Old Diplomats Never Die, They Just Fade Away

Old Diplomats Never Die, They Just Fade Away
Bevin Chu – 朱柄文
December 21, 2003

In Memory of Tsing-kang Chu – 朱晉康
Former Minister from the Republic of China to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
1917- 2003

My father began courting my mother when he was a poor college student still in his early twenties. She was a nursing student not yet out of her teens. His shoes were so worn the soles flapped when he walked. He repaired them with string. The year was 1939. The place was Kunmin, in wartorn China.

Despite his near penniless status, whenever he invited my mother out, he would call a rickshaw. He never haggled over the fare. Whatever the driver asked for, my father paid. My mother never forgot his explanation why: “I’m poor, but I won’t always be poor, I have a chance at a university education. He isn’t as privileged. He’ll be poor all his life.”

“That’s when I knew,” my mother said, “he couldn’t be a bad man.”

My father never forgot those years of hardship. As a professional diplomat he knew exactly how he had to dress to represent his country with dignity. Underneath however, he remained a humble student. The powerful world figures my father encountered or dealt with, including American presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, would have been amused to see the hole-ridden, moth-eaten cotton undershirts he wore beneath his impeccably tailored, charcoal gray, British wool power suits.

My father was not motivated by money. If he had been, he probably wouldn’t have spent the final months of his life in a cramped third class hospital room, with only one meter separating him from the patient on his right, and one meter separating him from the patient on his left.

My father was a career diplomat. But for him diplomacy was not a career, it was a mission. What motivated him was not the modest sum the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid him once a month, but the values General Douglas MacArthur affirmed in his farewell speech at West Point: Duty, Honor, Country. My father was far too modest to ever characterize his lifetime of dedication in such exalted terms, but his record speaks for itself. When he took the diplomatic service entrance exam in the temporary capital of Chungking during WWII, he scored at the top of his class. Perhaps that is not surprising. He was a descendant of the illustrious Neo-Confucian scholar Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi).

In 1949, when the Chinese mainland fell to Mao Tse-tung’s communists, my father was a lowly consul at the Chinese Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada. As Chiang Kai-shek transferred the national capital from Nanking to Taipei, funds from the home office dried up. One by one, consulate personnel left their posts. Not my father. Each day he packed a sandwich in his briefcase and took a bus to the office. For seven long months, he kept the office open while my mother kept her husband and a three year old baby alive on castoff chicken giblets and pig intestines purchased for pennies in Chinatown.

In the decades that followed, he invariably received an A rating at every embassy or consulate to which he was posted. My mother long ago lost count of the young lives saved, the damaging incidents averted, and the international respect won as a result of his decisiveness and initiative: the suicidal exchange student he dissuaded from leaping to his death; the gun-wielding merchant seaman he disarmed and hustled back to Taiwan with airfare advanced out of his own pocket; the wealthy and influential Texas oil tycoons, cattle barons, and Saudi royal family members whose glowing opinion of the Republic of China reflected their profound respect for him as a man.

T. K. Chu lived the exemplary life of a traditional Chinese scholar official. If he regretted anything in his life, it would be that he never made ambassador. Good soldier that he was, he never complained, but my mother knew it wounded him deeply.

On March 10, 2003, my father walked into Veterans General Hospital in Shilin. A few hours later, this soft-spoken, self-effacing gentleman who helped shepherd the Chinese nation through a half-century of tumultuous change, who helped make Sun Yat-sen’s dream of a modern and prosperous China a reality, walked out with a diagnosis of “high grade glioma,” a brain tumor. In September 2003, my mother and I wheeled him into Renai Hospital in Taipei. By then he could no longer speak or move most of his body. At 1:45 pm on Sunday December 21, 2003, my father took his final breath.

Duty, honor, country. Like MacArthur, my father conducted himself with honor. Like MacArthur, he served his country. Tsing-kang Chu is an old diplomat. And like MacArthur, an old soldier, he will never die. He will just fade away, an old diplomat who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

外交老兵不死,只是淡出
朱炳文 英文原著
顧華德 中文翻譯

當我父親-朱晉康開始與母親交往的時候,只是個二十出頭的窮大學生,而母親則是尚未到雙十年華的護校生。父親的一雙鞋已經穿到鞋底脫落到走路時會啪噠響。他自己將就著用繩子修修補補。那年是1939,地點是戰亂下的中國昆明。

雖然父親幾乎一文不明,每回與母親約會的時候,總會叫一輛黃包車。對於車資父親毫不還價。不論車夫要價多少,父親都如數照付。母親始終記得他的解釋:「我雖然窮,但是不會一直窮下去,我的大學教育會帶給我機會。他卻沒這麼幸運,他一生都會窮下去。」

母親說:「那時候我就知道他可不會是個壞人。」

父親永遠都記得那些艱苦的年代。身為職業外交官父親深知如何穿著,以莊重的代表自己的國家。但是,在體面的外表下他依然穿得像是窮學生。父親所接觸與交往的各國權貴,諸如美國總統甘迺迪、詹森以及沙烏地的費德親王看到他在那套量身訂做、鐵灰色英國羊毛西裝下,所穿的竟是被蛾吃蛀的穿孔的棉內衣,一定會訝異不已。

父親向來不為錢財所動。若是如此,那麼他生命的最後幾個月就不會擁擠在醫院的三級病房,離他左右邊的病床各僅一臂之遙。

父親身前是專業外交官。但是對他而言,外交生涯並非事業而是使命。驅動他的不是外交部每個月發放的微薄薪資,而是麥帥當年在西點軍校離別演說中所標舉的價值觀;責任,榮譽,國家。他的謙虛使他不會用這些高貴的辭藻形容他一生的奉獻,但是他的成就不言而喻。他在二次大戰期間於南京參加外交考試的時候,成績在班上名列前矛。也許這是意料之中的,畢竟他乃是顯赫之新儒家學者朱子(朱熹)的後代。

1949年中國大陸淪入毛澤東共黨政權之際,父親正擔任加拿大溫哥華中國總領事館的低階領事。當蔣介石將首都從南京遷都至台北之際,外交部的經費也逐漸枯竭。領事館人員一個個離開他們的崗位。父親每天在公事包中塞進一個三明治,就搭著巴士去上班。隨後七個月的期間,父親維持領事館照常運作,而母親則靠著以幾毛錢從中國城購買沒人要的雞雜碎與豬內臟餵飽自己的先生與三歲大的孩子。

隨後數十年間,父親在所有大使館與領事館的崗位上都得到優等評鑑。母親早就無法計算因為父親的果決與熱心,而拯救的年輕生命,所扭轉的損害事件以及贏得的國際尊重;說服意圖跳樓自盡的交換學生;解除海員手中揮舞的槍械,並且自己掏腰包買機票把他送回台灣;有權有勢的德州石油大亨,畜業鉅子,以及沙烏地王儲對中華民國與日俱增的善意反映出他們對父親深懷敬意。

朱晉康的一生活出了傳統中國學者從政的典範。如果他一生中有任何遺憾,應該是他從未被任命為大使。身為盡職的士兵,他從未有過任何怨言,但是母親知道這對他是極深的打擊。

2003年3月10日父親步入士林榮民總醫院。幾小時後,這位言語溫和、態度謙虛,曾經協助中國走過半世紀篳路藍縷的歲月,協助孫逸仙達成創造現代與富裕中國理想的紳士,被診斷出患有一種叫做「高惡性度神經膠質瘤」的腦瘤。2003年9月3日母親與我將輪椅上的父親推入台北市立仁愛醫院。那時候他已經無法言語或者移動身體。2003年12月21日下午1點45分父親嚥下他最後一口氣。

責任,榮譽,國家。正如麥帥所言,父親一生以榮譽自詡。正如麥帥所言,父親為他的國家盡責。正如麥帥這位老兵,他永遠不會死。他只是逐漸淡出,一位老外交官遵照神所給他的啟示盡忠職守。