While doing research in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu province in China, I made a visit to a local neighborhood called Dafang Lane. There’s no famous tourist spot here, but I was drawn to it by a Taiwanese TV series that I watched years ago — A Touch of Green.

A Touch of Green is a 2015 TV series that is based on a novella of the same name by Pai Hsien-Yung, a phenomenal Chinese writer. The story unfolds the life of three Republic of China Air Force pilots and their wives from the Chinese Civil War period (1945-1949) to the White Terror period (1949 to 1987) in Taiwan. The story is not an ode to China’s revolutionary past, but rather to the tumultuous and miserable lives of ordinary Chinese people who left their homeland and migrated to a new island after the KMT lost the Civil War in 1949. It is not centered on the bravery of the pilots or the strength of their wives. Instead, the drama portrays their anxiety and weariness over the war, their helplessness when confronting fate and history, and their grief over their loved ones’ deaths. It touched me because it transcends macro-historical frameworks and narrates the bond, love, pain, and survival hardship of an ordinary group of people.

In the original novella, Dafang Lane is the military dependents’ village where the wives of the pilots resided. The old buildings still exist today, and there is a brief introduction on the wall explaining that they were constructed in the 1930s and are now protected historical sites in Nanjing. I walked around Dafang Lane, as if I was walking down the memory lane of modern Chinese history. The dripping sound of life echoed here, as I imagined how the wives of the pilots anxiously awaited their husbands’ safe landing or their deaths. For me, the Dafang Lane is not just a place; it’s also a humanities moment that intertwines the TV drama, the novella, and the untold history of a group of pilots and their families.

– Jinghong Zhang (Ph.D. Student)