Legend of the Treasure Box --Secrets of the Middle Line in Taiwan Strait
Author: Dr. Ren Zhuan Ian Cheng Associate Professor, Chang Gung University Translator: Andrew Chiu Lecturer, Chang Jung Christian University Editor: Dr. Joy Chen Assistant Professor, Chang Jung Christian University
Preface When was the line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait drawn? This is an intriguing question. Looking back in history, when Mao Zedong defeated Chiang Kai-Shek’s army of a million and created People’s Republic of China, he did indeed become a hero of the time. However, Mao still had a few regrets before his death about changing the name of the republic. It is said that he was quite annoyed with himself thinking about it. Had he not changed the name of the Republic of China, there would not be the situation of two country names and two national flags flying on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Had he kept the name of the Republic of China, would he have not unified the country long ago?
In any case, the development of history seems to have been in the cards of the heaven, not to be manipulated according to anyone’s will power. Even great men such as Chiang Kai-Shek or Mao Zedong cannot change the course of history that led to the current political separation. At this point, I am deeply in awe of Jiang Taigong’s (Lü Shang) wisdom. At an age without the calculations of supercomputers, he could so accurately predict the situation of a boundary line drawn right down the Taiwan Strait three thousand years ago.
Each side of the Taiwan Strait has developed its own characteristics worthy of praises. Of course, each side also has flaws. If both sides compete in a mutually beneficial manner and cooperate, the influence of the Chinese people is to be reckoned with in the 21 century. On the contrary, if both sides are mired in mutual hatred, we will merely be laughing stock for western nations. 2
With advancing human civilization, cross-strait squabbles may have unexpected developments in the upcoming one hundred years. Then, only the young readers can live to attest to it.
Ren Zhuan Ian Cheng Formosa, November, 2010
Table of Contents Chapter 1
London, September 1860
On the Bank of the River Thames, October, 1861
The Manuscripts in the Box
Chinese New Year, 1869
Afternoon Tea at Charles’s
Li Reading the Manuscripts in London
Li’s Last Words
Chapter 10 Re-publishing the Manuscripts Chapter 11 AD 1949 Chapter 12 Close Call at the Harbor Chapter 13 Friends in Misery Chapter 14 New Arrivals Chapter 15
Taipei, the New Capital
The Journey Begins
London, September 1860
A twenty-year old girl on the bank of the River Thames looking at the ships sailing into port one after another, and waiting for the person who never showed. Disappointing days like this passed one after another. On a September night, she once again returned home disappointed as usual. “My daughter! Come quickly,” shouted mother.
“Oh, coming, mother. What is the matter?” the daughter replied. “It is your letter. It has been sent from a very distant place.” “Really? Give it to my quickly. Quickly!” Mother and daughter have not laughed together like this in a long time. Since Alice’s beau, Brown, left with the British army for the Far East, Alice has been living like a ghost.
“Dear Alice, This past summer, I came with the admiral’s fleet to the East thousands of miles away. It has been three months now. This journey has been difficult. However, not until we arrived in China in the East did we realize that there are more difficulties. I disembarked at a port (Tianjin) in northern China with the admiral’s fleet. It was chaotic at the time and very dangerous for our forces have been fight with those of China. Although our forces have advanced weapons and strong firepower, the Chinese army, with its high morale and religious fervor, has a fearless courage. Moreover, their advantage in numbers has given us the British quite a bit of headache. Fortunately, under the admiral’s decisive leadership and cooperation with the French 5
forces, we were finally able to hold our ground and turn the situation around in our favor. This week, I entered the royal garden, of the Ching Empire, the Yi-he Yuan. The architecture of the garden is grand. There are many treasures here that have astounded me. May God bless us both. I hope the war would end soon so that I might return home. Love, Brown”
In 1860, a difficult year for the Ching Empire, the Anglo-Franco forces entered Yi-he Yuan and plundered many treasures. Amidst all the chaos, Brown also took a wooden box. In the following year, the British navy passed through the Taiwan Strait with the looted treasures.
“Dear Alice, Our fleet has travelled south for a week from China. Due to an oncoming typhoon, the admiral of the fleet let us seek shelter near the port of Takao in Taiwan. There are mountains on both sides of the port with dense forests. During sunny days, we can see high mountains in far distances. It is beautiful. I heard that people used to call it ‘Formosa’ here. The sceneries here are breathtaking. I wish you were here beside me. Perhaps I could bring you here on a journey in the future. We are departing soon. I hope to see you on the bank of the Thames. Love, Brown” 6
On the Bank of the River Thames, October, 1861
It is October, 1861. On an autumn day, crowds gathered on the bank of the River Thames in London. It is said the admiral who led the troops to the East was to return to London victorious. Alice also came to the port in London hoping to see her love, Brown.
Sounds of steam whistles came from a long distance away. Behind her, the music of the military marching band roared and Alice looked back to find the royal cavalry and band marching toward the port.
â€œNo doubt about it. It must be Brown returning with the admiral,â€? thought Alice. She picked up her binoculars and saw ships of the royal fleet coming into the harbor. This was a big day in London. The Queen personally came to the harbor to welcome the victorious return of the admiral. Every one of the men returning with the admiral was ever so excited to see their family members.
Chapter 3 The Proposal
November, 1861, Brown came to Alice’s home to ask Alice’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage. However, Alice’s mother Lypia was reluctant to give her blessings because Brown was a soldier who had just returned home from service overseas. “What do you have to prove that you are able to provide for my daughter?” Lypia asked Brown disdainfully.
“Mother! Please don’t put him in a difficult situation. He has just been discharged from the navy,” said Alice with tears in her eyes. “No, if he cannot prove that he can provide for you, I will not agree to this marriage,” Lypia said with finality.
Brown returned home defeated. His mother saw him come home despondent and became very concerned. “My son, what happened? Did you not call on Alice at her home?” asked his mother.
Unable to contain his emotions any longer, Brown burst out in tears and told his mother everything that happened at Alice’s house. Instead of getting angry, his mother was smiling, “Don’t fret my son. I have an idea.”
“Oh mother, do tell me what your idea is.” “Silly boy, you have a treasure. Do not worry.” “What treasure?” “The box you brought back from the East!” “Oh, yes. It’s fantastic. Thank you for reminding me, mother.” 8
Early next morning, Brown brought the box to Alice’s house. Alice’s mother answered the door. “What proof have you brought?” she asked. “I brought a treasure.” “What treasure? Let me see.” Brown took out the box and placed it on the table. The exquisite workmanship of the box captivated Mrs. Lypia. “Where is this from? Do tell me.”
Brown told Mrs. Lypia the entire story of how the box came into his possession. After Mrs. Lypia finally consented to the marriage, the happy couple went out for a walk.
The Manuscripts in the Box
Mrs. Lypia was sitting alone admiring the beauty of the intricate carvings of the box that had come from across the ocean. Inadvertently, she opened the box and discovered an ancient manuscript inside. The manuscript was written in a language unknown to her, but she knew it was possibly an ancient Chinese manuscript.
“Oh, right. I can ask Professor Macon of Chinese Studies about it.” The following day, she brought the manuscript with her to pay Professor Macon a visit at his residence. Professor Macon looked at the manuscript in amazement, “This is truly an ancient treasure.” He asked Mrs. Lypia to allow him more time to study the manuscript.
1867, Professor Macon finally made some sense of the manuscript after seven years of study. He wrote a short postscript:
“…When the alien English and French Troops burnt the Old Summer Palace in Peking, one of the soldiers discovered a box of manuscripts in Chinese which had been carefully preserved by the imperial family. Seeing that they contain pictures the soldier presented them to Miss Lypia from whom I secured the same. In translating them I found that they represented…”
After writing this short passage, Professor Macon could not help thinking how remarkable the manuscripts were and at the same time wondered about where the manuscript would end up.
Autumn 1868, the leaves on the trees in London’s Regent Park had turned golden. It was a beautiful autumn day with traces of melancholy. Professor Macon could no longer walk on his own. His grandson Charles pushed him in a wheelchair to a corner of the park. Professor and Charles were chatting. They seemed to have inexhaustible topics.
The last rays of the glorious sunset reflected off Professor Macon’s cheeks, making him look especially peaceful.
“Charles, I have something to tell you and you must remember.” “What is it, grandfather? Just tell me.” 11
“There is a safe in my study. You must remember to combination to it. Inside the safe, there is an ancient Chinese manuscript that came to London quite by chance. I had the good fortune to study them for seven years. I have found it to be very mysterious. It may have been written by several great Chinese philosophers. The manuscript originally came from China, so I would like you to give it, in the future, to a Chinese person who crosses your paths. May the manuscript be returned to China because it contains the teachings and instructions from ancient sages. I hope people in the future can learn from it.”
“Yes, grandfather. Don’t worry. I will do what you have asked.” That night, Professor Macon bathed and went straight to bed after returning home. The following day Charles came to his grandfather’s bed to wake him for breakfast. He found his grandfather had stopped breathing. Yet, he appeared as peaceful as if he were in a deep sleep. Although it was very sudden, Charles was very calm. As his parents were not around, he was left alone to arrange his grandfather’s funeral. In a blink of the eye, Charles has grown up.
Chinese New Year, 1869
At the end of January, 1869, Charles and his father came to London’s China Town. It was Chinese New Year. The streets were full of festivities with dragon dance and lion dance and Oriental music bands playing in the streets. Charles was enthralled with the spectacles. He led his father by the hand and came to a well-known Chinese restaurant Li’s Yangtze Village. After some hesitation, they decided to give it a try. The father and son ordered mapo tofu, Kungpao Chicken, and steamed bass, and thoroughly enjoyed their meal.
While they were settling their bill, an elderly man wearing a Chinese style robe came into the restaurant. All the workers greeted the old man with the utmost respect. Later they learned that the old man was the owner of the establishment, Mr. Li Xinqi. Mr. Li was very happy to see Charles and his father. He felt as if he had known them all his life. Perhaps it was because Mr. Li had a grandson who was about Charles’s age. Or, perhaps it was because Mr. Li missed his son and transferred that feeling toward Charles.
Mr. Li was well known and respected in China Town for his generosity and kindness. The end of the Qing Dynasty was a time of turmoil. Many came to London to get away from the endless wars. Li’s grandson was still in China. Maybe the yearning to see his grandson was too great, Mr. Li went up to the table to greet Charles. With the recent loss of his grandfather, Charles felt an inexplicable fondness for this old man who was around the same age as his grandfather.
With more frequent interaction between the two, Charles and Li became the best of friends. Charles would often visit Mr. Li to learn Chinese and Mr. Li would ask Charles questions regarding English. Gradually, Charles came to realize that Li was truly concerned about China and her people.
One evening, Charles went to Liâ€™s Yangtze Village to wait for the arrival of Mr. Li to invite him for tea at his place.
Afternoon Tea at Charles’s
Li came to Charles’s home. He and Charles talk about everything. Before long, the sky began to darken and Li got up to take his leave. At this time, Charles said, “Uncle, wait a moment. I have a Chinese treasure to show you.” Then, he quickly went into the study and brought out a paper box and set it in front of Li. Li furrowed his brows, failing to see anything special in the ordinary cardboard box.
Right then, Charles slowly lifted the cover to reveal an exquisitely wooden box with an intricately carved Chinese dragon and phoenix. Li dumbfounded because he had not seen Chinese carving this fine since he left his hometown decades ago. Just when Li was about to ask Charles where he got the box from, Charles had already opened this beautiful box to reveal a few Chinese characters. Li’s eyes widened with amazement.
“May I take a look?” Li muttered with excitement. “Of course!” answered Charles.
Li opened the first page to read. He had only heard his father mention these poems in his childhood but never actually read them. There they were—“Qiankun Wannian Ge” by Jiang Taigong, “Tuibei Tu” by Yuan Tiangang and Li Chunfeng, “Meihua Shi” by Shao Kangjie and “Shaobing Ge” by Liu Bowen—seven poems in all. Now for the first time in his life to see such a book with his own eyes, especially in London, he was beside himself.
“Quickly, tell me. How did the manuscripts get here?” Charles told Li the entire story of the journey of how the manuscript came from Peking to London. Although away from home, when Li thought of China and how so many Chinese treasures ended up in foreign soil, it pained him.
“Young man. Tell me. Would you be willing to sell it to me?” “Slow down! Slow down!” chuckled Charles, “It is not for sale. I would, however, trade it. It is priceless.” “Why wouldn’t you sell it?” Li asked anxiously. “Because I would only give it away to someone of my choosing.” “Come now, my young friend. Don’t keep me in suspense. Name your price.” “All right, then. Give me all the money you have in your pocket.” “I don’t have a lot on me. Just twelve shillings.” “That’s quite all right, as long as you are sincere.” “Good. I will trade the twelve shillings I have on me for this box of yours.” “No problem,” said Charles. “Why would you exchange this treasure for this little amount of money?” Li took the box from Charles, not quite understanding what had just happened. “The truth is that my grandfather, before his passing, told me to return the box and its content to a Chinese person with whom I have a connection. I believe you are a wise man from China, so I want to give this box and the manuscript to you.” “I don’t know how to thank you.” “Uncle Li, don’t mention it. I am simply carrying out my grandfather’s last wish by giving you the box and the manuscript. I must remind you, thought, to return it to China.” “I will. I will,” Li said. 16
After returning home that night, Li immediately lit the lamp and sat down to read the incredible manuscript. By the time he put it down, and it was already middle of the night.
Li Reading the Manuscripts in London
After reading the manuscript over several times, Li had an idea of the current political situation in China. From manuscript, he realized that the Qing Dynasty was like the setting sun and that chaos was inevitable. The only thing to do was to stay in London. It was not home, but at least it was peaceful. For himself and the future of his children, Li made the difficult decision not to think about the problems of home any more.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sun Yat-Sun wrote to Li Hung-Chang proposing reforms to revive China. However, these avant-garde ideas were not accepted. Hence, Dr. Sun Yat-sun founded Xingzhong Hui (Society for Regenerating China) and proposed the ideals of “expelling Manchus, revive China, founding a republic government”, thus he began his journey down the revolutionary road.
However, the revolutionary road is long and tortuous. Sun Yat-Sun arrived in London after yet another defeat. He was drafting the Three Principles of People in the British Museum, not realizing agents from the Qing court were watching him from afar.
One day, Sun, accompanied by friends, came to Li’s Yangtze Village for dinner. The Jiangzhe cuisine offered by the restaurant relieved Sun’s homesickness. The fate of China was closely watched by foreign powers. The outcome of the situation was worrisome. Sun thought that since he went down the revolutionary road, there is no turning back. So many likeminded comrades who had already given their lives to the cause and countless people in China eagerly waiting for the victory of the revolution, 18
Sun realized that he did not belong to himself but to many others for many supporters of the cause had already sacrificed their lives and everything they owned. On his shoulders he carried the hopes of countless people. He must persevere no matter how difficult it got.
Just as he was walking out the restaurant, a group of English police officers accompanied by a few officials from the Qing court stopped Sun and pushed him into a police carriage and drove him to jail without any explanation.
Having been through so much, Sun did not panic but, rather, started thinking inside the jail. At that time, a young constable came in wondering why someone as respectable as Sun was doing in jail. Dr. Sun spoke very good English and studied medicine in Macau. He gave this constable a note and asked him to give it to Dr. James Cantlie, Sun’s teacher in Macau.
Sun was finally released with Cantlie’s help. Tale of Sun’s imprisonment caused quite a sensation in London at the time. At that time, the representative system had already taken form in England and the society was also much more open than that of China. Immigrants in London’s Chinatown all knew that Dr. Sun Yat-sen had reached safety in London and everyone there silently prayed for his success.
Forces of eight-nation alliance invaded China in 1900. Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu escaped to Xian. The Qing Empire was at its last few years. Dr. Sun and his revolutionary comrades, though, swallowed one defeat after another.
In 1911 Huanghuagang Uprising shocked entire nation with its number casualties. The effect of the uprising echoed through the entire nation.
Li’s Last Words
Li Xinqin was at the last year of his life. One day he was sitting with his son Li Zhong and suddenly he sighed heavily, “My son, there is something I must ask you to do.” “Father, please tell me.” “I don’t think I will live too long, so I have to ask you to do this for me,” said Li. “Here is a beautiful wooden box with an ancient manuscript inside. In it should be the instructions to future generations from our ancient sages. You must bring it back to China once the situation there is stable. Print the manuscript so the ancient sages’ hopes and wishes would not be in vain.” Li continued, “I got the manuscript more than thirty years ago from Professor Macon’s grandson, with whom I have formed a great friendship. From his description, the manuscript was among the treasures looted from Yiheyuan in Peking by British and French troops. Originally, I wished to bring it back to China myself. However, the chaotic times would not permit it. I think I will have to rely on you to accomplish it for me. I am tired. Also, you must help Dr. Sun’s revolution.” With that, Li closed his eyes for the last time. As he was a centenarian, Li’s family were very calm about his passing.
Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911 was a wake-up call for the entire nation. People around the nation rose against the government and the Qing Empire crumbled in a short time. Shortly after, Dr. Sun Yat-sen was elected the provisional president, and on January 1, 1912 began the Republic of China.
Re-publishing the Manuscripts
Li Xinqing’s son, Li Zhong, brought his son Li Hua to his ancestral home south of the Yangtze River. After May Fourth Movement, the freedom of speech was unprecedented. Li Zhong thought that it was the perfect timing to re-publish the manuscript. The manuscript was published in one book titled Seven Ancient Chinese Prophecies, including Jiang Taigong’s “Qiankun Wannian Ge” from Zhou Dynasty, Li Chunfeng and Yuan Tiangang’s “Tui Bei Tu” from Tang Dynasty, Shao Kangjie’s “Meihua Shi” from Song Dynasty, and Liu Bowen’s “Shaobing Ge” from Ming Dynasty, of which “Tuibei Ge” and “Shaobing Ge” were the best known. “Qiankun Wannian Ge” was the least known; however, it prophesied the longest period of time (ten thousand years). Li looked at the newly printed edition of the manuscripts, thinking of the things his father had told him. He breathed a sigh of relief at having fulfilled his promise.
Li Zhong read the paragraph of “Qiankun Wannian Ge”: “People shall come from south of Yangtze, the capital will move once again.” He began thinking, “Is it referring to the capital of the republic being moved to Nanking from Peking? Or, is it referring to something else? This line came after Qing Dynasty, so this must be it.”
He kept reading, “The territory shall divide in two…” and wondered, “Will the Republic of China that Dr. Sun built be divided into two?” However, the eight years fighting the Japanese occupation did not allow him the luxury to ponder on the subject. 22
Fleeing their home during the eight years fighting the Japanese, Li Zhong and his son, Li Hua, returned to their ancestral home once again in 1945. However, the peace did not last as the Kuomintang and the Communists vied for the control of the country displacing tens of millions of people from their homes. People had once again fallen on bad times. Everyone in China thought peaceful days were upon them after the Great War, but the country became more chaotic.
One glorious morning in 1949, Li Zhong being in good spirit after a long illness was holding his son’s hand, “Hua, I have been thinking about something for a very long time and I have come to a decision. I want to talk to you about it.” “What is it, father?” Li Hua looked at his father’s peaceful face, feeling warmth in his heart. However, all parties must come to an end… Not long after, Li Zhong passed away. The communist troops in the north were about to march south across the Yangtze River. Li Hua made a difficult decision.
He came to put flowers on his father’s grave hoping to get a sign from his father on whether to go or stay. When he got home, he slept very soundly until dawn was breaking. He was in a state that was between sleep and wakefulness. He saw his father walking with a shiny black cane toward his bed. His father seemed to be telling him, “Hurry, go.” When he woke up with a start, there was no sign of his father anywhere.
Li Hua hurried to pack up some belongings and took another look at the manuscripts in the wooden box. He noticed his father’s notes on the margin of “The territory shall divide in two…” He suddenly realized that the outcome of the power struggle between the Kuomintang and the Communists may be dividing the country in two. As the Li family had been a strong supporter of Dr. Sun’s revolution and Li Hua received a sign in his dream, he decided to follow the Nationalist government to Formosa—Taiwan. More importantly, he brought a copy of the manuscript his father printed when he first returned to China from London. He must perpetuate the
teachings of the ancient sages. He hid the original manuscript and the box in an inconspicuous place in the familial shrine, hoping to see them again one day.
Close Call at the Harbor
Li finally arrived at Shanghai harbor after a trying experience. However, the harbor was crowded with people who were all trying to leave. Just as Li got a ticket for the Taiping Liner, he saw a woman walking toward him and sobbing. It turned out that her husband was only able to secure one ticket for the liner and was unable to get a second ticket for her and the ship was about to set sail. Li gave her his only ticket to her hoping that she could be united with her family. As the tickets were almost impossible to come by, no one knew when the next ship would be after the Taiping Liner. The only thing Li could do was to wait. While he was waiting, Li heard the news about the sinking of the Taiping Liner, the ship he was supposed to board. There were only a handful of survivors. Li Hua looked up at the heavens and heaved a big sigh of sadness. He was sad that the woman whom he tried to help and her husband may not have survived the shipwreck. Because of his act of kindness, he survived and did not die in the ocean. Alas, fate. Because of his kindness, it changed his fate.
The situation in China worsened. The communists crossed the Yangtze and Shanghai was in danger of falling into their hands. The only thing for Li Hua to do was to escape further south toward Hong Kong and Macau.
Friends in Misery
Li Hua arrived in Macau all alone one early evening, cold and hungry. He saw a young woman who was looking pallid and could barely walk. Perhaps she was the daughter of a rich man. It did not matter now since everyone was a friend in misery in this chaotic time. This woman had not eaten for many days and was cold and hungry. Li Hua took out a steamed bun, which was the last bit of food he had left, and gave it to her, hoping she could survive.
This woman looked up at the complete stranger who gave her his only food at a difficult time like this. After she regained her strength to talk, she told him her story. The womanâ€™s name was Lin Zhu, who was from the same town as Li, except one lived on the west end while the other on the east. Lin gave the half eaten bun back to Li. Li did not have the strength to refuse.
These two people had no one to depend on in Macau but each other. Although they were at the age to fall in love, neither had time to think about frivolous thing such as love when all one could do was staying alive and escape to safety. Li Hua thought that Macau was too close to Guangzhou and not safe. He must cross the ocean to reach Formosa. Lin was thinking the exact same thing. The two sharing the same idea encouraged and helped each other.
Not long before Christmas in the winter of 1949, Lin Zhu heard that a ship was set to sail to Taiwan. She hurried back to tell Li Hua. The tickets for the ship were
expensive, so Li Hua took the only piece of gold he had left and bought two tickets. He and Lin Zhu left Macau one dark night. Onboard the ship, they wondered where in Taiwan the ship was bound for. They didnâ€™t know. They only knew that the ship was sailing toward Taiwan.
Half way into their journey, the waves grew higher and the ship was tossing in the waves. Everyone onboard was showing effects of seasickness. Li Hua took care of Lin Zhu until the sea calmed down. They found out later that they had just passed the infamous Black Ditch. Each year countless people perished trying to cross it.
Onward they sailed. Li and Lin lost count the number of days they had travelled. One morning they finally spotted land. Li stood on deck and looked at the harbor in the distance. There were small hills on both sides of the harbor. Mountain ranges loomed in the far distance. He heard from other passengers that this was Southeast Asia’s largest port Kaohsiung, or Takao in earlier days.
After spending several months idling in Kaohsiung, Li Hua heard about a distant relative who was teaching in Tainan. So, he decided to pay him a visit. The distant relative Mr. Li worked in Gannan Municipal government with Chiang Ching-kuo and was quite well-respected. He had come to Taiwan earlier with the Nationalist government and settled in Tainan.
Tainan was the administrative center of Taiwan when the Koxinga first arrived in Taiwan. For several hundred years, people gathered here and the city prospered. The local education was quite developed with schools from elementary schools to universities. With political turmoil, everyone suffered. Though Mr. Li had a steady teaching job, the salary was small. He was kind and hospitable, however. He did what he could to help out Li Hua and Lin Zhu.
One day Mr. Li came home after worked and mentioned to Li Hua and Lin Zhu, “There is a saying that you form a family before you begin your career. Why don’t you two think about it?”
With encouragements from Mr. Li and his wife, Li Hua and Lin Zhu decided to get married. Although there was no elaborate ceremony or banquet, they were very lucky to have found someone to share their life at a time of instability.
After the situation had become more stable, more information also began to flow. As the central government was situated in Taipei, there were naturally more economic activities in Taipei compared to Tainan. Li Hua and Lin Zhu bid farewell to Mr. Li and his wife and took the train up to Taipei. When they arrived, the day was dawning. He realized this was where his new life would begin.
Life in Taipei
The war between the two Koreas broke out in June of 1950. President Truman sent the Seventh Fleet to defend the Taiwan Strait. From then on, the separation of China down the two sides of the Taiwan Strait seemed to be set. The talks mediated by General George Marshall to divide the country along the Yangtze River broke down. Some people speculated that Chairman Mao was the Dragon God over land while Chiang Kai-Shek was the Dragon God over sea. Thus, one ruled supreme over land and the other over sea.
1958 saw the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis with 823 Artillery Bombardment. Li Hua accompanied a medical officer to assist in the front lines to Kinmen. During Liaoluo Bay Landing, a bomb flew toward him and exploded three meters away. Li’s right hand was injured in the blast and a comrade beside him was unfortunately killed. At this moment, Li Hua thought of the last two lines in a poem by Du Fu, “he dies before going off to war, all the other heroes shed tears of sadness.” The horrors of war were thus indelibly etched in Li Hua’s mind.
Li Hua was discharged from the military in 1959 and began his medical practice in a small town. With his wife Lin Zhu’s help, the business improved every day. Within ten years, Li’s clinic had the best reputation in town. “Ten years to hone one skill” from an old poem is an apt description for it. Also, Li and Lin had five children born in the ten years.
October of 1971, the United Nations passed resolution to recognize Mainland China, People’s Republic of China and expelled Taiwan, the Republic of China from the UN. At that moment, the Republic of China encompassing Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu was like a candle in the wind. Everyone on the island worried whether the communists would cross the strait. Many wealthy families emigrated abroad. Li Hua also pondered whether to go or to stay. Scenes of escaping from China flashed back in his mind. Li was afraid. However, there were so many patients in town who needed him. How could he leave them? That night, Li and his wife sat face to face in silence.
“Why don’t you open up that old book to see what the ancient sages have to say?” Lin Zhu said “Oh, right.”
The two read “Qiankun Wannian Ge” until they go to “The territory shall divide in two; each will be sovereign for a hundred and ninety.” They did not completely understand what “a hundred ninety” meant, after all that would be far off in the future. Therefore, the couple decided to stay in the town and with its people.
Two years late, Prime Minister Chiang Ching-Kuo announced the Ten Major Construction Projects. Li Hua’s medical practice prospered and his savings increased. On the stormy night of April 5, 1975, President Chiang Kai-shek passed away. Although his death was a shock to the nation, the constitution system was in place and Vice President Yen Chia-kan succeeded as president. The political situation was stable. 32
Mr. Chiang Ching-Kuo and Mr. Hsieh Tung-min were elected the sixth president and vice president in 1978 and a new era began. The completion of the Ten Major Construction Projects had given Taiwan enough economic prowess to become one of the Four Asian Tigers. At the same time, the cry for democracy grew louder each day. The founding of Democratic Progressive Party in 1986 ended KMT’s monopoly in Taiwan’s rule, attracting international attention. Countries around the world had always doubted whether a Chinese country with thousands of years of feudal rule was capable of democracy.
The Taiwan government announced the end of Martial Laws in 1987, lifting the ban for people to visit relatives in China. Not until then did Li Hua get the chance to return to his ancestral home. However, the trip home also made him even more melancholy. Although the landscape had not changed, everything else did. Childhood playmates were dispersed throughout Mainland China during the ten years of Cultural Revolution. The destruction of his familial shrine, where he had hidden the wooden box, made the sadness even harder to bear. Of course, the box was nowhere to be found.
Li Hua, now nearly sixty years of age, thought of what his Buddhism teacher said, “Everything on earth must go through the cycle of birth to destruction.” Furthermore, Two Thousand Years of Prophecies in Mainland China published by his father survived and could be passed down to future generations to learn the teachings of the ancient sages. With that thought, Li’s felt no resentment but gratitude.
1996 saw the election of Taiwan’s first direct presidential election, writing a new chapter in the history. Mr. Lee Teng-hui and Mr. Lien Chan were elected president and vice president. In 2000, Mr. Chen Shui-bian and Ms. Annette Lu were elected to the posts of president and vice president, ending over fifty years of KMT’s control over Taiwan’s. It was also the first time in over five thousand years of Chinese history that governments changed without any weapon. Dr. Sun’s dream a hundred years ago seemed to have begun to realize here. By this time, Li Hua is nearly seventy years of age with a house full of children and grandchildren.
With the dawn of a new age, Taiwan’s society became more diverse. A mature democracy does not just happen. The conflicts between the KMT and the DPP worsened by the day; some were often irrational confrontations. The parties often opposed each other often for the sake of opposing. This saddened Li Hua. While the two parties were fighting over politics, the economy on the other side of the strait continue to grow at an astronomical rate that allowed it to become one of the BRIC nations. The ever strengthening military made western countries weary of Mainland China and, at the same time, made everyone in Taiwan even more uneasy. A book titled Taiwan’s Big Disaster published at the end of 2009 made the eighty-year-old Li Hua even more worried. Because once sparks started to fly between the two sides of the strait, countless families would be torn apart.
One night Li Hua tossed and turned all night worrying about the situation. Before sunrise as Li Hua was drifting in and out the dream state, an old man with beard white as snow came to his bed. He told Li to tell the world about the meaning of “Qiankun
Wannian Ge”. Li asked him who he was. He just smiled and answered, “There are two mouths in my family and they call me Shang.” When Li woke up with a start, the bearded old man was nowhere to be seen.
After he woke up, all Li could do was trying to figure out who that old man was. Lin Zhu noticed her husband seemed lost in thoughts during breakfast. She yelled, “Old man, concentrate on what you are doing!”
Li told his wife about the dream. Lin Zhu thought for a while then said, “’Two mouths in the family’ may be referring to his last name and that would be “Lu”. So this old man was Lu Shang, Jiang Tai-gong.”
Only then did Li Hua realize that it was Jiang himself who came to give instruction. He wanted Li to tell the world about “Qiankun Wannian Ge” so that no one would do anything that might cause pain and suffering.
The Journey Begins
Li Hua thought of the sixty years since he arrived Taiwan at the young age of twenty-one. Now at eighty-one, he was a great-grandfather. For this, he was thankful. Crossing the ocean to Taiwan, Li was the first of his clan to be in Taiwan. Now he had a big loving family surrounding him. For that, he was truly grateful. He was even more grateful for the land that allowed him to grow and put down roots so that his children and their children could grow and prosper.
One day Li Hua came to the Penghu Island by chance. Standing on an island on the line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait with the north wind blowing, he was thinking again. On the left side was the land where he was born and on the right side was the land where he was nurtured. The tension and opposition between the two sides had never really stopped. If there were some way for the leaders of both sides to understand the will of the heavens, it would be wonderful. He mumbled, “The territory shall divide in two; each will be sovereign for a hundred and ninety.” Doesn’t that mean Taiwan and Mainland China are meant to have a competition of ‘one hundred and ninety’? If that were meant to be, the answer will be revealed after “one hundred and ninety”. All the cloak and dagger on both sides is making it impossible to come true. Why are people still so insistent? Is it for face? For ambition? For vanity? For power? Associate In the movie “Red Cliff”, who is the real winner? How many lives are destroyed and how many families broken? “No matter what, man cannot go against the wills of heaven,” thought Li Hua. He decided he must tell the world about the “heart of
heaven” that Jiang Tai-gong wanted to spread because heartless wars would only bring misery and ultimately regrets. “I have to tell the true meaning of ‘Qiankun Wannian Ge’ to Chinese people around the world, maybe even peace-loving westerners.”
“I am going to do what Confucius did and travel all over the world to spread the word of peace,” continued Li Hua. With that, the eighty-one year old man got up and prepared for his departure, to do his part for the “one hundred and ninety” peace. He packed his luggage and put in his book Qiankun Wannian Ge Half Understood, which he spent the past few decades writing, and boldly embarked on his journey.
“Dear, it’s time to go!”
When was the line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait drawn? This is an intriguing question.