Writer on death row

Source: Taipei Times (1/15/23)
Taiwan in Time: Writer on death row
Condemned for masterminding a kidnapping, award-winning author Tang Chen-huan’s first piece — a heart-rending letter to his young son — was published on Jan. 18, 1972
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

The cover of The Confessions of A Death Row Inmate, published in 1975. Photo courtesy of National Central Library

Titled “Confessions of a Father on Death Row,” (一個死刑犯父親的心聲), Tang Chen-huan’s (唐震寰) literary debut was one of sorrow and regret.

It ran in the literary supplement of the China Daily News (中華日報) on Jan. 18, 1972, and marked the beginning of Tang’s literary career, which included several awards and a movie adaptation. He was the nation’s first inmate to pay taxes on book royalties.

The well-liked former junior high school teacher was condemned for kidnapping the children of a businessman who had cheated him out of a large sum of money. Although he returned the kids unharmed, such crimes were punishable by death during the Martial Law era.

“I wrote for nearly 20 hours a day, because I didn’t know if I would be dragged out and executed when the morning came,” he writes in a Xiangguang Magazine (香光莊嚴) article in 1996. “As long as I could still breathe, I wanted to write down all the words I wanted to say … I hoped that those in precarious situations, or those who sought revenge, could see me as an example and refrain from doing something they would regret forever.” Continue reading

Comedies in East Asian Media

New Publication
Comedies in East Asian Media: Laughing in Bitter Times, a special issue of Archiv orientální
Archiv orientální Vol. 90 No. 3 (2022)
Editors: Ta-wei Chi, Elaine Chung, and Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Table of Contents

Introduction/ Ta-wei Chi, Elaine Chung, Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Cultural Memory, the Trope of “Humble Wage Earners,” and Everyman Heroism in the Hui Brothers’ Comedies and Their Remake/ Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Laughter Suspended: Japanese Surreal Comedy and the Ends of Progress/ David Humphrey

Neoliberal Subjectivities and Cynicism in China: Feng Xiaogang’s Dream-play Comedies/ Yung-Hang Bruce Lai

A Tale of Two Dragons: Politics of the Comedic Kung Fu Body in Chinese Cinema/ Wayne Wong

YouTube Vidding and Participatory Memories of Stephen Chow’s Stardom in South Korea/ Elaine Chung

“I wish my films would bring hopes to the spectators”: An interview with Michael Hui/ Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

City of Laughter: On the Traditions and Trends of Hong Kong Comedy Films/ Fiona Yuk-wa Law

A Brief History of Taiwanese Comedy Cinema/ George Chun Han Wang

For query about access, please contact the editors:

Ta-wei Chi (tw@g.nccu.edu.tw)
Elaine Chung (ChungE@cardiff.ac.uk)
Jessica Siu-yin Yeung (jessica_yeung@soas.ac.uk)

Classical trash

Source: The Guardian (12/26/22)
Classical trash: how Taiwan’s musical bin lorries transformed ‘garbage island’
Army of yellow garbage trucks blasting out classical jingles brings out a Pavlovian response to take out bins
By Helen Davidson and Chi Hui Lin in Taipei

Mr Li, a 32-year-old binman in Taipei: “Whenever I hear Für Elise, I feel like I need to take out the garbage as well.’ Photograph: Chi Hui Lin/The Guardian

The sound is inescapable. Wherever you are in Taiwan – be it three beers deep at a city bar, floating in the Taiwan Strait, or hauling yourself up a mountain – you’ll still hear the tinny, off-key classical jingle, and it will trigger a Pavlovian surge of panic: I have to take the bins out.

In the last few decades, Taiwan has transformed itself from “garbage island” to one of the world’s best managers of household trash, and it’s done so with a soundtrack. Armies of yellow trucks trundle through the streets five days a week, blasting earsplitting snippets of either Beethoven’s Für Elise or A Maiden’s Prayer by Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska.

In the Taipei suburb of Guting, Ms Chen, 60, sits on the steps of a Buddhist temple with her neighbour waiting for the trucks to arrive. They and the surrounding neighbours are dressed casually, some in pyjamas and hair curlers, chatting or looking at their phones. Continue reading

Repositioning Taiwan–cfp

Call for Proposals: Resistance and Resilience: Repositioning Taiwan
28th NATSA Annual Conference | June 22-24, 2023 | Irvine, California

Recent years have seen challenges, both new and old, for the global community. Such new challenges include the expansion of authoritarian influence and aggression, a global pandemic that has reignited debates on different forms of governance, polarization in democratic societies, and technological developments further enabling digital authoritarianism and inequality. Old modes of domination and marginalization, such as those pertaining to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, colonialism, and beyond also continue to persist and interweave with new global conditions. These dynamics play out not only in entrenched ways of seeing and framing but also in the dominant narratives, subject matters, and methodologies in academic research. Standing at this historical juncture of instability and change, we seek reflexive and critical engagements that can open up opportunities to reimagine ways of coping with, navigating, and collaboratively shaping the new realities of today’s world.

The North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) has, since its inauguration, dedicated itself to being a platform that can exhibit the diverse perspectives and values of Taiwan and Taiwan Studies. We believe that the inclusivity and diversity of Taiwanese society provide a space for developing alternative views, theories, and narratives that deconstruct and destabilize dominant and hegemonic perspectives. It is in the midst of transitions and transformations that different modes of resistance, resilience, and repositioning emerge. We see these new opportunities as a fluid process of recognizing power dynamics, implementing multifaceted methods of ensuring inclusivity and sustainability, and negotiating meaning-making paradigms that span the wider relations of scholars/practitioners/activists and the communities we work with/for. We welcome proposals that shed light on different modes of resistance, resilience, and repositioning using Taiwan as a case, a method, a theory, a practice, a substantive area, or in any other capacity.

Click here for the full Call for Papers.

The Post-Truth World review

Source: Taipei Times (11/4/22)
Movie review: The Post-Truth World
This glossy murder-mystery thriller offers a sharp critique of today’s sensationalist media and raises questions about the pursuit of truth
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Edward Chen and Caitlin Fang star in The Post-Truth World. Photos courtesy of Vie Vision Pictures

This is the type of movie that makes people hate journalists. Not only does Chang Hsiao-chuan (張孝全) effortlessly play the stereotypical dogged, slimy reporter who discards any ethical boundaries to get a story, he habitually manipulates facts to boost online views for his floundering news program.

But the grim truth for the industry, as shown in an exaggerated manner in The Post-Truth World (罪後真相) is that clicks rule the news these days, and viewers should not entirely trust the information being presented. Neither should the journalists themselves.

This biting critique of Taiwan’s increasingly sensationalist media landscape is smartly packaged as a glossy murder-mystery thriller, boosted with celebrity cameos. It’s slick and entertaining enough, but it’s the understated complexity of the main characters that makes the film thought-provoking.

Despite his flaws and questionable behavior, Chang’s character, Brother Li-min, somehow still manages to come off as a sympathetic hero. He seems to want to do the right thing, especially at the behest of his late wife, who was an award-winning investigative journalist, but also faces immense pressure from his boss (who at the same time makes righteous comments about delivering fair and balanced news) to get views. Continue reading

Taiwan’s Bomb Shelters

Source: NYT (11/6/22)
Taiwan’s Bomb Shelters: ‘A Space for Life. And a Space for Death.’
Preparing for war over hundreds of years has left a mark on the island, with its hundreds of bomb shelters. Some are being turned into cultural oases.
By Damien Cave and Amy Chang Chien

A bunker that has been converted into a temple in Keelung, Taiwan.

A bunker that has been converted into a temple in Keelung, Taiwan. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

KEELUNG, Taiwan — Visitors to Keelung, a mountainous port city on Taiwan’s northern coast, might reasonably think that the white wall at the back of Shi Hui-hua’s breakfast shop is, well, a wall. Only a few air vents suggest that there might be something on the other side.

“It’s a bomb shelter,” said Ms. Shi, 53, as she waited for the morning rush. “Because we’re Keelung people, we know these kinds of places.”

“It’s a space for life,” she added. “And a space for death.”

All over her street and many more in Keelung — which suffered its first foreign attack, by the Dutch, in 1642 — the landscape has been carved up for protection. Kitchens connect to underground passageways that tunnel into the sandstone. Rusty gates at the ends of alleys lead to dark maws that are filled with memories of war, and sometimes trash or bats — or an altar or restaurant annex.

There are nearly 700 bomb shelters in this city of 360,000 people, leading officials to declare that Keelung has a higher density of places to hide than anywhere else in heavily fortified Taiwan. And for a loosely organized band of urban planners, artists and history lovers, Keelung’s bomb shelters have become a canvas — for creative urban renewal and civil defense.

Some of these havens have been recast as cultural spaces. But these subterranean spaces are not just cool relics; on a self-governed island that China considers lost property it plans to reclaim, they are also vital infrastructure. Continue reading

Tsai Ming-liang NYC retrospective

Source: SCMP (10/26/22)
How Taiwan’s art-house film icon Tsai Ming-liang has evolved over 30 years, as New York retrospective takes deep dive into his work
One of Taiwan’s foremost directors, Tsai explains how empathy has become more important in his work and how film students need to find their own voice. He says he doesn’t want to manipulate viewers into ‘manufactured feelings’ like mainstream films do, but use a purely cinematic language that doesn’t distract.
By Daniel Eagan

Malaysian-Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang moved to Taiwan in 1977 to study theatre. Photo: Claude Wang

Malaysian-Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang moved to Taiwan in 1977 to study theatre. Photo: Claude Wang

Thirteen years after Malaysian-Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang last visited the United States, a retrospective of his work kicked off at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – and Tsai was there to greet the audience.

Titled “Tsai Ming-Liang: In Dialogue with Time, Memory and Self”, the retrospective began on October 20 and includes 14 of Tsai’s feature films and four short films, as well as examples of his art.

It’s an opportunity to “take a big, deep dive into his body of work that lets viewers see how he has evolved over 30 years”, says La Frances Hui, curator of film at MoMA.

Tsai has been recognised as one of Taiwan’s foremost directors since his earliest films, but he playfully dismisses his influence on other filmmakers.

“Do I have that kind of impact?” he says with a laugh, via a translator. “What I tell my film students is just be yourself. Even if you have writer’s block, find your own voice. The process of creating is developing and exploring and finding yourself.” Continue reading

Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park

Source: NYT (10/25/22)
Why People Are Flocking to a Symbol of Taiwan’s Authoritarian Past
At a museum dedicated to Taiwan’s not-so-distant authoritarian past, Taiwanese see China’s present, and a dark vision of one possible future under autocratic rule.
By Amy Chang ChienJohn Liu and Chris Horton

The Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park in Taiwan has seen a surge of visitors since Speaker Nancy Pelosi toured the site in August.

The Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park in Taiwan has seen a surge of visitors since Speaker Nancy Pelosi toured the site in August. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ringed by barbed wire and high gray walls, and once the site of a secretive military detention center, the museum just south of Taipei makes for a surprising tourist hot spot.

The Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park, housed on the campus of a former military school, is a chilling reminder of the excesses of Taiwan’s not-so-distant authoritarian past when its rulers imposed martial law for four decades. The moldering concrete buildings with fading paint were once the site of secret tribunals where political dissidents were tried and the detention center where at one point several hundred people were held in crowded quarters.

Once known as the Jing-Mei Detention Center, the site has found new appeal in Taiwan after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pro-democracy activists who have criticized China met there in August, with visitor numbers rising in the weeks since. Its relevance was also underscored at the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress that took place last week, during which Beijing’s determination to absorb its democratic neighbor was a major talking point.

On a recent afternoon, groups of local visitors explored dimly lit cells and small courtrooms where political dissidents were prosecuted during the four decades until 1992 known in Taiwan as the White Terror. Some stopped at a fountain with the statue of Xie Zhi, a mythical, single-horned Chinese beast said to represent justice, as a guide described the irony of its presence in a place where more than 1,100 were handed the death penalty, many for their political beliefs. Continue reading

UC Santa Barbara, Endowed Chair in Taiwan Cultural Studies

Endowed Chair in Taiwan Cultural Studies for the East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies Department
Job #JPF02285
UC Santa Barbara


Position title: Associate Professor or Professor in Taiwan Studies
Percent time: 100
Anticipated start: July 1, 2023


Open date: October 14, 2022
Next review date: Wednesday, Nov 16, 2022 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)
Apply by this date to ensure full consideration by the committee.
Final date: Friday, Jun 30, 2023 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)

Applications will continue to be accepted until this date, but those received after the review date will only be considered if the position has not yet been filled. Continue reading

Untold Herstory

Source: No Man Is an Island (10/11/22)
Taiwan’s Founding Mothers?: Untold Herstory
by Jennifer Ruth

Poster for Untold Herstory.

GIVE US ART forms that tell an honest history not a whitewashed one of so-called founding fathers. If America, for example, needs more 1619 stories than it does 1776 ones, then Taiwan needs more stories about 228 and the White Terror.

thuànn Taiwan, founded by Yao Wenzhi, and director Zhou Meiling (Zero Chou) deliver with Untold Herstory 流麻溝十五號), the film that opens the Kaohsiung Film Festival on October 14th and begins its theatrical run in Taipei on October 28th. The film is based on true events and the lives of real women, as documented by Cao Qinrong in the 2012 book Liumagou No. 15: Green Island Girls Team and others. Through oral interviews with those who survived (one of the five women, Shi Shuehan, was executed), official documents from the files, and letters they sent while imprisoned, the book details the experiences of five female prisoners on Green Island in the early 1950s.

Photo credit: 湠臺灣電影 thuànn TAIWAN/Facebook

Out of this material, Untold Herstory‘s screenwriters have crafted a story about three female prisoners representative of the women targeted for “ideological reeducation” during the White Terror. Two are clearly depicted as heroes but heroes whose strategic choices are diametrically opposed: Yan Shuixia, played by Herb Hsu (徐麗雯), refuses to compromise, holding to her principles with a strength she derives from her Christian faith. Hers is a fairly uncomplicated portrait of courage. The other, Chen Ping, played by Cindy Lien (連俞涵), is the stereotype of the “collaborator,” a person willing to do anything to survive. She, too, though, is a hero, having landed in prison by offering herself up as the ringleader of a Marxist book club so as to save others and, at the “New Life Correction Center” on Green Island, continuing to use the advantages she gains by “selling out” to save lives. These two characters both protect the third main character, Kyoko (played by Yu Pei-Jen [余佩真]), a wide-eyed innocent swept up in the terror for one or another of the nonsense reasons the KMT gave at the time. Continue reading

Lung Yingtai hits back over book ban

Source: Radio Free Asia (8/31/22)
Taiwan author hits back over book ban, saying she is proud to be banned in China
Chinese schools have been banning any texts that don’t sing the praises of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
By Fong Tak Ho for RFA Cantonese, and by Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin

Taiwan author hits back over book ban, saying she is proud to be banned in China

Lung Yingtai in an undated photo. Lung Yingtai’s Facebook account

Taiwanese author Lung Yingtai has responded to the banning of her books in Chinese schools, saying she is honored to have been targeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s ever-widening program of censorship.

“I am honored to have been banned by you,” the former Taiwanese culture minister and long-term critic of authoritarian rule wrote on her Facebook page after schools in the eastern Chinese provinces of Shandong and Jiangsu, among other locations, issued notices to parents that all of her works were no longer considered suitable reading matter for children.

“Actually, I have been banned for a long time,” she wrote, adding that “Big River, Big Sea 1949” and “Please Use Civilization to Convince Me” have been banned in China for more than 10 years now.

Other works including “Watching You Go” and “Dear Andreas” have also been targeted, Lung wrote.

“They were removed from the shelves in a lot of places after I spoke out on behalf of Hong Kong in 2019,” Lung wrote. She added: “The basic prerequisite for the existence of any government is that it safeguard individual freedoms.” Continue reading

Taiwan Literature in the 21st Century lecture series

Dear colleagues,

I write to draw your attention to the online lecture series entitled Taiwan Literature in the 21st Century, which is funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and co-organized by National Chengchi University and the University of Canterbury. This series features four established scholars in the field: Professor Carlos Rojas (Duke University), Professor Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang (University of Texas, Austin), Professor Yenna Wu (University of California, Riverside), and Professor Michelle Yeh (University of Calfornia, Davis). Please see the flyer for our lecture schedule.

Looking forward to seeing you online.

Best wishes,

Ming-ju Fan (National Chengchi University)
Chia-rong Wu (University of Canterbury) chiarong.wu@canterbury.ac.nz

Taiwan’s generational divide on China’s threats

Source: NYT (8/5/22)
Fight or Surrender: Taiwan’s Generational Divide on China’s Threats
In areas close to the military drills, younger Taiwanese worried about the future, while older residents looked back to a harsher past to find hope.
By Amy Chang ChienJohn Liu and 

Volunteers cleaned up a beach on the Matsu Islands on Thursday as Taiwanese troops loaded artillery shells onto a boat. Life there has proceeded mostly as normal during China’s recent military drills.

Volunteers cleaned up a beach on the Matsu Islands on Thursday as Taiwanese troops loaded artillery shells onto a boat. Life there has proceeded mostly as normal during China’s recent military drills. Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times

KINMEN COUNTY, Taiwan — The San Jiao Fort cafe on Kinmen Island may well be the best place in Taiwan to watch for the threat of invasion by China. Boasting a direct view of the Chinese city of Xiamen just six miles away, it is built atop an old military bunker, festooned with camouflage netting, and serves hot and cold beverages.

With Chinese warships now lingering off Taiwan’s coast and missiles falling into its seas, the divided loyalties of the cafe’s two proprietors say much about a generational shift in Taiwan that has transformed the island democracy’s relationship with China.

If China tried to take Taiwan by force, Chiang Chung-chieh, 32, would fight, even if the chances of winning are slim. Ting I-hsiu, 52, said he “would surrender.”

With a culture forged by eras of Indigenous people, hundreds of years of Chinese immigration, Japanese colonial occupation and a harsh period of martial law, Taiwan is not monolithic. During its three decades as a democracy, conflicting allegiances have dominated its politics, with debates over whether to accommodate or oppose China’s claims to the island breaking down along the lines of age, identity and geography. Continue reading

Perils of preaching nationalism play out on social media (1)

Nice. Hope someone could comment on the psychology of the associated self-flagellation, like in these ‘Pinkie Memories’《粉红色的回忆》, posted today by @KodyLakewood on Twitter, and which gets progressively worse and worse! (I thought the guy at the end would get a nosebleed beating himself? Maybe just a self-concussion).

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Putting Pelosi in the corner

Source: China Media Project (8/3/22)
Putting Pelosi in the Corner
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is headline news all over the world today, and China has voiced its “strong condemnation.” So why is the story pushed into fifth place on the front page of the CCP’s official People’s Daily newspaper?
By David Bandurski

Nancy Pelosi

On a day when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is headline news all over the world, with commentators everywhere speculating on how China will react, it might seem strange that the story does not top the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily.

In fact, the first article on the paper’s front page to mention Pelosi at all is tucked away in the bottom-right corner, fifth in order of importance – after an article about Xi Jinping’s recent meeting with provincial officials; an article about scientific farming techniques used in Jilin province; an article about provincial leaders studying the spirit of an “important speech” (重要讲话) by Xi; and an article about the critical importance of “united front work.”

Pelosi touching down in Taiwan has brought full-throated condemnation from China along with threats of retaliation. Is this story really of secondary importance to farming techniques in China’s northeast? Continue reading