Memories of Golden Years at New Jianye Village: Hu Fu-sing's Story／左營建業新村的流金歲月 胡復興的故事
Memories of Golden Years at New Jianye Village:
Hu Fu-sing's Story
◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi
Taiwan's military dependents' villages are products of a unique time and place in history. Military personnel and their dependents created a special culture, from the facades of their houses, to their lifestyles and the food they ate, which has long fascinated outsiders. There are 23 military dependents' villages in Zuoying District, representing more than one third of Kaohsiung City's military dependents' villages. Zuoying is thus the best destination for people interested in experiencing the atmosphere of such places.
The history of these villages records the turmoil of civilian life during wartime. In the Japanese colonial period, Zuoying was developed as a military port. After Retrocession (when Taiwan returned to Chinese rule in 1945), Zuoying became a navy base. In 1949, it became the first settlement the government established for servicemen and their families who had retreated to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. Some of the blocks were built by the Japanese, and those houses were well designed and of good quality. These were allocated to senior officers. Lower-ranking officers and their wives and children lived in houses built by the Navy Headquarters and the National Women's League.
Military dependents' villages included people from every corner of China. The neighbors spoke different dialects, but were united by a shared longing for home. The loss of family support was more than made up for by a sense of community. People helped one another, and each family enjoyed a sense of being at home with others.
Mr. Hu Fu-sing and his wife Wu Tai-sin live in New Jianye Village, and Mr. Hu is happy to share his childhood memories. Mr. Hu was born in Changsha, mainland China. He was only four years old when his father took the family to Taiwan. They settled in New Jianye Village. It was a time when resources were short for every household, but everyone had a big heart. His father's salary was not enough to support the family, so they kept chickens and grew vegetables in their backyard to help feed the family. The clothes he wore were all hand-me-downs from his brothers and sisters. They were mended several times, with patches on top of patches, but he was happy just to have something to wear. Mr. Hu says that back then, each family treated children in the community as their own; they would feed whichever child happened to be in their house come meal time. Mr. Hu smiles when recalling the "China Strong" brand of sneakers he used to wear, noting that times have definitely changed, and he wears Nike now. Yet he still loves the taste of dried radish paired with mantou (steamed bread). To him, that makes a perfect meal.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Hu are excellent cooks, and the food they make has a lot of flavors which go well with rice. Mr. Hu is especially proud of his homemade dried radish, and a taste of it really says it all: The complex flavors packed in this simple vegetable preserve make it an excellent representation of military food. During lunch he mentions that many of the children who grew up in the village later joined the merchant navy. The pay was attractive for those eager to help support their families. He can recall the items they brought back, including soaps, apples and dresses as gifts for friends and relatives. Those were rarities back in the day, and they made a long-lasting impression on Mr. Hu. However, he did not become a sailor because it was impossible to receive letters during voyages, and it would mean going a little too far from home for his liking. In the end, he joined the military, just like his father.
Giving us a tour of the neighborhood, he points out Japanese-style homes with gardens which appear tranquil and relaxed. He trims all the shrubs and trees himself; he also takes care of trees on neighboring properties, a habit of helping one another that has not disappeared despite the passage of time. But when discussing the block's empty houses, his mood turns somber as he laments the loss of the sense of community.
It is the residents who have given Kaohsiung's military dependents' villages their special characteristics, unique culture and human warmth.