My Fourth Uncle
By Chu, Chen Chiu
My father was my grandparents' fifth son; he had one younger sister. During my childhood, all of my grandparent's' descendants were living together in a village called "CHU'S RESIDENCE," which was named after our family name "CHU." My uncles judiciously treated their nephews and nieces just as their own children- with affection and intimidation. My fourth uncle especially cared for me the most, and I was in awe of him. In the past, Chinese students were taught classical literature by a tutor. During my childhood, the public school system had just been in place for only a few years. My fourth uncle was appointed principal of an upper elementary school ( grade 6 through 8 ) which was approximately thirty miles from our home. I entered this school with him at ten years of age.
There was no modern transportation system in the remote village; the only transportation available was by sedan chair. All teachers and students had to live at school except during vacations. When school started, my uncle hired a sedan chair that would carry both of us to school. Because he was a fat, potbellied middle-aged person, most of the time en route, especially when climbing a slope, my uncle panted along behind the chair bearers lest they get overtired, letting me comfortably sit in the sedan chair. He slept with me in a room at school coming to my bed several times at night to see if I was covered with a quilt for fear that I might catch a cold. During summer and winter vacations, we went home together. He taught me Chinese classical literature five days a week. The following morning, I would have to fluently recite the masterpieces he had taught me the day before; otherwise, I couldn't eat breakfast until I recited them without hesitation. I often received a ruthless beating because I couldn't do it. Having endured this stern discipline for three years, I was familiar with a small portion of the most well-known Chinese classics, and learned to appreciate Chinese prose and poetry, which laid the foundation for my love of literature. In college my major was mechanical engineering. My chosen field of study was influenced by the governmental summons, " Learn Industry, Save the Nation." After graduating, I worked in industry and was an amateur writer, contributing articles on scientific news in "The Central News."
In my life time, Chinese people encountered massacres twice, the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and later the catastrophe of communism. Luckily, I survived by virtue of the government's taking students as refugees to the safer rear districts before the enemy came. However, most of my family, including my fourth uncle, were killed. In 1939 I left my home village and went back in 1983. I wanted to pay respects to my fourth uncle at his gravesite, but unfortunately I couldn't since the Communists didn't permit the family to bury the corpse after his death. I got all choked up, remembering his great care for me and will forever pay homage to him in my heart.