The last dim light of the island gradually faded behind me. I was almost to the high sea and beyond the reach of the Nationalist Chinese agents. In my whole life I had never felt such a sense of real freedom. After fourteen months in prison and over four years under surveillance I still could not believe that I had finally managed to escape from captivity.
This feeling of freedom was so overwhelming that it was physically almost unbearable. Even more exhilarating was my thought that I could now repudiate publicly all the “confessions” and “repentance” forced from me and used by the Nationalist government and party to humiliate me. The fact that I risked my life to flee Formosa is itself a complete repudiation of the regime and all their propaganda aimed at discrediting me.
As I looked to the future I suddenly realized that fate would thrust upon me the role of a spokesman for the rights and aspirations of my compatriots. In the past I had considered myself purely an academician, but now a new destiny was to radically change my whole life. A deep sense of fatalism and unreality permeated my being.
The three worlds in which I had lived in the past decades came distinctively and simultaneously into my thoughts: the Chinese world of my ethnic heritage; the Japanese world in which I spent most of my youth, received my early education, and which was once politically dominant over Formosa; and the western world to which I had been closely linked ideologically and intellectually and to which I was now returning.
I was now heading toward a blank and uncertain future, but I was certain of one thing: the life ahead would never be the same as the life I had lived.
I became sharply aware that my experience symbolized the destiny of a whole generation of Formosans — their life and tragedy.
I KNOW VERY LITTLE about my ancestors, but since on my father’s side, I am of the fifth generation born in Formosa, I must assume that his forefathers were among the extremely poor farmers and fishermen who left Fukien more than a hundred years ago to settle on the rugged island frontier.
My humorous old grandfather used to say with a laugh that his grandfather was a fisherman who had reached southern Formosa with nothing more than a thin pair of pants — too poor to possess even a shirt. In his later days he entertained himself by drawing tip a family tree, but it begins only with this shirtless ancestor. He seemed unable to remember or was uninterested in tracing the family lineage back across the Straits to China. We do know that in Fukien province, near Amoy, there is a village in which the family name Peng is quite common, but on Formosa this name is used almost exclusively by Hakka people whose forefathers came principally from the hinterlands of Kwangtung province, and whose traditional social life, costume, and dialect set them apart from the people of Fukienese descent. However, my family is not Hakka.
Technically speaking, the great majority of Chinese who crossed to the Formosan frontier before 1875 were “outlaws” and “renegades” in the eyes of imperial Peking, and this must he understood as the background for much of contemporary Formosa’s unhappy relationship with the continent. The island was a wild jungle-covered place, inhabited only by headhunting savages of Indonesian or Malayan origin when Europeans first explored it. The Dutch and Spanish opened it to settlement and agricultural development in the seventeenth century, established missions and schools, opened roads in the southwestern region, and began to import cheap Chinese labor from nearby Fukien. In 1663 they were driven out by an adventurous sea-baron named Cheng Cheng-K’ien, known to the Western world as Koxinga. This man, half-Japanese and half-Chinese, dreamed of conquering the continental provinces, but was driven off to Quemoy and Formosa. Cheng died before he could realize this ambition, but for twenty years his son ruled in Formosa, developing a maritime principality quite cut off from China, but thriving on commerce with Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. He had the same dream as his father, until at last in 1683, Peking sent a great expeditionary force to Formosa. This expedition destroyed the independent principality, and after a garrison administration was established at Tainan, imperial edicts forbade further Chinese emigration.
Although these edicts, renewed again and again, remained on the books until 1875, they were ignored by impoverished farmers and fishermen who found conditions in Fukien and Kwangtung intolerable. Some of these people went to Southeast Asia and the Indies, others went to the Philippines, and tens of thousands slipped over to Formosa which was an open frontier, poorly and lightly governed. Here, there was new land available for anyone bold enough to drive back the aborigines and clear the land of trees and scrub.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the southwestern lowlands were fairly well settled, and adventuresome farmers were pushing into the northern regions as well.
My great-great-grandfather, the shirtless fisherman, was one of the tens of thousands of emigres who broke with the past in China and ventured to make a new life in southern Formosa. He settled at the seaside village of Tung-kang, about thirty miles south of present-day Kaohsiung. In this rough region he found a wife and established a family. Tung-kang lay at the mouth of the largest river in the region and not far from a massive mountain wall that runs from north to south throughout the island. At that time Hakka immigrants from south China were pushing eastward across the narrow coastal plain to the foothills nearby, quarreling incessantly with the “tamed” aborigines, the Pepohuan, who were still clinging to their ancestral tribal lands in that region. Southward along the coast were lawless villages of “wreckers” and pirates who farmed a little, fished a little, and plundered any luckless ship stranded nearby.
Around 1850 my great-grandfather and his fellow villagers began to hear more and more often of Western “barbarians,” for British and American ships were beginning to touch here and there along Formosa’s western shores, seeking to exchange silver dollars and opium for camphor brought out of the hills by the Hakka bordermen. By 1855 adventuresome American traders had established a base within a stockade at Kaohsiung (then known as Ta-kow), and had run up the American flag at the entrance to the lagoon anchorage. Four years later Spanish Catholic missionaries landed at this harbor and pushed inland several miles to establish a Christian mission at the Hakka village of Pithau, a little north of Tung-kang. The appearance of these bold strangers created a great sensation, and I am sure my great-grandfather was curious about them.
In 1865, about the time of my grandfather’s birth, English Presbyterian missionaries also established themselves at Kaohsiung, an event that was to have profound influence upon the future of the Peng family. The mission leader was Dr. J. L. Maxwell, a physician who had graduated from the University of Edinburgh and from French and German schools. He first founded a small hospital at the port town, and after some years moved his mission and clinic to the larger city of Tainan, some thirty-five miles north of Kaohsiung. My great-grandfather is reputed to have been one of the early converts to Christianity.
Within the next twenty years, the Presbyterians founded schools and set up a printing-press which issued texts and a newspaper printed in the romanized Amoy dialect. They developed the pioneer medical service program in Formosa and ultimately established about forty outlying chapels and congregations in the southern region. As a youth my grandfather was employed as a cook for the missionary doctor, Dr. Thomas Barkley. He became a convert and until his death in 1945 remained a devoted and active leader in Formosan Christian life. Mission histories speak of him as “Pastor Peng,” but I do not know if he was ever formally ordained. I know nothing of his first wife except that she was reputed to have had a fearful temper. He had five sons and two daughters by her and a daughter by a second marriage to a widow.
Clearly my grandfather was happy in his association with the foreign teachers and doctors and was interested in Western culture and in the changes that were so swiftly taking place around him. He moved steadily away from traditional Chinese life through two revolutionary periods. From about 1850 until 1895 the island of Formosa was the center of frequent international controversies. The Western maritime world and Japan demanded that the Chinese government light and chart its coast and maintain law and order within the area it claimed to govern. They demanded that Peking put an end to piracy in Formosan waters and establish some control over the headhunting aborigines living in the mountains and along the eastern coast. When the Chinese government made all sorts of promises but did nothing, the foreign powers — England, France, the United States, and Japan — proposed various corrective measures. In 1874, when my grandfather was a young boy, Japan sent an expeditionary force to occupy the southern tip of Formosa until Peking grudgingly paid a large indemnity and took some steps toward reform.
Beginning in 1875, two comparatively progressive governors arranged to cancel the edicts forbidding Chinese migration to the island and removed many of the restrictions upon expansion of settlement and general economic development. The imperial Peking government soon lost interest, and the Formosans found themselves once again at the mercy of a set of rapacious Chinese officials. In 1884, when my grandfather was a youth of nineteen, France blockaded the island and elements of the French Foreign Legion occupied Keelung. Again Peking sent a comparatively progressive governor to Formosa and the French withdrew. Within the next five years Governor Lin had made Formosa the most modern territory within the Chinese empire. He built a railway line from Keelung to Hsinchu, introduced a post and telegraph system, bought ships to serve Formosan trade with Southeast Asia, laid a cable from Tamsui to Amoy, tried to introduce electric lights, built a “School for Western Studies” at Taipei, attempted to found a government-supported hospital, and tried to overhaul and reorganize the land-tax system. In 1887, when my grandfather was in his early twenties, Formosa was declared a “Province of China.”
Many of these innovations were possible because the Formosans were much less traditional than their distant cousins on the continent. Thanks to the stimulus of maritime trade promoted by the foreign merchants and consuls now settled at the ports, the economy made spectacular gains. But when the progressive Governor Lin was recalled in 1891, the traditional, inefficient and unimaginably corrupt scholar-bureaucracy from China let most of the reforms lapse.
Throughout these years the attention of men like my grandfather had been drawn away from traditional China and turned to the Western world. Peking’s neglect and the abusive administration of Chinese agents sent to the island on temporary assignments angered many Formosans.
Then in 1895 Peking handed Formosa over to the Japanese. Formosa was used to buy off the Japanese armies prepared then to march to Peking after defeating the Chinese forces in Manchuria. The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed in April 1895. For a few days in May before the Japanese arrived to take control, there was a confused and ill-organized attempt to establish a “Republic of Formosa.” This attempt failed, and after the Japanese flag was raised at Taipei in June, imperial Japanese troops marched southward. Thousands of Formosans took to the hills to join outlawed bands in guerrilla warfare, a hopeless attempt to prevent Japanese occupation of the island. Chinese authorities and soldiers had fled back to China from the northern region. In the south, around Tainan, a Chinese general known as “Black Flag” Liu held out until October, when all organized resistance collapsed and General Lin escaped to Amoy disguised as an old woman.
Even though Peking had not consulted any Formosans in reaching the decision to cede Formosa to Japan, Tokyo offered all Formosans and Chinese on Formosa a two-year grace period in which to declare a choice of nationality. Those who wished could leave the island and take their property with them; those who preferred to remain Chinese subjects could register as resident aliens,” but if they did not do this within the two-year period, they automatically became subjects of the Japanese emperor. A few thousand Formosans left for the continent and a few thousand registered as aliens, but the great majority — some 3,000,000 — remained on their native island, and my grandparents were among them.
At that time cholera, plague, malaria, tuberculosis, black river fever, trachoma, and many other diseases were endemic in Formosa, giving the island an evil reputation. Except for Governor Liu’s short-lived effort to found a hospital at Taipei, no Chinese official had ever done anything to clean up the island. The concept of public health and sanitation was not a continental Chinese idea. The incoming Japanese forces had lost nearly 12,000 men who either died or were totally disabled from the effects of disease during the four-month campaign of subjugation. Mortality rates among the common people were spectacularly high. The nominal commander-in-chief of the Japanese forces was an imperial prince and despite the elaborate precautions taken to protect this exalted personage, he, too, died at Tainan of malaria and dysentery contracted on the march southward. This made an enormous impression at Tokyo.
The imperial government saw at once that if Japan were to establish itself successfully in this new island possession, Formosa would have to be cleaned up. But until 1898 the military governors were preoccupied with subjugation of the guerrilla bands in the agricultural lowlands and in the foothills, and public health problems were left in the hands of military officers who knew little about them. Japan had no hope of establishing a permanent administration if the mortality rates among her soldiers and civilians remained so high. A healthy Formosan labor force also would be required to make the colony a success. However, the only medical services then available to the common people were the Presbyterian mission hospitals and clinics at Taipei and Tainan. Something had to be done, and done quickly, to supply medical services on a large scale.
Therefore, in 1898, when Tokyo sent down the fourth governor general, General Baron Kodama Gentaro, a military man of unusual distinction, he brought with him a medical doctor, Dr. Goto Shimpei, to serve as his civil administrator and deputy in all but purely military matters. For six years these two men relentlessly carried through a program designed to reorganize the Formosan administration, economy, and social life. No Formosan family remained untouched. One of Goto’s first moves was to establish a medical school at Taipei, which offered a short course to train men urgently needed for the proposed island wide public health clean-up campaign. He advertised for students, offering each a small monthly subsidy.
By this time my grandfather had become a lay minister serving the English Presbyterian church mission. He was a poor man with five sons and three daughters to support. The boys gathered firewood in the hills and did the most menial work in the town in order to help support the family. My grandfather was much too poor to send all his sons to school, but when the new government offered this subsidy for medical studies, he urged his third son — my father — to enter the course at Taipei.
The Japanese were having difficulty winning Formosan cooperation, for Tokyo’s military authorities and the civil police were very severe. The island people had often in the past tried to throw off Chinese rule and had resisted the Japanese troops in 1895; now for a decade they offered passive resistance in the towns and resorted to sabotage and guerrilla action in the more distant countryside. Generally speaking, there was a mutual dislike and mistrust on both sides that was to continue for many years. My grandfather, however, was an optimist, a man of good will, and intensely interested in new ideas. His long association with the missionary doctors and teachers at Tainan influenced him to look away from China and the past, and try to make the best of the dramatic change the Japanese were determined to bring about. Though lacking in formal education, he was a truly enlightened man.
At a young age my father entered the medical school at Taipei. At Tamsui and Taipei the young stranger was introduced to members of the Presbyterian community. There he met my mother who was a school girl at the Canadian mission in Tamsui. Her family had settled long ago in Patou village, on the road between Keelung and present-day Taipei. Her parents were acquainted with the first foreigners who passed that way and with the missionaries in the northern region. They too had become Christians sometime after 1872 when the Canadian Dr. George MacKay founded his Tamsui mission. My maternal grandparents were brewers of rice wine, and therefore were well off in comparison with Pastor Peng’s family. They had accumulated enough capital to buy up rice fields in the fertile northern region. My maternal grandfather was a rather quiet, gentle, easy-going man who left much of the management of the brewery to his hard-working wife. When the Japanese came, brewing was made a government monopoly, and all private breweries were bought by the government. My mother had two brothers and a sister. Her elder brother was sent to Japan to study at the Doshisha University, an American missionary foundation in Kyoto. He returned to become a Presbyterian pastor, chairman of the MacKay Mission Hospital Board, and moderator of the northern Presbyterian synod in Formosa. Meanwhile my mother’s second brother attended the Tamsui Mission School and then became a businessman.
When my father had finished his medical training at the government school he spent two years as an intern at MacKay Hospital, Taipei, and during this time my parents married. Moving down to the small coastal town of Ta-chia (Tai-ko) in central Formosa, my father opened his first practice. This old coastal community of less than twenty thousand inhabitants was then quite famous; it was a very prosperous community of household craftsmen producing finely woven hats and mats for export to a world market, In its best years Ta-chia sent nearly ten million hats to the United States alone, and the number exported to Japan was very large.
Once established in Ta-chia, my father prospered too. A doctor’s income was rather high and in every community the doctor enjoyed prestige and influence. Since my father was the first in our family to earn money, he sent his brothers to the medical school as soon as he was able to do so. One after the other they too began to prosper, and the brothers together took great pleasure in making my grandfather’s life more comfortable.
My proud grandfather discovered that he had in effect founded a “medical dynasty,” for his sons’ children either took medical degrees or married doctors, and their children in turn are entering the medical profession. At least fifteen members, including five women, of the Peng family have completed their medical degrees, and a third generation, including my son and some nephews and nieces, are now in medical school.
My father enjoyed a close relationship with his brothers throughout his life, and all the brothers were keenly interested in education, determined to secure the best possible opportunities for every child in the Peng family.
Father remained in practice at Ta-chia for eighteen years, and as he prospered he invested in rice land until he had acquired forty chia, which is a substantial estate by Formosan standards. He planned to leave ten chia to each of his children, which would enable us to support our children when the time came to send them to school. I remember well that often as we rode northward on the train, he used to point out the golden paddy, saying with pride, “Those rice fields are all ours.”
I was born at Ta-chia on August 15, 1923, the youngest of three brothers and a sister. As we grew older we discovered what a truly remarkable man our father was, and why he commanded such wide respect and affection in the Ta-chia community. He loved horses and sometimes kept four of them at one time. He always had at least one horse and a groom to attend it. He would ride out in the early morning to make distant house calls, which was not the usual thing in Formosa. I vividly remember a day when he came back riding at a furious gallop with an angry water-buffalo chasing along behind him. On another occasion his horse was actually gored by one of these surly beasts. Throughout his life he rode for pleasure and was at one time an enthusiastic member of the local Japanese riding club of Kaohsiung.
His interests were varied and in some respects quite extraordinary. He learned to box in the Chinese style, he was an enthusiastic gardener who cultivated chrysanthemums and rare orchids, he took up ink-painting, and he learned to play the violin. His relations with his tenant-farmers were good. I recall how often they came to discuss the shares to be paid out of crops in the forthcoming season or to ask his understanding for not paying an agreed amount, his large clinic was also the scene of many charitable acts, for this kind-hearted man often overlooked failures to pay for treatment and gave free attention to patients too poor to meet the usual fees. Both he and my mother were devout Christians who served as elders in the local Presbyterian congregations and supported charities and the educational work of the Formosan church.
I can recall only one issue that seriously disturbed the harmony of our family. It was common practice in Formosa for well-to-do families to “adopt” girls who were really servants. The girls were taken into the households when only five or six years old, and money was paid to their families in return for which the girls served as maids until they were marriageable. In some households these servants were well treated, but in some they were abused. We always had one or two in our household, and when my sister was married, an aunt gave her a servant who remained with her for many years. When my brothers entered higher school they attacked this practice as being a form of slavery. They criticized it harshly, sometimes saying, “You call yourselves Christians and these are slaves!” My embarrassed and troubled parents tried to justify the practice by pointing out that the handmaidens in our house were very well treated. Nevertheless, my brothers were often distressed by this situation and never felt completely comfortable with it.
When I was about five years old I was taken to China. I remember how cold it was in Shanghai, and I recall the long flights of steps to the newly constructed tomb of Sun Yat-sen near Nanking. Mr. Huang Chao-chin, one of my father’s acquaintances who was then in the foreign ministry at Nanking, guided us about the capital. He had just returned from study in the United States. I was too young to comprehend all that we saw, but this trip gave my father and mother an opportunity to compare the living conditions of the Chinese in China with conditions in Formosa after thirty-three years of Japanese rule. They were of course impressed by the immensity of China and felt some nostalgia toward the land of their ancestors. However, in terms of social development, industrialization, education, and public health they felt that, compared to Formosa, there was still much to be done in China.
When my sister and brothers were old enough to attend school, Father rented a Japanese-style house in Taipei near the old American consulate. Mother stayed there with us and Father came up for weekends whenever he could. Occasionally we would all return to Ta-chia to be with him, and the sixty-mile train trip was always a great adventure.
On entering school we children began to move away from the protection and warmth of a large family in a rural town and into the more complicated life of a colonial capital. At Ta-chia we were the children of a prominent family pampered and petted by household servants and surrounded by our Formosan friends. At Taipei after being rigidly examined, we were allowed to enter the best Japanese schools, attended principally by sons and daughters of Japanese officials.
The situation for all young Formosans was quite peculiar at that time. From 1895 until 1922 the Japanese had maintained separate primary schools for children of Japanese colonials in Formosa. There had been a legitimate excuse for this in the opening years of the Japanese era when Formosan children could not understand or speak proper Japanese, but after twenty-five years had passed that was no longer true. Nevertheless, the separate school arrangement was perpetuated through prejudice. World War I had brought about the first organized Formosan demands for home rule and an end to economic, social, and political discrimination. Japan’s participation in the European war on the Allied side had stimulated an extraordinary expansion of industry in Japan and a corresponding growth of urban population and industrial slums. The new urban proletariat demanded wider suffrage in the same period in which revolutionary movements began to sweep Europe. The Russian imperial system was destroyed, and England, Holland, and France were challenged in their colonies. President Wilson of the United States was proclaiming the equality of man and stressing minority rights to self-determination.
Against this background Japan had demanded at Versailles formal international recognition of racial equality. Formosan university students at Tokyo promptly petitioned the Japanese government to end racial discrimination in the colonial schools. In 1918 a commoner became the prime minister of Japan for the first time in history, and Tokyo began to make slight concessions in Formosa. For example, a civilian was appointed governor general after twenty-five years of rule by admirals and generals, and in 1922, the year before my birth, discrimination was theoretically done away with in the schools. The first generation of Formosans had now matured under the Japanese flag and many became bilingual. Their children in turn were bilingual, as was I, from earliest childhood.
At the time I entered school the law said that any child speaking adequate Japanese could study in the primary schools previously reserved for Japanese children. Nevertheless discrimination continued in fact. An examination system screened all applicants. The schools in which Japanese students were in the majority were better equipped and generally had better teachers than the schools in which Formosan pupils were in the majority.
Mother had taken a house in the Japanese section of town. My father’s early training in the Japanese medical program, his professional status, and his wealth gave us a privileged position. Nevertheless we underwent severe examinations before my brothers and my sister were admitted to the Kensei Primary School and I was allowed to enter the Taisho Kindergarten nearby. Only one other Formosan child was in that kindergarten. Our teachers were kind and good, but nothing could conceal the fact that we were expected to consider ourselves fortunate.
After one year in kindergarten I passed the Kensei Primary School examinations and joined my brothers and sister there. In the second year my mother decided to return to Ta-chia. She took me with her and left my maternal grandmother to care for the others. I entered the local primary school for Japanese children which had an enrollment of about 200 pupils. I believe I was the only Formosan boy enrolled at that time. Here the Japanese principal developed an unusual affection for me, always turning to me with the questions other boys had failed to answer. On the small public occasions of a primary school, I was again and again put forward to represent the student body.
In this pleasant way I spent two years, but before such treatment could altogether spoil me or spoil my relations with my fellow-pupils, my father decided to suspend his practice in Ta-chia for a period of advanced study in Japan. It was now 1933. My sister was graduating from the best girls’ school in Formosa and was about to go to Tokyo to take entrance examinations for a women’s medical college. At Taipei one of my brothers was attending the First Middle School and the other had entered the Koto Gakko (“higher school”). Both schools were considered to be the best in Formosa.
During these years we heard much talk of the Japanese invasion of China and of the “Shanghai Incident.” It aroused a complex feeling in us. The Japanese newspapers carried stories of the noble deeds of Japanese soldiers and of Japan’s righteous purpose in subduing the backward Chinese. Teachers and students at school echoed these patriotic sentiments, but at home we heard our parents talking about the brave Chinese who had resisted the Japanese invasion.
On the day of our departure from Ta-chia, the principal of my school brought the entire student body to the station to see us off. This was an unprecedented gesture. We talked about it then, and as I grew older I discovered that many thoughtful Japanese civilians did not approve of the government’s discriminatory policy. There were unprejudiced teachers and other intellectuals who sincerely attempted to treat Formosans as equals and were eager to bridge the gap between the Japanese and the island people.
This first trip to Japan in 1933 took me into a world quite different from anything I had known before. At that time in Formosa, the Japanese were a self-conscious minority of about 300,000 ruling a population of about 4,000,000, and no one could conceal the differences between the two groups. In Tokyo our family found itself lost in a sea of Japanese in one of the world’s largest cities. Nobody noticed us because we were Formosans; we enjoyed no special privileges nor were we treated as curiosities. My sister passed her examinations and entered the medical school, I was enrolled in a primary school near our temporary home in Kamatu-Ku (“Kamata ward”), and my father entered a large private hospital in Ogimachi to take a special course in gynecology. We spent over one year in Japan.
By this time I was an ardent baseball fan. When Babe Ruth visited Japan I boldly wrote a letter to him and in return received his autograph, which became my treasure.
When we returned to Formosa my father decided to open a new hospital in the thriving southern port city of Takao (Kaohsiung). The government had undertaken a great industrial expansion program there. New hydroelectric generators at Sun-Moon Lake were ready to supply power, the old Takao Lagoon had been dredged to accommodate ocean-going freighters, and docks warehouses, and industrial sites were being constructed to anticipate the great thrust southward into Southeast Asia and the Indies. The public was aware of this ultimate purpose and under this intensive development program Takao had become a booming city.
Here, a short distance from the industrial area, my father purchased a rather large Japanese hotel, converted it into a clinic, and turned one wing into a pediatrics hospital to be run by one of my uncles. My energetic mother assisted in the day-to-day management details. The hospital prospered at once, it was a financial success, and my father’s reputation grew as a specialist in treating ovarian tumors.
When I was twelve years old I was enrolled in the local primary school for my fifth year. By now I was beginning to have sharp preferences and dislikes; I took a great dislike to brush- painting, and reserved my greatest enthusiasm for baseball. Our school masters took baseball very seriously, treating it almost as if it were a military training program. Although I was a poor batter, I was an excellent fielder, and played on our team when it won a citywide championship. Needless to say, my Babe Ruth autograph gave me great prestige among my classmates.
From my earliest childhood the problem of being a Formosan had become psychologically more and more complex. I spoke Japanese perfectly and usually stood high in my class; nevertheless I was always self-conscious, constantly aware that I was different from my Japanese classmates. My name embarrassed me; the Chinese character for Peng is in Japanese pronounced “Ho,” and when it was called out in the classroom it often provoked laughter. Mother wore the conventional dress of an upper-class Formosan woman, but when she came to the Japanese school on public occasions I was embarrassed because she looked so different from the other mothers present.
On entering Takao Middle School I found that about one fourth of my schoolmates were Formosans, the majority of whom were excellent students for they had been obliged to pass stiff examinations designed to restrict Formosan access to higher education and the professions. The colonial administration saw to it that the cut-off point in educational opportunity came at this middle school level. The theory seemed to be that it was useful to train Formosan laborers to read and write at the most elementary level, but dangerous to encourage development of an intellectual or professional leadership within the island.
A change of principals took place soon after I entered this school; a small, gentle man was replaced by a tall, austere one who had the reputation of being a hard disciplinarian. His severe alcoholism caused his head to shake constantly even when he addressed the students in public. We were immediately subjected to a Spartan regimentation. In addition to meeting a heavy class-room schedule, each of us was obliged to prepare and tend a small garden plot on the school grounds for which we had to carry in buckets of human excrement to apply as fertilizer, and to work in teams cutting grass and doing other manual labor on the grounds. We resented it all, but it was required discipline and was intended to toughen us for ultimate military service, As in middle schools throughout the empire, we were required to wear drab gray uniforms, visored caps, and puttees, all of which were extremely unsuitable for Takao’s tropical climate We were punished if anyone reported seeing us off-campus without the uniform. We could not wear the cool, comfortable, and cheap wooden footgear (geta) that most students preferred, we were not supposed to ride bicycles to school but had to walk, and we were absolutely forbidden to go to the movies; any student discovered at the cinema might be expelled from the school.
We ranged in age from about twelve to eighteen, and these restrictions irked us. Like all boys, we took risks. None of us will forget the day our principal, in his official capacity, attended an athletic meet held at a girls’ school across town. On such occasions the girls all wore short, tight athletic bloomers, and a number of our middle school students sneaked to the edge of the crowd in an effort to spy on the girls in this brief attire Our principal happened to catch sight of them, and the next morning the entire student body was subjected to a furious tirade, a screaming and almost hysterical denunciation. In the view of this martinet we were not fit to be soldiers for the emperor. We thought this very unjust, and gossiped about the male swimming instructor at the girls’ school who was allowed to enter the pool with his young charges.
The principal was typical of many military men and superpatriots in Japan at that time. The invasion of China had been resumed, and the so-called “China Incident” that began with the Marco Polo Bridge affair near Peking in July 1937 did not end until August 1945. Reservists were being called up throughout the empire, and one by one our teachers were leaving for the front. We students were obliged to march in great lantern parades celebrating countless victories won by the emperor’s soldiers in China, and we heard our Japanese friends sending off husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers with the chilling farewell, “Rippa ni shinde kudasai!” (“Please die beautifully!”)
We had one peculiar middle-aged military instructor named Tokunaga who was rather popular He was straightforward, unprejudiced, and sometimes entertaining. If he thought a student was not acting briskly enough or seemed effeminate, he would rush forward and grab for the student’s crotch “to see if he is really a man!” We missed him when he went off to the war, and were horrified later to hear that he had died on Guadalcanal where, it was said, he had starved to death and had been eaten by his companions.
Our fanatic principal and our military instructors inculcated in us a drill-master enthusiasm for war, lecturing us constantly on the backwardness and cowardice of the Chinese people, the heroic bravery of the Japanese, and Japan’s self-sacrifice on China’s behalf. We Formosan students found ourselves in an awkward and painful position. My father was well read and kept himself informed of developments in China as best he could. Following his example, I may have kept myself better informed than some of my classmates, for I was a newspaper addict throughout my primary and middle school days, always reading every page of the papers very carefully. It is a habit I have never lost.
The China War and foreign affairs were frequent topics of conversation in our home. Both my parents had foreign friends, members of the English and Canadian Presbyterian missions, who visited our home from time to time, and we visited them in return. I suppose that none of my middle school classmates had such foreign associations and wide foreign interests.
I had begun the study of English in my first year in middle school, and I enjoyed it. It is possible that foreign-language studies have always appealed to me as a subconscious avenue of escape, an avenue leading toward the great world beyond both China and Japan, and from the dilemma in which we were placed by the war in China. My grandparents had known the disorder and lawlessness of the last years of Chinese rule in Formosa, and had obviously prospered under the Japanese administration. T was born a subject of the Japanese emperor, and every day was exposed to the propaganda of Japanese patriotism, but I was also a Chinese by blood, language, and family tradition. At this impressionable age the English language offered an intellectual passport to the Western world, which to our family meant Canada, England, and the United States, thanks to their association with the Christian church.
English was therefore my favorite course, and I achieved some distinction in it. My Japanese teacher, Mr. Amatsuchi, took great pride in my accomplishment, but unfortunately these were the years of growing anti-British and anti-American fanaticism among the Japanese militarists, and our school principal was a fanatic.
A student was expected to spend five full years in middle school, but the regulations also provided that a youth was entitled to sit for entrance examinations to a higher school at the end of his fourth year. The endorsement of the middle school principal was customary but not technically required. I stood high in my classes scholastically, and my father wanted me to go to Japan to sit for examinations. My older sister had previously done this successfully. The competition would be keen, but we were confident that I would succeed. I therefore applied to my principal for his approval and for a transfer of records and recommendation. This he flatly refused. The reason was simple — he would not allow any of his students to do so. My father then called on him at his office to remind him with some emphasis, that “this is the right of every qualified student. I want my son to do so. You have no right to refuse.” The principal bluntly retorted, “Withdraw your son from this school.” Just as bluntly, my father said, “I shall.”
With an unpleasant memory of this colonial martinet lingering in my mind, I set out for Tokyo by myself. I was to stay with my sister while I took the examinations for the Second Higher School at Sendai. She had finished her medical work, and had married a rather successful Formosan businessman, a graduate of Keio University. To my chagrin, but possibly to my benefit, I failed. I had been an outstanding student in a small colonial middle school at Takao, far from metropolitan Tokyo, but it was not quite enough. Undoubtedly I was overconfident. Youth and homesickness, too, probably had something to do with it. I was then sixteen years of age.
Now I had a problem. I had to find a middle school in Japan to finish my study at this level. In principle, middle school administrators were always reluctant to accept a student transferring in his last year. After a painful search I was accepted for registration in a mission school, the Kansei Gakuin, located midway between the great international commercial port of Kobe and the industrial city of Osaka. It was not much more than an hour’s ride to Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto. This was a school much favored by aristocratic and wealthy families. The college was not first rate, and the lower school had a poor scholastic reputation. It was considered a refuge for the spoiled sons of indulgent wealthy parents.
I did not live on campus, but found instead rather simple accommodations with a farmer’s family living not far away in the suburbs. It was a rather primitive lodging by standards I had known at home. I had no servants to do things for me which meant I had to wash my own linen and take care of my room. We depended upon a well in the dooryard for our water supply, and I thought the food poor compared to our varied Formosan table.
By this time my second brother was at Keio Medical School in Tokyo, and my sister continued to live there. I was miserably homesick for several months, and when I found myself alone in the evenings, I sometimes cried. But this passed, and when it did I began thoroughly to enjoy myself. It would be impossible to imagine a greater contrast with life at that barbarous Takao Middle School. The Kansei Gakuin seemed to have assembled a faculty of entertaining eccentrics, nonconformists who loved teaching but did not fit into the drab para-military regimentation of the state schools. Class requirements were very easy, nevertheless I worked hard, eager to absorb everything offered on the campus. At the chapel services I enjoyed singing familiar Christian hymns in Japanese, and for a time I admired the extremely handsome and well-dressed young music teacher. His exceedingly smart Western clothes and manner fascinated me. When we occasionally sang in English I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
The one strict rule in this school forbade us to go to the famed Takarazuka Theatre, an all-girl revue patterned after New York’s Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. The brief attire of Takao’s school girls and the costumes of the girls at the Takarazuka Theatre seemed to lack something in the eyes of school administrators.
The school itself was situated in the most westernized district in all Japan, a strip of suburban residential communities where many foreign businessmen and consular people maintained substantial homes. Some of my classmates came from wealthy westernized families in this area. We were free to travel on weekends, so I often went to Osaka or Kobe to wander about by myself. Sometimes I went to classical Kyoto. I was learning to enjoy Japanese food, and best of all, I now had no feeling of self-conscious strangeness. Everywhere I was treated as an equal; I was no longer a subordinate colonial.
On the contrary I found myself something of a favorite on campus, a Formosan who unexpectedly spoke Japanese surprisingly well. Also I was at the top of my classes. Even the military instructor liked me. I had been so thoroughly disciplined by the Takao martinets that I performed with a precision noteworthy among my easy-going classmates. In consequence I was usually assigned to carry the flag during parade drill, the highest honor the military instructor could think to confer upon a student.
Throughout these pleasant months I was working at my studies late into the night and managed to emerge as the outstanding student of the school. The school year ended in February. I applied to take examinations for admission to two prestigious higher schools, the economics department at Keio University and the literary and arts course in the Third Higher School at Kyoto, known to everyone as San-ko. I passed both exams with some distinction. This created a great sensation at the Kansei Gakuin, for no graduate of that school had ever successfully passed into the Kyoto school. It was considered one of the two finest higher schools in Japan, sharing this distinction with the First High School in Tokyo, and I, a Formosan, had done this after only one year at Kansei Gakuin.
I cabled the news to my parents. They were extremely pleased although not altogether happy that I had decided not to study medicine. I was the maverick in the family. A long exchange of correspondence followed. Both my parents were disturbed, for as matters stood in Formosa, there was little hope for a distinguished career outside the medical profession, and even in the medical academic profession, only one Formosan had reached the rank of a full professor.
Suppressing their disappointment, they gave me full support, observing only that the youngest sons and daughters always have their own way. My brother at the Keio Medical School understood me rather well, and at every turn gave me good advice when I faced a choice between Keio University and the Dai Sanoto Gakko (San-ko).
Scholastically the Keio was not to be compared with San-ko, but once admitted to it, I could expect to move right up the ladder through the university to a bachelor’s degree without further difficult examinations. The rate of admission to Keio was about one in every sixteen applicants, hence the numerical competition was stiff, but the quality of San-ko applicants was the highest in the nation. Nevertheless, when a student finished at San-ko, he had once again to face a stiff competitive examination when he applied for admission to one of the imperial universities at the summit of the Japanese school system.
Without hesitation I enrolled at San-ko. Moving from Kobe to Kyoto, I entered upon the happiest period of my life. The school was well known for its liberal tradition. The San-ko motto was Ji-yu (“Liberty” or “Freedom”) and when I entered, it was fighting hard to maintain that liberal tradition. In 1940 it was under great pressure from the militarists. The China War was drawing Japan deeper into the continent. While Japanese recruits were being called upon to “die beautifully” the national economy was being strained to prepare for further escalation of war. Our school administration and faculty were struggling to preserve a degree of intellectual and personal freedom for them selves and their students, a freedom then rare in Japan, and about to vanish.
In Kyoto I found a rooming house near the famous fifteenth-century temple, the Ginkaku-ji. In a peculiar Kyoto tradition, meals were not served in student lodgings. Instead each man had to go out to one of the many tiny shops nearby catering to students. It was the same with bathing. I soon established a routine, studying until very late, sometimes reading through the night and I spent many hours browsing through Kyoto’s many old bookshops. The master of my lodging house treated me with great kindness, and we became good friends.
My father now indulged me by providing an allowance of sixty yen per month, far more than I needed for food and lodging, and perhaps twice as much as the average student had to spend. I began to buy books. Soon I had a collection that was unusual for a student in the higher school. One day while walking through the grounds of the ancient Yoshida Shrine, I suddenly was swept with an overwhelming sense of exhilaration, perhaps the happiest moment of my life, for I felt that I had no cares, and could buy all the books I wanted. I was seventeen, an age when all things seem possible.
I had entered the literary and arts course rather than the science course. This was an intensive program of directed reading in history, literature, and philosophy. We were stimulated by a sense of pride and friendly competition among ourselves. Each of us was eager to be the first to call attention to new discoveries. Everything and anything in print beckoned to us and we had insatiable intellectual curiosity. Each man thought he was a philosopher. We were visionaries at that age, and the friendships formed were deep and emotional, perhaps unconsciously assuring ourselves a little desperately that we knew much more of the world than our elders and the common man beyond the campus gates. A strong sense of membership in an elite led us to look at the world with a degree of supercilious youthful contempt.
We were living in the shadow of war. It was inevitable that every graduate who did not go on to college somewhere would be drafted and leave for China. Some of my fellow students were true individualists. In this age group, from sixteen to nineteen years, there was a sudden blossoming of personality. Talents appeared. Each man was free to follow his own interests and these were frequently outside the formal courses of instruction. At the core of the system was intensive reading and passionate discussions among ourselves and with our instructors.
Great emphasis was placed upon intensive language training, and I excelled in this. We had all completed four or five years of English training in the middle schools, and however imperfectly we spoke the language, our ability to read was well developed. Now another foreign language was required, and I chose French. This meant four hours per week of training in grammar, five hours of reading, and three hours of conversation, much of it with first-rate teachers. I did well in spoken French, but in all language courses the emphasis was on reading. As one of our teachers said, we were not being trained as tour guides, we were being trained to absorb foreign culture and thought.
I soon found myself intoxicated with everything French, especially French history, language, and literature. I read these subjects in translation and in the original, and I joined a small informal group of students brought together by one of our Japanese professors. It was our custom to meet very early in the morning before regular classes assembled in order to read and discuss French literature and philosophy.
In our first year we read Western philosophy in Japanese translation, but in our second year we were expected to read in French. Anatole France and Jules LeMaitre took first place in my personal estimation. I bought many volumes of their original works and of critical Japanese essays concerning them. The rather cynical views of Anatole France influenced my philosophical development.
The writings of Ernest Renan have had a strong influence on my political philosophy. His essay entitled Qu’est qu’une nation? (“What is a Nation?”) touched me as a Formosan, rather than as the loyal Japanese I was supposed to be. He raised the fundamental idea that neither race, language, nor culture form a nation, but rather a deeply felt sense of community and shared destiny. In the context of the savage war in China, what could this idea mean to a Formosan?
One remarkable faculty member was a professor of philosophy named Doi, an individualist who wordlessly taunted the military establishment and defied regimentation of mind and body by affecting certain disheveled mannerisms in dress and conduct. This advertised his dissent to all of us, and he had our admiration. On the whole, our faculty and student body shared a strongly antimilitarist sentiment. We wanted to preserve our independence and our ivory tower, and the militarists wanted to break it down. This created a sense of tension between the school body and the army martinets assigned as our instructors in military training.
One day we witnessed an astonishing confrontation. The senior military officer who had recently arrived on campus was a colonel in the regular army. He called an assembly. Some small rules had been broken, and a junior military instructor had complained to the colonel. Singling out the guilty students, he heaped contempt upon them, scorning them as not true Japanese. After ranting on and on, he ended his tirade by ordering them to begin running around the parade ground bearing heavy arms until told to cease or collapsing in exhaustion. It was a harsh discipline. Suddenly one of the students broke out of line, dashed screaming at the colonel and struck him several times with his gun butt. He then threw the gun to the ground and ran across the field toward the campus gates. For a moment everyone stood frozen by this unprecedented and shocking action, and then the other military instructors raced after him. He was, of course, expelled and then called up at once for military service. We never knew what finally became of him. The school was shaken by the incident which no doubt hardened attitudes of anti-intellectual militarists toward liberal institutions such as ours.
My psychology professor was a quiet, stiff person who had served in the regular army. His courses were rather dull and systematic, but the subject itself was of great interest. One day, rather surprisingly, he asked us to write an essay in which we were to open our hearts to him and express ourselves freely on subjects that concerned us most deeply. He promised to treat the papers confidentially. My response was an essay condemning the invasion of China, and once into it I wrote on and on, at least ten pages of bitter comment on discrimination and the contempt shown by Japanese toward all Chinese in China and in colonial Formosa. Knowing that I might he arrested by the “thought police” if my sentiments were known, I nevertheless turned in the finished paper. A few days later the professor called me to his office, quietly assured me that no one else would know of my outpouring, and expressed deep regret that the situation was as it was. He warned me however that it would be best to keep my thoughts to myself in the future, and not to speak of such things to other persons.
My aversion to military service was intense. I had hated military drill since middle school days. School units were taken on long maneuvers from time to time, obliged to march with heavy equipment, camp in the rough for two or three days at a time, and perform drills and exercises along the way. Some students could not take it, breaking down physically while on the march or showing signs of emotional disturbance. I was in my last year at San-ko now, I was nineteen, and I considered myself an intellectual entirely superior to the needs and demands of the military establishment. I simply did not report for the field maneuvers, knowing very well that I would get a poor grade for the military course, but confident that it would be the only bad grade on my entire San-ko record, except mathematics.
At the close of the school year, near graduation time, I chanced one day to meet one of my professors who said, in a tone of obvious relief, “Congratulations! You did manage to pass!” I was astonished, for it had never occurred to me that I might not. There had been a great debate in the faculty meeting called each year to consider questionable cases and final records. The military instructor had given me a failing mark and had vehemently demanded that I should not graduate. My professors had won the argument with great difficulty. They argued on my behalf at some personal risk, for this was early 1942, and the military were in full control.
A Kyoto University student of economics who was the son of a wealthy Tokyo family and an outspoken critic of militarism lived in my rooming house. We were quite good friends despite the difference in our ages and academic status. One December day he rushed into my room shouting out, Tojo is a fool! Now he has done the most stupid thing! This will be the end of us!” My friend had just heard the radio report that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and that Japan had won a great victory.
From that day the school was plunged into a mood of fatalistic despair, underscored by noisy crowds demonstrating in the streets outside. After the long years of fruitless campaigning in continental China a great victory in the Pacific was doubly welcome, Everyone boasted of how many American ships had been sunk and how many planes destroyed. There was pride and surging enthusiasm. China had been defeated in 1895, Russia had been defeated in 1905, and now the United States! There were lantern parades and public celebrations. But inside our campus gates faculty and students alike were not so sure. We had read too widely and knew too much of America. Pearl Harbor would be only a surprise success at the beginning of the conflict, not the final victory.