Ta-wei Chi, Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
In the martial law era, spaces where gay men could interact were limited, public parks after dark often being the only place they could meet and make new friends. Taipei New Park (today’s 228 Peace Memorial Park) was Taiwan’s best known such venue. Readers at home and abroad have come to know the park through Pai Hsien-yung’s fiction: Taipei New Park is the main setting for Pai’s short stories “Lonely Seventeen” and “A Sky Full of Bright, Twinkling Stars,” and his novel Crystal Boys.
“A Sky Full of Bright, Twinkling Stars” is often seen as a prequel to Crystal Boys. When other writers mention Taipei New Park they often characterize the gays who gathered there as lustful youths intent only on carnal gratification; for the most part, however, Pai Hsien-jung paints a sympathetic portrait of these marginalized young men.
In “A Sky Full of Twinkling Stars” a group of young gay men claim to belong to a quasi-religious order they call “Rite of Spring Sect,” and have appointed an elderly gay man who was once a film director in China as their “high priest.” The title is ironic, however, because the solitary and impoverished old fellow is in no condition to preside over anything. Apparently unafraid of social disapproval, the young men flaunt their youth and beauty. Among them is a young aborigine: “He was a dark-skinned, wild youth, leaping and bounding unrestrainedly, his large eyes dancing like black flames.” Thus, the story is one of the first works of Taiwanese literature to portray a gay indigene. These socially marginalized youths have suffered discrimination in a number of ways: first, racially (some aborigines have been objectified and used as sex objects in Han Chinese society); second, sexually (mainstream society doesn’t approve of homosexuality); third, economically (they are poor and unemployed; some of the youths with mental or physical disabilities earn livings as sex-workers).
A “worship of youth” often appears in Pai Hsien-yung’s works. The Chinese character for “spring” in “rite of spring” can be interpreted as both “eroticism” and “youth.” Pai’s “Moon Dream” (1960), “Youth” (1961), and Crystal Boys all portray aging worshippers of youth – in the name of pursuing youth, they pamper young gay men. Because he worships youth, the “high priest” of “A Sky Full of Twinkling Stars” has suffered bitterly in both China and Taiwan: in China, the young movie star he adored died an early death; in the throes of depression, the “high priest” consoles himself by pursuing handsome young men in Taipei. In a more conservative era, critics avoided open discussion of the story’s gay themes by talking about “youth worship” – thus, the term became a code for homosexuality.
Pai Hsien-yung (1937- ) was born in Guilin in China’s Guangxi province. He came to Taiwan with his father, Pai Chung, in 1952. Pai graduated from National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and later received a master’s degree in fiction writing from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. In 1965 he began teaching at the University of California-Santa Barbara. After his retirement in 1994, he devoted himself to preserving and passing on Kunqu, a traditional form of Chinese opera, producing Peony Pavilion: Youth Version and other works.
In 1958 Pai published his first short story, “Madame Jin,” in Professor Hsia Ji-an’s Literature Magazine. In 1960 he cofounded Modern Literature with classmates Wang Wenxing, Chen Ruoxi, Ouyang Zi, opening the door to modernist writing in Taiwan. Many of Pai’s early works appeared in the magazine. A prolific writer, his publications include the short-story collections Lonely Seventeen, Taipei People, and Li Tung, A Chinese Girl in New York, the novel Crystal Boys, and the essay collections Looking Back, and Even Trees Wither. More recently he has devoted himself to writing biographies of his father, General Pai Chung-hsi, publishing My Father and the Republic: Silhouettes of General Pai Chung-hsi and Healing the Wounds: Pai Chung-hsi and the 228 Incident.
Pai’s major works are his novels and short stories, and he treated the subject of homosexuality in his fiction early on. Moreover, the characters in his works – waishengren living in Taipei, a Chinese girl in New York, young gay men – are exiles – political or social – alienated and alone; they stand as proof of Pai’s understanding of human life and the times in which he lived, as well as the collective fate of waishengren. Because of temporal or spatial barriers, the emotions Pai’s characters experience are often incommunicable, engendering a sense of loss and an accompanying loneliness. Theirs, however, is a peculiarly Chinese loneliness, and not the isolation of Western existentialism. In the Chinese literary tradition this loneliness is symbolized by the monarch-minister relationship, but in Pai’s fiction it is embodied in the father-son relationship, and he can never forget that he is an “unfilial” son.
Many of Pai Hsien-yung’s outstanding literary works have been translated into English and other languages, and several have been adapted to screen and stage: Crystal Boys, Love’s Lone Flower, Madame Jin’s Last Night, and Yin Xueyan.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=2246
|Work(English)：||A Sky Full of Bright, Twinkling Stars|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Changyou Cultural Enterprise Limited(長宥文化事業有限公司)|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.elitebooks.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Er Ya Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.eslite.com/product.aspx?pgid=1001125881352481&cate=156&sub=221|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||The “www.eslite.com” Internet Bookstore|