Anecdotes of Uncle When He Was Young
My uncle Zhanxiang Liu’s ancestral land is in Huangyan, Taizhou in Zhejiang province. His father’s name is Zhongyao Liu, and his mother’s name is unknown. When they were young, they immigrated to Wujiang, Suzhou in Jiangsu province only with carry-on luggage in a shoulder pole, and settled down in Shuangyang village, 1.5 km east of Zhenze township, making a living from carpentry. Shuangyang village had relatively large scale among the neighboring villages. There was a stone arch bridge across a small canal to connect the two sides. Several stores sold daily supplies and provided services. Therefore, it became a “small rural center.” Some gentry also lived there. At that time there was no road, no bike, so all goods were loaded on shoulders, by hand, or via boats. The young couple built a cottage in Shuangyang village and opened a carpenter’s shop to make furniture and farm implements for local farmers. In the beginning they have neither friend nor relation. It was said that the carpenter business began with the making of waterwheels. Before there was a water pump, local farmers had been using the water wheel by which the water of the river was lifted up and flowed into the farmland for irrigation through the channel. In an inclined rectangular trough, the water of the river was pushed up by the wooden blades in cyclic motion which were connected at two ends, and then the water flew into the channel. The power of the water wheel was provided by the stepping of two strong laboring men. It was similar to the escalator in modern shopping malls and subway entrance. The water wheel was an indispensable agricultural machinery which was difficult to make. Master Liu was a skilled carpenter whose water wheels are of superior quality, and soon won the trust of local farmers. They succeeded in the immigration to make a living and led a stable life.
The Zhongyao Liu couple had five children in Shuangyang. The firstborn was Zhanxiang Liu, the eldest daughter Chunbao Liu, this second daughter Fengjin Liu, the second son Liu Ruilin (stylized name Zhansen), and the youngest son Liu Wuguan (stylized name Zhanen). The age interval among the first four children was all four years. They are respectively born in 1916, 1920, 1924, and 1920. The interval between the last two children was longer.
Compared to Wujiang, Suzhou in Jiangsu, Huangyan, Taizhou in Zhejiang had more population and less land, where the pressure of survival was greater. So the people knew better about the value of learning craftsmanship and culture. Master Liu had a desire in his heart to create the conditions for his children to go to school. The eldest son Zhanxiang was not tall and small in stature, and his physique was not strong in his childhood. In his teenage, his parents gave him special treatment that they feed him with ginseng tonic for his study. On the one hand, Chinese preferred sons to daughters; on the other hand, the eldest son was sensible and diligent so he was excellent in study. It was the period of the Republic of China, so the public school rewarded excellent students. Teachers thought highly of Zhanxiang Liu, which aroused the jealousy of the classmates who were the sons of local rich families. During the primary school, he was bullied for several times on his way back home from the school. He was small plus an outlander, so he learned to be tolerant from the childhood.
After the graduation from primary school, Zhanxiang Liu was admitted to Wujiang Normal School, which was not easy at that time. It has a small quota to be accepted and also needed tuition which normal farmers were unable to afford for their children. One could imagine how heavy the economic burden that Master Liu had to support this large family was. After graduating from the normal school, he began to teach elementary school in the countryside until the Second Sino-Japanese War. During the occupation of Japanese, he lost the teaching position. Chaos of war brought great impact and suffering to this family.
When the country was faced with the crisis, aspiring young people joined the resistance army one by one. The educated people even regarded the national affairs as their own duty. There was a group of young people in Zhengze area who volunteered to join the anti-Japanese army. They were ready to go to the battlefield after a dinner in a temple in Shuangyang village. Before the dinner, they picked Zhanxiang Liu to go to Zhengze town to buy some goods. Just during the short trip back and forth, Japanese troop surrounded the temple and shot all the dinning young men. When Zhanxiang Liu heard the loud gunshots from the dinning place, he realized that something was wrong. Immediately he crawled into the fields to hide himself, and escaped from the slaughter.
In Shuangyang village there was a gentry surnamed Luo, whose concubine’ only daughter, Huiqin Luo, married an engineer of a paper mill. After the Second Sino-Japanese War began, the National government moved the paper mill to Chongqing. During the war the mother and the daughter were separated in two places and the communication was cut off. When the mother of Huiqin Luo died from serious disease, the children of the first wife were not willing to arrange the funeral. Then Zhanxiang Liu helped to deal with this matter as a neighbor. He persuaded His father, Master Liu to offer his own coffin (the coffin prepared by a living one for his death) to the burial of the mother of Luo. After the victory of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Huiqin Luo returned to her hometown and felt grateful after hearing this, so she was determined to repay Zhanxiang Liu. Due to the change of the situation of KMT-CCP civil war, the National government decided to move the paper mill to Taiwan. Huiqin Luo as the family member of the engineer moved to Taiwan. It wasn’t long before Huiqin Luo strived for a teaching position for Zhanxiang Liu in the primary school for the children of staff in the paper mill. At that time, Zhanxiang Liu had not yet found a teaching position in his hometown. So he bid farewell to his families and went to Taiwan. It was said that he hardly had any money after he landed on Taiwan.
Caring for Younger Brothers and Sisters
and Deeply Beloved
Due to the parents’ old tradition of preference of boys to girls, the second daughter Fengjin Liu, with a gentle character, always endured grievance from her parents. When they distributed something to the children, they gave her less or even nothing. On such an occasion, Zhanxiang Liu, as the eldest brother beloved by the parents, would tell his parents that unless his younger sister had this, he would rather not want it. Then his parents had to compromise. This caused the youngest sister to be grateful toward her eldest brother and she always mentioned this even when she was old. Once Zhangxiang Liu saw the younger sister with bare feet in cold weather, mercy and love arose in his heart. So he washed her feet with warm water, and then took off his own socks and put them on her feet. His loving heart deeply moved the whole family.
The marriage between his first younger brother Ruilin Liu and his sister-in-law Yongcai Zhu was contributed to by Zhanxiang Liu. Yongcai Zhu had two brothers and four sisters and was a native of Shaoxing, immigrated to Jiaxing. Her family was a very prosperous large family in the countryside. The reason of the marriage between the two families was the common belief of Christians.
My mother Chunbao Liu was the first younger sister of Zhanxiang Liu. There was very deep feeling between the brother and the sister. In the sister’s mind, her brother was a great man and nearly a perfect man, so she respected him greatly. She said numerous times that her biggest wish in her life was to see her brother again. She would go to Taiwan to see him at all cost. As her son, I knew from my childhood that her brother’s word had the biggest influence on her. After my graduation from elementary school, my father hoped that I would quit attending middle school and go home to farm. However, my mother strongly disagreed, because her brother once told her that if the child studied well, she must try her best to let him study. So even when the situation of the family was very difficult and she could not even collect enough money for tuition and books, she would strive to ask the teacher to postpone the payment of the fee.
Being Powerful in Prayer
The wedding ceremony of my parents and that of my uncle (my father’s younger brother) and my aunt were held on the same day, and then the two couples lived together under one roof. My uncle was physically strong and his wife, a child bride, was capable of farming and cultivating silkworms. Whereas my mother, born in a carpenter’s home, was incapable of coping with farm work. Therefore, in others’ eyes the condition of my father’s family was worse than that of my uncle’s family. The displeasure and unhappiness caused by the living arrangement of my father’s family and my uncle’s family exceedingly depressed my mother that she felt bullied. Hence, my mother complained to her elder brother, Zhanxiang Liu concerning this very matter. After he prayed persistently, Zhangxiang Liu told his younger sister that my uncle’s family would have difficulties, yet my mother still needed to treat them kindly. After a short period of time, my uncle passed away due to acute disease, not long after that, his son died as well and my aunt remarried someone else. These things that had happened, completely exceeding our expectations, had fulfilled Zhanxiang Liu’s prophecy.
Once my paternal grandfather got very seriously kill, he himself felt it was difficult for him to recover, so he had already considered to prepare for his funeral. At that time my grandfather was an elder in the local church, and he asked his eldest son’s wife’s elder brother, Zhanxiang Liu to pray for him. After he prayed persistently, Zhanxiang Liu received one Bible verse: “Weeping may linger in the evening, but a ringing shout goes up in the morning” (Psa. 30:5). So he told us happily, “it does not matter. He (my grandfather) will certainly recover.” Sure enough, my grandfather was restored to health soon (My grandfather passed away without any illness at the age of eighty-eight).
My mother had not been able to get pregnant for several years after she got married. It was not until 1948 (the ninth year after she got married) that my mother conceived. At that time, it was already difficult to communicate between Mainland China and Taiwan. When my mother was pregnant for four to five months, Zhanxiang Liu received the information about my mother’s pregnancy, and then he wrote a letter to his younger sister that the child she would bear shall certainly be a boy, and he gave him a name called “Isaac.” At that time, ultrasound diagnosis was not available. However, his speaking was so definite, which was totally by faith and came from the revelation of the Holy Spirit through prayer.
His nephew, Isaac Xu
November 14, 2015