Chang Wan-lin, Ph.D student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Hsiao Chu-chen’s 2000 documentary Grandma’s Hairpin tells the story of the director’s father and fellow veterans living in a dependents’ village in Pingtung. Originally hailing from all parts of China, the old soldiers were strangers to each other until war brought them together in Taiwan in the late 1940s. For half their lives they dreamed of reclaiming the mainland and reuniting with the loved ones they had left behind. Their children had grown up with the same hopes of liberating China from the Communists, but when they ventured into the outside world for work or school, they realized just how illusory those wishes were. Even so, they did not want their parents and relatives to be forgotten. Thus, many in the second generation of Chinese immigrants took up pens and began to record memorials to their elders, their culture, and their collective memories.
Hsiao’s father had intended to sit for university entrance examinations in Nanjing before war canceled his plans. He thought that joining the army would take him back to his native Hunan Province, but instead he found himself in Taiwan, where he eventually married, had children, and settled down. By retracing her father’s footsteps, Hsiao documents a life lived far from kith and kin – her father waited for almost four decades before he was finally able reunite with relatives in China and mourn his deceased parents.
The titular hairpin that strings the story together was the only item Hsiao’s grandmother left the family. Even though it never appears in the documentary, the hairpin inspires Hsiao and her mother to accompany her father on his trip back to Hunan after forty years of being away. Although her father embraces the freedom of Taiwan, where he has built a new life, he never overcomes his longing for his home in China. The vicissitudes Hsiao’s father’s generation experienced will fade with the passing of time; like the silver hairpin that is never found and the deceased uncle mournfully remembered at the end of the film, the memories branded on that generation’s collective consciousness – the trials and tribulations, the separations and reunions, the sorrows and joys – will gradually be forgotten.
|Related Literary Themes：||Writings from Military Dependents’ Villages|