A poor boy from Taiwan grows up selling vegetables on the street to help his family survive. When he is offered a scholarship, he goes to the U.S. to study. Through dedication and hard work, he raises himself from poverty to a prosperous and successful life.
This story is about a child who was adopted when he was a baby. But the boy didn’t know he was adopted until he was 13 years old. During grade school, after school hours and on weekends, he helped the family water vegetables in the suburbs, and in the streets he peddled popsicles, peanut candy, egg cakes, fried dough sticks, and fried tofu.
During the summer vacation of junior high school, this boy worked as a coolie, carrying gravel, sand and bricks at job sites. Because he doubled his efforts in studying, within three years, his school scores went from almost the lowest in the first year of junior high to the top scores in the third year; and finally the teacher appointed him a class monitor.
In 1950, considering the family’s poor economic condition and being incapable of attaining continuing education, the boy made a bet with his adoptive mother: if he couldn’t pass the entrance examination of the Taipei Institute of Technology (TIT), then he should become an apprentice, making money to support the family. So his mother borrowed the entrance examination fee for him from the neighbors, and fortunately, he passed the exam to get into that school.
After having graduated from the five-year institute, he spent six years working for three factories in Taiwan. Since he had excellent grades, he applied for and obtained a full scholarship from a graduate school in the United States.
After coming to the United States and finding a part-time job, he sent back the borrowed money to the neighbors in Taiwan. Without any money, he struggled alone in the United States. In order to enter the top ten schools in the U.S., he gave up his scholarship and worked in restaurants and farms to achieve financial independence.
When he was studying at the University of California at Los Angeles, he would attend class or assist the professor with research in the radiation lab in the mornings. Then in the afternoon he worked for the Payne Heater Company off campus. In the evening he worked as a salad man in a restaurant. During summer vacations he worked on a farm.
In 1964, he obtained admission to the University of Southern California (USC) for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. During that time he worked full-time in an engineering company, and spent the nights studying as a full-time student.
In 1967, after getting a master’s degree from USC, he was employed by Boeing in Seattle, Washington. While he was employed there, Boeing paid his tuition to pursue a PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For the three years that he worked at Boeing, he considered his job to be his main priority, while his studies were secondary. When he decided to work for the Bechtel Power Company in San Francisco, he was choosing to develop his career instead of pursuing a doctoral degree.
During his period of employment at Bechtel, he began to invest in real estate, using money he saved from his wages. In 1978, after eight years at the company, he was promoted to an engineering specialist and unit supervisor, praised in the Bechtel company magazine published yearly, and also listed in the yearbook of “Who’s Who Worldwide.”
After 17 years at Bechtel, the company wanted to send him to New Jersey to work at the nuclear power plant for two years. However, feeling that he needed to stay in the Bay Area to manage his real estate investments, he refused. He found a job in the Caesar Engineering Company in Oakland, on the other side of San Francisco. Currently he is semi-retired. Part of the time, based on his many years of experience with real estate management and maintenance, he has been acting as a consultant in a friend’s company. The rest of his time he spends traveling around the world.
The book, his whole life had a boy been struggling from Taiwan to America, to pursuit the freedom, democrat, human right, morality, and wealth,” was not only written as a memoir, but also to hopefully provide hope and a reference for others. His life’s work and philosophy has been to overcome poverty and to rise from adversity to a prosperous and successful life. One should have been suffered by adversity as if one had experienced it oneself to really being capable of acquainted with the real meaning of this book.
Chin Sheng Yang
February 25, 2019
1.1 The hardship of the farmer’s life
This story starts in 1935, on a small island called Taiwan or Formosa the Republic of China (ROC), or Free China, adjacent to the east of China, the north of Philippines, and the southwest of Japan and Korea. About 50 minutes south of Taipei, there was a small, secluded village called New Village, and in this village lived a family named Hsu.
At the beginning of the 20 century, because the Hsu family had only one daughter and no son, they adopted a boy from the Chiu family, who lived in a nearby village, to carry on the Hsu name. Because they later gave birth to two boys, the family finally consisted of one biological sister, two biological brothers, and one adopted boy.
Later, the adopted boy married and had three sons and three daughters. They were what is called tenant farmers, so every year they paid rent or a certain amount of paddy to the landlord.
At that time, due to the underdevelopment of agriculture, the lagging agricultural technology, and annual natural disasters, they had almost no harvest. Even so, they had to pay yearly rent on the paddy; and what with overwork and undernourishment, the whole family had fallen ill.
A fourth boy was born to the unhealthy mother but died in a few months. When a fifth child was born, the family was afraid they could not afford to raise it; therefore, they put the boy up for adoption at a couple of weeks of age. This was not an uncommon practice for families who could not afford to raise their children.
1.2 The adoption of the boy
There was a town called Taoyuan, located about 30 miles south of Taipei. In an alley in this town there were 14 families, including the Yang family, who lived in a dirt-bamboo hut. The walls were built out of woven bamboo and covered with a mix of red mud, seaweed and straw; the roof was only laid with thin black tiles and no ceilings, and the floor was constructed not with concrete but clay. On rainy days, water would drip directly onto the clay floor, making it a slippery mess. Such shabby bungalows were rare in the town, being more common in the countryside.
This is where the adopted boy lived. When he was 13 years old, he realized he was adopted. Later, when he came back to Taiwan from America to visit the Hsu family, he found out that the sixth brother had died early, as the fourth brother did. That meant that two babies had died only months after their births. The adopted boy stood in fifth position among the brothers.
Logically guessing, if the fifth boy had not been adopted, he most likely would not have survived.
2.1 Crying to have a tricycle
When the boy was five years old, his adoptive father, who loved him very much, took him to Taipei to see his eldest uncle. As they walked near Taipei’s train station, they passed a store that sold adult bicycles and children’s tricycles.
The adoptive father took him into the store to take a look. He had no intention of buying a tricycle for the boy. But the boy had long wanted to have a tricycle. When they left the store, he began to cry.
The adoptive father told him they would go back to the store and buy a tricycle, and the boy immediately stopped crying. However, when they got to the store, the adoptive father realized that a tricycle would cost the equivalent of half a month’s wages, and they turned to leave the store.
When the boy began to cry again, the adoptive father finally had no choice, and bought him a tricycle. This showed how much his adoptive father loved him.
2.2 ?Attending the sworn sisters’ banquet ?of the adoptive mother
Whenever the adoptive mother attended the sworn sister banquet, she always took him with her. When he attended these parties he enjoyed the sumptuous meals. But he had never seen any other sisters taking their children to the dinner party.
The adoptive mother had another way to love him: according to the Taiwanese custom, every year there were several festivals to worship the gods. After the worship of the ritual, she always made sure that the sacrificial offerings of chicken legs were left for him to eat.
During World War II, food was regulated and allocated by the government. Once a month, every Taiwanese family had to queue up to buy their rations of pork and bean cake from the market.
2.3 A low-flying airplane shooting a machine gun
In the summer of 1942, the adoptive parents were hired at the nearby Pu Xin military airfield as a plasterer and a cook, respectively. They also took that boy to the temporarily built bungalow for workers, and stayed together for several weeks.
One early morning, when the sun had just risen, nobody was walking outside, and the boy was playing by himself at the nearby riverside. Suddenly, an American B-39 flew by, swooping down to several hundred meters above the ground. The airplane looked like the front of a locomotive with wings. It was flying at about three hundred meters above the ground, straight at him. He was so scared that he raced immediately back home.
The airplane fired its machine guns, but no bullet hit him. Most likely the reasons he escaped were because he swerved left and right as he ran, their technology was not good enough to hit such a small moving target, he got quickly to the workers’ bungalows, and probably the gunmen only wanted to frighten him.
3 The primary school
A ?3.5 years under Japanese rule Spring-Sun Primary School … From Sections 3.1 to 3.4
3.1 ?The first year of elementary school … ?Japanese rule
3.1.1 The teacher who loved the boy’s singing
During the Japanese era, under the education system in Taiwan, children were expected to begin school at the age of seven full or eight nominal years. During springtime, the boy, who was just over seven years old, entered the first year of Spring-Sun Elementary School (now East-Gate Elementary School).
On the first day of school, the adoptive mother and the boy, both in bare feet, walked for more than 20 minutes to arrive at the school.
Entering a classroom, the mother found his designated seat, then hurried away from the classroom and went home.
At that time, Taoyuan only had two elementary schools where Taiwanese children could study. Besides the school he attended in the eastern outskirts, there was another school in the city center called Wuling Elementary School (now Taoyuan Elementary School).
That boy’s teacher was a woman who was also a music teacher. When the class stood up to sing, he sang loudly and elegantly. Later the teacher asked him to sing alone, apparently liking his singing very much. She had a son of the same age as that boy, but they were in different classes. The teacher often invited that boy to go to her house to play with her son.
3.1.2 Listening to the radio for gymnastics
During the summer, in order to keep all the students healthy, the school requested that every student went to the school playground at six o’clock in the morning, and they followed the music of the radio for gymnastics.
After gymnastics, each student went home to have breakfast, and then returned to school for their classes. Sometimes instead of doing gymnastics, the teachers would take their students to climb the nearby Shrine Hill (now Tiger Head Hill).