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Exclusive Interview with Mr. Jung-jen Wu – My Father, Tun-hou Wu

  I suppose that my father, born in 1925, might have hyperactive disorder in his childhood; during the regime of Mikado Showa Hirohito, special education was suppressed by Japanese imperialists. When my father attended public school, only the students in two classes among the original three classes graduated from school. In terms of the elementary education at that time, students were forced to follow the same pattern, during which corporal punishment to students by teachers was the order of the day.

  My father seemed to leave ChungShan Elementary School for frequent corporal punishments to him. The father of Mr. Tung-yang Shih was one classmate of my father, and they met each other during one outdoor travel about over a decade ago. In their conversation, Mr. Tung’s father mentioned one punishment to my father for certain mistake which the former could barely remember, and the beating was so savage that my father ended up being sent to hospital by ambulance. As I remember, my brother once told me that my father’s hearing loss was caused by one air raid. However, when I asked about the actual reason, my father did not say directly that it had been caused by his teacher and only uttered some perfunctory words, “one day I woke up, I lost my hearing.” In my opinion, my father just wanted to defend his teacher and eldership.

  When I was young, my grandmother was always saying, “Don’t slap children. Your father ends up being deaf, for he has been beaten by his teacher at school and slapped by your grandfather home.” In my opinion, on that day, the teacher slapped my father in his face for certain misbehaviors. Aware of his disobedience, he dared not to mention his ears were injured, and ashamed of the complaint made by the teacher, my grandfather slapped him again. Consequently, a small kid who had been beaten twice a day became deaf the following day. In that era, my grandfather, a Japanese policeman, blushed for the frequent complaints about my father’s misconducts. Therefore, being assured and bold with justice, my grandfather always punished his son without mercy, which reflects tough love. In those days, teachers were trustworthy, and policemen were authoritative.

   People may barely understand the words of my father. In addition to the tone, his vocabulary is outdated, for he has lost his hearing since Grade 3 or 4 and never heard of some words. However, reluctant to teach such agile and hyperactive kids, teachers during the regime of Mikado Showa Hirohito preferred to suppress them tooth and nail. Due to deafness, my father could concentrate more on the preparation of lanterns, which may reflect the philosophy, “A man in adversity can also reap his own bumper harvest”. To some extent, lantern making may be another window opened by God.

Inspiring Drumbeats

  Since my father has lost hearing at an early age, we communicate with him in commonly spoken words instead of abstruse ones. Able to understand lip language, my father can get the point in despite of the failure to hear extremely loud words. Surprisingly, upon the drum in the temple rings, he can hear the sound, which may be related to the sound waves of drumbeats. Every time I hear the drumbeats, I will catch sight of his reaction to sound. It occurs to me that drumbeats are so inspiring that ancient soldiers forwarded with such sound, and my father is merely reactive to drumbeats.

  My father has one elder brother and six elder sisters. Prior to the departure from our homeland, my uncle was a music teacher in Lukang Public School (current school song of the school was written by my uncle), and after the end of war, he worked as a teacher in Taichung First Senior High School. Others speak highly of this family, for both the elder brother and the younger one, respectively as a musician and craftsman, are famous. Nevertheless, the name of my father is not found in the school roll of public school for students above Grade 3 or 4. According to my father, he followed his elder brother, a teacher, to Lushangxi Public School for education, because my grandmother had to cook for my uncle with my father. Still, this school holds no school roll for my father, which indicates that he was deprived of education at Grade 3 or 4. Due to hearing loss, lessons meant nothing for him at that time, and dropout was inevitable.

  In that era, people not attending school should have the expertise in one specialty. My father has not mentioned any request from Gods in his dream, and believing no dreamland and having no faith, I barely believe that God required my father to learn how to make lanterns in the dream. Comparatively, I suppose lantern making may be another window opened by God while his hearing was lost. At any time, people not attending school have to learn a skill for survival rather than leading an idle life home. My father can be highly attentive to what he is doing and rapidly master working or painting skills, which may be related to the fact that his other senses have been heightened since he lost his hearing. In particular, my grandfather would write poems and practice calligraphy at home, exerting a positive influence on my father, the usual watcher. Lukang was a performance and exhibition space where one could learn exquisite craftsmanship from traditional and highly-skilled master craftsmen. Approaches to learning were diverse, so my father’s success lies in not only individual efforts but also geographic position (adjacent to river and harbor) of Lukang and the inflow of masters for living. Both aptitude and opportunities are indispensable for learning, and my father acquired considerable advantages. He learned on traveling, with his feet on temples and outside world, so his works are endowed with local characteristics. Should my father not reside in Lukang, he would have not mastered those skills or created those works. Therefore, a variety of approaches available to my father has laid solid foundation for subsequent works and achievement.

Mr. Jung-jen Wu (Tun-hou Wu, 4th son)

Mr. Jung-chang Wu (Tun-hou Wu, 3rd son)