Written and Published by Han Institute, February 18, 2013
Professor Bai Xianyong's Presentation on his Book "Father and Minguo", about the Life of his Father, Republic of China General Bai Chongxi
On February 17, 2013, in Santa Clara Convention Center, Professor Bai Xianyong discussed his book on his reflections on the life of his father, General Bai Chongxi, and Minguo (Republic of China). Professor Bai was a member of the 1970s avant-garde nouveau cafe literature renaissance in Taipei. Now, at age 75, after about a decade of research, he has released a biography of his legendary father, who served the ROC from 1911 until his death in 1966. With the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, to found the Republic of China, Bai joined a Students Dare to Die corps.
All 600 tickets were sold out to attend this discussion by a famed author to speak about the family legends. Across the street from the Santa Clara Convention Center is the construction of the new stadium to be opened in 2014. Inside the center, the documentary and narrative captured the emotions and imagination of a silent audience. History unfolded in the great photographs assembled by the professor over decades of work.
We were very blessed to have a well-trained Chinese literature professor to give the perspective of his father General Bai Chongxi's life in relation to the Republic of China.
I read his short novel called "Garden Estate Visit's Waking Trip", and it was well written in the genre of the classic Dream of the Red Chamber.
Just like when China was invaded by the alien Qing tribe in 1644, many couldn't forget their old culture, and the writer Cao Xueqin wrote anecdotes embedded in the family saga story "Dream of the Red Chamber".
In "Garden Estate Visit and the Sudden Reawakening", author Bai tried in his short novel to give his reminiscences and impressions about his family in capital Nanjing with Chiang Kai-shek and Meiling Soong, and linked to it in Taipei. It is like Dream of the Red Chamber II, as he addressed the question "What Happened to the Republic of China?" This subject was also examined in this biography of his father. It was presented as a documentary and narrative style like a film and enlivened the history with a playwright live stage.
He helped to preserve Kun Theater. It is listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
The lights were dim and the entire audience of 600 went through the retrospective documentary of history with ultra respect, as he reflected on his father's life and the history of China.
General Bai Chongxi was a Marshal and was dubbed "Little Zhuge" after the greatest strategist master Zhuge during the Three Kingdom era.
After the capital Nanjing was occupied, the military committee was in Wuhan. He proposed to the military committee to use space to exchange for time, and with smaller victories accumulating to eventual final victory.
This is because China was in a weakened state since the defeat in 1894 in the Jiawu War by Japan, and had to pay a heavy war retribution which was 25% of the GDP, and was subject to many unequal treaties with other powerful nations.
In eventuality, Napoleon's force was finished in the long expedition to Russia, and similarly Japan fascist encroachment to China was ultimately expelled. Professor Bai reminded us that it was from the painful sacrifice of 30 million civilians' lives and 3 million military force.
With blood, we saved each inch of China's sovereignty, this simple fact is gradually only being recognized by China's population of 1.3 billion after a long drought of information and Mao Zedong's encroachment on the brain assault by propaganda and distortion.
Professor Bai is a graceful high intellectual and is a-political, reporting on history without trying to take a political stance. He is in a possession of an identity that he can't slough off.
Collective Memory of Dream of the Red Chamber:
A Timely Reflection on Minguo History
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology.
The Republic of China's national ethos should not be forgotten.
Since its 1784 publishing, the Dream of the Red Chamber, with its marvelous writing, has captured China's national ethos. Although it is a romance story, there are so many facets to this family saga. Many people reread the entire book several times in their own life journey and at different moments, so they can reflect differently.
I was stopped from reading this book at age 11 by my great uncle, a writer, as he told me to wait a few years to read to protect me from the burden.
It is a cherished dream from beginning and the ending is mystified. The whereabouts of the main character, Jia Baoyu may be on river ride in fur coat, or running in the snow or in a monastery after his love and family disintegrated, and were persecuted.
Dream of the Red Chamber's main character Jia Baoyu had a deep humanity. People from every generation still feel for him.
Professor Bai's words are rational and soothing, rather than the familiar communist sound bites. It is rare to hear real history in this age of grand showoffs of material wonder but hollow in value.
He introduced how his father, General Bai Chongxi, came from mainland China to Taiwan, and calmed people involved in the 228 violence by allowing protesters to be released from jail if their parents came to claim them.
Notes from question and answer session:
Question: what is your father's biggest regret?
His key regret is that when his father was in Manchuria and was about to defeat communist general Lin Biao, he was recalled back to Nanjing to be the defense minister, a desk job, in the capital. This allowed Lin Biao to regroup and turned the world around, that point was the start of Communist victories over the Nationalists, although there were many factors, such as George Marshall's interference by demanding a truce when the Nationalists were about to achieve victory.
In his book, there is also a mention of William Knowland who was a senator from California 1945-1959. He is known as the "Senator for Formosa" as he was strongly against Mao and for Chiang Kaishek. This good friend was critical of Truman losing China to Communists and critical of Truman's policies during the Korea War.
On the question of what is your most difficult chapter?
Bai said he tried to understand the dynamic relations between Chiang Kai-shek and his father over many years. There are more released diaries and that made him comprehend this complex relationship since the early northern expedition in 1928-9 in competition to rule China, as the war between Chiang and the Gui Guangxi faction; later on Chiang and Bai formed a united front to fight against Japan, and later they were together during the civil war's efforts against Communists.
He defended his father, General Bai's, not contributing to the Xubang converging war, because of the low chance of success, and he didn't want to lose 700,000 troops in its totality. The second reason is that Chiang Kai-shek wanted to have an East China commander and a Middle China commander, and he wanted one overall commander. As it turned out, the war was a catastrophe with no logistics to speak of.
To sum up the relation between Chiang and General Bai is to quote historian Sima Qian's line after emperor Liu Bang heard that his empress Lu has killed general Han Xin, he said: "I'm in rejoice and in sympathy."
He said that after 1949 his father could either go to Hong Kong or America, to lead a better life, but he chose to stay in Taiwan, as that was the ROC's last stronghold, and he still had the hope of returning the ROC to mainland China until the Korean War broke out.
In the end, he believes his father wanted to die in his own land, as his identity was with the Republic of China.
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