Liao Shufang, Associate Professor, Department of Taiwanese Literature, National Cheng Kung University
“A Small Town Planted with Papaya Trees” (1937), Lung Yingzung’s first published work, was an immediate sensation, a literary portrait of the heart and mind of a Taiwanese intellectual of the Japanese colonial period.
Chen Yousan, a young man from a poor family, comes to a small central Taiwan town to take his first job as an assistant accountant at the town hall. Chen is full of hopes for the future – within a year he plans to test to become a minor government official, and within ten years he’d like to pass the bar examination to become a lawyer and lift his family from poverty. However, he quickly realizes that the town’s social atmosphere is as rotten as a decaying papaya tree. Most of his coworkers have married for economic reasons, and having many mouths to feed are deeply in debt. Others seek to numb themselves with wine, women, and song.
In the colonial period, even if Taiwanese held official posts, their salaries were still not commensurate with those of their Japanese counterparts, and many lived in squalor, unable to afford basic necessities. Cui’e, a colleague’s daughter, falls is love with Chen Yousan, but to ease her family’s financial burdens is married off to wealthy man in a neighboring village. The fact that Taiwanese are forced into mercenary marriages and other frustrations in his life cause Chen to breakdown completely. He begins drinking and stops sending money home to his family. The story relates how Chen Yousan in the short space of a year abandoned his ambitions and sank into ruin, depicting the loneliness, depression, and despair of Taiwanese intellectuals with no outlet for their talents and abilities. Papaya-tree imagery appears four times in the story, sometimes symbolizing Japanese exploitation of the Taiwanese people, sometimes representing ambitious, sparkling desires, and sometimes standing for rot and fragility, mirroring Chen Yousan’s descent into despair.
Still, at story’s end the author brings in an interesting character: the grandson of Lin Xingnan, Chen Yousan’s colleague. Although he sickens and dies at an early age, the young man’s image is pure and clean. He diagnoses the town’s symptoms, noting that the air smells like rotting fruit, and local youth are bogged down in a morass of hopelessness. Nevertheless, he reminds Chen Yousan that everything is an expression of historical law; thus, intellectuals should seek an accurate understanding of history’s trends and not slip into despair and degradation – although the present is dark and sorrowful, soon a beautiful new society will come into being.
Story elements that have elicited discussion are not limited to papaya trees or the town as symbol of a land under colonial rule. Most importantly, Chen Yousan represents a new type of Taiwanese intellectual brought up in the Japanese educational system – as the roles played by traditional intellectuals disappeared, educated Taiwanese gradually began to capitulate to the Japanese colonial system. This view has been widely accepted, but if we look at what the writer describes as “a once prosperous town” – the community went downhill after the colonial government designated it as a strategic location for the administration of Aboriginal districts – we then discover that the story is not only a fable of intellectuals’ spiritual defeat, but also a damning critique of the ways in which colonialism devastated the land and people of Taiwan.
Long Yingzong (1911-1999) was a Hakka from Beipu in Hsinchu County. Born Liu Rongzong, he wrote under a variety of pennames: Taipei Beardless Elder, Fuyuno Goro, Hualien Raraba, R, Liu Chuntao, and Peng Zhiyuan. After graduating from Taiwan Commercial and Vocational School (today’s Kainan High School of Commerce and Industry) he took a job in a bank. In 1937 he published his first work, “A Small Town Planted with Papaya Trees,” winning Japan’s Transformation magazine “Recommended Reading Award,” his initial exposure to the literary world. In addition to fiction Long Yingzong also published modern poetry, essays, and criticism.
In 1940 Long Yingzong joined Nishikawa Mitsuru’s Taiwan Association of Writers and Artists, serving on the editorial committee of Literary Taiwan, the organization’s journal. In 1942 he left the bank to work as an editor at Taiwan Daily Newspaper (Taiwan Nichinichi Shimpo). Along with Nishikawa Mitsuru, Zhang Wenhuan, and Hamada Hayao, he was selected as a Taiwan representative to the First Greater East Asia Literature Conference in Tokyo, which was held that same year.
At the end of 1942 Long Zongying began writing his “Du Nanyuan” series – named after the eponymous protagonist – depicting Taiwanese intellectuals’ sense of powerlessness, frustration, and grief in the wartime era. However, the stories were panned as being overly timid and melancholy. He then commenced a series of fictional works portraying Taiwanese women’s dignity and diligence, expressing idealistic hopes for ethnic harmony in postcolonial Taiwan.
In the immediate postwar period the writer served as editor for the Japanese-language editions of China and China Daily News, promoting Western science and technology, socialism, and humanism in an effort to rebuild postwar culture and promote social justice. At the end of 1946 he returned to the financial world, after which his literary output diminished considerably. He began to write again after retiring in 1976, completing the novellas “Girls of Mazu Temple,” “Out at Night,” and the novel Red Dust – all written in Japanese – drawing renewed attention in literary circles. Long Yingzong overcame the language barrier in the 1980s, completing his first Chinese work, “Du Fu in Chang’an,” once again gaining literary recognition. In 1985 he published Morning Precipice, a short-story collection, fulfilling a longtime personal ambition. He was awarded the “New Taiwan Literature Special Recommendation Prize” at the Salt Pans Literary Arts Camp. In 2006 the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature published a Chinese edition of The Complete Works of Long Yingzong.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=4580
|Work(English)：||A Small Town Planted with Papaya Tree|
|Anthology：||A Small Town Planted with Papaya Tree|
|Author：||Long Yingzong (Lung Ying-tsung )|
|Language：||Traditional Chinese (originally written in Japanese)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Vista Publishing|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.vistaread.com/book.php?id=515|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “vistaread.com” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|