Much progress has been made toward acquainting the Western reader with the richness and genius of Taiwan fiction since the appearance of Chi Pang-yüan’s Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature in 1975 and my Chinese Stories from Taiwan: 1960-1970 in 1976.1 On February 23-24, 1979, a symposium on Taiwan fiction was convened at the University of Texas at Austin, the first undertaking of this nature sponsored by a major American university. The papers delivered on that occasion are now published in the collection entitled Chinese Fiction from Taiwan: Critical Perspectives.2 Another measure of the vitality of the field is demonstrated by the fact that some of the more prominent writers represented in the two anthologies cited above are now published in individual volumes.3 Indeed, Taiwan fiction in English translation has not only increased in quantity over the years, it has also become diversified enough to accommodate the particular needs of some specialists. One case in point is Born of the Same Roots: Stories of Modern Chinese Women,4 which includes six selections by Taiwan writers on the basis of their “feminine sensibility.”
However, as far as chronological representation is concerned, our translation of Taiwan literature has been heavily lopsided. No existing anthology has included works dating earlier than the fifties.5 Such lop-sidedness will certainly create the unfortunate impression that Taiwan was a literary wasteland prior to its retrocession to China in 1945.
This is not the case. If we take Lai Ho (1894-1943) as the father of Taiwan literature and his “Busy Over Nothing” (Ton nao-je, 1926) as the first vernacular story published by a major Taiwan writer, then it is clear that Taiwan had over twenty years of literary activity before its return to the motherland.6
In all fairness, it must be pointed out that the exclusion of the Japanese Occupation Period (1895—1945) is due neither to political prejudice nor to the caprices of literary taste. Quite simply, the omission results from the insufficiency of source material. Until the publication of the monumental Taiwan Literature under the Japanese Occupation in 1979,7 nearly all the writers of Lai Ho’s generation, such as Wu Cho-liu (1900-1976), Yang K’uei (1905– ), and Lung Ying-tsung (1911– ), have remained names more often encountered in memoirs than seen on library shelves. Compounded with the unavailability of texts is the barrier of language. With few exceptions, most of the writers who flourished in the decades from the twenties to the forties wrote in Japanese. Had their writings not been translated, or, as in the case of Yang K’uei, rewritten in Chinese, it is likely that our knowledge of Taiwan fiction would go back no further than the fifties. Obviously enough, it would not have been possible for me to put together an anthology of this fiction since the Japanese period without the assistance of my colleagues in Taiwan, who have provided me with expertly edited collections of basic texts.
Admittedly, the fiction of Lai Ho and his contemporaries makes rewarding reading only from a historical perspective: as records of a people under foreign domination. While police corruption and bribe-taking on the part of a hospital administrator may seem to us too commonplace to warrant reporting in a story, in the contexts of Lai Ho’s “The Steelyard” and Yang K’uei’s “Mother Goose Gets Married,” such practices are to be understood not so much as violations of law but as evidences of humiliation suffered by a subjugated race.
Similar strains of nationalism are heard in Wu Cho-liu’s “The Doctor s Mother” and Chu Tien-jen’s “Autumn Note.” In contrast to “Steelyard” and “Mother Goose,” however, those who appear abominable in these two stories are not the Japanese conquerors but their Taiwanese vassals who are only too eager to surrender their Chinese identity, including their names, to qualify them to enjoy the special privileges of a naturalized Japanese citizen. A dramatic foil to these social climbers is the doctor’s mother, who refuses to eat her dinner squatting on the tatami, and the Confucian scholar who passes his days chanting the Utopian rhymes of T’ao Ch’ien s “Peach Blossom Spring” (T’ao-hua yüan chi). Though their resistance against Japanization is passive, and perhaps foolhardy, they have through their spiritual defiance bequeathed to Taiwan literature a moral legacy of self-respect and a consciousness of national pride. Literature for the writers of the Japanese period is a sui juris means of protest as much as it is a form of self-expression. In this light, the four writers represented in Part I of this anthology are not only precursors of Taiwan fiction: they are vital links to the great chain of May Fourth literature precisely because the engagé spirit they espouse has constantly been reasserted in later writing.
After the Communists took over China in 1949, the Nationalist Government and hundreds of thousands of refugees loyal to Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan. No literature worthy of serious attention was produced in the period of settlement until the late fifties. The reason, as I have explained elsewhere, is that the government’s “Recover the Mainland” slogan had been read by refugee Chinese “not so much as an indication of determination ‘to go home’ as an unrelenting personal reminder that Taiwan was not their home. For this reason, they looked upon themselves more or less as ‘transit passengers’ in an airport even though they had not the slightest idea just when, if ever, they could board the next home-bound plane.”8
This transit-passenger mentality is sensitively described in Lin Haiyin’s “Lunar New Year’s Feast.” Since this story deals only with the experience of the mainlanders and their pipedreams, it is only fitting that life in Taiwan during the early fifties should be mirrored from another angle. Nominally an autobiographical love story, Chung Li-ho’s “Together through Thick and Thin” is no less realistic for its description of Taiwan’s rural poverty and hardship before the island was transformed into an “economic miracle” in the seventies. The rural change in Taiwan during the last twenty years can be gauged by comparing Chung’s story with Cheng Ch’ing-wen’s “Betel Palm Village.”
By consensus, the decade of the sixties was a period of experiment and growth. While the main current stayed close to the course of social realism, some writers occasionally took a detour to the realms of surrealism and personal agonia. Li Ch’iao’s “The Spheric Man,” which bears the unmistakable “anxiety of influence” from Kafka, is a noted example of the former. Ou-yang Tzu’s “The Net,” punctuated at almost every other sentence by a muffled cry of existential loss, is an early instance of Taiwan women’s futile efforts to disentangle themselves from the “net” of traditional expectations in being a wife and a mother. Feminine aspiration is also the concern of “The Story of Three Springs,” though presented from a vastly different point of view. Sexually aggresive, Wang Chen-ho’s heroine exudes animalistic energies; her self-confidence and purposiveness make a mockery of the anguish and the dilemmas experienced by Ou-yang Tzu’s intellectual woman.
However, much as they are varied in narrative technique and in their interpretations of reality, the above three selections have one common characteristic: self-sufficiency as a literary entity. Unlike the stories in Part I, or the hsiang-t’u morality tales in the seventies,9 the fortunes of the individuals in “The Spheric Man,” “The Net,” and “Three Springs” bear no particular relation to the society in which they live. In other words, they are not intended to be an immediate reflection of metropolitan Taiwan in the sixties, and they are refreshingly free from any burden of ideological or moralistic predispositions.
The situation is quite different in the fiction of the seventies, in which personal destinies are often affected by political exigencies. Published in 1970, Liu Ta-jen’s story can in this respect be read as a transitional piece in that the individual is still allowed the freedom to vacillate between courses of action and retirement. At once compassionate and ironic, “Chrysalis” is a sad commentary on the guilt-ridden scholarly bureaucrats of the Kuomintang regime who have expatriated to California in hopes of burying their past—only to find that a life in exile is emptied of meaning unless the past is recalled to redress the drabness of the present.
But the ruminations of “Chrysalis” are soon drowned out by the onslaught of larger realities in the arena of international politics. On April 9, 1971, the U.S. State Department announced its decision to return the Chien-kuo (Senkaku in Japanese) Islands, about 100 kilometers northeast of Keelung, Taiwan, to the jurisdiction of Japan in 1972. Tiao Yü T’ai is the largest of this group of islands. This decision set off violent chain protests by Chinese students in the United States, Hong Kong, and eventually Taiwan. The vicissitudes of this student demonstration, known as the “Protect Tiao Yü T’ai Movement,” are the subject of Chang Hsi-kuo’s “Red Boy,” who is a political activist.
The Tiao Yü T’ai incident is but one of a series of political setbacks for the Nationalist Government. In 1971, Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations. A year later, President Nixon made his pilgrimage to Peking. The image of America as a reliable friend and a staunch ally was soon discolored. Both Huang Ch’un-ming’s “I Love Mary” and Ch’en Ying-chen’s “Night Freight” are products of this era, echoing the passions and concerns of the Japanese Period writers. It would be naïve, however, to regard the resentment seething in Huang’s and Ch’en’s stories merely as an impulsive reaction to what the Japanese call the “Nixon shohku.” In point of fact, the American presence, and later the Japanese as well, had long been resented before Nixon’s trip. There was, for instance, the Liu Tzu-jan incident in 1957, which culminated in the destruction of the U.S. Embassy and the Information Service headquarters by an angry mob. But as far as the writers are concerned, open denunciation of American and Japanese economic domination erupted only after they had witnessed the desertion of their government by its allies one after another.10 Viewed in this light, “I Love Mary” and “Night Freight” can be taken as a cumulative story: the experience recorded at hand is but a symptomatic expression of a nation’s long and bitter memory of compromises and mortification.
To be sure, not every writer active in the seventies is likewise politically oriented. Li Yung-p’ing, for one, draws material from his Sarawak experience to enrich his parable of human depravity. “The Rain from the Sun” is one of the most ambitious undertakings in mythopoesis in modern Chinese fiction. Some, like Tung Nien, have sought to interpret Taiwan’s social ills in sociological rather than ideological terms. As with most societies, industrialization has brought to the island concomitant problems such as the disintegration of cohesive kinship, glaring differences in the standards of living, juvenile delinquency, and, as dramatized in “Fire,” the loneliness and alienation of dislocated individuals who have moved from the countryside to the big cities. In this context, perhaps we can understand why the college graduate in “Betel Palm Village” has chosen to make his fortune in farming rather than taking a job in Taipei.
Loneliness once again pervades the mood of Chang Ta-ch’un’s “Birds of a Feather.” Those soldiers who followed the government to Taiwan when they were in their teens are now well past middle age. Unlike the host and his guests in “Lunar New Year’s Feast,” the old soldier in “Birds of a Feather” cherishes no illusion of returning to China. After all, even the government has abandoned such slogans as “Recover the Mainland, Liberate our Compatriots.” Homesickness, however, transcends the pettiness of politics. The old soldier still longs for his old home in Shantung. To relieve his nostalgia, he names each of the chickens he raises after his kin—to the taunts and mockery of his fellow armymen, who are either Taiwanese or Taiwan-born descendants of mainlander parents. His sorrows and grief are private because it is difficult for his comrades-in-arms to understand why he should choose to sleep in the chicken coop whenever he has an opportunity, just as it is impossible to explain to them why his chickens are not commodities to be sold for a profit. He kills all the birds and buries them with traditional rites befitting a human being after his squadron has received orders to decamp. In observing the personal anguish of this Shantungnese veteran, Chang Ta-ch’un has at the same time confided to us the fate of the aging ta-lu-jen (mainlander Chinese) in Taiwan: solitary outsiders crippled by their anachronist sense of value and their distant memories.
The summary presented above is by no means a survey of Taiwan fiction over the past fifty years. What is intended in this preface is an editorial statement regarding the organization of this volume and the rationale for the selections. Due to the limit of space, I was compelled to give up a number of stories originally commissioned for this book. I would have liked to see Lung Ying-tsung’s “The Huangs” and Lü He-jo’s “All Is Well in the Family” represented in Part I for the sake of variety. While Lai Ho and his peers are notable for their patriotic sentiments, the works of Lung and Lü should not be denied their place in history just because they happened to practice their craft as if they had never seen a Japanese policeman in occupied Taiwan. Similarly, one or two authors whose views are in line with the Nationalist Government should also be included, if only for the sake of offsetting the cynicism seeping through the pages of “Lunar New Year’s Feast.”
But even a modest attempt at expansion would require more space than is realistically available. As it stands, however, this volume is the only anthology of Taiwan fiction comprehensive enough to contain half a century of achievements and diversified enough to offer various examples demonstrating a graduating degree of narrative sophistication. The Unbroken Chain is a self-sufficient text for an introductory course in Taiwan fiction from the earliest times to the present.
In addition to the anthologies and reference works cited earlier, I have consulted Huang Wu-chung’s Brief Biographies of Taiwan Writers during the Japanese Period (Jih-chü shih-tai T’ai-wan hsin wen-hsüeh tso-chia hsiao-chüan, Taipei, 1980) in preparing the biographical sketches that accompany the stories. Due to space considerations, the notes on the authors are kept to a minimum, providing no more information than is necessary to identify the particular qualities of their art or the significance of their works in sociohistorical perspectives.
The present volume is an outgrowth of a grant (1979-1980) from the Social Science Research Council, for which I would like to extend my gratitude. Thanks are also due to the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for providing me with summer support that year. Publication of this book has been timely assisted by a grant from the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and I wish to thank its president, Dr. Jeanne Tchong Koei Li, for her speedy processing of my application. An undertaking of this nature is necessarily a collaborative effort, involving the generous contributions of many individuals. I am grateful to the authors or their descendants who have given me written permission to translate their works into English.
To the translators, whose names appear with their selections, I owe more than a perfunctory note of thanks. It is their skills and labor that have enabled the Chinese stories to live a double life in English. Apologies, along with thanks, must be offered to a number of friends whose efforts have not materialized in printed form for reasons explained earlier: to Tsai-fa Cheng, for translating Lung Ying-tsung’s “The Huangs” from the Japanese; to David T. W. Wang, for Lü He-jo’s “All Is Well in the Family”; to Michael Duke, for Chu Hsi-ning’s “The General and I”; to Vivian Ling Hsu, for Chiang Hsiao-yün’s “Mountain Joy.” I would also like to thank C. H. Wang, who has been most unstinting with his advice and suggestions during the planning stage of this work. My sincere appreciation is expressed to Nancy Ing, editor of Chinese P.E.N., for kind permission to reprint Li Yung-p’ing’s “The Rain from the Sun” (Summer 1981, pp. 65-93), and for her much needed encouragement throughout the various stages of my undertaking. Last but not least, a word of thanks is due to Christopher Lupke for helping me read the proofs, and to Jason C. S. Wang, whose calligraphy has graced the index of authors and titles.
1. Chi Pang-yüan et al., eds., An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature—Taiwan: 1949-1974, 2 vols. (Taipei: National Institute for Compilation and Translation, 1975). Chinese Stories from Taiwan: 1960-1970 is edited by Joseph S. M. Lau with the assistance of Timothy A. Ross (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976). The latest anthology of Taiwan fiction in English translation is Winter Plum: Contemporary Chinese Fiction, edited by Nancy Ing (Taipei: Chinese Materials Center, 1982).
2. Edited by Jeannette L. Faurot, it was published by Indiana University Press, 1980. In addition to its essays on individual authors and its general studies on literary trends and movements, this volume is also valuable for its extensive bibliographical information on contemporary Taiwan fiction. Divided into four parts, the bibliography lists works in English and Chinese under the categories of (1) anthologies, (2) journals and literary magazines, (3) general studies, and (4) studies on individual writers. Additional information regarding the availability of Taiwan fiction in English translation can be found in Modern Chinese Fiction: A Guide to Its Study and Appreciation: Essays and Bibliographies, edited by Winston L. Y. Yang and Nathan K. Mao (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981).
3. Since the appearance of Chen Jo-hsi’s The Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1978, Indiana University Press has published the works of two prominent Taiwan fiction writers: Huang Ch’un-ming’s The Drowning of an Old Cat and Other Stories (1980) and Pai Hsien-yung’s Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream (1982).
4. Edited by Vivian Ling Hsu and published by Indiana University Press in 1981, this anthology includes six Taiwan authors: Pai Hsien-yung, Yü Li-hua, Ch en Ying-chen, Yang Ch’ing-ch’u, Wang T’o, and Chen Jo-hsi.
5. In the early sixties, Taipei’s Heritage Press launched an ambitious translation project to represent the literary efforts of the fifties. Some of the titles include: Nancy Chang Ing, ed., New Voices: Stories and Poems by Young Chinese Writers (1961); Lucian Wu, ed., New Chinese Stories (1960), and New Chinese Writing (1962); Nieh Hua-ling, ed., Eight Stories by Chinese Women (1962). The last cited work makes a useful supplement to Vivian Hsu’s Born of the Same Roots. I am grateful to C. T. Hsia for this information.
6. According to Chung Chao-cheng and Yeh Shih-t’ao, editors of Taiwan Literature under the Japanese Occupation (Kuang-fu-ch’ien T’ai-wan wen-hsüeh ch’uan-chi), 8 vols. (Taipei: Yüan-ching, 1979), the first vernacular story, entitled “Where Does She Want to Go?” (“T’a-yao wang ho-ch’u ch’ü?”), was written by Chui Feng and was published in 1922. See Chung and Yeh’s sectional preface to this story in Vol. 1, p. 1. However, since Chui Feng is the author of only one story, it is customary for the literary historians to begin their discussion of Taiwan fiction with Lai Ho (“Father of Taiwan fiction”), who has written fourteen stories and a number of poems and essays. For an evaluation of Lai Ho’s importance in the development of Taiwan literature, see Jane Parish Yang, “The Evolution of the Taiwanese New Literature Movement from 1920-1937,” Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1981. Of related interest is Hyman Kublin’s “Taiwan’s Japanese Interlude, 1895-1945,” in Taiwan in Modern Time, edited by Paul K. T. Shih (New York: St. John’s University Press, 1973), pp. 317-356.
7. In addition to this collection, referred to above, Taiwan writing during the Japanese period is also well represented in Taiwan New Literature Under the Japanese Occupation (Jih-chü-hsia T’ai-wan hsin wen-hsüeh: Ming chi), 5 vols., edited by Li Nan-heng (Taipei: Ming-t’an, 1979). This set contains a number of hitherto unpublished literary as well as historical documents that are of great interest to literary historians. In China, there has developed a steady interest in Taiwan literature since the death of Mao Tse-tung in 1976 and the fall of the Gang of Four in the same year. Works by Taiwan writers have been sporadically reprinted in leading journals. In 1979, Peking’s Renmin Wenxue chubanshe published a 602-page volume of Taiwan short fiction (T’ai-wan hsiao-shuo-hsüan) with selections from the Japanese period down to the present time. Research projects are now underway at universities in the Canton and Amoy areas to bring out a history of Taiwan literature as well as a handbook on this subject within three years.
8. See Joseph S. M. Lau, “‘How Much Truth Can a Blade of Grass Carry?’: Ch’en Ying-chen and the Emergence of Native Taiwan Writers “Journal of Asian Studies, Vol 32, No. 4 (Aug. 1973), p. 624.
9. Taiwan fiction of the hsiang-t’u variety is discussed in Jing Wang’s “Taiwan Hsiang-t’u Literature: Perspectives in the Evolution of a Literary Movement,” in Chinese Fiction from Taiwan: Critical Perspectives, pp. 43-70.
10. The response of Taiwan writers to the “Nixon shokku” (Nixon shock) and subsequently to Japan’s severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1973 is treated in my essays: (1) “Echoes of the May Fourth Movement in Taiwan Hsiang-t’u Fiction,” in Mainland China, Taiwan, and U.S. Policy, edited by Hung-mao Tien (Cambridge, Mass.: OG&H Publishers, 1983), pp. 135-150; and (2) “The Tropics Mythopoetized: The Extraterritorial Writing of Li Yung-p’ing in the Context of the Hsiang-t’u Movement,” Tamkang Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Fall 1981), pp. 1-26.