. But he is now seriously studying voice after his retirement from long years of service in a chemical company in the USA. This kind of situation was very common for our generation; you had to go into a field with jobs, not what you liked or loved.

Here is some of his sheet music. For the first two songs you should be able to recognize familiar tunes as they were written in western notation. The other two were by Chinese composers and they were written in Chinese short-hand notation, which was based on Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti and which was transcribed into 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. This is a very convenient method for singing the main tune, as the voice range has only three octets. You can always use a dot below for all the sounds in the lower octet, and a dot above to show the tunes one octet above.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Service to My Native Country

After the reserve officers training, we were all assigned to separate units in different parts of the country. During that time, the country really only consisted of three islands, namely Taiwan, Kingmen, and Machu. The area of all three together is much less than any that of any one province of China mainland. Before I was even able to report to my unit in Ching-quan-kan (青泉岗) at Hukao (in Taiwan and south of Taipei), I was "temporarily" reassigned to a platoon-sized unit in charge of all recreation in the First Division Armored Corp Headquarters. This unit was housed in the same complex as the division headquarters of our Major General. The reason I was assigned to the unit was very simple. I was to lead the Armored Corp basketball team, called the Swift Cougar(捷豹). The Major General wanted his basketball-team to reach the top in the military. It turned out that I was in this unit for my entire term. I even received a waiver to keep me from returning to my original unit when it was reassigned to Kingmen. My service to my country was therefore being the captain of a basketball team!
There were quite a few benefits to being on the basketball team. We had special dietary supplements, such as eggs for breakfast, drinks for the game, and noodles after the game. Of course, we had better uniforms, shoes etc. Most importantly, we had more time to do our own thing. For me, that was applying for graduate schools in the USA. There were two other reserve officers on the basketball team. Since both of them were married, they enjoyed long weekends home.

When we were not playing ball, we had to help with other activities for the unit. We made banners, arranged parties and/or receptions for the Major General (who at that time was Chiang Kai Shek's second son, Chiang Jin-kuo), and inspected soldiers clubs and officers clubs (which provided many services, such as pool houses, bars, and female companions for the night, all according to the Yellow Book from USA).

Two pictures were taken in front of Officers Club.

The others were all to remember my service to my country: playing basketball!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Training for Combat

There was only one event worth reporting during my three month training for the pending war with Communist China. It had already been 12 years since the "People's Republic of China" left the mainland, but officially they were planning to start the fight to recover mainland China at any moment - whenever the government decided to do so. The event which I will describe was a "rehearsal" to attack a hill nearby. It was at the end of our training. I was the leader of five T3 tanks. We studied the plan for hours.

On the day of our planned attack, it was a clear morning. All my five tanks were in the sugarcane field ready to go. While I was thinking about how to avoid ruining the sugarcane field which farmers had painstakingly planted, the order came to commence the attack. At that moment, I found that none of the communication radios for my five tanks were working. I had no way to issue my order. Panic was immediate, but I had to act right then! The only way I could issue my order was to open the top tank cap door and stick my head out and yell! All was well at the end - our general declared that we had achieved our goal successfully. I suppose many wars are won that way!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Military Service

In 1961, all male college graduates were required to have one year of service in the military. Almost immediately after our graduation ceremony, I reported to the training camp for the armored corps in Taichung, at the military base Qing-Qurn-gong (清泉岗), which had been assigned to me earlier by the military government. The training time and place were determined by different branches of the military. I was there for three months, learning the rules (most of which were translated from the American military's "yellow book") and practicing how to drive a tank. Since gasoline was very expensive, we had only one actual rehearsal with the tank moving! We had about 42 people from different universities in my group. On the first day, the officer in charge appointed me as the leader of the reserve officers training class. Later, I asked him why he picked me as the class leader, since he did not know anyone in the class. He told me "you just looked like a leader". At the end of the three months training, we were all declared to be official reserve officers at the second lieutenant level and were issued officers' uniforms. Clearly this was an important event for the military. On the day when we became officers, many military dignitaries were there to take a picture with us. We had no idea who they were. In the picture below, I was sitting in the front row at the right end with my training officer, who was the only one person we knew and feared!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Identification Card

If you are a citizen in Taiwan, you have to have an identification card. I had one, of course, when I was a student. It was very important that you had it with you when you traveled or when you were asked to present it for identification purposes. On the front page is the stamp of the issuing organization. On the back page is your address and the name of the head of the family who is responsible for you.

The inside pages had my name, my picture, my birth date, and my profession. Also included are all the stamps representing the people who had checked your background. As you can see, I must be very obedient, since I still have this card today! It is designed so that it can be folded it in the middle to put in a wallet.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The Graduation Ceremony was a mad house on the Taida campus. I had no idea what was happening on the main stage where the ceremony took place, as I was too far away and could not see anything. My father was on the stage, of course, in his role as Vice President of Administration. I did not know even where he was sitting! I am sure that I was not the only one who felt that the graduation ceremony was totally wasted time. However, it was a glorious day and we took a lot of pictures. I will show some of them below:

 Professor Pan was the chair of Chemistry Department

Hwei ge and her son with SuSu  and my parents

Friday, April 1, 2011

University Party for Graduates

There was a nice party for graduates in May of 1961, just about a week before graduation ceremony. President Chiang was there to have pictures taken with whoever liked to do so. It was a very beautiful day, everyone was enjoying the moment. This is my picture with him.