CTW Logistics Corp chairman Huang Jen-an (黃仁安) has talked about his passion for documenting the history of local culture in Taiwan in an interview with the Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times).
Established in 1978 in the Pusin area (埔心) of Taoyuan’s Yangmei District (楊梅), CTW Logistics began as a container transport company before transforming into a modern logistics center.
Today, the company engages in international bonded logistics operations.
In 1988, Huang established the CTW Culture and Education Foundation in his late mother’s honor.
Huang said he started the foundation with the hope of giving back to his community.
“At seven, I moved to Pusin. Many old professions I remember from that time are already gone,” he said, adding that locomotive conductors, ox cart drivers and traveling hair stylists were once common occupations in the area.
Several years ago, he began to talk with elderly residents in the area to document the disappearance of the professions, Huang said, adding that many of the interviewees have since passed away.
After two years of research, he amassed 400 pages of notes about local history, which started him on his road toward publishing, which is a focus of the foundation, he said.
“I donated some of the company stock to the foundation, from which it can draw annual revenue. Otherwise, it would be unable to do anything,” Huang said.
As a Hakka, Huang said he felt it important to publish the works of fellow Hakka writers.
The foundation has published Chung Chao-cheng’s (鍾肇政) romance novel Written on the Wind (苦雨戀春風), the complete works of Cheng Huan-sheng (鄭煥生) — a Hakka farmer and writer — and the biography of female Hakka writer Huang Chuan (活出愛：黃娟傳).
In his published history of Pusin, Huang wrote about the resistance fighter Hu Chia-yu (胡嘉猷), who fought against Japanese forces when they invaded Taiwan in 1895.
Huang said he later read about the same battles written from the Japanese perspective in a book he found in an old bookstore in Tokyo.
“I immediately stopped the publication of my book and had the Japanese text translated to Chinese so I could add notations and give readers another perspective,” he said.
Huang provided copies of the Japanese book, titled The Whole Story of the Taiwan Expedition (征臺始末), to Taiwanese historians, who called the text an “invaluable source,” and agreed to translate it to Chinese and publish it, he said.
Japan’s strength at the time was unmatched by its neighbors, Huang said, adding that he was curious as to what gave Taiwanese at the time the will to fight against such a formidable adversary.
“From a legal perspective there was no problem with Japan handing Taiwan over to the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT], but many tragic things happened after that, such as the White Terror era,” he said.
Despite 124 years having passed since the Japanese invasion of Taiwan, Taiwanese still have not learned to see themselves as a nation and a people, he said.
“Do not talk about sharing a culture or ethnicity [with China], or how ‘blood is thicker than water.’ Look at Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party’s idea of ‘democracy’ — its ‘one country, two systems’ — is all under the party’s control,” he said.
Chinese translations of Charles Le Gendre’s account of southern Taiwan, and James W. Davidson’s The Island of Formosa, Past and Present were both published by the foundation, Huang said, adding that such texts served as historical references for older Taiwanese hoping to learn more about their origins.
Huang said he often seeks out books on Taiwan’s history at old bookstores in Japan.
“However, they are becoming harder and harder to find, and are quite expensive. The philosophy of running an old bookstore is that you wait for the right person, and then you are calm [and firm in your price],” he said.
Huang said he had once seen a book on Taiwanese Aborigine languages published in Taipei in 1910 while perusing a bookstore in Tokyo, but did not buy it.
“I often thought about that book. When I went back five years later it was still there. I waited for it, and it waited for me,” he said.
Huang said he was fascinated by the uniqueness of Taiwanese Aborigine cultures.
“I have always wondered, as Okinawa was so heavily influenced by China, why were Taiwan’s Aborigines not similarly influenced, and why did they not adopt the use of Chinese characters?” he said.
The foundation’s most unique historical works were two diaries written by young people during the Japanese colonial period, one by a 19-year-old woman, he said, adding that the works gave a glimpse into contemporary vernacular.
Some topics the diaries touched on were beauty tips, personal hygiene, clothing etiquette, and popular contemporary music and poetry, Huang said.
Talking about World War II, Huang said his parents had talked about the military base in Hsinchu being bombed by the US military.
“I also had a classmate whose father had gone to fight in the South Pacific, leaving his mother to raise three children on her own. The mother later became blind — it was quite sad,” he said.
The foundation has published a few books about the war, including one about two Japanese women who became separated from their families in Japan, and later became homeless and destitute, he said.
Huang said he hopes to publish works on pre-1600s Taiwan, as well as on the children of Japanese born in Taiwan and left here after the war, he said.
“I often ask young people if they think they will experience war or a regime change in their lifetimes,” he said.
Huang said he hopes to foster a sense of Taiwanese identity among readers through publishing.
“It is like English author John Galsworthy said: ‘If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one,’” he said.
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