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Philipp Grimberg - Nativist Literature in Post-Occupation Taiwan

The Case of Huang Chunming

Taiwanese nativist literature first started to emerge in the late 1920s and early 1930s as a by-product of the Taiwanese New Literature Movement under Japanese rule. Seen as an act of resistance the movement was shut down in the mid-1930s and wasn´t to re-emerge before the 1950s under the new KMT government. Nativist literature only reached maturity during the decade between 1967 and 1977 when Huang Chunming (born in 1939 in Yilan) became one of the most widely read authors of the time. Although Japanese occupation ended in 1945, the influx of mainland Chinese people and their language and culture felt to many Taiwanese as if they had exchanged one occupying power with another one. Therefore it took a whole generation of post-war Taiwanese authors and artists to regain cultural power and becoming a voice to be heard yet again. Huang Chunming belongs to this first post-occupation generation of authors who spoke and wrote mainland Mandarin-Chinese with the same proficiency as his Taiwanese Minnan dialect.

Moreover, in an age of rapid social and cultural change, of urbanization and industrialization, his short stories, mainly set among the humble people of rural Taiwan or, as is the case with his later works from the beginning of the 1970s, townsfolk struggling with day-to-day life in an ever changing urban surrounding, appealed to a growing audience of young Taiwanese readers who recognized some of their own struggles and fears in Huang Chunming´s characters.

Notwithstanding that Huang Chunming became one of the most popular authors of the 1960s and 1970s, his short stories appear rather outdated today, as Taiwan has undergone a radical change with regard to its political system and social structures compared to the time when Huang was active as an author. As a consequence, he has given up writing altogether, stating that everything he had to tell has been told already. Nevertheless, the bulk of his literature provides us today with a fascinating eyewitness account of the social and political changes in rural and working-class urban Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s and the struggle of native Taiwanese authors to record and maintain what they perceived as “Taiwaneseness”.

Phillip Grimberg is a sinologist specializing in the study of the arts and culture of late imperial China (c. 1000-1900). He is a member of the research training group ‘Value and Equivalence’ at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. His current research focuses on Chinese material culture, collectors, collections, and collecting the arts of China (15th-17th centuries). His recent publications comprise a monograph on the 16th century polymath Li Zhi (1527-1602) and his ‘Book to Burn’ (1590) as well as a series of peerreviewed articles on various aspects of Chinese cultural history, literature, and aesthetics.

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Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
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Lastupdate: 30.07.2017 - 12:34