Richard H Chiu Biography

Chapter 1 Childhood in China






Chapter 1

Childhood and Early Experiences

Richard hung-hsiung Chiu was born on July 16, 1937 in a small fishing village called Shao Ao which was near the town of Lien-chiang in Fukien Province, China. His parents were Chiu Ho-yee and Lee Pei-chiu There were members of two of the prominent families of the town, the Lees and the Chius. His father's family controlled the fishing fleet and his mother's family the seines and shore where oysters and clams were dug. These properties provided them with status and wealth. As was common at that time, the marriage of Ho-yee and Pei-chiu had been arranged by their parents in the traditional manner. Hung-shiung was their second child. An older brother had died as an infant

"My first memory is the seashore and the vision of a land beyond the water that gave me an endless curiosity about the world beyond. The long stretch of sand between high and low tide was much longer than anything I have since seen, an indication of the gentleness of the ocean there. The seas-bed was ideally suited for cultivating marine life such as barnacles and oysters."

Hung-hsiung's father, Ho-yee had been educated more extensively than most of the youths of the village He did not pursue the classical studies of Confucian books as would have been his lot in former generations. Instead, he was sent to a military college. After graduating he made a swift rise until eventually he became a colonel on the staff of the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek.

The Japanese had attacked China only a few days before Hung-hsiung was born. The country was a war and his father was usually away from home. Most of the time he lived in the fishing village where he had been born, but at times he was taken to other parts of China as the fortunes of war dictated. He witnessed many awful scenes during those years, but most of his favorite memories involve the years spent in his grandparent's home near the sea.

"When I was very small I cuddled next to my grandmother in her bed which as a charcoal brazier to keep us warm in the winter months. She would tell me stories about my father's childhood. We lived in a big old house which had been home to my father's family for many generations of Chius. It had been subdivided to suit the needs of and expanding family. School was held in the Buddhist temple when I was in my home village."

When the Hung-hsiung's parents were married they were given a bond servant. She was a young girl named Ai Dwen, a distant cousin who was to serve a period of service and be provided with a dowry when she reached the age of marriage. She was about eight years old when she joined the household and in the following years she became a guardian and companion of young Hung-hsiung as he grew. When Hung-hsiung was about four years old she took him to Lien-chiang, the larger town which was several miles away from Shao Ao across a range of hills. When she stopped to visit with other maids he became separated from her. In those times terrible things happened to well-dressed children wandering alone in the crowded streets of the city and Hung-hsiung was terrified when he could not find Ai Dwen. He found the path that ledto his village and walked home. Many hours later the Ai Dwen returned in tears She had searched and searched for her young charge until darkness fell and she decided she must go back and confess that she had lost him. She was punished for her carelessness, but everyone was happy that he had come home safely.

When Hung-hsiung was in Shao An he attended the village school and was usually the brightest in the class which included children of all ages. Sometimes the older boys resented him and he learned to run fast to avoid them when the school day ended. Sometimes the family traveled because of the war. He was able to deal with money and picked up dialects easily so his mother often relied on him to help her when she shopped. She spoke Fukienese dialect, but Hung-hsiung also spoke Mandarin.

"When I was four we went to the northern part of the province to be with my father who was an army officer. My mother wanted to escape the potential of Japanese invasion in the south. She left my younger sister behind with her family because of the difficulty of traveling. She walked and hired a coolie to carry me in a basket on one end of a bamboo pole and the luggage on the other end. The little sister left behind with relatives died. At four I was the youngest student at the school. I remember the war-torn countryside. Going downtown after a bombing raid we would see human flesh still burning in the ruined buildings. The memory is etched in my mind."

The war with Japan ended in 1945 when Hung-hsiung was 8 years old, but the war for control of China continued. Communist spies who were former inhabitants of Shao Ao would pretend insanity to to avoid suspicion about their activities. The Nationalists were finally defeated by the Communists under Mao Tse-tung in 1948. The Chius were able to evacuate along with the Nationalists to an off-shore island named Formosa by the Portuguese. As the headquarters of Nationalist China it was called Taiwan.




In the map above the red dot on the coast is the location of Shao Ao and the other red dot is located at Taipei at the top of the island of Taiwan where Hung-shiung lived after the Communist takeover of China.

Although he was a colonel at a young age, Ho-yee's career had suffered a set-back when his commanding general defected to the Communists. After that he made no further progress as an officer. He went to work as an instructor at a military college, a position which did not bring in much money. It was then that Hung-hsiung's ability to help his mother with the shopping proved most useful. The bond-maid had been given her dowry, but she was left behind in mainland China and Chiu Pei-chiu relied on her oldest son to help her with life in straitened circumstances. Hung-shiung had a sister and a younger brother who were very young when the family was displaced.

Bright and ambitious but hampered by a lack of money to purchase books, Hung-hsiung helped a classmate who was the son of profiteers who had emigrated to Formosa when they saw that the Nationalists were setting up a fall-back position on the island. When the mother discovered that Hung-hsiung was borrowing books from her son she forbid them to continue thteir association, even though it had been useful to her son. Her behavior was a bitter blow to the young student and his idealism was tainted by skepticism by the incident.

Eventually Hung-hsiung attended the Taiwan Institute of Technology and studied engineering. He was also required to for two years in the Nationalist Army. It was a time when the threat of invasion from the Communists was constant. Hung-hsiung often served as an interpreter and liaison officer between the Nationalist Army Engineering Corps and the U. S. military advisors.




Richard Hung-hsiung Chiu as a young soldier and his parents Ho-yee and Pei-chiu Chiu.

At that time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was beginning to establish missions in the Far East. Missionaires who had learned Cantonese in order to teach the gospel in Hong Kong were transferred to Taiwan. They were in need of someone to help them learn to speak Mandarin, someone who had a reasonable command of English. Hung-hsiung was referred to the missionaries by one of the American military advisors he had worked with as someone who could help. He soon made friends with them, playing basketball and learning more about the Church as well. When the day came for the first baptisms in Taiwan, Hung-hsiung was the second to be baptized. Association with the missionaries fired his long held dream to reach beyond the horizons of the home he knew. Hung-hsiung chose the name 'Richard' in honor of one of the church leaders he admired.

In this picture of the Taiwan Mission Richard is the second from the left on the third row. His younger brother Mark is first on the second row just below him.