Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Francis J. Tatu
TATU: This was a wonderful situation from my point of view. We lived in this relatively little town, Taij Chung. We lived in Chinese-style houses. Actually there were a little more Japanese style because the Japanese administrators had lived in them: Shoji screens and tatami, you know. Everybody took off their shoes on entering because the floors were covered with tatami and we sat on popillows on the floors. They had little contained gardens. It was very nice, a nice situation. Our school, which was an old rundown mess of a building, had a lot of character. We had as our director - “ShauoChang” was the title - a scholar named Howard Levy, who is famed in Far Eastern ranks.
He was a very dedicated scholar, and he had a number of books out, one on “Yang Gway Fay, court favorites of an illustrious celestial” the most famous courtesan in Chinese history, and he was also somewhat of a libertine. He had a book out on Chinese ribald jokes and a book on Taoist sex practices, which is very pertinent stuff. We had, therefore, the school itself, a tradition of very heavy drinking and partying. As a senior you would frown on that, but at the time it was a good way to get to know the people. For example, we had field trips once a month. Soon after I arrived there was a field trip, and we went first to a Chinese cigarette factory. There was great hilarity as everybody feigned trying to find the Chinese Carmen. To amuse us and they were making yard-long cigarettes. Howard had the ability. He was wonderful at the language, and really good with people. Then we went to a Chinese wine factory for lunch. That was total disaster because in the Chinese tradition, you know, you are required to toast each other and then each dish in the repast. And the drinking is very heavy. My gosh by the time we were out of there everybody seemed to be roaring drunk. Then we went for a briefing by the MAAG, by the U.S. military, and the briefing officer said, “Just your breathing in here, as a result of you guys, is enough to knock me out.”
That's an example, but I'm thinking of this demonstration and parade in town also. Once Howard instructed us and we all had to line up on a certain street corner in Tai Chung on a Saturday morning. It turned out we were going to march in a Buddhist parade. There were a lot of American missionaries in the area, and here we were marching along with our Buddhist flags, and suddenly there's a whole group of missionaries and they looked very startled at this.
Q: Did they realize that you were American diplomats?
TATU: Oh, yes, they knew who we were. The school was very well-known.
Q: How many students were there in the school?