Sunday, December 14, 2014

My grandfather's bio

The man wore a coat and tie all the time, even in the tropical weather of Taiwan. This was taken in our backyard. 25 years later, you would be able to see Taipei 101 in the background. Having daydreamed of one day visiting the Empire State Building, Little Me would never have imagined that one of the tallest buildings in the world would be so close to my childhood home.

Born in 1900, my grandfather was a voracious reader and devoted himself to fighting feudalism. In February 1925, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (one of the first 1,000 members; there are 82.6 million today). He was one of the leaders of the May 30th Movement (which was anti-imperialist and pro-labor).

In 1926, he formed and became the principal of a high school. He also set up a number of elementary schools in his local county. At the same time, he was organizing the Communist Party at the grassroots level. He led the fight to change the education system, replacing the chairman of the education board with a number of council members. He established a teachers union, increased funding for elementary schools, and upped faculty compensation. (He spanked me just once. I was practicing writing Chinese words and purposely wrote them as small as possible. He was not amused.)

He did something to anger the Communist Party (I wonder what he did). Branded as "proud, arrogant, arbitrary" and "taking matters into his own hands", he was expelled from the Party in April 1927 (wouldn't it be cool if he was the first member to be kicked out?). He immediately joined the Kuomingtang and served in that party's leadership.

During the Anti-Japanese War (1937-45), he served as commissioner of Shijiazhuang (in 1947, it had a population of 190,000; it had 10.1 million inhabitants in 2010). After World War II, he became governor of Hebei Province (!).

He was elected to the National Assembly and attended its first session and constitution drafting conference in Nanjing on March 29, 1948 (I have a long, scrolling, panoramic photo of him and a bunch of other men in suits taken on April 4, 1948). On April 19, the National Assembly elected Chiang Kai-Shek the President of the Republic of China.

When the KMT lost Mainland China, my grandfather fled to Taiwan, where he continued to serve on the National Assembly. From Taiwan, he and his fellow members continued to represent their respective districts in Mainland China until such time as when there could be new elections in China (an impossibility, and quite delusional). He also served as Deputy Transportation Minister in Taiwan.

In May 1969, he proposed the building of Qiufengjia Memorial Park in Taichung, Taiwan, to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting Japan.

In October 1982, he finished writing a book about his hometown. He passed away on December 29, 1982. The book was a record of the town's history, its geographic features, industrial and commercial development, as wells as its people's ancient and contemporary manners and customs. In the book, he documented looting, burning, and killing by the Japanese army and the Chinese people's rise to combat them. This is a rare document of the Anti-Japanese War period.

(When I lived with my grandfather from around 1977 to 1982, I remember him working on this book in his study. I did not realize that he finished his book just two months before he passed away. I do remember that a month or two before his death, he started coughing, suddenly became very ill, and was diagnosed with lung cancer. It's almost as if as soon as he finished that book, he was finally at peace and was ready to go. By the way, he had been a chain smoker since he was 15. He only smoked State Express 555s.)

5 comments:

Ed Kim said...

Totally, totally awesome. :) Your grandfather was clearly an awesome man.

We all know the history, but the personal stories add the real flavor and texture to what was going on.

Incidentally, the grandfather of a friend of mine was a Flying Tiger and ultimately became a prominent government official in Taiwan too!

Richard Chen said...

Remarkable story, thanks. The 555 habit is a neat bonus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHIjcoDbLHg

Alan said...

Is your entire family super interesting?

Maxichamp said...

@alan: Ha! Just him.

Ripituc said...

Amazing story, I'm glad you could found out so much about him. I share your curiosity about the time when he was expelled from the Communist Party. And this reminds me of how close the Communists and the KMT were at the start... I remember reading the even the Mao suit was originally from the KMT.

Just like the nazis were nationalSocialists, its important to remember how supposedly mortal enemies might be closer than they portray. People change ideologies but more importantly, ideologies themselves change and are sometimes just labels to distinguish "us" from "them", even if both teams aren't really all different in practice.