Chai Ao, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Reds in Dahedi: A Hakka Village Taken by Storm (2004) documents Dahe villagers’ experience of the White Terror in 1950’s Sanwan Township in Miaoli. Author Lan Bozhou uses historical records and fieldwork to probe the story of the sharecropping farmers and “minor intellectuals” (as the victims call themselves) who were being accused of being Taiwanese Communists.
Taiwan’s White Terror originated in the Keelung High School Incident of August 1949, when the Kuomintang (KMT) carried out an island-wide political purge in the name of preventing the spread of Communism. The purge reached far and wide, and even Miaoli’s mountain regions and Dahedi Hakka people did not escape unscathed. This book brings together ten survivors’ first-person accounts of their experience of the political purge. Each account is preceded by a government file on the purgee, then the person’s own perspective is used to challenge the authority of the official account. Among the survivors are one person who actually took part in socialist study groups, a patriot who believed in Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People, and an illiterate sharecropper who was accused of being a Taiwanese Communist. What they have in common is that their testimonies repeatedly bring up the use of torture and secret police to force them to give up information on others, as well as the linguistic differences that separated waishengren police officers and Hakka victims, showing the complex interrelation between ethnicity and class in 1950s Taiwan.
It is worth noting that none of these people were revolutionaries or Taiwanese Communists; they were sharecropping farmers educated to primary-level at most, or in some cases illiterate. The extent of involvement in the Taiwanese Communist Party—taking part in a socialist study group—was far from actually overthrowing the government. Some were persecuted because—in their own words, not according to the official record—in 1949 the Taiwan Province government had carried out the farmland rent reduction program, which reduced the burden on sharecroppers but simultaneously trimmed landlords’ rents, thus bringing the two classes into conflict. The landlords held a grudge and falsely accused the sharecroppers of being Communists.
At first sight, this story of a Hakka village and the 1950s White Terror in Taiwan appears to have nothing to do with the march of history. But although the village was far away from the center of power and the upper echelons of society, it was still a target for persecution, which shows the austere political climate reigning on the island at that time, a climate in which the powerful wielded their power with impunity. The book uses a reportage style and lays out survivors’ accounts in their own words in a way that turns the government version into a stain on history, indeed a stain on the government itself.
Wang Pinhan, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Lan Bozhou (1960- ) is a Hakka from Xihu Township in Miaoli County. He is a graduate of Fu Jen Catholic University’s Department of French Language and Culture, and has worked at Ren Jian (“The World We Live In”) magazine and Liberty Times. He later served as special editor for China Times Publishing Company, chaired professor at National Central University’s “Cutting-edge Cultural Workshop,” producer of TVBS’s “Thinking of Taiwan,” and writer-in-residence at National Dong Hwa University. In 2004 he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Legislative Yuan; essays on his campaign experiences have been collected in Tilting at Windmills. The following year the Democratic Action League nominated him to run for a seat in the National Assembly. He has also acted as president of the China-tide Federation and vice-chairman of the Alliance for Reunification of China. He currently serves as chairman of the Cross-strait Peace & Development Union.
As a university student Lan Bozhou made the acquaintance of Chen Yingzhen and Yang Kui, left-wing writers who were victims of political persecution. Lan then began to research and write about the 228 Incident and its aftermath. In 1985 his short story “Mourning” won the China Times Literature Award. In 1988 his Song of the Covered Wagon ran in Ren Jian, garnering much attention. The story spans the years 1950-1954, a time when the Kuomintang (KMT) was purging dissidents, a period today known as the “White Terror.” Victims included Zhong Hao Dong (Zhong Heming), principal of Keelung Middle School, and novelist Jiang Biyu, whose experiences are recounted in the work. Director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s adapted the book as Good Men, Good Women, part of his “Taiwan Trilogy.” Hou described Lan as a “bulldog” in his attitude toward history, the characterization accurately reflecting the writer’s determination and perseverance.
After martial law was lifted Lan combined his interests in history and literature, telling the stories of the victims of the White Terror. Mailang Choir, It’s Still Dark, and Taipei Lover recount 1949’s June 4th Incident; Buried Corpses, Exile, 228 and Wang Tianding: Lost in the Fog of 228 depict the 228 Incident; Old Red Hat and Elegy for Taiwanese Communists portray left-wing Taiwanese victims of the White Terror. In additional to historical reportage, Lan Bozhou has also authored the short-story collection Traveler and the novel Rattan Tree; currently, he is still active as a writer.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|