Son of Formosa 1 - English sample

Page 1

December 1937, Shimizu Public School.


Good morning, Principal Kawamura.


Kun-lin, I’ll meet you at your classroom after school.




Class dismissed.

Ding! Thank you, teacher.

*Tsai Kun-lin *For Public School Use Only – National Language Textbook *First Edition – Book Two.

My name looks so nice in A-siā’s* handwriting.

*Issued by GovernmentGeneral of Taiwan.

I want to write nice characters too, just like A-siā.


e koyake no akatom ya k bo… s, Yu Sunse t, dusk, red dragonflie O war e te m ita I sa w a s no sis w te rc Ko ar itsu ka rie Y a go n d m me o h a ni i ka .W no ha td ha ay ta was ke it? no ku w Mo a unt no mi o ed ab ain or fields in , mulberry fruits, a s osh ik ma a ll ts




er th ga


ba ske t.

Wa s it

a dr eam?


I’m here!

* A-siā: How the townspeople of Shimizu refer to Kun-lin’s father, and since picked up by the Tsai family. A-siā is a colloquial term for wealthy men. * “Red Dragonfly” (Akatonbo), a famous Japanese children’s song (dāyā), lyrics by Rofā Miki, composed by Kosaku Yamada.



ya Yu


k oya

k e n o a kat o m b S u n s e t, d u s k, r



dra gon flies

Big brother!


"Principal’s Office"





e koyake no akatombo... Yuyak t, dusk, red dragonies... S un se

You love to sing so much, do you even know what you’re singing?

I dunno!

Let me take you somewhere cool. The lyrics are saying that dragonflies come out to fly around at dusk. Tonbo means dragonflies.



Shimizu District Hall Library

Here! This is a dragonfly. It says tonbo right above.


The vast collection in the library kindled Khun-lîm’s curiosity. Kun-lin has loved reading ever since.

*…ttle of Sekigahara *Tokugawa Ieyasu *Momotarō *Legend of the Eight Samur…


Kun-lin, there’s a lantern parade tonight, hurry and eat.

Teacher told us, we should all walk to the shrine. OK!

A-niâ*, I want to go too.

You’re too little, why would you go!

Kun-bing. You take care of your three younger brothers.


* A-niâ: one of the terms for “mother” in Taiwanese.


*Victory to the Imperial Army


I heard that Nanjing has fallen.

December 13th, 1937. Japanese military occupies the Chinese capital, Nanjing.

It means we won, the Imperial Army has taken Nanjing!

What’s “fallen?”

M iy

o k ai o! T

k! Loo


e su n

n o so

r a a k et e

n ing is s h i

, kyokujitsu takaku kagayake

brig h t a b o v e t h e E a s t e r n Se a h i g h an d

O, seiro no asagumo ni sobiyur


oru O Tenchi no seiki hatsuratsu to kibo wa od

u F uj i n o s u g a t a k o s o

t a b o v e t h e m o r n i n g c l o u ds O! Mount Fu s towering and valian ji i

al Hope and righteousness sh

t up l ligh

y am a shim a. the eight regions of Japan

o r i na re . o hok on n Kin'o p p i N muketsu y i d e o f J ap an the pr uruginaki waga on, ati ur n Impeccable and immovable like o

* “The Patriotic March,” a Japanese military song (gunka); lyrics by Yukio Morikawa, composed by Fujiyoshi Setoguchi.


*Shimizu District Council

*Victory to the Imperial…

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!


Kun-lin, fast asleep, could not know that the footsteps of war have crept closer and closer‌‌

*Lantern procession: A celebratory march for when Japanese imperial forces at the frontline are victorious.


April 1948, Kun-Lin is a junior in high school. Outside the Taichung First Senior High Library.


Mr. Wang!

Kun-lin Tsai?

Come to borrow books from the library? I see you’re an avid reader.

The junior high department just started a book club. Would you like to join?


Thank you, sir!


Next Wednesday, we’ll each pick a book to report on.

Think about which book you would like to present.

I would like to present A Madman’s Diary by Lu Xun.


I will be presenting the “Torrents” Trilogy by Ba Jin.

Um… I’ll present “On Heroes and HeroWorship.”

I read the Japanese translation.

You mean the book by British historian Thomas Carlyle? You can understand it?

That is still very impressive.

Okay, that will be all for today. Remember to bring your books next week.


A-niâ, how come you’re still up?

You’re back.

Have some noodles first.

It must be tiring, taking the train to school every day.

Not really, don’t worry yourself, A-niâ. Please get some rest now.


Hurry to bed after you finish eating, too. You’re leaving again at five in the morning.





Kun-lin Tsai! What book are you borrowing this time?






Mutual Aid by the Russian writer Kropotkin.

You certainly read a wide range of books.How’s the book club coming along?lecture?

No sir, I moved out of the dormitories last week. I have to quit the book club to catch the last train going home.

Ah, might as well. You should focus on preparing for university.





r, p

te pit

After the Second World War, the economy is in recession. Price levels skyrocket, while the Tsai household’s finances shrink by the day. The eldest son, Kun-bing, leaves for Japan to make a living. Kun-tsan, the third eldest, now teaches at Changhua Senior School of Commerce, after returning from his stint in Nara as a youth aviator.

I think Kun-lin has excellent grades. We should let him go to college.

I don’t disagree, but, you know how the family is doing right now.

Kun-xiu, let me take care of the money. Kunlin should live in the dormitories, so that he can focus on his studies.

Kun-tsan, you just started teaching, you’re not making that much.

Kun-lin, what do you think?


Thank you, Ashe, brothers. I want to find a job first, and wait until the family is more stable, before trying to go to university again.

December 10th, 1948, the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communists are at a stalemate. Chiang Kai-Shek declares martial law, but places far removed from the frontlines are unaffected: these include provinces of Xinjiang, Xikang, Qinghai; Tibet; and, Taiwan. *Public Announcement from the Provincial Government of Taiwan and the Taiwan Garrison Command.

However, by May 20, 1949, the province of Taiwan also enters martial law, which essentially declares a state of wartime emergency in Taiwan, and later becomes the legal basis for the Republic of China government to reinforce their control over Taiwan. June 15th, 1949, Taiwan enacts a currency reform. 40,000 Old Taiwan dollars are now worth 1 New Taiwan dollar.

*Taiwan Province reforms currency: New Dollar begins issuing today.With 800,000 tael gold in bank reserves. Pegged to USD by 5:1.


Graduation dinner with Mr. Wang.

June 1949, Kun-lin graduates from Taichung First Senior High School.

Kun-lin— Tsai—! Chi-lin Wong?

There’re no more trains back to Qingshui*, right? Wanna come chat with us at the gym?


*Qingshui: Sinicized name of Shimizu, used after the Chinese Nationalists seized control over Taiwan at Japan’s defeat in WWII.


Yea. Kun-lin Tsai, you’re really not applying for university?

I want to pass the teacher’s exam first, and teach at a primary school.

That’s a pity. You’re really good at studying!

You want to teach? Kun-sheng Yang’s little sister, isn’t she also a primary school teacher? Think so! Think she teaches at Qingshui elementary school.



* Kun-sheng Yang: Kun-lin’s primary school classmate, Michio Shimizu. He changed his name back into Chinese after the WWII.

I heard Mr. Ming-fa Yang* was ratted out as a traitor to the Chinese nation? Did you hear about this?

Yea. Mr. Yang was suspended and investigated for that, and lost his source of income. That’s why Kimiko started working right after middle school.

* Ming-fa Yang: 5th grade teacher Akihiko Shimizu. He changed his name back into Chinese after WWII.

For some reason, Kun-lin suddenly feels that everything is very tragic. Tonight’s starry sky, especially, makes one feel so alone…


September, 1949. After Kun-lin graduated, he tested into the Qingshui Town-hall as an administrative staff, handling affairs around military conscription. One month later, the Chinese Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China, while the Republic of China government led by Chiang Kai-Shek arrives at Taipei in December. The Taiwan Strait enters a long-term standoff.


July 1950

*Ice Shop

Pi-ting Huang, how long is your summer vacation?

Two months.

It’s so nice being a university student! Did you get the classical music vinyl you were talking about last time?



Aren’t you pretty close with that Chi-lin Wong from our class? Are you still in touch with him?

Isn’t he working at a film company? What’s wrong?

I think he was arrested. Do you know why?


…… I don’t know.

September 10th, 1950, a beautiful Sunday. Kun-tsan brings home his newly-wed wife from Changhua to Qingshui.

Kun-lin, your hair is getting too long! Remember to get it cut sometime.

Okay, okay, I’ll go when I’m free. I’m still working overtime today.

Brother, sister-in-law, enjoy yourselves at home. I’m going to work for a bit, but I’ll come back to you for lunch.


*Root out in three years,

*Prepare in one year,

success in five.

retaliate in two.



Kun-chang! How come you’re here?

Your friend came looking for you at home, so I brought him here.

You’re Kun-lin Tsai?

Yes, how can I help you?

Where is the police station around these parts?


I’m actually about to head home, let me take you there.

It’s just close by.

*Everyone’s responsibility.

Kun-lin Tsai, what are you doing at the station?


Chang, how’s the cleaning job going?

*Security against spies.

Why are you arresting me?

I am a plainclothes officer of the Changhua Military Police. I am under orders to bring you in for interrogation.