Some people say we live in an interesting time, some say a tumultuous time. Mr Liu, renowned calligrapher, Chinese (水墨山水) painter, poet, and educator, probably has seen it all.
The small fishing town, or say, village called Jiazi (陸豐市,甲子鎮) was surrounded by mountains on three sides. The only easy way out is by sea. Four year before WWII officially started, Japanese started its assault on South East Asia and the invasion of China. They blocked the entrance to the town of Jiazi. Ten thousand people of the then twenty thousand population died of starvation. Mr. Liu, at the tender age of 19 escaped by a mountain path, carrying with him only 8, yes, eight pieces of sweet potatoes for survival. No, he could not eat all 8 on the way. He could eat only 6 in case he could not find the job he wanted in the next town. He would have to have something to last him for a return trip or for going somewhere else. On the way, he saw dead bodies all around. He saw, for instance, on the side of the path, on a large rock, a mother was nursing a baby while a larger boy died on the side. At a closer look, he saw that the nursing mother and the baby were both dead bodies after all. The sight of a dying baby suckling from a … well, was just unbearable. He was lucky. At the next town over the mountain path, one of his cousins had something for him, editing and printing a news letter and notices. Well, it certainly was not as fancy as it sounded. It means to take some material given to him, using a steel stylus to “write” on wax paper and mimeograph it (ran an inked roller over it to make images on the paper below).
As I mentioned, it was only the beginning of the Japanese invasion. Since at least hundred years before that Japanese has made up the mind to get out of the island, take over the rich Chinese land or any land they could get their hands on. They insistently and systematically made military and political preparations while no one else is watching. When they started, they were not to stop at blocking up a little village. The “next town” Mr. Liu stayed was on the path of Japanese military force. The blessing was that the Japanese were not to fight into the mountains. So he and a bunch of good men and women escape into the mountains, setting up refugee camps, guess what, under the watch of “mountain bandits.” Well, the bandits were definitely again the Japanese invasion so they gave shelters. You can imagine that there was really not enough resources to support so many “refugees”. So he, with a few other fellows did the almost impossible: climbing over the steep slope of the mountain in the back of the camp. It was a long and steep indeed, no one had attempted before and probably no one tried afterwards. After all, it is harder than most “mountain climbing” and not “news worthy” no “price” for it. They finally reached the next “city.” They actually tasted rice again. Yes, just rice, no meat, no veggies needed, it was like food from heaven.
When WWII was finally finished, a kind relative gave Mr. Liu 5000 the current currency to get further education. He were to sail to Hongkong to go to the then best university in the South East of China. On the way to get ticket, he saw a great road side show for the celebration. He could not resist but to watch. When he got out of the crowd, he realized some one had stolen the money from his very shirt pocket. It seems he could never get out of bad luck. However, he did not feel bad at all. The boat he was suppose to take to go to Hongkong sank on the way, killing all Well, not to parish in the sea does not mean he is out of trouble. He was so embarrassed to tell his kind relative about the theft he had to really work hard to find a way out. A rare opportunity took him to Taiwan. There, his diligent study earned him a scholarship to study at the Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. It was difficult time. Scholarship reduces tuition but was not enough for food and board plus the required supply like paint, paint brush, paper … etc. Work small job in his hard to find spare time eventually carried him through college. One lucky thing is that he had a very good teacher, the world famous painter Junbi Yuan (黃君璧).
Mencius said when the heaven (we may say, God, gods, the lady of fortune …) wants to give some one an important task, he would first harden his mind with the worst hardship … Hardship, Mr. Liu certainly has had enough. His hard study plus is family traditional bringing-up helped his ability of expressing himself through paint, calligraphy, and poetry. With each of his painting, he alway, as all Chinese painters do, write something, often his own poems, in his very refined calligraphy.