Tag Archives: Chiang Kai-shek

Dinner with Mr. He

20 Apr

Last weekend we went to dinner with a former colleague of Li’s – the driver of his former boss, Mr. He.  I had never met him and was curious because Li had always said he was a very wise man.

It was a fascinating dinner – his father had fought with Chiang Kai Shek in Jiangsu province and then had moved to Shanghai where Mr. He was born in 1953.   He was unlucky enough to be sent to the countryside with millions of other Shanghai youth and spent 8 years of hard labor in Hebei province in the far north of China.

After coming back to Shanghai in the late 1970s he met his wife and they had a son.  He now lives in the Hongkou district in Shanghai where he is a grandfather and still drives part time for my husband’s former company.   What a story!

He was a wise man, not prone to excess – he wouldn’t eat too much dinner and talked about his experience in a matter of fact way.   He was old enough to be my father and without meaning to I started making comparisons between the two and the luck of one to be born in the US and one in China.

From there I shifted to myself and how lucky I am to be able to make choices – to decide where I live and what I do.  Freedom is sweet.

I am glad we met.  Once I got home I had many more questions than answers.  If you were there, what would you have asked?

The architecture of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

11 Aug

One late afternoon (after watching the storm roll in and out) during my visit to Taiwan, I continued to explore Taipei.  My last stop before heading back to the apartment was Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

The complex consists of two very traditional Chinese buildings – one a performing arts center and the other a museum, which flank a large gate leading into a colossal square.  It feels a little like the Forbidden City with the scale, meaning that the architecture is not set to a human dimension but is intended to awe.  At the end of the square is the memorial to Chiang Kai-shek.

By the large gate were a group of people protesting something but I wasn’t in the mood to poke around.  It could have been people wanting to rejoin with China, or propaganda for Chinese tourists who make their way there – I don’t know.  But the group wasn’t that large – less than 50 and so I continued forward.

The entrance gate

The entrance gate

The first thing I noticed was that square was full of children – I know Taiwan’s birth rate is declining, but you wouldn’t guess that from the number of kids running and playing and splashing through the puddles left over from the downpour.  Families walked and talked and snapped an occasional picture, enjoying the breeze and cooler temperatures from earlier in the day.

Music floated through the air from a concert going on – I am guessing they had opened the back doors to get a cool breeze and it was as if I had a soundtrack as I steadily approached the highest point to take a picture of the statue of Chiang Kai-shek.   Some of the music was traditional Chinese and another piece sounded like a John Phillips Sousa march – an eclectic mix to move me forward.

One of the great halls - with traditional tile roof

One of the great halls – with traditional tile roof

Looking down from the highest point I was able to view where I had come and enjoy the view.  No high rise apartment buildings crowded the square – the gardens below laid out a patchwork quilt of patterns only visible from above.

Chiang Kai-shek flanked by the Taiwanese flag

Chiang Kai-shek flanked by the Taiwanese flag

Looking back from the top of the monument

Looking back from the top of the monument

I didn’t study the history before I visited Taiwan – different websites had different points of view as to the version of events that were emphasized in different places.  As I stood there I wondered about the people who built the square and their intended purpose.  I thought about what they would think about the current state of relations between Taiwan and China.  Then, I stopped.  For that afternoon, for me – the architecture and feeling of awe was enough.

Viewing the gardens

Viewing the gardens

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This post was inspired by Where’s My Backpack’s Travel Theme – Architecture.  If you’d like to see how others visualize the theme please click the link.

Architecture can influence our emotions and rally us around an idea or a concept.  The cathedrals of Europe, the temples of India, the pyramids of Egypt, the great wall of China – all were created by people who were searching for a bigger purpose.  They were representing things greater than a single individual.  What architecture do you enjoy the most? Where have you had that “sense of awe” recently?

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