The Importance of Roots in Taiwan



In Taiwan, there is a literal tree house. Branches of a banyan tree curve around the building and hold up the entire structure. If you walk inside the tree house and look up, there is no roof. Instead, a lush dark green canopy of leaves grows overhead. But it’s not the emerald leaves that are the most distinctive trait of the banyan. The amazing feature of this tree belongs to its thick, sturdy roots.

They rise tall into the air, up to 100 feet high, and zigzag in wild directions. The banyan’s aerial roots drop down from above, sprouting wherever they touch the ground. Although twisted, these roots are strong and tough. The solid roots are what support the building in Taiwan, allowing the historical site to remain open to visitors.

Roots are what allow people to stand up strong and courageous as well. Though our roots are not exposed like the banyan tree, they create the stable core of our lives. Our roots, our heritage, our background, affect us and mold us just as surely as roots define the shape of a tree.

Sometimes, like the banyan, we graft onto others. Banyan seeds can sprout on top of different trees or in the crevices of buildings. People are also intertwined with those around them. This often happens in marriage, and that was the case with me. My identity has been shaped by bonding with my husband’s family. Through the tight connection, I ended up visiting their homeland of Taiwan. It’s a journey I’m grateful for because hearing my relatives’ stories and seeing the actual land changed me.

Taiwan is an island consisting of bustling urban centers, alongside natural wonders. Marked by a crystal-clear lake in its center, unique beaches topped with coral and black sand, and imposing mountains that challenge even the toughest climbers, it’s a tropical paradise full of variety. In fact, when Portuguese sailors first saw it, they called Taiwan, “the beautiful island.” But behind that scenic veil lie hidden stories and secret roots.

Before Chinese rule, Taiwan was governed by fifty years of Japanese leadership. The transition to new rulers was not smooth. During that time, there occurred the little-known 228 Incident, which led to a series of heartbreaking events.

Tragedy lurks beneath beauty sometimes. The atrocities were not spoken about for many years. However, Taiwan has grown from these tragic events, not only surviving, but thriving. This is due to the truth, the pouring out of people’s stories that has happened within recent decades.

It is the truth that sets us free, as individuals and in groups. When we can be genuine, we are free. How am I truthful with myself personally? I embrace my dual heritage, both my Asian and American sides. I give credence to my inner passion, my creative spirit. Owning who I am gives me strength and drive to move forward in productive ways.

Seeing the Anping Tree House in Tainan, Taiwan brought me hope. In that special place, I saw the growing of roots stabilize an abandoned warehouse. Those roots upheld the building, just as our roots uphold us. Let us acknowledge the background and personal history within all of us, that sets us free to be who we are with pride and dignity.

About the Author:

Jennifer J. Chow is the author of The 228 Legacy, a novel which explores the emotional effects of The 228 Incident across generations in a Taiwanese-American family. It was a 2013 IndieFab Finalist from Foreword Reviews.

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