As the sun is going down, as the workers are heading for home, a northbound train is racing by the Keelung river on the MRT’s Tamsui Line.
There was a man sitting in the window seat right next to me. He looked utterly distraught. Tears were running down his face and falling to the floor. I asked him: “Got fired?”
The man said nothing, but the tears kept coming.
Photo: Ethan Zhan, Taipei Times
With that, the man started bawling. The whole car was full of people, who, seeing him in such a state, could not help feeling sorry for him. While some hoped I would leave the poor guy alone, others thought I should help him let it all out.
“Are they really worth it?” I asked. Then, “where are you heading, anyway?”
With tears streaming down his face, the man said, “I have no idea whether it’s worth it. I’m not even sure I know where this relationship is heading. Have you heard the song, ‘Up and Down Zhongxiao East, Nine Times’? It’s one of my favorite songs. But my heart’s not in it now. I don’t feel like walking. And so I’m riding the Tamshui line instead, nine times there and back.”
I saw this as a chance to change the subject. “Speaking of the Tamshui Line,” I said, “did you know this line used to be a regional branch line of the Taiwan Railways Administration, not an MRT line?” I asked.
“I didn’t know that. I don’t know anything!”
“There’s no need for that,” I said. “So you don’t know about the history of the Tamshui Line, but you surely know that both China and Japan ruled Taiwan at different times, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know that part,” he said, then went back to wailing.
“The Qing did build some railroads in Taiwan, but only between Taipei and Hsinchu, and they were not very well constructed. The trains would often just stop working and people had to get out and push.”
“So when the Japanese came, the first thing they did was build railroads. With railroads, they could transport both people and goods inland.”
“That makes sense.”
“However, roads in Taiwan were very hard-going at that time. Goods transported to Tamsui Harbor were not easily transported into Taipei by road, and so they built the Tamshui Line. It was inaugurated on Aug. 25, 1901. Seven years later, the West Truck Line that ran from Keelung in the north to Kaohsiung in the south was completed. It not only facilitated transport between the south and the north, but also made it possible to easily deliver products from various parts of Taiwan, such as sugar, coal and rice, elsewhere. Also, before the West Truck Line began operation, people living in Taipei probably had little idea of what was going on in other parts of the island. The same can be said about Taichung and Kaohsiung. Nobody thought of Taiwan as one entity. But after the trains started running, a sense of unity developed. Different parts of Taiwan became places people could actually visit, not places they had not even heard of.”
“The railway sounds impressive.”
“It was. Precisely because the railway was important, not long after the West Truck Line was completed, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan began constructing the Taitung Line.”
“So, what happened to the Tamsui Line?”
“As convenient as the Tamsui Line was, it was a single-track railway. In order to make way for an electrified double-track railway, the last train to depart for Tamsui bid farewell on July 15, 1988, and an MRT line was built to take its place.”
“Eighty-seven years of history ended just like that.”
“Yes. Everything that has a beginning, has an end. As it was for the Tamsui Line, so it is for love. All that comes shall one day go. Do not get too attached to how things should work out.”
“I see. Thank you. And I don’t think I will ride the Tamsui Line nine times tonight, after all. Once will do.”
(Translated by Ethan Zhan)
1) Have you ever lost someone or something you loved? Was it easy for you to let go? How long did it take for the pain of loss to go away?
2) When was the West Truck Line completed?
3) In addition to the Danshui Line, are there other branch lines in Taiwan? Can you name three of them? What were their functions when they were built?
The Latin word plaga means a snare or a hunting net, and is thought to derive from the Proto Indo-European root *plak, meaning “to weave.” From this came the Latin noun plagium, meaning the act of “kidnapping” and “the netting of game.” The perpetrator of the act was called a plagiarius, that is, a kidnapper (a person who steals a human regarded at the time as “belonging” to another, for example a child or somebody else’s slave). By extension, plagiarius also came to mean a seducer or, after the Roman poet Martial complained of another poet “kidnapping his verses” in
Russian scientists are poring over the stunningly well-preserved bones of an adult woolly mammoth that roamed the Earth at least 10,000 years ago, after local inhabitants discovered its remains in the shallows of a north Siberian lake. Part of its skull, several ribs and foreleg bones, some with soft tissue still attached to them, were retrieved from Russia’s remote Yamal peninsula above the Arctic Circle on July 23. Scientists are still searching the site for other bones. Similar finds in Russia’s vast Siberian region have happened with increasing regularity as climate change warming the Arctic at a faster pace than the
In the eastern Afghan city of Herat, 18-year-old high school student Somaya Faruqi adjusts a suction cap as she puts the finishing touches before unveiling a low-cost, lightweight ventilator created by her and six other young women. The all-female Afghan Robotics Team, which has won international awards for its robots, started work in March on an open-source, low-cost ventilator as the coronavirus pandemic hit the war-torn nation. It took the team almost four months to finalize the ventilator, which is partly based on a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) design, and they received guidance from experts at Harvard University. The device is easy
A: We got to the store just in the nick of time. Look at the size of the line. B: How many lottery tickets should we buy? A: Four. Four tickets: four times the luck. B: Um. . . I’m not sure the math checks out, but it’s true the more tickets we buy, the higher the chance we have of winning. A: Come on, come on. What’s the hold up? B: Looks like the person at the front of the line can’t decide on his numbers. Couldn’t he have made up his mind while waiting in line? A: