About the Exhibition

Ke Qi-hua's Life Stories

Educational Background and Wartime Memories

KeQi-hua was born in 1929 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. In 1941, he graduated with the first place honorfrom public school ofZuoying, and was admitted to Kaohsiung Senior High School with outstanding marksthe following year. Itwas a remarkable achievement for that period, because the number of Taiwanese students admitted was only one quarter that of their Japanese counterparts. Ke was so studious that he never forgot to pack a couple of books in his bag, even when he was drafted into a student squad duringthe war in 1945.

In 1946, he was admitted to the English department of Taiwan Provincial Teachers College, now National Taiwan Normal University. During this time, he broadened his horizons and knowledge of English through extensive readings in such areas as the humanities and psychoanalysis. After graduating from the teachers college, he began teaching English at Qishan Junior High School, Kaohsiung Girls’ Senior High School, and Kaohsiung Senior High School. In1954, he served as a translator for the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group.

Family photo taken in 1934
(Ke, age 5,is on the farleft.)
High school graduation
Ke with the graduation class that he taught in
1955 (Ke is sitting inthe front row, fifth from the left.)
17 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

Deep in the night ofJuly 31, 1951, secret police agents searched Ke’shome in Zuoyingwhere they found a copy of “Dialectical Materialism.” He was suspected of being a left-wing libertarian and arrested on suspicion of insurrection. After being investigated for nearly a month, he was sent to theGarrison Command Detention Center for further interrogation. The following year, he was moved to New Life Correction Center Eighth Squadron before being transferred to Green Island prison for compulsory labor and thought reform. He was not released until April 6, 1953. After his release, Ke established a cram school and publishing house. In 1960, he published New English Grammar (新英文法), which, in the over 40 years to follow, went on to become a best-selling grammar guide among high school students. It was also an important source of income for his family and management of the publishing house after he was once again incarcerated.
In 1961, Ke was arrested for a second time on charges of insurrection and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Although he was supposed to be released in October of 1973, he remained locked up for another three years on baseless charges. It was not until June of 1976 that he was set free. After his release from prison, he continued to be secretly followed and observed by police agents and, for many years, was haunted by the painful memories of the beatings and torture he had endured in prison. Even after martial law was lifted, he was unable to break away from the trauma caused by the White Terror.

Court verdict
Files from the investigation of Ke by intelligence
Ke at Taiyuan Prison
in February 1972
Ke onGreen Island during the Spring Festival
(Chinese New Year)of1974 (Ke is standing
in the back row, fourth from the left)
Ke at the beach onGreen Island in 1975,
during his second imprisonment
Belated Justice

In 1992, Ke wrote Taiwan as a Prison Island (臺灣監獄島) in Japanese, a book which recounted the trials of his past and expressed his yearning for freedom and democracy. He had begun translating his memoir into Chinese, but was forced to abandon when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1996. The translation was then taken over by his friends Ye Ji-min, Ruan Mei-wa and Yang Bi-chuan, and compiled by his first son, KeZhi-ming. The book was finally renamed Taiwan as a Prison Island: KeQi-hua's Memoirs (臺灣監獄島:柯旗化回憶錄).
Ke’s wrongful imprisonment (his first imprisonment lasted 616 days) over 50 years ago was finally redressed in January 2000.On his sickbed, Ke finally received the justice he so rightfully deserved. Two years later, at the age of 73, he passed away from his illnesses.
On February 2, 2002, at the memorial service, Ke Zhi-ming described his father in the following words:
“My fathermight not have managed to work through his grievances during his lifetime, but it is because of all the trials and pains he had endured on behalf of the rest of us that we now fortunately have moments of respite to reflect upon what happened. Our family hopes that his suffering and sacrifice will help to cleanse people’s minds, so that everyone can lead morefree lives, free fromfear in Taiwan, the place that he called home, the place he dreamtof always.”


Ke’s funeral at De-sheng church on Febuary 3, 2002
Cai A-li at Ke’s grave
The Fight for Taiwan's Democracy

Three years after Ke was set free, the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979 gave rise to a series of democratic movements in the 1980s. Ke stood at the front line of the movement, taking to the streets with the masses and writing many insightful commentariesthat called for political reform. In addition, raising the Taiwanese people’s awareness of their culture and identity was his major approach to political and social movements. In 1984, he compiled bibliographic information on culture publications in Taiwan and established a service center to provide related information. In 1986, he founded the quarterly publication Formosan Culture (臺灣文化) in the hopes of enlightening Taiwanese people about their own culture and identity.
Ke was convinced that freedom and democracy were not means to politics but rather building blocks for safeguarding human rights. This was his lifelong belief.

A campaignto hold a memerandum for Taiwan’s
UN membership
Protest against the ban on Formosan Culture
Tribute to the matyrs of
February 28 Incident

A Life of Letters

The Most Influential English Grammar Book in Taiwan

In 1958, Ke edited An English Manual for Junior High School (初中英語手冊) based on his experiences in learning and teaching the language. In 1960, he launched a new edition of this reference book, entitled ANew English Grammar. When the nine-year compulsory education program was later implemented in 1968, there was a boom in the number of English learners. The book’s clear grammar rules and vivid examples won the favor of many students. After more than 50 years, the grammar guide is now estimated to have sold millions of copies since its first printing. Indeed, it has become part of the English-learning experience oftwo successive generations in Taiwan.

The manuscript of A New English Grammer
for Middle Schools
The Cover of A New
English Grammar for Middle Schools
Creating Literary Works

“In times of turmoil, if we still have a good conscience and sense of justice, we cannotremain on the sidelines. So, I’ve decided to volunteer as a compassionate poet to speak on behalf of my fellow countrymen who are suffering, while venting my frustrations through poetry. May our words be the voice of our time.”


Ke’s preface to his Call of the Native Soil(鄉土的呼喚)


In addition to New English Grammar, in which he explained complex grammatical rules through rational analysis.Ke, as a lover of literature, also wrote moving pieces of prose and poetrythat expressed his passion for life and country of Taiwan's politics, culture, and democracy. He was also an avid lover of music: he used simple rhythms in composing the melody for “Song of Freedom (自由的歌聲)” and “United for Taiwan (團結為臺灣).” Throughout his many works—his grammars, poems, prose works, critical essays and songs—he fully expressedhis passion for life and devotion to the land.

The manuscript of the lyrics to
“Song of Freedom”
The Japanese manuscript of
Taiwan as a Prison Island
Ke on the third floor of his publishing house on
Sept 28, 1985

15 Years of Waiting

On the Other Side of the Sea

Born in 1933, his wife Cai A-li attended Kaohsiung Girls’ Senior High School before becoming a teacherat an elementary school. In 1955, she was wedded to Ke. What could have been a lifetime of happiness was thrown into upheaval when Ke was sentenced to prison. After Ke was imprisoned, the burden of breadwinning fell upon Cai. So long the suffering that once she tried to jump into the Pacific Ocean and kill herself. However, when rethought that she’s the only one her husband and children could rely on, she firmly despite the enormous odds, managed to support the family and bring up their children all on her own.
During the period of the White Terror, families of political victims were under tremendous pressure and surveillance. The police paid the family unscheduled visits, and other people viewed them warily.Ke’s family was of course no exception. The once happy family was gripped by a nameless fear. With no father present, Cai took on the responsibility of raising their children alone, fully demonstrating a Taiwanese woman’s utter strength and devotion in times of misfortune.

"Daddy's in America"

In 1961, when Ke was once again imprisoned, his eldest son Zhi-ming was only five years old and his youngest son Zhi-zhewas not yet one. But by the time he was released in 1976, Zhi-ming was already 16. During his imprisonment, Ke could only look at the pictures sent by Cai and imagine how his sons and daughter had grown.
Cai did not want their father’s absence to affect the children’s growth and education, so she kept the fact of Ke’s imprisonment a secret. Whenever her children asked about him, she told them, “Daddy’s in America.” On special occasions, Cai selected presents for their children at Ke’s request, and told the children that Daddy had sent the gifts from overseas.

Ke’s engagement photo, taken on
March 29, 1955
Ke family photo, taken in 1958
Ke’s son and daughter holding certificates
in 1964
Ke’s wife and children in 1971
Ke’s 32nd wedding anniversary in 1987

Human Rights Movements in Kaohsiung

Recognized by the United Nations as a human rights city, Kaohsiung boasts many attractions that tell the stories of human rights movements. For example, the February 28 Incident of 1947 took place in the former Kaohsiung City Government, what istoday’s Kaohsiung Museum of History, the first place where the nationalist governmentused armed forces tosuppressa popular uprising. In 1979, the MeilidaoIncident occurred in the city where the military-civilian clash ended up in a complete suppression of opposition.These places have retained traces of the human rights movements over the years. Every year, there arememorial services and exhibitionsheld as well as publications released to pay homage to the human rights fighters and educate the public about hard-earned peace and human rights. We hope that, by presenting these historical facts, people will become more aware of theseincidents, cherish the democracy we have today, as well as defend the autonomous standing of Taiwan’s history and the universal value of human rights.

The February 28 Incident

On February 27, 1947, a dispute erupted between a cigarette vendor and an agent of the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team in Taipei, providing the spark that would lead to widespread unrest throughout Taiwan. After the handover of Taiwan from Japan, there had been pent-up frustration and dissatisfaction among the public with the corrupt nationalist government, so it took only a couple of days for the flames from that incident to spread to protests and clashes between civilians and the police, causing countless deaths and injuries. The violence spread to Kaohsiung on March 3. Three days later, the commander at the Kaohsiung Fortress, Peng Meng-chi, ordered the troops to quell popular uprisings in the city. Kaohsiung thus became the first city in Taiwan to witness armed suppression during the incident.

The old Kaohsiung City Government building
Ceremony marking the completion of the 228 Peace Monument in Kaohsiung

The White Terror

The White Terror in Taiwan began from Taiwan Garrison Command’s introduction of martial law in May and the Betrayers Punishment Act in June, 1949. During that period, the government abused its authority to arrest, torture, execute suspicious individuals or political dissidents and confiscate their properties. Consequently, a massive number of people were faced with military trials, wrongfully executed, imprisoned, injured, or disabled. The period caused great loss of life and property and serious damage to people’s physical and mental health.

An interview document from the postwar White Terror period
Former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center (Fonghan boarding house)

The Meilidao Incident

In 1979, the Ciaotou Incident and the Kushan Incident triggered the protests of Kuomintang opponents and small-scale clashes between the people and the police. On December 10 of the same year, members of Formosan Magazine mobilized supporters to take to the streets and stage demonstrations for democracy and freedom. Scores of clashes broke out between the people and the police. The government finally sent troops to completely suppress opposition. This incident is known as the Meilidao Incident, which was the largest popular uprising against the government after the February 28 Incident.

Formosan Magazine
Protest marches against Taiwan Times’ distortion of facts

A Timeline of Ke Qi-hua's Life

1929 born in Zuoying, Kaohsiung
1935 attended Zuoying Public School (today’s Jiu-Cheng Primary School)
1942 tested into Kaohsiung Senior High School (a four-year school)
1946 graduated from senior high school and was admitted to the English Department of Taiwan Provincial Teachers College (today's National Taiwan Normal University)
1949 graduated from teachers college and was later assigned to Qishan Junior High School as a teacher
March 1951 was transferred to Kaohsiung Girls's Senior High School
July 31, 1951 was accused of being left-wing, locked up in Beiyeting Police Station, and the next day transferred to Kaohsiung Police Station
August 4, 1951 was sent to the Garrison Command Detention Centerin Taipei
January 1952 was sent to the New Life Correction Center's Eighth Squadron as a political prisoner
April 1952 was transferred to Green Island prison for compulsory labor and thought reform
April 1953 was released from prison and reinstated in his job as a teacher in Kaohsiung Girls' Senior High School
July 1954 served as a translator in the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group
December 1955 married Cai A-li
December 1956 his first son Zhi-ming was born.
March 1958 his first daughter Jie-fang was born.
May 1958 published An English Manual for Junior High School(初中英語手冊), resigned from school, ended the operations of his cram school and established a publishing house
September 1958 published A New English Grammar(新英文法)
December 1958 his second son Zhi-zhe was born.
October 4, 1958 was arrested again and sent to the Garrison Command Detention Center
January 1962 was locked up in the military detention center, Military Law Department in Taipei
August 20, 1962 was sentenced to 12 years in prison
1969 his short stories Southland as My Hometown was published.
October 4, 1973 finished his prison term, but was transferred to New Life Correction Squad rather than being set free
June 19, 1976 was released in Green Island
1984 compiled bibliographic information on publications in Taiwan and established a service center to provide related information
1986 published his poetry Call of the Native Soil (鄉土的呼喚)and established the quarterly publicationFormosan Culture (臺灣文化)》季刊
1990 his quad-lingual poetry compilation A Mother's Dearest Wishes(母親的悲願) was published in Chinese, English, Japanese and Taiwanese.
1992 his Japanese autobiography Taiwan as a Prison Island(台灣監獄島) was published in Japan.
January 1995 was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease
Jan 16, 2002 passed away