Taiwan village chief carries ashes of former Kuomintang soldiers to their mainland hometowns, one urn at a time

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/26 17:33:39

Liu De-wen, the chief of a Taiwanese village, helps fulfill the last dream of the local elderly people: to bring their ashes across the Taiwan Straits to a peaceful resting place in their hometowns.

Liu was born in 1967 in a remote small village in Taiwan. His parents and grandparents were all farmers. But Liu's destiny changed after he bought his own house in the Hsianghe neighborhood in Zuoying district, Kaohsiung.

He then worked in Kaohsiung at a bank. In 2002, he became the chief of Hsianghe. As chief, he made an early connection with the former mainland soldiers whose ashes he now carries.

Unlike other neighborhoods, Hsianghe is home to many elderly former soldiers from the Kuomintang army.

These soldiers retreated to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek many decades ago.

The work of a neighborhood chief commonly involves dealing with petty civil disputes and helping the residents apply for government subsidies. When Liu first started his work as village chief, he found many of these elderly soldiers yearned zealously for something different. They wanted to be buried in their mainland hometowns. 

The Hsianghe neighborhood at its peak had more than 4,000 residents and more than 3,000 of them were single. When Liu first became chief of Hsianghe, there were about 1,000 soldiers living in solitude. Now there are fewer than 60 left.

Liu once told media that he was moved by the tearful stories told by these soldiers. So starting in 2003, he voluntarily helped transport their ashes to the mainland, one trip at a time. Every time he carries their remains home, he buys an individual seat for the urn, a gesture to show his respect for the dead. He also set up a mourning hall at his own home.

In the past 15 years, it's reported that he has helped transport about 100 soldiers' remains to different provinces in the mainland, funded by donations. His footsteps have covered 80 percent of Chinese provinces.

But his deeds haven't only earned him praise, but also criticism. Some people question Liu's motives. But Liu said that no matter what other people say about him, he will continue his mission without hesitation.

Liu De-wen prays in front of a wall of soldiers' urns in Taiwan before taking one away to transport it to the Chinese mainland. Photo: IC

Liu offers incense to a dead soldier. Photo: IC

Liu kneels down in front of a soldier's remains. Photo: IC

Liu carefully wraps an urn to put in his backpack. Photo: IC

Liu participates in a soldier's funeral in East China's Shandong Province. Photo: IC



Newspaper headline: Final homecoming

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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