Writing my autobiography has been a long journey—it started in 2012 and completed in 2019.
The impetus to this writing project came from Mr. Chou Chin-Hua, President of the Chou Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation. The main cause of the delay was not knowing how to honestly tell my life story without offending people.
I now accept the fact that, even with the best intentions, it is inevitable that some people will be offended when you dare to tell the truth. Some of my family members were angry with me, even when I sincerely tried to depict them in the best light possible. Many colleagues were also upset with me because they happened to be part of the conditions and causes of my misfortunes.
My consolation is that far more people have found inspiration and help from reading my struggles and triumphs. My wish is that I too can bring meaning, hope, and love to the suffering people, as Chou Ta-Kuan has done.
The value of one’s life is never determined by the number of years. Our precocious young poet Chou Ta-Kuan only spent ten years on earth, yet his light still shines ever so brightly through his written words:
We became trees ourselves to be planted,
To be planted generation after generation…
To grow up and become a forest of health,
To grow up and become a forest of love,
To grow up and become a forest of hope.
— Chou Ta-Kuan, “Planting Trees”
This reminds me of my own love for poetry. I wrote my first poem about death when I was 11, when I was still at a residential primary school (Chapter 14), near a military memorial. I remember spending many hours alone at the cemetery, pondering on the lives and deaths of the young soldiers buried there. My poem was about the horrors of war and my gratitude that I could live in a land of freedom and hope because of their ultimate sacrifices.
Now, in my old age, once again I witness the protests and sacrifices of Hong Kong’s young people for democracy, and the anxieties of people in Taiwan facing the threat of invasion.
What can I do for people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, two places which are very dear to my heart? I do hope that something in my memoir may give them a glimpse of hope, and inspire them to be strong and courageous in protecting their freedom and democracy.
Here is my swan song for the next generation:
I came with a loud cry,
I’ve struggled to achieve my dreams,
broken and bruised, but still striving.
When my time comes to join all my loved ones,
I’ll be ready to die with contentment and a smile.
That is the human life — so fragile and brief.
Let’s think of how to make the best of our time on earth before it’s too late.
Whatever choices you may face,
there is always another way;
Nature’s way is always the best—
be like water flowing through obstacles,
be like a cloud flying over the mountains.
There are always monsters in whatever disguise,
they will wave a sword and a bundle of cash,
“You must serve me or you die,” they loudly declare.
But there is always another way, a better way—
The way of love, truth, goodness will prevail,
if all freedom lovers stand up together against evil.
I have run the race and fought the good fight,
I would be happy to fade away quietly,
and become a nameless star shining in the dark,
cheering for every brave soul in the cosmic battle.