Family and descendants of the nearly 1,000 victims on the cross-strait steamer the Taiping (太平輪), which sank 61 years ago off the south coast of China, gathered on the anniversary of the accident yesterday to remember their loved ones and inaugurate the Taiping Memorial Association.
“On this day 61 years ago, my sisters, my brothers and I stood at the intersection of the street we lived on to wait for father to come home for the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner,” said former sports analyst Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), whose father was aboard the Taiping.
“But then news came that the boat had sunk, and he would never come home,” he said.”
Chang cried as he recounted his family’s story at the ceremony to inaugurate the memorial association.
Earlier yesterday, victims’ families gathered at the Taiping Memorial in Keelung to pay their respects to lost loved ones.
The Taiping was a passenger ship that traveled between Keelung and Shanghai.
It ran into the cargo boat Chien Yuan (建元輪) and sank hours after departing Shanghai not long after midnight on Jan. 27, 1949.
Most of the passengers on board were Chinese trying to escape the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but there were also a few Taiwanese businessmen coming home for the Lunar New Year, such as Chang Chao-hsiung’s father, Chang Sheng (張生).
Chang Sheng was a cross-strait businessman with offices in Taiwan and China.
“I’d say that my family deteriorated from that moment on,” Chang Chai-hsiung said.
After growing up in a family with servants and nannies for each kid, Chang Chao-hsiung had to work part-time jobs and sell ice cream on the street.
More than 60 years after the tragedy, Chang Chao-hsiung still has an unfulfilled wish.
“I hope to go to Zhaoshan Islands [where the tragedy occurred] and burn some ghost money for my father, so that he can buy some clothes in the underworld and buy a few drinks — I know he liked to drink,” Chang Chao-hsiung said.
Chang Chao-hsiung is not alone.
“It has been 61 years and we haven’t had a chance to remember our loved ones at the place where the accident occurred,” said Chang Ho-ping (張和平), the daughter of another Taiping victim. “We not only want to hold a service for them there, but also to erect a monument.”
Chang Ho-ping said the sinking of the Taiping was not only about the people who died on the ship, “but also the tens of thousands of families and descendants left behind.”
“Moreover, this is not just an accident, but a tragedy triggered by the war,” Chang Ho-ping said. “That’s why my father gave me the name Ho-ping [peace] before he passed away.”
At the end of the event, a spokesman for the association, Scott Chiang (姜思章), said the association would be pushing for a service to be held near the Zhoushan Islands and to rebuild the monument in Keelung.