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Filmmaker aims for harmonious relations

The China Post--The Taiping, a freighter remembered as another “Titanic,” exploded and sank to the sea bottom barely two hours into its voyage after a collision with another freighter, the “Chienyuan (建元輪),” at 11: 45 p.m. on January 27, 1949.

It is said to have been laden with 12 tons of gold when it weighed anchor and left the Chinese coastal port city of Shanghai for Keelung in northern Taiwan in the ebbing days of the Republic of China Government in mainland China.

Less than 50 of the some 1,000 passengers and crewmembers survived the shipwreck, the worst in modern Chinese history. The ill-fated Taiping has since been lying on the seabed in murky water at a depth of around 500 meters. The gold said to be in its holds and the whole truth of the matter, however, have yet to see the light of day.

According to Ding, mainland Chinese authorities have said the ship cannot be raised to the surface and be thoroughly combed even with the help of sonar and other state-of-the-art technology. The water at the mouth of the Huangpu River, which traverses Shanghai, is so muddy and murky that divers sent down can only grope in the dark, Ding said.

“The truth,” especially “the whole truth,” is never simple, but always elusive, especially when so much gold is involved, as Ding learned during her research into the incident, which began about a decade ago and has culminated in the production of “The Turbulent Seas and Taiping,” the latest in a series of documentaries overseen by Christine Ding.

Unanswered Questions

The apparently straight-forward accident, however, has left uneasy doubts in the minds of historians and families of the victims, who have remained to this day convinced that the exact cause of the shipwreck has eluded them. They want “the truth to be told,” suspecting that “foul play” was at work in that fateful year, when the R.O.C. government was struggling to maintain its rickety last toehold on mainland soil and when Chinese communist spies ran rampant even in areas under its control before its ultimate relocation to Taiwan.

And then, there is documented evidence that spies from both sides were aboard the ship when it set sail from Shanghai. No one knows what happened to these espionage and anti-espionage agents, nor does anyone know the fates of the Central Bank China documents, foreign treasury notes and bonds, the printing presses of the organ paper of the Chekiang Provincial Committee of the Kuomintang (KMT), a Buick sedan belonging to a KMT heavyweight, and precious antiques owned by the wealthy owner of a Peking antiques business.

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