As fallen leaves return to their roots, my hands traveled to distant and foreign lands, learning Canadian rules of hand etiquette, across the ocean to Tanzania, in the warm hold of strong-hearted women, and finally, to finding myself where I have always belonged, in my Taiwanese heritage.

Taiwan was a mythical place I only heard my parents reminisce about, a familiar story of a far away land told thousands of times over. Even though I lived in Canada, at home I was governed by the strict traditions and customs of my ancestors. I was taught to bear the bitterness of life silently, to bite my lips in pain, and to show restraint in happiness and love. My free and unfettered spirit was a clash to my conservative culture, and as a child, I was chocked by the expectations and duties of a “good” Taiwanese girl. Tragically, I was also blind to the beauties of my rich inheritance.

Meeting Khan Chhiu in the melting heat of Taiwan last summer, however, saved me.

In a reserved culture where couples rarely walked hand in hand, let alone kiss in public, “Khan Chhiu” is the name they chose to call their life’s other half. Khan Chhiu is the Taiwanese word for “holding hands,” and the same words for “wife” or “husband.” Palm to palm and fingers intertwined, it’s a promise to walk together until the end of time. We are carrying our lives dutifully, yours in mine and mine in yours with honesty, respect, and courtesy. In the Taiwanese culture, the basis of love is lifelong devotion and commitment. We do not sing romantic ballads, whisper an affectionate, “I love you,” or squeeze each other in a passionate embrace, but in the ripples of everyday life, “I promise to be here with you.” Khan Chhiu showed me the full and ever giving heart of Taiwan.

In the cracked hands and wind-stricken faces of farmers and fishermen, the unreserved smile of a grandma frying up an “o a jian*” at the night market, the sweet aroma of roasted yam, and the endless sea embracing the sandy shores, I found my Khan Chhiu. Not a man, but a people and a land to share life’s cup of green tea.

Wrapped in the hands of my roots, “I promise to hold you in my heart.”

*Taiwanese oyster omelet

Take action! This post was submitted in response to My Story: Holding Hands.

Comment on this Post


Dear Olga, Thank you for the encouragement and sharing! Reading through all the MyStories, I've been touched and learned a lot too. I think going back to Taiwan last year has opened my eyes to my people and myself. It was a significant time in my life. Let us keep learning together! Cheers Jen

Wow!!! So strong store! Basically you have a talent. Keep your writing, and tell more about your own country))) Its really interesting! =))

Hi Kakim, Thank you for the lovely comment! It wasn't easy writing this piece because I had so many things I want to show of Taiwan. And if was fun as I think about all the wonderful things of my country. I will keep writing! How are you enjoying PulseWire? Welcome to the community, by the way! Cheers Jen

Dear Jen,

thank you for this different perspective on having relationship with a country, an ancestral place, in a way that is as strong as any human relationship with another person. This is new cultural concept that is not often seen in the United States and reminds me of how we can choose what we most want to honor and learn from.

I also loved your colorful imagery in sharing this place of your heart. Taiwan started to wake up for me, even though I have never been there.

Warmly, Frances

Thank you for your sharing and comment, Frances. I really appreciate your perspective. As a Taiwanese Canadian and still learning about both cultures, I do not realize how deep my ancestral culture is rooted in me. It affects the way I interact with people. Just the other day, I was discussing with my Cuban friend and she explained how she naturally greets people with kisses on both cheeks. To her shock, Asians do not receive that well and it is somewhat of an unfriendly rejection for her. When we both understood the cultural differences, we were able to appreciate each other's cultures so much more.

Thanks again for the encouragement!

Dear Jen,

I love your story of holding hands as it changed my perspective on this topic and showed me your journey in connecting with your parent's homeland and finding peace and love within roots that didn't always make sense or feel right growing up so far away from the culture that raised you.

Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.

In friendship, Jade

Thank you Jade and also to the wonderful women (and some men) of this community who have been such great support! As it takes so much courage for everyone to share their stories, the positive comments can be such an encouragement! You don't know how much I appreciate everyone's efforts. We're all in this together!!

Love Jen