• A Special Exhibit on Literature from Tainan

      Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest town and the cradle of Taiwanese culture. Most early emigrants to the island passed through the city, some moving on to develop the north, still others choosing to explore the less developed regions that lay to the south. Centuries of cultural nourishment coupled with the area’s lush natural and manmade beauty give Tainan its rich cultural ambiance. Those who live, work and play here … those who have made Tainan home have bequeathed to posterity a stirring, multifaceted portrait of this special corner of Taiwan. Pulled forward through the vicissitudes of history, Tainan’s men and women of literature have painted the past in vibrant, living colors, challenged their present, and gazed hopefully toward the future.

      Follow the Ink: A Literary Tour of Tainan City

      Literary attributions in poetry, novels, essays and newspaper cloumns pepper each of the routes marked. Stop and see for yourself the setting of Yeh Shih-shou's Wistful Dreams of Hulu Lane as well as places like Chikanlou, Fahua Temple, the Shih Ting-mei Mansion. Paomei Lou and the Grand Matsu Temple that have been so eloquently described by authors through history. With literature guiding your journey of discovery, the distance between author and reader melts away.Whether places and events were drawn from reality or from an author's imaginings, it is all here for the taking. Tainan breathes life anew into the written word and invites the expansive scope of literature into everyday life.

    Please choose a southern literary route of your own.

Such Wonder
    • Through the Traveler's Eye

      These fertile realms of land and sea pulsed with literary and cultural energies long before the arrival of the written word. Men and women worked hard for survival. Forebears preserved memories of ancestors, traditions and cherished wisdom in songs, legends and oral stories, ensuring their transmission through the generations. Oral stories eventually gave way to writing, and society’s thinkers began using the written word to relay their myriad experiences, thoughts and dreams. For centuries, travelers have described the changing face of Tainan and its environs from the perspective of the curious outsider. Bold adventurers from Tainan as well have struck out into the world and written of their experiences for their and future generations. Together, these authors have woven a rich tapestry embracing life within and beyond Taiwan.

      The origin of the Eastern Savages remains a mystery. They live in the seas beyond the Penghus, at places like Qiwang Harbor, Jialao Bay and Li Dayuan … Scattered across thousands of li, their tribes are numerous. They are divided into villages … These savages are prone to violence, highly competitive, used to traveling day and night … able to go for long lengths without rest. (Chen, Di; Record of the Eastern Savages)

      Chen Di, a Chinese soldier from Fujian Province, arrived in Taiwan with Ming naval officer Shen Yourong’s 1603 mission to hunt down Japanese pirates who regularly visited Fujian’s coastal villages. Chen recorded his experiences in Dong Fan Ji (An Account of the Eastern Barbarians), which was later also incorporated into Shen Yourong’s Report on the Fujian Sea. This earliest example of written prose related to Taiwan provides insights into the life and ways of indigenous Malayo-Polynesian tribes in the Tainan area.

      Each morning emerging from their villages; All bearing bundles and bales. Hair carpeted in wildflowers; Teeth blackened by the stain of grass; A red belt tied in prayer for victory; Freshly made-up, a pendant of white jade. Skin glistening with deer tallow; Her bouquet with airs of outdoing the musk. (Shen Kuang-wen; Barbarian Women)

      Shen Kuang-wen (1612-1688) is remembered as the “Father of Eastern Sea Narratives.” He first visited Taiwan in 1651 after being inadvertently blown off course in stormy weather. He returned to settle during Ming General Koxinga’s reign. After a falling out with Zheng Jing, Koxinga’s eldest son and heir, Shen went into seclusion in Backloun (Tainan’s Shanhua District), where he took up teaching. His many poems on the culture and lives of natives in the district and the vibrant society existing on the outer edges of the Chinese realm provide us with some of our most important descriptions of life in 16th century Tainan.

      The hard sand shoreline stretches on to Chi-kun; The waves at Kunshen muddle sea and sky. Great ships are kept at bay; Such are the natural defenses of Lu-Erh-Men. The hollow thuds of frothy waves stiffen our plucky ship’s resolve. The fort of the “red hairs” hoves into sight; I board an oxen cart on the docks. Ending the day past old Fort Sakkam (Yu, Yung-ho; Taiwan [Bamboo Branch Poem]).

      The two poems Taiwan and Aborigines were Taiwan’s earliest known examples of “bamboo branch poetry,” a stylized four-line, seven character-per-line poetic form popular in the Qing Dynasty (1644~1911). Both were composed by Yu Yonghe and included in his 1697 work, Travels through the Minor Sea: A Memoir. The first describes the precipitous cliffs of Luerhmen. Yu described Taiwan’s unfamiliar sights and scenery in poetry and prose, and gave readers an engaging, lively portrait of faraway Tainan.

      Turbid waves swallow even the harshest midday sunlight here in the tropics. Amidst this odd seascape, murky and lightless … words fail to describe. Wandering this watery ‘desert,’ a sampan easily loses its way. Waves maintain their slow, incessant challenge, arriving one upon another from a distant horizon; We make our dogged dash to the open sea. (Satou, Haruo [1892-1964]; from Jyokaisen Kidan)

      Japan took over control of Taiwan from China in 1895. From the 1920s, increasing numbers of Japanese were coming to Taiwan to travel, do business, work in the colonial government, and so on. Some, like Satou Haruo (1892-1964), who stayed for about 3 months, were passersby. Others like Nishikawa Mitsuru (1908-1999) chose to make the island their home. In Travels through the Colonies, Satou’s fictitious detective story Jyokaisen Kidan, set in Tainan, tells stories related to local sites such as Tutou Harbor and the Abandoned House. Written from the perspective of a traveler and outsider, Satou’s works nevertheless served to build empathy between Japan and its southernmost colony. In terms of Japan’s colonial literature on Taiwan, Nishikawa Mitsuru’s Sekikanki (Chikan Reminiscences) is considered one of the genre’s most influential and important works.

      In 1937, the culture and literature column of the Tainan-based Taiwan Nippô (Taiwan Daily), under its editor-in-chief Kishi Tôjin, published many articles on Taiwan written by short-term Tainan residents Kokubu Naoichi (國分直一), Hamada Hayao (濱田隼雄), Niigaki Kouichi (新垣宏一) and others. Uchikawa Kuniyoshi (內河邦芳) and Nakashima Genji (中島源志) formed the Tainan Tanka-kai (Japanese Poetry Society) in 1940; Yasui Sadafumi (安井貞文) founded the Nanpō Bungei Kenkyūkai (Southern Cultural & Literary Research Society) the same year; Taiwan author Shui Yin-ping (水蔭萍) and Japanese author Kita Kunio (喜多邦夫) joined to found the Taiwan branch of Bungei Taiwan (Literary Taiwan) in 1941. While war raged throughout East Asia and the Pacific, Japanese authors in Tainan continued to work at their craft, creating a prodigious literary legacy.

National and Local
    • Bringing Culture to the Frontier

      After landing his forces at Luerhmen in 1661, Ming General Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) began work on transforming the former Dutch settlement of Provintia into the temporary “eastern capital” of China’s exiled Ming Dynasty. He brought the island’s coastal settlements under his traditionally styled rule and encouraged large-scale immigration from Mainland China. The new settlers, many seeking refuge from the Manchu (Qing) takeover of their country, included Ming literati who would write nostalgia-tinged poetry and prose that lamented on the physical and emotional separation from a country they would probably never see again. Such poems, reflecting classical Chinese forms, added an important new facet to Taiwan’s literary landscape.

      Clearing the land, expelling the Dutch; A decade of struggle spent developing this land; Three thousand staunch (Ming) supporters, we remain undaunted; Determined never to leave, whatever the hardship. (Cheng, Chenggong; Restoration of Taiwan)

      For these strands of hair have we sought refuge beyond the seas; As the final chapter closes and I end my life, I beg the indulgence of my Ancestors. Chu, Shu-kui, Last Words

      Framed by the bloody, epochal struggle between Ming royalists and Manchu (Qing) invaders, much of the literary output generated on Taiwan during the reign of Koxinga and his heirs resonates with deep nostalgia and regret. Koxinga’s Restoration of Taiwan, his son Zheng Jing’s Eastern Wall Collection, and Chu Shukui (Ming Prince Ningjing)’s Last Words … all are wrought by raw passions, the bitterness of defeat, and visceral loyalty to the Ming throne.

      Come autumn, people assume a more laid-back air; The landscape assumes a wilder, more leisurely mien. Embroidered saddle shared by ox and horse; Soldiers, busy and imperious. Sugar cane fields, a sea of green; The fragrance of rice flower blossoms saturate the air far and wide. Farmers look with anticipation to the coming New Year; Yet we, the grass widowers, lament our separation from home. (Sun Yuan-heng; Accompanying My Esteemed Friends Vice Commissioner Wang and Garrison Commander Chang on a Visit to Rice Farms and Fine Repast at Haihui Temple before Returning Home at Dusk)
      Dozens of scholarly literati from the Mainland held official positions in Taiwan during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Those with career ties to Tainan include Sun Yuan-heng, Yu Yung-ho, Huang Shu-ching, Chang Mei, Liu Shih-chi, Chien Chi and Liu Chia-mou. Their litany of poetic works provide revealing insights into their perspective on Taiwan, how they felt about this new addendum to the Empire, about how they thought traditional Chinese culture could shape Taiwan, and about their own feelings and thoughts. Sun Yuan-heng was dedicated to the daily affairs of Taiwan and worked for fairness and justice. His literary legacy, Chih-Kan Compilation, is a definitive work of the early officialdom genre.

Looking Inward
    • Tainan Authors,Tainan Perspectives


      Once Wang Chang-cheng became the first person in the district to pass the imperial provincial examination in 1693, Tainan began contributing its fair share of nationally degreed literati to the Chinese Empire. Taiwan-born scholars increasingly challenged appointees from Mainland China for local imperial postings. Local scholars such as Liu Chuan and Chen Hui created and maintained official government documents for the area. Others, like Chang Pu, established schools dedicated to raising new generations of scholars. Chang’s Bansong Compilation was the first compilation of personal works ever published by a Taiwan author. The Siraya, native to the Tainan area and the first of Taiwan’s indigenous Malayo-Polynesian tribes known to have adopted a written language, had stopped using their native tongue as a living language by the 1930s. Only at the end of the 20th century, with the revival of unique tribal and linguistic identities, would indigenous authors again express their ideas and trace their ethnic roots using both Chinese and their various native languages.

      Echoes: Indigenous Voices

      While history’s river may seem a gossamer wisp, we sift through its myriad layers in earnest in hopes of looking upon the face of our ancestors. We seek out the source of our memories; use our voices to stir distant hopes and dreams.

      The pain! To be shamefully branded as ‘cooked’ aboriginals. We are again in search of ourselves; on a quest for re-identity. We are opening a long-closed window on Taiwan’s magnificent cultural landscape; stoking the still-smoldering embers that burn inside our Siraya soul to unleash anew our people’s vivacious dynamic spirit. (Wan, Shu-chuan; Lifesong)

      The Tainan Siraya Indigenous Affairs Commission is a grassroots organization dedicated to leading a Siraya cultural renaissance, restoring lost cultural traditions and bringing back the Siraya language and literature. Poetry, scripts and novels help paint the rich, vibrant literary landscape of Taiwan’s indigenous groups.

      Taking Root: The Advent of Local Literati

      Today is a day to remember the gods; Confucian virtues on prolific display. A feast tonight for the Night of Lanterns; A warm glow upon the literary gods assembled upstairs. All elements now aligned to perfection; Every household setting lanterns to welcome the new spring. Night scenes illumined by lantern light; Exam results are posted with unfolding apricot blossoms. (Shih Chiung-fang; Kui Lou Terrace on the First Day of Spring)

      Shih Chiung-fang and his son Shih Shih-chi both passed the imperial provincial examination, in 1847 and 1877, respectively. As it describes the elder Shih seeking good omens in the myriad glowing yuanxiao lights hung up for the Lantern Festival, this poem was probably written before he had earned his degree.

      Local-born literati including Wang Tse-hsiu, Hsu Nan-ing, Tsai Kuo-lin, Chiu Feng-chia, Hu Nan-ming, Huang Chuan, Hsieh Kuo-wen and Chao Chung-chi expressed themselves through exceptional works of classical and rhapsodic poetry as well as prose. Works by local literati were stylistically diverse, with common themes touching on concern for the public welfare and reflections on local culture and mores. The 19th century was when classical literature produced its most beautiful, resilient blooms in Taiwan.

      Resistance to Japanese rule persisted throughout the Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945). Taiwan literature of the period carries flavors of this resistance. Japan’s Government-General tried on numerous occasions to restrict literary freedom of expression. Governor-General Gentarō Kodama and Civil Affairs Chief Goto Shinpei held activities in major Taiwan towns, including Tainan, to highlight Japan’s use of Chinese characters and Chinese poetic forms in an effort to reduce the resistance of Taiwan’s educated class to Japanese cultural influences. While influenced to varying degrees by such efforts, many Tainan poets, bending to the realities of the time, turned to allegory and parable to mask their messages.

      Looking upon clouds from a lofty height; A bay of sandbars and crystal-clear water; A sea shanty echoes across Lu-Erh; The autumn sounds of a woodcutter sends a shiver across Kang Shan; Standing by, watching the sun slowly drop in the east; Watching the great sea rising yet again; Such is the gloom of autumn; “Kun Tao” still rattles Chiang Kuan. (Hsieh Hsing-lou; Chiulang, Sakam)

      In times of rapid change, a poet’s search for the self tends to magnify attachments to home and hearth, while hopes for the future ring with the exasperated sighs of a bygone era.

      Taking the Torch: Local Literary Societies

      Traditional Chinese culture began flourishing in Tainan after Chi Chi-kuang founded the Eastern Poetry Circle in 1685. Reflecting the city’s acculturation, Tainan had five literary societies at this time, including the Eastern (located at today’s Mituo Temple on Dongmen St.), Western (located at today’s Guandi Temple), Southern (located at today’s Fahua Temple), Northern (located at today’s Huangbo Temple historic site), and Central (located at the Kui Lou historic site on Jhongjheng Road). Some of the more prominent private literary clubs include the Yinxin Society founded by Chen Chen-yao in 1810, the Tsung Cheng Society founded by Hsu Nan-ing and Wang Chun-yuan in 1878, the Feiting Recitation Club organized in 1889 by Taiwan Provincial Governor Tang Jingsong, and Lang-In Poetry Society founded by Hsu Nan-ing and Tsai Kuo-lin in 1891. Apart from extending the traditions begun by the Eastern Poetry Circle, these literary organizations were laying the groundwork for what would later become the Southern Taiwan Society (南社).

      Founded in 1906, the Southern Taiwan Society was the guiding light of classical literature in southern Taiwan. Its influence waned from the 1930s onward with the creation of the rival poetry societies like Chunying and Tonglu by younger intellectuals until 1951, when the Southern Taiwan Society was formally absorbed into the Yanping Poetry Society. Other contemporary literary societies flourishing in the Tainan area such as the Green Society, Hsueh Chia, Tengyun, White Seagull, Yuchiang Recitation Society, North Gate Recitation Society and Lu Stream Recitation Society as well as women’s groups such as the Hsiuying Recitation Club and Coral Society created a vibrate cultural and literary scene that supported and nourished the area’s intellectual growth.

      What we once called “the study”, is today known as Nan She Academy. The good deeds of our ancestors bestow upon us Wenchang’s blessings to investigate form, ideas and norms. The written word honors the gods; tuition paid to learn from the master. May this inscription inspire works of great philanthropy; may the munificence of our ancestors grant years in their multitude. (Shih Yu; Nan She Academy – Solitude, Examination)With an increasing number of imperial degree-holders and the creation of official academies, Taiwan society became increasingly Chinese and Confucian. The island gradually grew accustomed to Qing authority, which paved the way to opening local academies to train local talent for imperial service. Some of the better-known academies located in and around Tainan include Tsung Wen (est. 1704), Hai Tung (est. 1720), Kui Lou (est. 1726), and Peng Hu (est. 1886). The Nan She Academy, which provided the quote above, was located just outside the city’s South Gate. Nan She absorbed Hai Tung Academy and continued to pursue its education mandate.

      Taiwan’s classical literary traditions, rooted in the Ming Dynasty traditions brought over by General Koxinga, persist into the present. They remained dominant through Qing rule over the island as well as through the first several decades of Japanese colonial rule. It wasn’t until the 1920s, with the rise to prominence of the Shin Bungaku (New Literature) movement, that classical literature was sidelined. While no longer mainstream, classical literature continued to thrive in the shadows of Shin Bungaku. The persistence of classical literature in Taiwan evidences the vibrant interrelationships maintained among the island’s literature and poetry organizations.

      Literature and Place – an Intimate Relationship

      Literature and culture atrophied not a whit; Poets holding banners high in their potent authority. Learned minds converge upon Gu Yuan this autumn; Are we not like the sages of Nanpi? (Chao Chung-chi; Gathering of the Southern Taiwan Society at Gu Yuan)

      Beginning from the earliest years of Qing rule, Taiwan’s social elites have provided places for writers, poets and men of letters to meet and exchange ideas. Gu Yuan, the property of Huang Hsin and Huang Hsi-chuan, was a regular venue for societies to gather for readings and literary exchanges. Other oft-used venues include Wu Yuan, the Japanese-era Four Seasons Garden, and Tainan Public Park. The celebratory verve of 15th anniversary celebrations for the Southern Taiwan Society held at Gu Yuan is readily apparent in the poem reproduced above. Japanese nationals were members of local poetry societies as well. In 1896, several Japanese classical Chinese poets joined Tainan poets Tsai Kuo-lin, Chao Yun-shih and Chen Hsiu-wu in a formal poetry recital at the Four Seasons Garden. The landscaped beauty that surrounded them in the garden deepened the experience, melting away cultural distance and infusing all with a harmonious literary ambiance.

Literary Modernity
    • Tainan in Step with the World

      A Move Toward Cultural Enlightenment

      By the “roaring” 1920s, armed local resistance to Japanese rule had largely ended. Intellectuals seeking an outlet for continued dissent turned to the “New Society” movement. Literature was undergoing a transformation, as classical Chinese literary styles proved increasingly inadequate for the times. Chinese scripts, styles and creative media all became subjects of lively, sometimes heated, debate, and Taiwan intellectuals in search of change quickly found themselves charting exciting, contentious new territory. This was the advent of the New Literature (Shin Bungaku) Movement.
      Even before the Taiwan Culture Association (Taiwan Bunka Kyōkai) was founded on October 17th, 1920, there were a number of grassroots political and social groups on Taiwan critical of unfair Japanese colonial policies. Newspapers and journals published by these groups from the 1920s into the early 1940s included Taiwan Seinen (Taiwan Youth) first published in Tokyo in 1920 and the Taiwan Shinminpo (Taiwan New People’s Post), which continued to publish until 1941. These publications provided an important forum for the writings of contemporary Taiwan intellectuals and represent an important and engaging archive of Taiwanese literary output during the Japanese Colonial Period. Article authors include some of Taiwan’s leading social and economic thinkers of the time. “By a Pond in Tainan Park”, published in Japanese in 1922 by Chen Feng-yuan in Vol. 3, Issue 8 of Taiwan, is considered a cornerstone work of the New Literature movement.
      Despite the linguistic “about face” triggered by the end of the Pacific War in August 1945, Taiwan’s authors continued writing and commenting on the changes engulfing their island. The end of Japan’s colonial rule and the arrival of the Nationalist Chinese army, ROC government and countless refugees from war and revolution changed forever the intellectual landscape both of Tainan and of Taiwan. While most intellectuals of the period had been born in the 1920s and experienced the terrible years of the Pacific War, some had spent their entire life in Tainan, while others had found their way to Tainan with the newly reconstituted ROC government. Both groups were to make important, indelible contributions to Tainan’s intellectual and literary fabric. There was also a third group that, while born and raised in Tainan, had left and now lived elsewhere. Whatever worldly experience they gained, the work of these emigrants would be forever enriched and nourished by memories of Tainan's cityscape of red brick homes and stolid city gates.

      Literature Set to Music

      The rich beauty of life found its expression in song throughout the colonial period. Dedicated to preserving and promoting local cultural mores, the Taiwan Culture Association, apart from its regular island-wide lecture series, also gave a “voice” to Taiwan in music, film, and live theater performances. Young Tainan songwriters including Huang Chin-huo, Chao Li-ma (Chao Chi-ming) and Tsai Teh-yin successfully promoted their work through major contemporary record labels such as Columbia, Popular and Taihei. The husband and wife team of Lu Ping-ting and Lin Shih-hao created treasured songs by Taiwanese for Taiwanese. Lu’s creative talent generated such memorable songs as “The Weaving Maiden”, “Boat in the Moonlight”, and “Behind the Screen Window” that Lin’s sonorous voice made famous.

      Voices for the Vernacular

      Chen Tuan-ming’s article entitled “Writing the Way We Speak” published in 1922 in Vol. 4, Issue 1 of Taiwan Seinen was the first article published in Taiwan to advocate the use of vernacular, rather than classical, Chinese in print. Originally scheduled for publication in the banned December 15th, 1921 issue (Vol. 3, Issue 6), it was included in the next issue published 36 days later. In October 1923, the Taiwan Culture Association made the decision to back so-called “Church Romanization” (aka Pe̍h-oē-jī) method promoted by Tsai Pei-huo as a system to write vernacular Taiwanese. Books written using the new system began to circulate. Tsai established the Taiwan Vernacular Society in 1929, which proceeded to hold a series of three Pe̍h-oē-jī workshops at Tainan’s Wu (Martial God) Temple that promoted this “simple to learn, easy to understand” writing system.

      The Taiwan Church News (Tâi-ôan Hú-siâⁿ Kàu-hōe-pò), in print since 1885, was co-opted as a platform for the New Literature Movement, publishing many original works, revised works, and translations including Cheng Hsi-pan’s “Line Between Life and Death” and Lai Jen-sheng’s “Enemy Adorable”. The plethora of new vernacular works highlighted the vernacular movement’s vibrant underpinnings.

      Art For the Masses; Literature Speaks Out

      Society has fallen to such depths because of you … you rice-eating maggots! He cursed what society had become. Some enjoy food, nice clothes, a place to live and the luxury to spend their days in the pursuit of pleasure. Others are destitute. Without even half a bowl of gruel to warm their bellies, they live a harsh existence and die early deaths … (Chu Feng; The Unemployed)

      The Taiwan Culture Association held educational activities island-wide. Tainan Seinen was at the fore of most core movement issues, including improving general public habits. Those with left-wing socialist views joined to found Equator Press, which published the newspapers The Equator and The Flood as well as the journal Deconstructing Superstition.

      The movement expressed itself most brilliantly in its original play scripts. In March 1927, a troupe of youths from Tainan and Anping gave public performances of Love’s Triumph, The Freedom of the Unfree, Life’s Fragile Bloom, and The Great Nincompoop at the Minamiza Theater in what was then the center of Tainan City. Performances included musical interludes and solo performances. Lu Ping-ting and Chuang Sung-lin were two of the period’s most celebrated artists, with Lu performing on stage and Chuang writing acclaimed new scripts. New Literature-inspired plays poked fun at tradition and social conservatism while extolling sexual freedoms and social equality. Scriptwriters put pen to paper to expose the true nature of both capitalism and imperialism. Tainan native Yang Kui, one of the movement’s leading lights, won a coveted 2nd place recognition (the 1st place prize went un-awarded that year) from the influential Japanese literary journal Bungaku Hyōron (Literary Review) for his novel Shimbun Haitatsu Fu (The Newspaper Boy). Although Yang Kui was the first Taiwanese author accepted by Japan’s literary community, colonial authorities banned his award-winning work in Taiwan. In other works such as The Doctor-less Village and Mother Goose Gets Married, Yang turns an embarrassing spotlight on the inequities of the capitalist class system.

      Literary Societies

      As we inaugurate this branch, we embark on something much greater than simply expanding and strengthening the TLAWU. We are expanding and advancing our innate nativist consciousness. Having been so bold as to plant the tenuous flower of literature in these salty soils of ours, we have every confidence it will bear succulent fruit. (Proclamation at the Founding of the Chiali Branch of the Taiwan Literature and Art Workers Union)

      Taiwanese authors, of both the classical and new schools, enjoyed the company of like-minded intellectuals. They gravitated naturally into literary organizations, which published and distributed works by their members and helped turn ideals into action. Classical poetry societies had been popular with Tainan’s intellectual elite since the earliest days of settlement. On the heels of the New Culture Movement, Tsai Pei-huo founded the Taiwan Vernacular Society in 1923; Huang Hsin created the Culture Troupe, which later reorganized as the Tainan Assistance Society; and Wang Shou-lu and Han Shih-chuan founded the Tainan Cultural Theater Troupe in 1926. Yang Chih-chang and Lin Hsiu-erh of the well-organized New Literature Society founded Le Moulin (the “Windmill” Poetry Circle) in 1933 to advocate avant-garde thought and create surrealist works. In 1930, the Southern Taiwan Society joined with the “Spring Oriole” Poetry Circle to found 3-6-9 Publishing House, which grew into a leading voice for popular literature. In 1935, Wu Hsin-jung, Kuo Shui-tan and Wang Teng-shan founded the Chiali Branch of the Taiwan Literature and Art Workers Union and, in 1936, Chao Li-ma and Chuang Sung-lin founded the Tainan Art Club. The Tainan Branch of Taiwan Shin Bungaku (Taiwan New Literature) opened in 1936 as well. These important organizations, all based in Tainan, were instrumental in setting the tone and meaning of contemporary culture reflected in Taiwan literature.

      The decades following Taiwan’s handover to the Republic of China in 1945 was a period in Taiwan literature clouded by doubt and uncertainty. Growing demands for freedom and democracy found a voice again in literature in the years and decades following the 1979 Kaohsiung (Formosa) Incident. It inspired Huang Ching-lian, Tu Wen-ching, Lin Fo-erh, and Yang Tze-chiao to organize the Salt Flats Literary Camp in that same year. Elder statesmen of the New Literature movement including Lin Ching-wen, Lin Fang-nien, Hsu Ching-chi and Kuo Shui-tan attended the camp’s first gathering at Tainan’s Nankunshen Temple. They breathed life into the growing movement for literature and literary expression in postwar Taiwan. The Salt Flats Literary Camp shaped debate about and the development of Taiwanese language (Hokkien) literature and local language renaissance and opened the door for writings on critical social topics such as the 1947 February 28th (228) Incident. The torch had been passed to a new generation, and the Salt Flats Literary Camp was now at the vanguard of literary realism in Taiwan.

      The new literary spirit soon spawned the birth of complementary activities such as the Hai Ong Hokkien Literary Camp and the Jung Hou Hokkien Poet Awards, which, while rooted in Tainan, expanded nationwide and indelibly influenced the modern course of Taiwan literary history.

Speaking Out for Right
    • Literature in Contemporary Tainan

      Over the past four centuries, Tainan has gradually abdicated from its 17th century position as undisputed center of island politics, commerce and society. Today, Tainan is celebrated for its history and preservation of Taiwanese tradition. In spite, or perhaps because, of the vagaries of Taiwan history, Tainan is today both the cradle and steadfast guardian of Taiwanese culture. Geography and culture have made Tainan a magnet for both traditionalists and modern thinkers through the ages. Whatever lies ahead in the future, Tainan stands ready to absorb, interpret and renew yet again. Its authors, too, will witness and testify in words destined to take their rightful place in Tainan’s unquenchable literary stream.

      I've become accustomed to the pace and ways of life in Tainan. No longer is it the exotic place it once was. I am now a thread in the fabric of this city, just one of its myriad citizenry traversing its streets. Tainan shall be a page in my small book of history (Lung Ying-tsung; Letters to a Lady – Letter 2, On Taipei and Tainan)

      Following Taiwan’s transfer from Japan to China in 1945, local authors continued to nourish Tainan’s literary traditions outside of the limelight. The abrupt and unsettling switch from Japanese to Chinese as Taiwan’s language of public communication drew authors together in common cause to protect and maintain their home ground. While published only briefly, Long Ying-tsung’s Japanese culture and arts column in the China Daily News, for example, helped many local Japanese-language authors successfully acclimatize to the demands of Chinese-language composition. Yeh Shih-shou’s foray into writing Chinese-language pieces was soon followed by other Japanese-Period authors including Wang Yu-teh, Huang Kun-shan, Su Hsin and Chiu Yung-han. Their writings opened a new chapter on Taiwan literary history. Former Mainland Chinese authors such as Chi Kang, Chao Yun and Ma Sen who found their way to or through Tainan in and around 1949 introduced yet another intriguing hue to the city’s literary fabric. Wu Hsin-jung made the transition from the Japanese colonial period and the upheavals of transition government to become a leading Taiwan cultural historian. Despite different backgrounds and life experiences, these and many other authors put their indelible mark on local literature and ensured the continuance and growth of New Literature traditions in postwar Tainan.