Chinese Nationalist Party

Descendants of victims mark "Taiping" tragedy

By Jenny W. Hsu

With bowed heads and teary eyes, descendants of the victims in the Taiping steamer shipwreck 60 years ago appealed to the government yesterday to pay more respect to the incident by designating a national holiday to commemorate the tragedy. 

More than 1,000 people, including the father of forensic scientist Henry Lee (李昌鈺), died when the vessel — with a capacity of only 580 passengers — sunk off the coast of Shanghai, China, after colliding with a small cargo ship on a dark night in 1949.

Only 36 people were rescued and the bodies of the victims were never found. The journey was part of the massive wave of Chinese emigration to Taiwan after it became clear the Chinese Communist Party was winning the civil war against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

“The passengers came from different places in China but had the same dream, which was to escape the claws of the communist regime and build up a home of prosperity and cultures,” said Sun Mu-shan (孫木山), 76, who sailed across the Taiwan Strait on the Taiping’s third journey.

His friends and relatives, however, were not so blessed when they boarded the Taiping the fourth and last time it embarked from a Shanghai berth.

Sun, holding pink lilies, was one of 13 people who gathered around a small white monument yesterday to pay tribute to the victims. The 2m monument is tucked away in a corner of a Keelung Harbor naval base.