Professor Huang MeiE, Director, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
“Taiwan literature” refers to all literature produced on the island of Taiwan; works not written here may be alsobe included if they are related to Taiwan. Taiwanese literature includes: the oral tradition (folktales by passed downby word of mouth) and classical and modern literature. Historical development begins with indigenous peoples’ oraltraditions; later, Shen Guangwen and Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) brought Chinese literature to the island.Subsequently, a great number of literary works were produced during the Qing period, the Japanese colonial era, andthe postwar period; moreover, these works were written in Chinese characters or in Romanization in a variety oflanguages: classical Chinese, vernacular Chinese (Beijing Mandarin), Taiwanese (Holo), Japanese, and aboriginallanguages.
Firstly, a number of excellent works trace Taiwan literature’s historical development. For example, Ye Shitao’sHistory of Taiwanese Literature (1987) and Chen Fangming’s History of New Taiwanese Literature (2011)stressTaiwan literature’s subjectivity, taking a postcolonial view of Taiwan’s literary history. Both books provide a clearaccount of the post1920s birth, development, and evolution of vernacular literature, as well as the characteristics ofthe literature of each social class, presenting major developments and movements in Taiwan’s literary history decadeby decade, from the Japanese colonial period through the postwar era; Ye’s work ends with the 1980s, while Chen’shistory includes writers and works from the 1990s and 2000s. Although there are slight differences in the twohistorians’ interpretations of aesthetics and nativism, both discuss literary debates – e.g. “old” versus “new”literature – the growth of vernacular literature, nativist literature and the Taiwanese (Holo) language movement,colonial literature, antiCommunist literature, modernist literature, the Taiwan nativist literature movement, and theterm “Taiwan literature” itself. The books also chronologically list and analyze classic works by Taiwanese writers,showcasing Taiwan literature’s multifaceted character. Readers will not only achieve an understanding of Taiwan’sdiverse literary traditions, but also gain an appreciation for Taiwanese writers’ witness to and resistance againstJapanese colonialism and postwar KMT authoritarianism, as well as their efforts to attain freedom and redemption –thus, history is best viewed through the lens of literature.
Secondly, “An Overview of Classical Taiwanese Literature” in Huang MeiE’s Classical Taiwan: A Discussionof Literary History, Poetry Societies, and Writers on the one hand describes Taiwanese classical literature’s threephases of development from 1651 to 1945 – “germination and putting down roots,” “robust development,” and“adaptation and revitalization” – portraying classical literature’s evolutionary trajectory in three separate periods:the late Ming to early Qing, the middle to late Qing, and the Japanese colonial era; on the other hand, the work alsolooks at local writing, examining literature from Taiwan’s various regions – traditional literature first took roots insouthern Taiwan, later developing in the central and northern regions, and lastly in the eastern part of the island.Literary forms included poetry, essays, fu (poetic essays), fiction, and criticism; although the writing owes a formaldebt to Chinese literature, the influence of Taiwanese trends, politics, society, and culture infuses the works withlocal experience and color. While classical literature didn’t disappear entirely in the postwar era, the government’s“national language” movement advocated consistency in the spoken and written languages, thus vernacularliterature became the literary mainstream and classical literature fell into decline.
Thirdly, there are also histories of indigenous people’s oral literature, such as Pu Zhongcheng’s History ofTaiwanese Aboriginal Literature (2009), which divides indigenous literary production into an “oral literatureperiod” and “written aboriginal literature.” Because indigenous oral literature’s developmental timeline is somewhatambiguous, recording its history poses difficulties. But Pu’s work focuses on the spaces and geographic features thatgave birth to the oral tradition: mountains, plains, caves, and headlands. Examining relevant stories and sorting andanalyzing vocabulary, the author undertakes a multifaceted investigation, recounting mythic creation narratives,memories of disastrous floods, the establishment of clans and villages and the origins of civilization; the names ofmountains and rivers and literary imagination, strange people and worlds, stories of warfare, legendary characters,animals’ and plants’ relation to human beings, and indigenes’ contacts with explorers; thus the work puts a finger onthe spirit of the times, providing an ordered account of the oral tradition’s development. Furthermore, Pu points outthat Taiwan aborigines first began to express themselves in written language in the Japanese colonial period. Hefollows the subsequent development of indigenous literature through to the twentyfirst century, commenting onwriters and works, and analyzing aboriginal literature’s future prospects. Thus, in tracing the development of bothindigenous oral literature and works written by aboriginal writers, the author reveals the cultural coherence andunity that run through both traditions, contextualizing aboriginal literature’s evolution.
Although the abovenamed works are certainly helpful in outlining literature’s development in Taiwan, more isneeded – particularly in academia – to provide a full understanding of Taiwan’s literary legacy. Althoughdepartments devoted to Taiwanese literature and culture have been established in many of the nation’s universities,such departments were not common until the year 2000. Nevertheless, in addition to manifesting Taiwan literature’snativist, local, and subjective characteristics, researchers in this new field also stress Taiwanese literature’sconnections to the wider world. Thus, in selecting research directions and interpretive frameworks, scholars haveheeded the latest international academic trends, particularly the absorption and appropriation of important Westernliterary theories – postcolonial theory, modernist thought, interdisciplinary research, discussions of world Chineseliterature, the literature of the Republic of China, Sinophone literatures, East Asian research, and research intoglobalization have all garnered much attention in Taiwanese academic circles.
The abovenamed academic theories – of different origins, representing different viewpoints – will in factinitiate intense observation of Taiwan literature’s varied outlooks and ideological stances; however, this stillprovides a certain degree ofstimulation and awakening in regard to Taiwanese literature’s consideration of its ownexistential position and the significance of its role in world literature. Furthermore, Taiwan literature is “islandliterature”; although it covers only a small geographic area, it has the breadth and power of an ocean – after beingruled by various regimes, Taiwanese writers early on cultivated the perseverance to turn hardships into creativenutrients, attempting to produce works that would on the one hand present Taiwan’s sociocultural history andTaiwanese intellectual traits, and on the other hand meticulously convey human emotions, giving voice to nationalmelancholy and resonating with the rest of the world.
The aforementioned works provide an overview of Taiwan’s literary history, placing writers and writings intheir respective social and historical contexts; however, readers also need quick and easy access to Taiwanese2016/11/15 Introduction to Taiwanese Literature | Taiwan Culture Toolkithttp://www.taiwanacademy.tw/toolkit/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=156&Itemid=341 3/3Return Hits:1762 Published Date:20151218 Modified Date：20151218their respective social and historical contexts; however, readers also need quick and easy access to Taiwanesewriters’ individual and collected works. In addition to print publications, ebooks have become increasingly popular– they too offer an entryway into Taiwan’s literary world. As a matter of fact, in recent years both governmental andprivate organizations have begun to promote Taiwanese literature on Internet websites. These include the NationalMuseum of Taiwan Literature’s “Taiwan Literature Net,” “The Complete Taiwanese Classical Poetry DataBase,” “The Koaá Database,” and “Contemporary Taiwanese Writers Data Base”; and the National CentralLibrary’s “Taiwan Folklore System” and “Contemporary Celebrities Manuscripts.” National Chung HsingUniversity’s “Taiwan Literature Archives,” completed in 2015, has collected manuscripts, recordings, and videosof thirty outstanding Taiwanese writers, including Yang Mu, Li Ang, Wu Zhuoliu, Wang Wenxing and others, withplans to gather materials on one hundred major writers. Thus, readers around the world now have ready access toTaiwanese writers’ biographical data, timelines, synopses of major works, and related critical writings.
Of course, translation is also a direct and convenient means of introducing international readers to Taiwaneseliterary works. Since 1972 Taipei Chinese International P.E.N. has published The Quarterly Journal ofContemporary Chinese Literature from Taiwan, and in 1996 the University of California launched the TaiwanLiterature: English Translation Series, publishing many fine translations, a bridge by which Englishlanguagereaders have come to know Taiwanese literature. Recognizing translation’s importance, the government of Taiwaninaugurated the “Chinese Books Translation Publication Project” in 1990, and currently sponsors the “TaiwanLiterature Translation Center” in the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, translating works of Taiwaneseliterature into Japanese, Korean, German, and English. In addition, information on more recent publications can befound on the R.O.C. Ministry of Culture website “Books from Taiwan,” which regularly posts selections fromoriginal Taiwanese literary works in English translation.
The “Taiwanese Literature Toolkit” is a systematic introduction to Taiwanese writers, their works, and Taiwan’sliterary history; at the same time, the project also examines the Taiwanese experience, literary aesthetics, and thesalient characteristics of its various literary categories. Thus, the Toolkit’s sixteen thematic categories and 160 majorworks are an ideal gateway to appreciating and understanding the literature of Taiwan.
 “Taiwan Literature Net”: http://tln.nmtl.gov.tw/ch/index.aspx
 “The Complete Taiwanese Classical Poetry Data Base” : http://xdcm.nmtl.gov.tw/twp/index.asp
 “The Koaá Database”: http://koaachheh.nmtl.gov.tw/bangcham/thauiah.php
 “Contemporary Taiwanese Writers Data Base”: http://cw.nmtl.gov.tw/
 “Taiwan Folklore System”: http://folklore.ncl.edu.tw/ncltwfsFront/
 “Contemporary Celebrities Manuscripts”: http://manu.ncl.edu.tw/nclmanuscriptc/nclmanukm
 “Taiwan Literature Archives”: http://twlit.blogspot.tw/
 “Books from Taiwan”: http://booksfromtaiwan.tw/index.php