of an

Fr. Thaddeus Yang, O.S.B.
Valyermo, January 7, 1971



Prefer nothing to the love of Christ (RB 4.21)


UPON MY arrival at Sishan with Abbot Theodore Neve and Father Raphael Vinciarelli, the community comprised only three members: Fr. Gabriel Roux, superior, and Father Hildebrand Marga and Fr. Emile Butruille. Father Pie de Coqueau and Dominique Van Rolleghem had returned to Belgium; Fr. Jehan Joliet, the founder, was on the plateau of Masangpah, near the major seminary of the diocese of Chengtu.

Fr. Joliet’s absence disappointed me. I had known him before he left for China, when I was still an undergraduate student at Louvain. His love for China and the Chinese civilization had impressed me considerably. I saw in him something like a reincarnation of the famous 16th-century Jesuit Matteo Ricci.

I was told that Fr. Joliet had freely given himself up to the solitary life of a hermit. Had he not rather been put on the shelf because his ideas were at variance with the Abbaye de St. André? Fr. Joliet was a monk of Solesmes. To assist him in the founding of SiShan, the Abbot of St André had deputed first Fr. Pie de Coqueau and then Fr. Hildebrand Marga. Saintly monks but no intellectuals, the two monks were not apt to appreciate Fr. Joliet’s Riccian methods. Hence misunderstandings arose . . .

Abbot Neve came to Sishan to study the situation on the spot, not, however, without having first appointed Fr. Gabriel Roux to replace Fr. Joliet as Prior. In his mind this appointment was to be a temporary one, until Father Raphael Vinciarelli was ready to take over. The Abbot wanted Sishan to be a “St-André-in-China”. Did Fr. Roux know it? If he did he did not show it. He had changed his stability from Solesmes to Bruges and went out all of his way to make the abbot’s visit as pleasant as it could be.

The difference between Fr. Roux and Fr. Joliet is that the latter was a 60-year-old man from Brittany and the former a less than 60-year-old native of Bordeaux. Made a monk after having been an officer of the French Navy on the Yangtse River, Fr. Joliet was straightforward, outspoken, self-willed, uncompromising; Fr. Roux was more “diplomatic”, flexible, knowing how to temporize.

After the abbot’s departure Fr. Roux disclosed to me his ideas and his plans. The monastery was to be a center of learning which would serve first the Nanchung area, and later the whole province of Szechwan. To prepare themselves for the task, the monks, present and to come, should spend some time outside the monastery to learn the Chinese language and to study the Chinese culture. Fr. Roux had no need to convince me, for his views coincided with my own. He suggested that I should take the lead by leaving right away for Chuhsien-Litupah, in the Wanhsien diocese.

Chuhsien is the city in which my patron saint, the priest Thaddeus Liu, was put to death for the faith in 1823. The place of his martyrdom, the Taoist temple of the Fire God (Huo-shen Miao) - is a little more than a mile from the Catholic Church. The pastor of the church, Fr. Paul Lei, took me there several times.

I didn’t live in Chuhsien but in the Christian village of Litupah, about an hour’s walk from the city. The village priest, Father Wan, had asked Mr. Chiang, the director of the girls’ high school, to teach me Chinese three or four times a week. Scholar of the old regime, Mr. Chiang introduced me right away into the secrets of the literary and classical languages (Kuo-wen and Ku-wen). Because I was an Indonesian of Chinese ancestry, and a college graduate, he thought it would be an insult to teach me the spoken language (Kuo-yu or pai-hua). True, if one knows the literary language (Kuo-wen) the spoken language (kuo-yu) is very easy to master. Between the kuo-wen and the kuo- yu there is the same difference as between classical and ecclesiastical or kitchen Latin. My pastor, like any other Chinese priest, juggled with both kuo-yu and kitchen Latin with equal nimbleness. In his mouth Latin would come to life, become a picturesque language. Speaking of our bishop of Nanchung one day, he said to me in Latin”Bene cognosco episcopum Paulum Wang: homo est pompaticus.”

Mr. Chiang taught me a good deal about ancient China. Explaining passages in the Ku-wen Kuan-chih (Anthology of Ancient Literature), he would tell me the evolution of the terms “T’ien” (Heaven) and “Tao” (the Way) and the religious and philosophical systems of the Chou and Han dynasties.

After three months at Litupah I was recalled to Sishan. Fr. Raphael Vinciarelli wrote me that the Abbot of St. André had decided to send us, Fr. Raphael and me, to Nangking, to prepare the founding of a new monastery on a piece of land offered by Mr. Lo Pa Hong, the great Shanghai philanthropist. The news did not take me off-guard. I knew for quite a while that Fr. Peter-Celestin Lou Tseng-Tsiang had been working for this purpose on his friends in Nangking and on Mr. Lo Pa Hong (I knew Fr. Lou Tseng-Tsiang very well. To write my thesis on political science and diplomacy, I had had to study closely his personality and the time when he was Prime Minister and then Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the Chinese Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.) I was rather doubtful about his intentions with regard to the Nangking deal. But as I had not been consulted one way or the other, and since the Abbot had given me the order to go to Nangking, there was no choice except to carry out his order. Besides, I had the strong feeling that Fr. Raphael would not be sorry to leave Sishan.

It was in February 1936, cold and dreary at Sishan - cold in both sense of the term. The Abbot’s decision had affected diversely Fathers Gabriel, Hildebrand, and Emile. Upon my return to Sishan Fr. Gabriel was absent. He had gone “to take the air” at Suining. I was not to see him again. While at Suining he was stricken with a malignant typhus. Brought back to the monastery he died on April 9, after a long and painful agony.

Appointed Prior, Fr. Raphael told me to leave alone for Nangking.


FATHERLUCAS CHANG, administrator of the cathedral of Nangking, and Father John Ly, his assistant, received me with open arms. We were in the end of May, and they were getting ready to go to Pekin for the consecration of Bishop Paul Yupin, archbishop-elect of Nangking.

Meanwhile I went to see Mr. Lo Pa Hong in Shanghai. He recommended patience. The legal ownership of the land was being contested, he said, without further elaborating on the subject. From Fr. Chang, however, I learned that the land was occupied by the government and it would be difficult to recover it. I suspected that Mr. Lo Pa Hong was using Fr. Lou Tseng Tsiang’s name to put pressure on the government, though Fr. Lou’s name did not seem to impress anyone.

Shortly after the arrival of Archbishop Yupin I mentioned the matter to him in hopes that he would take it up with the proper authorities. But I sensed right away that he was not interested in monastic foundations. He would gladly welcome the cooperation of individual Benedictine monks as officials in the Bishop’s House, as college teachers, etc., but not as an independant religious community enjoying canonical examption. Fr. Lou Tseng-Tsiang’s name left him cold. At Fr. Lou’s request I presented him with a case containing relics of St. Paul, authenticated by the Holy Office. Keep it for yourself, he said, without so much as opening the case.

On this occasion Archbishop Yupin appointed me English and French language secretary. I made no objection. It was a way of paying my board and lodging at the Bishop’s House.

Bewteen autumn of 1936 and Spring of 1937 I called on Mr. Lo Pa Hong several times. On one of these visits I found him rather sullen. “do you think,” he asked me bluntly, “that Fr. Lou Tseng-Tsiang really intends to return to China?” - “I don’t know”, I answered. At this he gave me to understand that if Fr. Lou was not to return to China, a monaastic foundation in Nangking did not interest him, Lo Pa Hung {sp?}.

What had happened between the Abbaye de St. André on the one hand, and Lou Tseng-Tsiang and Lo Pa Hong on the other? Neither Fr. Raphael nor the Abbot of St. André had kept me informed. I was in pitch darkness. Vis a vis Mr. Lo Pa Hong my situation became most embarrassing. Not for long, however.

In March 1937, friends in the government confidentially told me that Japan was massing troops in Korea and Machuria, ready to invade North China. In May they further revealed that the government offices to which they belonged were about to leave Nangking for Hankow. I wrote to Fr. Raphael. In answer he advised me to return to Szechwan at once. No sooner had I got back to Sishan than the Sino-Japanese war broke out.


WHILEI was at Nangking, three Belgian confreres arrived at Sishan. They were Fathers Eleutherius Winance, Vincent Martin, and Wilfrid Weitz. I found them at Suining, learning Chinese. My joy was all the greater because their living outside the monastery appeared to me to be an opening towards a new era, full of promise for our monastic venture in China. I regretted only one thing, namely, that they should be concentrated in the same city and the same house. One cannot know a country unless one lives with its people. A truth clear as noonday! And yet how many missionaries have overlooked or forgotten it, much to their own loss and the loss of Christianity. In order to avoid the same mistake, I asked permission to stay with Fr. Andreas Long, pastor of Anyueh, 120 Li farther North. There was not a single foreigner in this town of 20,000 inhabitants, and Fr. Long knew neither English nor French.

Mr. Yang Chung-hsiang, director of the Anyueh post office, offered to help me in my studies. He took up where Mr. Chiang of Litupah had left off over a year before. He was well versed in everything Chinese. But I did not stay long enough to benefit by his teaching as much as I wanted to. The lightning-like advance of the Japanese disturbed me. It was the summer of 1938, and already Peking, Nangking, and Hankow had fallen one after the other. The next target would be Chungking, where the Chinese government had just taken refuge. What would become of our community? I went back to Sishan for consultation with Fr. Raphael.

My arrival coincided with the arrival of Archbishop Yupin and Father Vincent Lebbe in Chungking. The Archbishop had brought along some of his priests and all the lay personnel of his Nangking household. In agreement with Fr. Lebbe, the founder of the Catholic daily I-Shih Pao, he was in the process of reviving it as a means to serve China against the Japanese invaders. On the other hand, Fr. Lebbe, who had reorganized his Congregation of the Little Brothers of St. John-Baptist into a medieval corps attached to the 3rd Army Group, was recruiting volunteers for a Catholic “Tu-Tao T’uan” - sort of special mission charged with the duty of arousing the patriotic sentiments of the peasant population behind the lines.

In the name of patriotism, Archbishop Yupin requested Fr. Raphael Vinciarelli to send me to Chungking to head the foreign section of the editorial office of I-Shih Pao. On the other hand, with Fr. Raphael’s consent, Fr. Vincent Martin offered his services to Fr. Lebbe’s medical corps. He joined Fr. Lebbe in Chengtu to take off together for the Chungtioshan front. On the same day I left for Chungking.


CHUNGKINGWAS swarming with people, literally. Within one or two years its population had swelled up tenfold - from 150,000 inhabitants in 1936 to well over a million in 1938. And the influx of refugees continued. One could meet people from all coastal provinces and hear all dialects and accents. The refugees, mere merchants and laborers as well as intellectuals and government officials, could speak kuo-yu, but the “Mandarin” spoken by people from Canton, Foochow, Ningpo, or Shanghai is like Greek or Hebrew ... Had I not lived in Nangking (where there were also “men from every nation under the heaven”) I would have thought I was in the Tower of Babel!

Surprise, consternation almost, the I-Shih Pao was not to be published in Chungking but in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province! However, Archbishop Yupin advised me to stay awhile in Chungking so as to acquaint myself with the government machinery. He introduced me to some high officials, among whom Mr. Hsieh Kuan-sheng, Minister of Justice, and Dr. Hollington K. Tong, Vice-Minister of Information.

The Bishop of Chungking, the Most Rev. F.-X. Jantzen, and his procurator, Fr. Louis Brun, were most friendly to me. They insisted upon my staying in the Bishop’s House. “Remain with us”, they said, “for as long a time as you wish.” I remained one month - the time required to know the working of the huge administrative machinery. Then I joined the I-Shih Pao staff in Kunming.


Yunnan province, whose capital Kunming was, bordered on Burma and Indo-China. Its high mountains, its great distances, its lack of modern highways - all those circumstances conduced to its almost complete isolation from the rest of China. The governor, the war-lord Long Yun, ruled over the province like an independant monarch. He had vowed alliegance to the central government, but up to the time I came, his alliegance was still purely nominal.

The city of Kunming, though remote from everything, reminded me of Chuhsien and Anyueh, so strongly did its wooden structures and cobble-stone streets evoke ancient China. What was more striking, the language spoken was the “Peking Mandarin” scarcely adulterated. This abnormalcy, Fr. Joseph Sun, a Yunnanese priest, explained to me, owed its origin to the history of the city. After the invasion of China by the Manchus in 1644, Prince Kuei-Wang, pretender to the Ming throne, took refuge in Yunnan and established his court at Kunming, whence he went on waging a war of resistance until his death in 1662. “The present inhabitants of Kunming”, Fr. Sun told me, “are the descendants of Prince Kuei-Wang’s men.”

The diocese of Kunming was vacant. After a long squabble with his missionaries because of his “Lebbist ideas”, Belgian Bishop Georges de Jongh had been obliged to resign. [“Lebbist ideas”, after Fr. Vincent Lebbe. Since his arrival in China in the 1900’s, Fr. Lebbe had been campaigning vigorously against political encroachment and in favor of the establishment of native Chinese hierarchy.] The diocese was administered by an elderly French missionary, Fr. Louis Lebon. Lebon was not his real name but he was really good to everybody - even to me. Like Bishop Jantzen of Chungking, he offered me hospitality at the Bishop’s House and put the bishop’s reception room at my disposal for receiving guests.

The whole staff of the I-Shih Pao, priests and laymen, was housed at the girl’s high school a mile or so from the Bishop’s House. Archbishop Yupin, who had to remain in Chungking as a member of the Legislative Yunan, was represented by Fr. Niu Jo-Wong. Good writer and good administrator, Fr. Niu fulfilled at the same time the office of editor of the newspaper.

But the newspaper was still waiting to be reborn... It would not be published in Kunming, I was told, unless the central government should be forced to give up Chungking and to entrench itself in Yunan province. This eventuality looked more remote than a month before, when according to intelligence reports from Hankow the Japanese were about ready for an all-out assault on Szechwan province.

Pending further developments Fr. Niu organized public lectures and evening classes by members of his staff - to keep them from boredom and to pay their salaries. I taught English four times a week - twice at the boy’s high school and twice at the girl’s high school. The rest of the time, I would visit temples and palaces; in company with Fr. Joseph Sun I’d go on excursion to the West Lake, up the mountains, and into the Lolo country. The Lolos were an aboriginal tribe to which Fr. Sun belonged on his mother’s side. He informed me that the aborigines were still quite numerous in Yunnan, particularly in the district of Tali, terminus of the Burma Road. As in Szechwan and Sikang, they were divided into different tribes - Lolo, Sifan, Tsangpu, Mosu, Miao, Yao, Hsia, etc., each having its own peculiar customs and language, entirely different from the customs or language of the Han or Chinese proper. Father Sun could distinguish people of different tribes by the apparel they were wearing. He claimed that Governor Long Yun was a half Lolo like himself.


Life in Kunming was pleasant and instructive. But it wasn’t in persuit of such a life that I had left Sishan. So I told Fr. Niu that I’d rather return to Chungking, where I could better serve the country. He referred the matter to Archbishop Yupin. Without waiting for the Archbishop’s answer I took off for China’s Wartime Capital, as Chungking was called.


A FEW DAYS after I arrived in Chungking in June 1939, Dr. Hollington Tong invited me to dinner at his private residence. There were three other guests, all officials of the Ministry of Information - Mr. H.G. Tseng, Director of the Department of International Information, Mr. James Shen, Chief of the English section of the same department, and Mr. Jimmy Wei, chief of Liaison with foreign correspondants in Chungking. As a Christian (Methodist), Dr. Tong was particularly interested in the Christian Missions in the Southwest (Szechwan, Sikang, Kweichow, Yunnan).

After dinner Dr. Tong introduced us into the living room. He then told me that Madame Chaing Kai-shek, who read French quite easily and spoke it quite fluently, would like to have someone, preferably a Catholic priest, to teach her French conversation two or three times a week. The priest, he added, could eventually put out a weekly French bulletin according to materials provided by Mr. Tseng’s office. The purpose of the bulletin would be to render service to French-speaking missionaries in the Southwest by keeping them abreast of the government’s war efforts. Could I find such a priest? Dr. Tong allowed me a week to think things over. Meanwhile I requested Fr. Raphael to send us Fr. Wilfrid Weitz to serve as Madame Chaing’s teacher; and I begged Bishop Jantzen to let me have Fr. Blanchard, the erstwhile pastor of Hochuan, north of Chungking, as assistant editor of the French Bulletin. Graciously, the Bishop complied, not, however, without warning me of Fr. Blanchard’s “touchy character”. So as to make our task easier, he put at our disposal a corner of the Catholic Hospital for war-wounded, located halfway between the Bishop’s House and the Ministry of Information.

Hurriedly set-up, our office bore no sign whatever. The address, the Catholic Hospital for War-Wounded. The bulletin came out in early July 1939 under the name of “Le Correspondant Chinois”. Dr. Tong congratulated us; so did Bishop Jantzen. Two months later Madamme Chiang, who came incognito to inspect our improvised installation, declared herself satisfied with Fr. Wilfrid.

Shortly before Christmas, Generalissimo and Madame Chiang invited us to dinner, Fr. Wilfrid and me. This first dinner with the Chaings was a remarkable event. Apart from Dr. Tong and us two, there was no other guest, but Madame Chaing’s two elder sisters - Madame H.H. Kung and Madame Sun Yat-Sen - were present. Holding Madame Sun’s hands in hers, Madame Chiang said to me, “Fr. Yang, I present my Red sister!” Everybody laughed; Madame Sun smiled. The laughter did not subside until the Generalissimo gave the signal for grace. Like the others, I bowed my head and joined my hands in a prayerful attitude, but I couldn’t utter a word to God, so distracted was I by Madame Chiang’s playful remark. I knew that out of respect for her illustrious husband’s memory Madame Sun had been leaning toward Mao Tse-tung as Mao Tse-tung had been leaning on her; what I did not know was that this fact notwithstanding, the relations between the two sisters were still so warm.

The dinner party was relaxed and comfortable. After the Thanksgiving prayer Madame Chiang presented us with Christmas gifts for Sishan - a box of candies, a radio set, and a young Irish setter. Madame Kung whispered to me, “After the New Year I should like you to take me to the Catholic orphanage. I want to do something for the Sisters and their poor children.”


Thus all went on smoothly - at least until May 1940, when the Japanese began their large-scale and ruthless air raids on Chungking. Once we had to remain more than ten hours in a pitch dark and stuffy shelter, dug through a thick wall of rock. When we came out we couldn’t find the hospital. An incendiary bomb had reduced it into ashes. From the business center miles away we could see flames shooting up like thousands of rockets. Above us the sky was aglow, round about us, we could hear nothing but the heart-breaking cries of terrified children, the wailing of bereaved women, and the moaning of wounded and dying men. It wasn’t a war, it was an infernal butchery, which alone psychotic sammurais could perpetrate - and they could perpetrate it to their heart’s content, for Chungking was utterly defenseless, except for the steep mountains that encircled it and the Yangtse Gorges that sealed it from possible naval attack.

From May 1940 to December 1941 our office moved five times. Air raids or no air raids, “Le Correspondant Chinois” had to come out every Thursday. For safety’s sake, we would work by night under the flickering light of a candle or a crude-oil lamp. We ate as we could; we slept whenever it was possible and wherever there was room - sometimes we did not sleep at all.


After Pearl Harbor, China followed in the footsteps of the United States by declaring war on the Axis.

On one Spring day of 1942, Dr. Tong invited me to dinner at the Ministry of Information. To my great surprise I found there Mr. Wang Shih-chieh, Minister of Information, General Shang Chen, Minister of National Defense, and General Tai Li, Chief of the Security Police. I felt like “an ant on a hot stove”, as we say in Chinese. The table was presided over by Mr. Wang but the conversation was conducted by Dr. Tong. The two Generals hardly said a word. Dr. Tong revealed to me that the government was expecting the arrival of an American military mission. The ministry of National Defense needed hundreds of interpreters. Candidates would soon be recruited among college students by means of competitive examination. Could I be one of the examiners? Each batch of recruits would be given a special and intensive training of three months. Could I join the teaching staff? The matter was urgent. If necessary I could put off publication of the French weekly. The unusually solemn manner in which Dr. Tong spoke allowed no bickering nor a negative answer on my part. I told him that I’d do my best “in order to avoid disappointing the Honorable Minister of National Defense”. General Chang Chen nodded approval; General Tai Li graced me with a smile. Still I left the place with a strange feeling of uneasiness and suspicion, due mainly to the unwonted presence of Tai Li, the most mysterious and the most dreaded man in the Chinese government.


The recruits were lodged in a vacated military barracks. Lectures were given in the mess hall. I gave conversational English every afternoon from 2 to 4 o’clock. The first batch of recruits was excellent. Carefully selected from among the best college students, they were all intelligent, attentive, and well-behaved. But they were the only ones I came in contact with. Before the end of the first quarter, two of them - the smartest - disappeared mysteriously. A student from Java told me secretly and in Indonesian that, denounced as Communist spies, they had been interrogated, beaten, and led away by Tai Li’s agents. I did not wait for the opening of the second quarter to tender my resignation to Dr. Tong, on pretext of overwork.

“When you have fully recovered,” Dr. Tong said, “I want you to help me with another project.”


This time I settled in the basement of the rectory of a bombed-out church, loaned to Fr. Leo Ferrari, an American Franciscan representing the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Mario Zanin. It was damp and dismal, but it provided privacy.

Father Ferrari’s situation was rather ambiguous. For different reasons neither Bishop Jantzen nor Generalissimo Chiang recognized his official status. The bishop bore a grudge against the Apostolic Delegate, who had failed to notify him of Fr. Ferrari’s arrival; the Generalissimo could not forgive Archbishop Zanin for refusing to leave the occupied territory of China’s Wartime Capital. As a result, the good Fr. Ferrari could deal only with junior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I have said “good Fr. Ferrari”. Good he was indeed - always available, always ready to do anything for anyone. His residence was open to visitors, any visitors, twenty-four hours a day. I met there American journalists such as Theodore White of “Time” magazine and Harrison Foreman of New York “Times”; American and Chinese Officers; American diplomats and Chinese government officials; Chinese Communists such as Thal Me Nang from Chou En-lai’s Chungking headquarters, and those young men from the Hsin-Hua Book store, the main distributer of the Hsin-Hua daily news. Fr. Ferrari showed no interest at all in politics, whether Chinese or international. And he did not seem to care about his visitor’s political persuasions or affiliations.

A good deal of tales and rumor circulated around the place. But one day I learned by chance that General Joseph Stilwell (“Vinegar Joe”), the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Forces in China, would withdraw them unless Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek came to terms with Mao Tse-tung and joined forces with him in a united front against the Japanese. The situation was critical, so I overheard, because the U.S. Embassy and all Americans in China were behind Stilwell.


Dr. Tong summoned me to his office. “As I have told you, I want to discuss a project with you. Could you resume publication of the China Correspondant in an English monthly edition for distribution among U.S. service men?” I asked for twenty-four hours to answer - the time necessary for discussion with Bishop Jantzen and Fr. Ferrari; and, more important, to secure the cooperation of an American Passionist missionary, correspondant of “Sign” magazine - Fr. Cormac Shanahan.

The next day, all was settled. The English monthly was not to be anonymous like the French weekly. It would bear the name of Fr. Shanahan, “Executive editor”, and mine “Editor-Publisher”. Our official address would be that of Fr. Ferrari; “Representative of the Apostolic Delegate.” The articles would deal chiefly with religious and cultural questions and stories of human interest. The editorial alone would touch on political matters.


In Mr. Tseng’s office one day, I learned that the foreign journalists were planning to go on a trip to Yenan, Shensi, the Chinese Communist stronghold. I encouraged Fr. Shanahan to go along as a “special correspondant of Sign magazine”.

Upon his return Fr. Shanahan told me interesting things about Yenan and the journalists’ reaction. Most of the journalists had been won over by Mao Tse-tung. Soon they were likely to play up Yenan’s “agrarian reform” and denounce Chungking’s “corrupt regime”. This, Fr. Shanahan surmised, would have serious consequences on China’s future, because the U.S. Embassy in Chungking and the State Department in Washington were already quite unfriendly towards the Chinese nationalists. Fr. Shanahan asked me if he shouldn’t take up the problem in his coming editorial. “Absolutely not”, was my firm answer. We were free to write about anything whatsoever, but there was a tacit agreement whereby we must abide at all cost - namely that we should refrain ourselves from saying anything critical about the United States or Yenan.


Fr. Shanahan’s prognostic was quick to materialize. Soon thereafter Dr. Tong called me. “Come with me”, he said, “we’ll attend a tea party in honor of Madame Chiang.”

All official China was on hand - the three Yuan (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial), the Cabinet, the General Staff. Madame Chiang, usually warm, spirited, brilliant, looked rather tired and sad. Someone whispered in my ear, “Madame just came back from Washington, where she got a cool reception from President and Mrs. Roosevelt and slanderous comments from the press.” Yet no one ventured the slightest reference to the incident. Everybody put on a happy look as though Madame Chiang’s mission to America had been crowned with the greatest success.


In early Autumn 1943, Fr. Shanahan told me sadly, “Taddy, my superior general recalls me to Boston. I must leave you within a month. A confrere will replace me as editor of the monthly.” After all we had gone through in the last few years I became fatalistic. “Oh, well”, I answered with a wry smile, “it’s only another one of that doomsday prophecy of yours!”


Right from the outset, I felt strongly that Fr. Caulfield had come not only to take Fr. Shanahan’s place but also to reform our set-up and orientation. The China Correspondant is a Catholic Paper, isn’t it? Well, then, it should be more Catholic in contents and outlook. It should avoid politics. It should be completely free from government interference. It should... It should... “So be it,” said I to myself, “We have no one to help, and the work must go on.”

It did go on for six or seven more months. Then one day, at the U.S. Military Mission H.Q., I discovered by chance that the last three issues of the Correspondant had not been distributed. Honesty obliged me to tell the truth to Dr. Tong. “To go on like this”, I said to him, “would be wasting time and money. Besides, deprived of Fr. Shanahan’s collaboration, I feel no better than a disabled war veteran. I have been too long outside my monastic community. I need to rejoin my brothers in religion.”

+   [A Loathsome Begging Expedition]

DURING a “family dinner” at Dr. and Mrs. Tong’s, Dr. Tong said to me, “In recognition of the services you have rendered us, Generalissimo and Madame Chiang offer you a trip to the United States.” I wanted to say something but not a word could come out of my mouth. I was so flabbergasted. “Talk it over with your superior,” Dr. Tong went on, “and then drop me a line. Take your time. There’s no hurry.”

Prior Raphael Vinciarelli the Generalissimo,and Madam Chaing-Kai Check

Hollington Tong

TWO days later, in company with Dr. Tong, I took leave of Generalissimo and Madame Chiang.

It was a cold, rainy day of November, 1944. Perched atop an open truck of the British Embassy, I shivered all the way from Chungking to Chengtu - some 250 miles of bumpy mountain road.


FR. RAPHAEL welcomed with enthusiasm the perspective of my going to the United States. He saw in it a providential sign in favor of a permanent removal of our monastery from Sishan (Nanchung) to Chengtu, and of the establishment, alongside the new monastery, of a Chinese and Western cultural study center. We had discussed this project with Bishop Rouchouse of Chengtu and friends in Chungking, particularly the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice. We had reached the conclusion that funds were needed for the new venture, and that under prevailing circumstances only in the United States could funds be raised with any success.

I embarked at Bombay, India, on a U.S. military transport ship, arriving in San Pedro, California, on May 3, 1945. Thanks to Abbot Alcuin Deutsch of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, I was able to meet with bishops, Benedictine Abbots, college professors, and Catholic newspaper and magazine editors. They were all interested in China, though all were convinced that China could be saved only by carrying out at once the “agrarian reforms” mapped out by Yenan. They were echoing faithfully the voice of the big secular press (New York Times, Time Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, etc.), which presented the Chinese Communists as “agrarian reformers” - nothing more nor less.

Fr. Shanahan whom I went to see in Boston introduced me to Archbishop Cushing. I told the archbishop about our project. “What!” he cut me short, “Millions of Chinese peasants are dying of starvation because your stupid Chiang Kai-shek has hunted down the agrarian reformers, and you have the nerve to speak to me about intellectual apostolate!” He stood up and showed me out.

Too long accustomed to being treated with consideration by the leaders of my ancestors’ country, I could feel my blood boiling with a violent anti-clericalism. But I soon regained control of my emotions by reminding myself that in the presence of a bishop a beggar must always say, “thank you, your Excellency”, even if “His Excellency” gave you nothing else than a resounding kick in the backside.

But most bishops and priests I met were even as courteous and generous as the Chinese bishops and priests. After ten months of this loathsome begging expedition I could return to Chengtu with enough money to build the main section of the new monastery.


THE NEW monastery was inaugurated on March 21, 1949. But community life had begun three years earlier in an old Chinese house given us by Bishop Ronchouse, and the study center (called Institute of Chinese and Western Cultural Studies) had been in operation for a year or two.

Everybody was counting on us, Benedictine monks, to instill a new spirit, more dynamic, into the Church of Szechwan which a long-drawn war had more or less paralyzed. On the inauguration day of the monastery, Fr. Alphonse Poisson, made administrator of the Chengtu Diocese following Bishop Ronchouse’s death in January 1949, unreservedly praised the monks for what they had already accomplished in the field of intellectual apostolate. Mr. Anoynet, the French Consul, recalled the “unique role” played by the Benedictine Order in the development of Western civilization and expressed the conviction that we would succeed in our endeavor to bridge the gap between this civilization and the ancient civilization of China. Prof. Sun Fu-yuan of the National Szechwan University and dean Ly Yeouhsing of the Szechwan Provincial Academy of the Fine Arts expressed the same conviction. Buddhist Abbot Chuan-Hsi Fa-Shih congratulated himself on being elected to serve on the board of advisers.

I did not share in their optimism. Our program was over- ambitious, and none among us had the necessary Chinese intellectual training. Before I left for America, Mr. Hsieh Kuan- sheng, the Minister of Justice, said to me on this subject, “All the Fathers ought to study the Chinese language and culture for five or ten years.” As a former Chinese university dean, Mr. Hsieh knew what he was talking about. But upon my return to Chengtu, Fr. Eleutherius Winance was teaching scholastic philosophy at the West China Union University; Fr. Wilfrid Weitz was teaching English at the National Szechwan University; and Fr. Werner P. De Morchoven was teaching the history of European art at the Szechwan Provincial Academy of Fine-Arts.

A teaching career undoubtedly is one of the most noble, and Chinese ecclesiastical authorities took pride in the fact that monks and priests were teaching at non-Catholic schools. But by experience I dare to say that it is impossible to prepare and teach college-level courses and study the Chinese language and culture at the same time. How many years of schooling has not a European or an American have to go through in order to gain a fair knowledge of the language and culture of his own country. The Chinese language and culture are by far more difficult to learn. All the more so in our case because as foreigners and Catholic priests our Fathers were not accepted by the better non-Christian society, guardians of the authentic Chinese tradition. The only distinguished non-Christian family with which they were acquainted was that of Mr. Liu Ti-chiu, son of General Liu Ch’eng-hou, the retired governor of Szechwan. His sons came regularly to the monastery to receive drawing lessons from Father Werner; his eldest daughter brushed up her English with me in preparation for her college studies in the United States.

Mr. Hsieh Kuan-sheng was over-liberal in allowing us ten years as the maximum time to be well-versed in Chinese language and culture. That is the length of time which takes a Chinese college graduate to specialize in any single branch of this 4,000-year old culture.

Fr. Alberic de Crombrugghe, who fled to Hopachang following the last Japanese air raid on Chengtu, chose to remain with the inmates of the Home for the Aged in that secure mountain fastness.

Fr. Vincent Martin, back from the Chungtiosha front and a Japanese concentration camp, was badly in need of recuperation in Europe.

Only Fr. Emile Butruille continued to study classical Chinese (Ku-wen) and Chinese Buddhism, and he was laughed at as being “odd”... Actually, the really odd ones are those who refused to study Chinese culture because, they claimed, “it is pagan” and “there is nothing in it...”

Fr. Raphael Vinciarelli, being the Prior, did not have the leisure to devote himself to time-consuming studies.

As for me, well, the hectic life in Chungking, coupled with the begging tour of the United States, ended up by corroding my health. However, I resumed as best I could my oft-interrupted study of Chinese literature and philosophy, this time under the scholarly tutorship of Prof. Sun Fu- Yuan - two hours of lessons in the morning, and two hours of exercise in calligraphy in the afternoon. At night, I had to put up with coughing spells that were choking me. I did not say a word about this to anyone. But one evening the secret blew up. In the middle of supper, suddenly dark, coagulated blood gushed out of my lungs. Dr. Michael Siao rushed me out of the dining room and into the hospital.

Brutally, this accident brought my “Chinese adventure” to an end.

Valyermo, California
7th January, 1971 (Chinese New Year)
Thaddeus Yang, O.S.B.