Introduction to the Mainlander Veterans Oral History Project

  The Mainlander Veterans Oral History Project was headed by research fellow Hu Tai-Li of the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Ethnography in the mid-1980s. Veterans (in Chinese, this word denotes a shortened form of “glorious citizens”), refers to mainland-born veteran soldiers who came with President Chiang Kai-Shek to Taiwan. They are officially recognized as “glorious citizens” with an accompanying certificate of the same name. The project consisted of oral history interviews with mainlander veterans living in different types of communities around Taiwan documented as audio files. Hualien County, which has a proportionately high overall population of veterans from each researched type, was chosen as the site for concentrated fieldwork and yielded a considerable amount of audio interview data. Altogether 79 volumes and 192 photographs of veteran oral history recordings from Hualien and other regions around Taiwan have been converted to digital format.

  Based on varying residential patterns, the project sub-divided Taiwanese mainland-born veterans into four categories: those living in military housing, veterians homes, farm residences and scattered locations. Military housing veteran interviews were primarily conducted in Hualien City’s Gongzheng Residence, where respondents were found to have served in land troops, all of them receiving lifelong salary after discharge from service and whose wives were all native to Taiwan. Most of the veterans interviewed in glorious citizens homes were bachelors living in Hualien’s housing of this category. They had been left to their own devices after discharge and only admitted into the residences after they were much older. Farm residence veterans were interviewed at the Guanghua Farm in Hualien County’s Ji’an Township. Veterans at this farm had been sergeants in the Development Troop and following discharge were placed for agriculture work on farmland created by rivers. Scattered veterans are those who settled in various locations following discharge, some residing on public land and others in aboriginal tribes settlements. Interviewees from this category included a group living in the Keelung Harbor District who established a motorized tricycle shipping business. The life histories recorded in the audio interviews with these veterans of varying residential categories reflect the backgrounds and living circumstances of Taiwanese mainland-born soldiers as an ethnic group of immigrants in a new land. For written works related to the Mainlander Veterans Project, please refer to “Taros and Sweet Patatoes: Ethnic Relations and Identities of Glorious Citizens (Veteran-mainlanders) in Taiwan”, “Cast Out to the Fringe” and other texts authored by Hu Tai-Li.