Return to Formosa and to University Life
We decided to return to Formosa as soon as possible. No other thought occurred to us. We had been born under the Japanese flag, we had many Japanese friends, and we had been law-abiding subjects. If we had wished, my brother could continue to carry on here in the medical profession, and I could complete my education in the best university in Japan. A number of our Formosan fends elected to stay, but we were determined to leave as soon as possible. We felt we must go home.
It was as if Japan had suddenly, lost all memory of Formosa. We searched the papers daily for any scrap of news, but during the late summer saw only one brief note. General Chen Yi had been appointed governor general on Chiang Kai-shek's behalf, and my father's acquaintance Huang Chao-chin was to become the first postwar mayor of Taipei.
There were now six in our household, for about ten days after the surrender, my sister-in-law gave birth to a second daughter. She was being cared for very well by the Formosan maidservant who had accompanied her to Japan and was considered to be a member of her family. We were the only Formosans in Tameishi village.
Immediately after the emperor's surrender broadcast many American planes began to fly over us at very low altitude. We heard that Allied prisoners of war had been released and that these planes were parachuting food to them. It was believed that an American landing was imminent. Many village girls and women retreated to the hills, taking their sharpened spears with them. They had been told often that all American soldiers were devils, beasts, and rapists, and they believed it.
Americans did begin to appear in the area about twenty days after the surrender. My brother and I encountered a jeep on a nearby mountain road and were surprised and interested in this new vehicle. Soldiers, black and white, began coming into the village, and at once the American image changed radically. There was a curious emotional swing to another extreme. The anticipated devils proved to be wonderfully kind and helpful human beings. There was candy for the children, cigarettes for older people, and extraordinary stories of first encounters. There were occasional reports of a rape or a robbery, but as a whole the Japanese were astounded that conquerors were often so considerate. For example, when the overburdened village truck broke down on the mountain road one evening, an American jeep came along, the driver carefully maneuvered to light the scene with his headlights, and helped the harassed driver make repairs. The passengers and the driver were overwhelmed.
There was no interference with village life. American patrols drove through the streets from time to time, but the villagers were left unmolested. One day I fell into conversation with two Americans in a jeep beside the road, and in passing, explained to them that I was not a Japanese, but a Chinese from Formosa. It was something of a shock to find myself for the first time openly and proudly making this distinction.
My brother remained in charge of the Tameishi Clinic throughout the autumn months. We were safe, he was being paid properly, and we were comparatively comfortable. Still we longed to go home. No letters came from Takao. My young cousin at Matsumoto had decided to remain in Japan to complete his medical education, not realizing that fifteen years would pass before he would visit Formosa. We had no word from my sister who had gone to Shanghai and Peking with her husband during the war. Now that my wound had healed and I was regaining my strength, I was restless.
Occasionally I went into Nagasaki where there were many Americans and many of the new jeeps and bulldozers, a powerful wartime American invention being used to clear away shattered buildings and open the streets once more. Enormous heaps of rubble everywhere created the effect of a gigantic city dump.
One afternoon in late December I returned from Nagasaki on the village truck to find our house in an uproar. We had been notified that we would leave at once for home. We would be allowed to take with us only hand baggage and had to be at the Nagasaki railway station before midnight ready to board a train for Sasebo naval port. There we would take a ship for Keelung.
I wanted to carry my precious books and at last prevailed upon my brother to allow me to scatter a few volumes here and there through the bags and bundles the three fit adults must carry. I could carry very little. My brother had to cope with all the gear necessary to supply two babies and four adults. All that we could not carry we gave away to our Japanese friends and neighbors.
At Nagasaki station we found twenty or thirty other Formosans, the medical students who had survived, our friend Dr. Yo and his family, and a few others, all eager to reach Formosa. Japanese officials were in charge of the arrangements under the general direction of American military authorities. In a special compartment set aside for evacuees and their luggage, I found myself talking with a very young Korean girl on her way home to Seoul. We had all come to a dramatic point of change in our lives. It was a new era, and we were no longer second-class subjects of the Japanese emperor, but we were not sure of what lay ahead. The Koreans had been promised independence, and we Formosans had been promised freedom in a new, reformed, post-war China, and had been handed over to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
At Sasebo we were hustled aboard an overcrowded converted cargo ship and left to find ourselves some space for the long homeward voyage. A majority of the passengers were young Formosans who had been conscripted for labor corps service with the Japanese Army. They were a tough, restless lot and many quarrels erupted among them. Nevertheless they were all glad to be going home.
Having been rushed to Sasebo and aboard ship, we sat rocking in the harbor for one week in utter misery. When we left the sheltered anchorage at last and moved out upon the rough high seas, we were thoroughly seasick, In this unhappy condition we were then told that the waters through which we would pass were full of mines and some repatriation ships had been sunk with a heavy loss of life. Watches were organized among the passengers to take turns at the rail throughout the voyage.
We reached Keelung at nightfall on January 2, 1946, still without word from our parents and with no friends or relatives to greet us. The devastation in Keelung was astonishing, for this port city had suffered an estimated eighty percent total destruction during the battle for Okinawa. It had been bombed thoroughly in order to keep it from Japanese use during that fearful encounter nearby.
We came off the ship, hired rickshas at the dock, and made our way to the home of a noted doctor, my father's old friend and classmate, When along the way we noticed a crowd of dirty men in ragged uniforms and remarked that they were not Formosans, our ricksha men said in contempt and disgust that they were Chinese Nationalist soldiers, recently delivered to Keelung by American ships coming over from continental ports.
We were welcomed with great cordiality into the doctor's home, and our first great pleasure was to learn that our parents were well and had moved back into Takao, now called Kaohsiung. Even though we were very tired, we talked excitedly until long after midnight. Much that we heard was terribly depressing. Between August 15, the day of the imperial surrender announcement at Tokyo, and October 26, when General Chen Yi at Taipei officially took over the administration of Formosa on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese had continued to administer the city. The main streets had been repaired and considerable progress had been made in clearing building sites and restoring public services, But then a paralysis had set in. The utility services were faltering, public officials newly arriving from China proved incompetent and incredibly corrupt, and the rag-tag conscript Nationalist troops were petty thieves, becoming a rabble of scavengers as soon as they came off the ships. It was a gloomy picture, but even so we were glad to be back in Formosa.
In a gray dawn the next morning we had our first experience of the change that had overtaken Formosa now that Nationalist Chinese were in charge. Before the war the Japanese government had maintained a precise schedule for twelve or fourteen trains running each day between Keelung and Takao. Some were expresses, some semi-expresses, and some were locals. There had been little wartime damage to the main lines. The railway installations near Taipei were larger and better equipped than any in China, and these too had escaped serious damage.
At the time of surrender in October the rolling stock was extremely shabby, but it was intact. Now we discovered that under Chinese management only one through train per day linked Keelung with Kaohsiung. The Keelung station was filthy and crowded with dirty soldiers who had been hanging about all night for want of a better shelter. When our train pulled in, there was a wild scramble to get aboard. As the pushing crowd surged forward, baggage and children were thrust in through the windows, and adults scrambled in after them in a fierce struggle to obtain space. Somehow we managed to find seats and began the long slow ride. The chill January air poured in through broken windows, the seats had been stripped of green plush that had once covered them, and it was obvious that the ears had not been cleaned for many weeks. This was "Chinese Formosa" and not the Japanese Formosa we had known. We had never seen anything like this dirt and disorder on a public train in our lives.
For us, however, nothing could detract from the joy of riding southward again through the beautiful countryside of our island. As we drew near Ta-chia we looked out on our father's fields and watched eagerly for familiar sites associated with our childhood. We fell into conversation with fellow passengers who came and went at the stations along the way, some entering through the windows and some through the doors. The story was always the same, a tale of dissatisfaction and disappointment with the new government. Security of property was a thing of the past. There were frequent long, unexplained delays along the way, and these brought up stories of well-organized gangs of looters who had stripped the right-of-way of copper wires and carried off signal equipment for shipment to Shanghai or Amoy to be sold as scrap. "Nobody knows when this train may be derailed," a passenger remarked. Since the Chinese had taken over management of the railways, shippers had to send private guards along with cargo sent in the baggage ears and freight trains. The newly arrived government officials themselves were sharing in the loot.
After fourteen hours on the train we reached our destination after nightfall. I had been absent from my home for nearly six years. Only the sight of the beautiful countryside and the anticipation of reunion with our parents kept us from deep depression. We left the station not knowing the address of our parents' new home, but one of the local ricksha men knew of the clinic and we set off at once. It was about nine o'clock at night when our little fleet of rickshas pulled up before a small, two-storied concrete house. A sign before it advertised the clinic on the ground floor and the residence was above.
The gate was securely barred. Since we could find no bell, we knocked loudly and even the ricksha men joined us in calling loudly "Open up! Open up!," for they seemed to share in giving us a welcome. My parents had no cause for alarm, for they had heard that repatriation ships were beginning to arrive from Japan and my sister-in-law's voice, the voice of a woman, surely meant that this was no marauding band of Nationalist soldiers. They assumed correctly that my brother and his family had arrived.
When they threw open the door they were astonished to see me, too. They had believed me dead. It was an emotional reunion. My parents at once asked us all to pray with them, thanking God for our safe return. My father then with tears sought to console me for the loss of my arm and the consequent great changes in my life. There were two new grandchildren to be admired. Through the hours of excited conversation that followed my father could not conceal his feeling that the whole prospect for Formosa was grim. Repeatedly he said, "We are in a terrible situation."
In the next few days and weeks relatives and friends came to see us and we went about visiting them in turn. Gradually I heard my father unfold the story of the Japanese surrender, the arrival of Chinese troops in south Formosa, and the rapid corruption of public life thereafter. The Nationalists were undoubtedly pulling us down to the general level of chaotic life in continental Chinese provinces. He had always remained aloof from politics and public office before the war, but immediately after the surrender the Japanese officials in Kaohsiung sought him out with an invitation to become chairman of a local committee formed to maintain local law and order until the Chinese should arrive to assume control. He was a respected senior citizen, acceptable to Japanese and Formosans alike. Like a majority of his Formosan associates, he was glad that Japanese rule had come to an end. The great economic and social benefits of Japanese administration had never been enough for self-respecting Formosans who bitterly resented social and political discrimination. Formosan leaders and students had been demanding home rule for the island since World War I. In 1945 the victorious Allies, principally the Americans, used radio broadcasts and leaflet drops to promise Formosans a bright future in a postwar freedom under China. Accepting these promises at face value my father agreed to be a committee chairman, believing that he could help bring about this new era of great promise.
In late October word came at last that Chinese military units were expected to land at Takao. My father was made chairman of a welcoming committee. The job soon became a nightmare. He was notified that the troops would arrive on a certain date. Preparations included the purchase of firecrackers and of banners bearing appropriate sentiments, construction of temporary booths at the exits from the landing stage, and preparation of huge amounts of roast pork and other delicacies, soft drinks, and tea. Then came notification that the arrival was delayed. The perishable foods had to be sold or given away. This happened twice again, tripling the expenses, before a fourth notification proved to be correct.
An American naval vessel came slowly into Takao harbor, making its way among the sunken hulks. Local Japanese military authorities, awaiting repatriation with their men, turned out a smartly disciplined honor guard to line the wharf, ready to salute the victorious Chinese army. A great crowd of curious and excited citizens had come to support my father's welcoming committee and to see the show.
The ship docked, the gangways were lowered, and off came the troops of China, the victors. The first man to appear was a bedraggled fellow who looked and behaved more like a coolie than a soldier, walking off with a carrying pole across his shoulder, from which was suspended his umbrella, sleeping mat, cooking pot, and cup. Others like him followed, some with shoes, some without. Few had guns. With no attempt to maintain order or discipline, they pushed off the ship, glad to be on firm land, but hesitant to face the Japanese lined up and saluting smartly on both sides. My father wondered what the Japanese could posibly think. He had never felt so ashamed in his life. Using a Japanese expression, he said, "If there had been a hole nearby, I would have crawled in!" This victorious Chinese army was made up of country conscripts who showed not the least sign of understanding the welcome arranged for them. They moved into the town, grabbing up what food they wanted and tossing aside things they did not like. There was no acknowledgment by the few Chinese officers accompanying them and no thanks for anyone. Within an hour these troops, spreading through the town, had begun to pick up anything that struck their fancy. As far as they were concerned, the Formosans were a conquered people.
Now that some Chinese troops were ashore and a garrison present in Kaohsiung, Chinese civil officials began to venture down from Taipei in larger numbers. They asked my father for advice and directed him to represent the Formosan side during the takeover. He was quickly disillusioned, he said, for invariably the first question seemed to be, "How much money is there in the city bank?" That is the kind of question any new administration would eventually ask, but it was always their very first question, and because of the way it was asked, it left an extremely bad impression on my father and other Formosans. It was apparent that these petty officials coming down from the capital were little better than the common soldiers. Soon they began to dress well and to commandeer good houses. The reason for the new affluence was apparent to all Formosans who had to deal with them. They were carpetbaggers. From one end of Formosa to the other looting was in progress at all levels. The common conscript roaming in Kaohsiung was simply taking what he wanted from shops and homes and the public streets. The newcomers from Taipei had been sent down by the highest officials to loot the sugar mills and warehouses, the factory stockpiles and industrial equipment. Junks were leaving the harbor every day loaded with foodstocks, scrap metal, machine tools, and consumer goods of every variety, destined for private sales along the China coast.
Father's sense of humor prompted him to suggest that someone should collect stories of the incoming Chinese, especially of the ignorant conscripts who had been shipped over to Formosa from inland provinces on the continent. Many were totally unacquainted with modern technology. Some had never seen or had never understood a modern water system. There were instances in which they picked up water faucets in plumber's shops and then, pushing them into holes in walls and embankments, had expected water to flow. They then complained bitterly to the plumbers from whose shops the faucets came. There was a story of one soldier who took a seat in a barber's shop, had his hair cut, and then when the barber picked up an electric hair-dryer, instantly put up his hands pale with fright thinking it was a pistol.
My father had his own special problems. A large sign at our entrance advertised a gynecological clinic, but soldiers insisted upon coming in for VD treatments, or brought remarkable and unidentifiable salves and liquids which they insisted he should inject into them. Injections were believed to be the cure-all for every ill.
Every week produced some new story of such behavior or some new instance of theft on a grand scale. For a time my father was very active in public affairs. The mayor consulted him often, and he became speaker in the local city council. His integrity was unchallenged, his clinic was busy, and he was beginning to recover financially from the losses suffered during the war. Since our house was overcrowded, he decided to rebuild on the site of his burned-out older hospital. One day he happened to remark to the mayor that he proposed to clear the site. "That's no problem," said the mayor, and within a day or two about thirty Japanese soldiers came to the clinic. The officer in charge said that they were awaiting repatriation, and they would like to help.
We went to the old hospital site. They worked hard and efficiently. My mother provided tea and food. For my part I was astonished to find myself "commanding" so many Japanese soldiers, and recalled with a smile my unfortunate military record at San-ko. To our embarrassment, the Japanese would accept no pay.
Our relations with the Japanese in this period were peculiar. They were awaiting repatriation, waiting for General MacArthur to give them permission to return to Japan. Those who had been in authority throughout our lives were now taking orders from us. The Japanese policeman, once a petty overlord, had now put aside his official sword and uniform, and was glad to find work of any sort. Teachers who had enjoyed high prestige were forced to sell their possessions one by one. I saw a number of my Takao Middle School teachers peddling small objects in the streets. In some cases former students rallied to help them in this difficult period, but in a few instances old scores were settled, and teachers who had been intolerant disciplinarians were badly beaten.
Throughout this period my father was in an uneasy position. Loyalty to his friends and to his profession prompted him to help the Japanese doctors awaiting repatriation, but he also knew that incoming Chinese were seizing private clinics and stripping Japanese doctors of valuable medical equipment and supplies. When a Chinese with some influence wanted a particular property, he had only to accuse a Formosan of being a collaborationist during the past fifty years of Japanese sovereignty.
THE TIME HAD COME for me to make some decision about me future. My indulgent parents urged me to remain at home to rest for a longer period, but I was physically well recovered. I was twenty-three years old and restless. Periods of natural youthful optimism alternated with periods of hopeless depression. And I was beginning to be bored. Kaohsiung offered little intellectual stimulation, and I longed to get back among books.
Since I lacked one year's credit for my Tokyo Imperial University degree, I looked into the possibility of completing work for a diploma at the former Taihoku Imperial University, founded by the Japanese in 1927 and now, twenty years later, occupied by the incoming Chinese. It had recently. been renamed the National Taiwan University or Taita for short. The Japanese had developed it as a center of research and teaching principally in agriculture and medicine. The humanities and the social sciences were weak. However, a splendid library was there along with the buildings and grounds and laboratories. Now it was being managed by scientists recently arrived from the continent. The new emphasis was to be on physics and agriculture.
In the summer of 1946 it was announced that all Formosans who had come home from the imperial universities in Japan were entitled to enter the new Taita without examination. They would merely enroll at Taipei and be accepted as transfers as soon as the university resumed operations. At once I went to Taipei. About thirty of us who qualified under these terms met to discuss the offer. We had come from faculties of law, economies, and political science, and we were an elite group, for we had survived the fierce competition to enter the best institutions in Japan.
After discussing our problems, we called upon the dean and the president of the reconstituted university. They were scientists. Neither had any idea what to do with anyone not prepared to enter the science courses. We asked if our work in the Japanese universities would be given credit toward degrees at Taita. They did not know. Despite the published invitation that had drawn us to Taipei on this occasion, they were not prepared for our enrollment. They would have to refer the question to the Ministry of Education at Nanking. We then asked if they expected to bring in professors of social science and the humanities. They didn't know. This too would have to be referred to the authorities at Nanking.
By this time most Formosans had come to realize that under General Chen Yi's administration few policy promises made locally could be relied upon, and that communications between officials in the government on Formosa and the central government offices at Nanking were in confusion. We decided to take as few risks as possible. The Chinese university system was based upon the four-year, hour-and-credit formula derived from the American university system, whereas our Japanese university program had derived from European patterns. We obtained copies of all pertinent Chinese Ministry of Education publications, studied them carefully and found that the hours of course work were explicitly stated. After several meetings we decided that to be on the safe side we must meet all the requirements as specified by Nauking and take all the specified courses leading to degrees. Thus in the long run we would avoid embarrassing either ourselves or members of the new Taita administration.
We discussed our problem repeatedly with the new university administrators and discovered quickly that they were not only unfamiliar with the Ministry of Education requirements in fields other than their own, they simply did not care. This reflected the disarray and incompetence throughout General Chen Yi's administration. His commissioner of education was a nonentity in China's academic world, who in his first public address in Formosa told the Formosans bluntly that he thought them a backward people. The other commissioners cared little or nothing about the university as there was little money to be squeezed from it. What the new university administration chose to do was of minor interest.
Soon a curious situation arose. We students organized courses, recruited staff, and ran part of the Taiwan National University. We notified the administration that we were prepared to earn all the course-credits prescribed by Nanking and were ready to begin. When the dean protested that Taita had no professors in our fields, we assured him that we could find some for him.
To begin, we found some Formosan lawyers and an economist who were all graduates of the Tokyo Imperial University and each well qualified to teach. The young economist, for example, had been a protege of Japan's distinguished economist Dr. Tadao Yanaihara, one-time president of the Tokyo school, the most prestigious institution in Japan. One of the lawyers had served on the bench in Japan, reaching the highest judicial office ever occupied by a Formosan in prewar years.
Our recommendations were accepted. This show of interest and determination on our part stimulated the president and dean of Taita to begin recruiting faculty in China for service at Taipei. For a time the situation continued to be unusual, to say the least, for we students found ourselves informally charged with the responsibility of carrying through the innovations, setting up courses when we could find capable instructors, prescribing hours and schedules according to basic Ministry of Education requirements. If the new teachers could provide notes, we undertook to cut stencils and distribute mimeographed copies. As the first lecture series were completed we organized our own notes, mimeographed these, and supplied them as supplementary materials for the students who followed us. We continued to search for qualified and capable instructors and recruited several specialists who were glad to teach at the university. Some of the lectures were delivered in Formosan and some in Mandarin. At that time all of us could read formal Chinese texts, and very quickly learned to speak it.
Under these circumstances our student-life was very busy but easy, and not to be compared with the preexamination periods of intensive study we had all experienced in Japan. We disregarded only one important Nanking Ministry regulation, the precisely even, four annual divisions of degree courses, and by stepping up the pace, we completed the Ministry of Education credit-hour requirements in two years. It was an unorthodox performance, to be sure, but we were an unusual group. Each of us had proved himself in competition near the summit of the Japanese empire's educational system, but at the war's end we had been at different levels and stages of development in the three-year Japanese university curriculum. Now we were working more or less as a body, adapting ourselves to the four-year Chinese system, calling ourselves at my suggestion the San-San Kai ("Three-Three Club"), representing three fields, law, economics and political science, and three years in the Japanese system. We got along well enough with our faculty and fellow-students at the university, but as students of law, economics, and political science, we looked about us with growing disillusionment and anger, for as we completed our degree requirements, the island passed through a bloody crisis.