Chung Chihwei, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Located in Tainan City’s Anping District, Zeelandia (Fort Zeelandia) is today’s “Anping Fort,” one of Taiwan’s most important historical landmarks. Zeelandia’s strange and ambiguous history has inspired countless literary works: In the Japanese colonial era Sato Haruo (1892-1954) wrote the short story “A Woman’s Fan”; in the early postwar era Ye Shitao authored “Zeelandia’s Fall” and “Already Lost,” and in the same period Yang Muyong wrote the poem “Fort Zeelandia,” to name several noteworthy efforts. In 2000 Lai Xiangyin penned the short story “Zeelandia,” another take on this venerable Taiwanese literary motif, and sister story to Lai’s “Island” (1999). In “Island” the female protagonist – a first-person narrator – has an argument with her boyfriend Dao, or “Island.” Angry, Dao leaves and heads south. The protagonist follows him back to Tainan, her hometown. “Zeelandia” continues the story: After Dao’s bizarre death, the narrator – pregnant with Dao’s child – returns to Tainan, where ex-boyfriend Gao Pingsheng, a city planner, reacquaints her with the area.
On one level, “Zeelandia” is simply a woman’s expression of melancholy, but the story goes deeper than that. Lai Xiangying divides the narrative into four parts, subtitled “Orange Castle,” “Taiwan King’s Castle,” “Dutch Castle,” and “Anping Fort” respectively. Thus, in telling a one person’s love story, the author recalls Taiwanese history: The Dutch began building Zeelandia in 1624, completing construction nearly ten years later. The fort served as Dutch administrative headquarters, and was an important center of international trade. The structure was originally called “Orange Castle,” but because it stood on the Kunshen Sandbar on the west side of the Tai-chiang Inner Sea, at the boundary between sea (Dutch: zee) and land (Dutch: land), it was later named Zeelandia. When the Dutch left Taiwan, the fort became Ming-dynasty loyalist Zheng Chenggong’s (Koxinga) “king’s castle,” eventually falling into ruin as Zheng family power waned over the course of three generations. In the final years of the Qing period Shen Baozhen used bricks from the fort to construct the “Eternal Golden City,” another historic Tainan landmark.
After the Japanese took control of Taiwan, what remained of the fort was partially torn down and a dormitory for Japanese customs officers was built on the site. In commemoration of Taiwan’s three hundred year history, in 1930 Zeelandia was rebuilt as a Western-style multistory structure, and a stone stele honoring Hamada Yahioe, a Japanese who vied with the Dutch for control of Taiwan in the seventeenth century, was erected on the site. The stele was removed after the Second World War and Zeelandia was renamed Anping Fort, the site’s complex history a testament to Taiwan’s legacy of colonial domination.
At the beginning of each section the author includes a snippet of history that echoes the section’s theme, foreshadowing twists and turns in the protagonist’s life, elaborately weaving the turbulent history of Zeelandia and the island of Taiwan into the tale. In the end the narrator paces back and forth along Anping harbor, lost in thought. She decides to name her unborn son “Dao.” Does the writing, understated and profound, optimistically herald a feminine return to native values? Or is it really just a roundabout way of dispelling the fierce post-1990s’ nationalist discourse? The story offers much food for thought.
Chong Chihwei, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
A Tainan native, Lai Xiangyin (1969- ) graduated from National Taiwan University’s Department of Economics. She also holds a master’s degree in regional culture from Tokyo University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science.
Lai Xiangyin’s literary career took off when her short story “Frog” (1987) won the Unitas “Taiwan Province Touring Literary Camp” fiction award. After a hiatus of several years she began writing again, her novella “Translator” (1995) receiving the Unitas “New Novelist Award,” marking her return to Taiwanese literary circles. Lai subsequently published three short-story collections,Walking to Another Place (1997), Foggy Landscape (1998), and Island (2000). In this period her works gave off a gloomy air, oppressive and abstruse. On the one hand, this despondency can be linked to the suicide ofa close friend, writer Qiu Miaojin (1969-1995), and Lai’s father’s death; on the other hand, the somberness reflects the writer’s failure to realize her political ideals and subsequent disillusionment.
Martial law was lifted in 1987, while Lai was a student at National Taiwan University. Social and political movementswere gaining momentum at the time, but Lai remained apart from the activism that grew out of the university. This ambiguous position – being on the scene, yet not part of it – gave her 1990s’ fictiona unique standpoint, straddling the line between participant and observer. Thus, Lai developed a roundabout, reserved literary style that is both rational and emotive, staking out her own territory among Taiwan’s post martial-law fiction writers.
After finishing Island Lai entered another period of creative dormancy. She began writing again in 2004, penning columns for Liberty Times and China Times, rekindling her literary career. In 2012 she published Afterwards, a novel that followed characters’ life trajectories and spiritual histories from youth to middle age. The work won the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature’s prestigious “Golden Classic Award for Fiction.” In addition to novels and short stories, the writer has also published an essay collection, Prehistory (2007).
|Author：||Lai Xiangyin (Lai Hsiang-Ying)|
|Literary Genre：||Short story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Unitas Publishing Co.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010136250|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|