The Making of a Scholar
At the end of World War II, Taiwan was a much better-organized society than any other provinces governed by the Kuomintang (KMT) regime. Thanks to its high literacy rate, the island’s population was capable of absorbing information about models of modernity beyond the Asian world. But with the 2.28 Uprising and its bloody suppression, the Taiwanese found their lives in disarray. Their standard of living had slipped below that which prevailed under Japanese rule. By 1949, approximately 17 percent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product had been nationalized, and some 36,000 Taiwanese had lost their jobs in the public sector, as the Nationalist government heavily siphoned Taiwan’s resources to support its war against the Communists.1 Simply looking at school children’s uniforms provides one yardstick for measuring Taiwanese living conditions. Prewar pictures culled from surviving albums show that Taiwanese school children all wore shoes to school. In fact there were ordinances against going barefoot on city streets and in school yards. However, a decade after the Chinese took over Taiwan, the majority of commencement pictures show school children with bare feet. A few Taiwanese writers also depicted a far more sad and grim society in their reminiscences and travelogues.2
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