Rizhao city is located on the coast of Shan-dong province near Qingdao, home of the fa-mous brewery. Shandong has produced many famous figures, some mythical like Wu Song who reportedly killed a tiger with a single blow, others more real though still larger than life like Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei’s chancel-lor during the fall of the Han dynasty, Confu-cius who’s synonymous with Chinese cultureand also his prized pupil Mencius. When Yuen-chwan Sheu was born in Rizhao,the count of souls tallied no where near itscurrent 2.8 million inhabitants. Yuen-chwan was born the day after the Lunar New Year celebrating the year of the snake on February 9, 1929. At the time Rizhao was organized as acounty. He was born into a different universe.His was a universe where his parents fully expected a restoration of the emperor. Thenew Republican government appeared to be just another anomaly among many in thethousands of years of dynastic rule. Luxury transportation in Rizhao in 1929 was a horsedrawn carriage.From this beginning in this coastal ruralcounty Yuen-chwan Sheu’s life would spantwo continents, three countries and four lan-guages. Though he never mastered English, Yuen-chwan did master Mandarin, Korean, Japanese and a smattering of Russian. He would outlive the usefulness of a horse, learnto drive a car, come to love to watch John Wayne western movies on television, andcontribute to an American life.By 1940, it must have seemed as if the world was coming to an end in Rizhao. Eighteen years and still no restoration of the emperor in sight, and Japanese invaded China. Yuen-chwan’s father died from heartbreak, betrayed by a kinsman over an investmentin the newly developing German influencedcity of Qingdao. A few weeks thereafter, Yuen-chwan’s mother devotedly followed her husband, also dying from heartbreak whileembracing her eleven year old son on her matrimonial bed.One fateful day that Yuen Chwan missedschool, Japanese bombers demolished hisschool. His paternal aunt who had takencharge of his care decided to send him to therelative safety of Korea. The Korean penin-sula was solidly under the administrationof Japanese as an imperial colony. He wasto join his former warlord uncle, a younger brother of his father. His uncle had fled Chinamany years prior to escape Chiang Kai-shek’stroops during that general’s Northern Expedi-tion. Yuen-chwan’s uncle expected a battle, but that battle never materialized as ChiangKai-shek’s march into the northern prov-inces of China proved to be more show thansubstance, and the generalissimo instead brokered deals with local warlords along hispathway to Manchuria. Yuen Chwan accustomed to spoiling as theonly son of a prominent landowner did notlast long in his authoritarian uncle’s military household. In his teenage years he set-off onhis own.
Moment of Destiny
During the late 1940s, Yuen Chwan settledinto a job at a prestigious Chinese restaurantat Seoul. Still a teenager, he was affordedgreater responsibility beyond what was nor-mal for his young years. Two things electedhim for special treatment, his previous educa-tion (though he attended only the equivalent years of the 7th grade) prepared him better than his many Chinese compatriots in Korea,and his comparatively tall height of 5’11”made him seem more authoritative than his
February 10, 1929 - April 17, 2009