Whither Taiwan’s universities

Source: Taipei Times (1/4/21)
Wither, Taiwan’s universities?
If the central government did not keep private universities liquid with subsidies, many of them would be forced to close
By Michael Turton / Contributing reporter

Music students from National Tsing Hua University in November experiment with a sound board. In Taiwan most students want to go to a public university, where tuition is a pittance and the education and facilities are generally better. Yet typically only well-off local families can afford the intensive education necessary to put a child into a good university. Photo courtesy of Tsing Hua University

This week brought more doleful news on the university front. Ministry of Education (MOE) statistics widely quoted in the media showed that a dozen universities had less than 60 percent enrollment (up from 6 the previous year), while 121 university programs, including 79 graduate programs, had zero students enrolled. The ministry announced that more than 40 schools, from high schools to universities, are on their critical list.

Because MOE subsidies are based on enrollment, schools with low student enrollment receive reduced subsidies from the government, forcing them to close sooner or later.

This outcome had long been predicted, the inevitable result of Taiwan’s low birthrates and surplus of universities. After educational reforms in the mid-1990s, the number of universities boomed. Vocational schools, technological universities and junior colleges upgraded to “universities.” Continue reading

Taiwan’s new passport

Source: NYT (1/11/21)
On Taiwan’s New Passport, the Incredible Shrinking ‘Republic of China’
Officials said the redesign was an attempt to disassociate Taiwanese citizens from those on the mainland, who faced travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
By Livia Albeck-Ripka

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu showing the new Taiwan passport design in Taipei on Monday. Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Taiwan on Monday released a new passport that puts a diplomatic spin on the concept of social distancing amid the pandemic.

The self-governing island’s official name, Republic of China, has been downsized, though it remains on the cover in Chinese characters. The words “Taiwan Passport” appear in large bold type. The government said early in the pandemic that it was all an attempt to lessen confusion surrounding its citizens traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, and to disassociate them from people coming from mainland China.

“Today is the day,” Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said in an Instagram post on Monday evening. “The big TAIWAN on the cover will accompany the people of the country to travel around the world, and it will also make the international community more unable to ignore the existence of Taiwan,” she wrote. (She also boasted that in the past year, Taiwan had successfully slowed the spread of the virus while maintaining economic growth.) Continue reading

ACCL 2021–cfp

The Association of Chinese & Comparative Literature 2021 Biennial Meeting: Call for Papers
29-31 July, 2021
National Taiwan University

The Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature (ACCL) will hold its 2021 Biennial Conference in conjunction with National Taiwan University and the Taiwanese Society for the Study of Chinese Literature and Culture.

Conference Information

Dates: 29-31 July, 2021 (Thu-Sat)
Venue: College of Liberal Arts, National Taiwan University

Hosted by: Department of Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University; Taiwanese Society for the Study of Chinese Literature and Culture; Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature (ACCL)

Conference Theme: Literature and the Sea 「文學海洋島嶼」

Literature is often discussed in terms of nations, cities, and continents—we speak of “Chinese literature,” “Taiwan literature,” or “Asian literature. But, what happens when we leave behind this continental paradigm and instead adopt a maritime perspective on literature? Continue reading

Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies 2021-22

2021-22 Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is pleased to announce the 2021-22 competition for the Hou Family Fellowship in Taiwan Studies. The fellow is expected to be in residence at Harvard for at least one semester (five months), between August 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022. A longer period of residence up to the full year is encouraged.

Applications are welcome from recent Ph.D.s in a relevant discipline of the humanities or social sciences focusing on Taiwan. Please note that the Fairbank Center is only accepting applications from North America-based scholars; a separate search committee in Taiwan will review local applications.

A strong working knowledge of English and Chinese and/or Taiwanese is required.

Applicants with Ph.D.s may not be more than 5 years beyond its receipt at the start of the fellowship. Harvard University doctoral degree candidates and recipients are not eligible for this fellowship.

Total stipend for one year: $35,000, plus $3,000 for research support.

For program and application details, please see:


Application deadline: March 1, 2021

Musha Incident publications

Dear MCLC Colleagues,

October 27, 2020 is the 90th anniversary of the last major violent resistance to Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, the Musha Incident (霧社事件). Since 1930, the story of the incident has been retold numerous times in popular histories, comic books, novels, songs, and films, including Wei Te-sheng’s epic film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, which was released in 2011.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce two new books about (the representation of) the incident.

First, Indigenous Cultural Translation: A Thick Description of Seediq Bale written by yours truly – Darryl Sterk – and published by Routledge. My book is about the process of cultural (and interlingual) translation that made it possible for Wei Te-sheng to film Seediq Bale in Seediq, a vulnerable indigenous language. Wei had his screenplay translated from Mandarin to Seediq in 2009, but given that the screenplay included Mandarin translations of Seediq songs and stories recorded during the Japanese era (1895-1930), the Mandarin-Seediq translation was partly a backtranslation. In some cases the backtranslation was filtered through Japanese and different dialects of Seediq. Not surprisingly, the songs and stories ended up very different in backtranslation.

Second, 《霧社事件:台灣歷史和文化讀本》 (The Musha Incident: A Reader in Taiwan History and Culture) edited by Michael Berry and published by Rye Field (麥田). In addition to an introduction by Professor Berry, who wrote an influential chapter on representations of the Musha Incident in postwar Taiwan in his A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese History and Film, there are two dozen essays and interviews. The contributors include scholars like Leo Ching, Ping-hui Liao, and Chiu Kuei-fen, writers like Wu He, filmmakers like Wan Jen and Wei Te-sheng, and translators like Dakis Pawan. Including Dakis, five of the contributors are themselves indigenous. The others are Takun Walis, Bakan Pawan, Nakao Eki Pacidal, and Liu Chun-hsiung (劉俊雄).

Lest we forget.


Darryl Sterk

Remapping the Contested Sinopshere

Dear colleagues,

I would like to announce that my second book, Remapping the Contested Sinosphere: The Cross-cultural Landscape and Ethnoscape of Taiwan, has been published by Cambria Press.

Link: http://www.cambriapress.com/cambriapress.cfm?template=4&bid=776

Brief description

This book is in the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

In the past four hundred years, the cultural position of Taiwan has been undergoing a series of drastic changes due to constant political turmoil. From the early seventeenth century to the late twentieth century, the ruling power of Taiwan shifted from Spaniard and Dutch to the Late-Ming Zheng regime, then to the Qing court and imperial Japan, and finally to the Kuomintang (KMT) government from China. In this regard, Taiwan has long been regarded as a supplementary addition to its cultural Other: China, Japan, or imperial western powers, despite its rich Aboriginal cultures. To create a self-claimed subjectivity, the localist camp of the island has been promoting the Taiwanese consciousness via political movements and literary writings in a century-long campaign. Its focus on the native soil and experience is well connected with the Sinophone studies, which has been a prominent field across geographical and disciplinary barriers. Continue reading

China sets sights on ‘the Taiwan problem’

Source: The Guardian (10/2/20)
After Hong Kong: China sets sights on solving ‘the Taiwan problem’
An invasion may not be imminent but experts say armed forces could have capacity to mount one by the end of the decade
by  and 

Taiwanese soldiers raise the flag of Taiwan in Taipei.

Taiwanese soldiers raise the flag of Taiwan in Taipei. Photograph: David Chang/EPA

Soon after China imposed the new national security law that effectively ended Hong Kong’s limited autonomy, a hawkish legal academic in Beijing spelt out a warning to Taiwan.

The law was not just about ending a year of protests in Hong Kong, Tian Feilong said in an interview with DW News, it was also sending a message to Taipei – and to Washington, which has recently approved new arms sales and high-level visits by US officials to self-rule Taiwan.

The provisions being used to crush dissent across Hong Kong could provide a template, he argued, for tackling “the Taiwan problem”.

“I believe that in the future, you could just change the name of the Hong Kong national security law, and substitute instead ‘Taiwan national security law’,” said Tian. Continue reading

China sends warning to Taiwan

Source: NYT (9/18/20)
China Sends Warning to Taiwan and U.S. With Big Show of Air Power
Beijing sent 18 aircraft into the Taiwan Strait as a senior American diplomat held meetings on the island.
By Steven Lee Meyers

In this photograph made available by the Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan, a Chinese bomber is said to have been detected near the island’s air defense zone on Friday. Credit…Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, via Associated Press

China sent 18 fighter jets and bombers into the Taiwan Strait on Friday in a robust show of force that a military official in Beijing said was a warning to Taiwan and the United States about their increasing political and military cooperation.

“Those who play with fire are bound to get burned,” Senior Col. Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said at a briefing in Beijing, warning the United States and Taiwan against what he called “collusion.”

The aerial drill came as a senior American diplomat held a series of meetings in Taiwan ahead of a formal memorial service on Saturday for former President Lee Teng-hui, who led the island’s transition from military rule to democracy. Continue reading

Locating Taiwan Cinema in the Twenty-First Century

New Publication: Locating Taiwan Cinema in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Paul G. Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang (Cambria Press)
Cambria Sinophone World Series (General Editor: Victor H. Mair)
Hardback  9781621965459  $114.99  328pp.

Order direct from Cambria Press by 9/30/2020 and save 25% on the hardcover (Use coupon code SAVE25).
E-book editions also available. Use the Cambria Book Cloud to assign this book for class use.

Watch this short video about the book https://twitter.com/CambriaPress/status/1301966183269371905

Twenty-first-century Taiwan has been evolving in fascinating and complicated ways, in terms of culture, economy, politics, and society. This has led to renewed tensions in relations between the government of mainland China and various camps in Taiwan. In Taiwan, these tensions often focus on issues of identity. Who are the Taiwanese? How are the Taiwanese different from regional and global communities? How are the Taiwanese connected to these communities? Business leaders, factory workers, farmers, and migrants have their opinions. Cultural producers, including filmmakers and pop musicians, offer unique perspectives. Political parties, functioning in a democratic environment, fiercely debate these issues. Remarkably diverse ethnic groups contribute to this ongoing dialogue. This complex twenty-first-century debate in Taiwan is a politically healthy one that takes place both on and off screen. Continue reading

Lee Teng-hui dies at 97

Source: BBC News (7/31/20)
Lee Teng-hui: Taiwan’s ‘father of democracy’ dies

Lee Teng-hui

Lee won Taiwan’s first presidential vote by a landslide

Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, considered the “father of Taiwan’s democracy”, has died at the age of 97. He served as president of Taiwan, from 1988 to 2000.

Lee was credited with ending autocratic rule in favour of pluralism and democracy – but was also a controversial figure.

His attempts to delink the island from China sparked tensions with Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited one day. Continue reading

Taiwan Lit online journal/forum

Dear Friends,

We are happy to announce the publication of Taiwan Lit, a new online journal/critical forum on studies of literature and culture from Taiwan. The journal has evolved from a website project that faculty, alumni, and graduate students at The University of Texas at Austin have worked on for quite some time.  Ironically, it is the COVID-19 lockdown that has enabled us to reach the finish line.  The link is http://taiwanlit.org/.  Below is an outline of the website:


Taiwan Lit, launched in the summer of 2020, is an online journal centering on studies of Taiwan literature and culture. It aims to reinvigorate the intellectual climate of the field by building a transnational critical forum, disseminating substantive research ideas, and facilitating innovative modes of scholarly exchange.

We invite submissions in either English or Chinese with no fixed length requirements. Continue reading

John Thompson photo exhibit

From July 18th to mid-October 2020, ShungYe Museum of Formosan Aborigines (順益台灣原住民博物館) in Taipei will exhibit fifty photos of Taiwan in April 1871 (and related 30 original woodcuts) by John Thomson, travelling with fellow Scotsman Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell — who established the first Presbyterian chapels in Taiwan and its first western style medical dispensary.

Practically no silver-based albumen prints of this series have survived. The fifty pigment-based digital prints exhibited are by Michael Gray, from his (film contact) high-resolution scans  of Thomson’s original glass-negatives preserved at Wellcome Library.

This exhibition is an updated version of a first one by Françoise Zylberberg and René Viénet in 2006  during Taipei International Book Exhibition, then in 2008 at National Taiwan University Library, with lectures by Richard Ovenden, John Falconer, William Schupbach, Barbara & Michael Gray —  together with the only known framed set of the original 96 collotypes plates (218 views) from Thomson’s “Illustrations of China and its people…Continue reading

As China strengthens grip on HK, Taiwan sees threat

Source: NYT (7/1/20)
As China Strengthens Grip on Hong Kong, Taiwan Sees a Threat
The sweeping new security law in Hong Kong has further eroded what little support there was in Taiwan for unifying with the mainland.
By Javier C. Hernández and 

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, center, has repeatedly pledged to defend the island’s sovereignty against threats from China. Credit…Taiwan Presidential Office, via Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has long tried to convince Taiwan that unification was a historical inevitability, alternately enticing the democratic island with economic incentives while bluntly warning that any move toward formal independence would be answered with military force.

Now, the incentives are gone and the warnings seem more ominous following Mr. Xi’s swift move to strengthen China’s grip on Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory that only last year he held out as a model for Taiwan’s future.

The new security rules for Hong Kong that China passed this week — without input from the city’s Beijing-backed leadership — have made Mr. Xi’s promise of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework seem hollow. And it has raised fears that China will move more aggressively to bring Taiwan, too, under its control. Continue reading

Eclipse film review

Source: Taipei Times (6/25/20)
Movie Review: Eclipse
A 45-second classic television commercial is turned into a gripping and entertaining 83-minute thriller that addresses current social issues such as abuse in the military and transitional justice
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Kai Hsieh, left, and Kelvin Chi star in Eclipse. Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

It’s hard to know what to expect from a film that takes a popular 1990s “Iron Ox” (鐵牛運功散) herbal remedy television commercial and expands it to 83 minutes. There’s infinite room for imagination, as the commercial basically consists of a young military conscript calling his mother and telling her how effective the remedy is.

“Mom, it’s A-jung!” (媽! 我阿榮啦) he exclaims into the old-school payphone, the catchphrase serving as the Chinese title of Eclipse. He enthusiastically describes the medicine’s benefits, after which his father takes the phone and asks him to come home soon. The ad is still shown on television every now and then, giving rise to the running joke that A-jung is still stuck in military service over 20 years later and still hasn’t returned home. Continue reading

A great loss for Taiwanese literature

Source: Taipei Times (5/24/20)
Taiwan in Time: A great loss for Taiwanese literature
Chung Chao-cheng, who died last Saturday, didn’t learn Chinese until he was 20 — but he became one of Taiwan’s most celebrated Mandarin-language authors
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

A portrait of Chung Chao-cheng in his later years. Photo: Taipei Times file photo

Three months before his 90th birthday in 2015, Chung Chao-cheng (鍾肇政) woke up shortly after midnight and experienced a inexplicable sense of clarity.

“Suddenly, my mind started going all over the place. There were some recent memories, but also many that I thought I had long forgotten. They would appear and disappear from my brain one after another, and they were so clear, so lucid. Even the memories from 70, 80 years ago felt like they happened yesterday. I suddenly thought, if I still remember so much, why don’t I write everything down?”

Despite his solid reputation among Taiwan’s literary giants, Chung had never felt comfortable writing a memoir, declaring his aversion in the introduction to the 1998 book, Memoirs of Chung Chao-cheng: Struggle and Uncertainty (鍾肇政回憶錄:徬徨與掙扎), a collection of personal essays put together by his friend Chien Hung-chun (錢鴻鈞). Continue reading