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In 2011, amid a string of controversies in the Taiwanese countryside surrounding industrial pollution, urban expansion, the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, and the destruction of the natural and rural environments, poet and editor Hong Hong announced ‘the last pastoral poem’, suggesting that the representation of the countryside as bucolic landscape was an out-of-date and politically impotent trope. This paper argues, contrary to Hong Hong’s polemic, that depictions of pastoral utopia remain a vital and powerful alternative to the forces of urbanisation and industrialisation in Taiwan and the larger Sinophone world. The paper analyses poetry by contemporary poet Ling Yu against the background of the tradition of utopian pastoral writing represented by the book of Genesis, Virgil, Laozi, Tao Yuanming, and Gary Snyder. The paper argues for a poetics that symbolically mediates between nature and culture, and building and dwelling, by means of slow ‘cultivation’, in both the agricultural and aesthetic senses. The paper further draws on transnational Hong Kong poet Liu Wai Tong’s concept of ‘you-topia’ to suggest a means of reconciling Chinese tradition and contemporary ecocritical discourse.

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
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While buildings strive to reach higher and higher, cities are obsessed with a visible expression of verticality. Seediq Bale (2011) and Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above (2013) represent a new development in Taiwan’s cinematic use of landscape that challenges the dominance of urban verticalism. Seediq Bale sets up an alternative vertical dimension of mountainous areas that puts into dialogical relationship the dichotomies of civilised/barbarous, advanced/primitive, and vertical/horizontal. Audiences no longer experience space in a traditional manner, as eventually Mona Rudao’s graveyard is undiscovered/undefined. Beyond Beauty, on the other, asks viewers to ‘go higher’, encouraging a break with ordinary experience for a more spiritual quest like aerial shots. As both offer a sense of disorientation and alienation, what does the spatial metaphor address to aesthetics, ecocriticism, politics of identity, and sovereignty in geography? What are the implications as cinematic landscapes extend into a real-life environment that is ready to be consumed?

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
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Abstract

This article revisits the debate which occurred in the early 1930s regarding ‘Taiwanese Language Writing’ to argue that these discussions represented an extended interrogation of the linguistic ecology of the island: how written scripts and spoken sounds functioned in Taiwan to make meaning in relation to a larger environmental, animistic, and social whole. Set against the backdrop of this debate, the 1932 work Elegant Words by the famed intellectual Lien Heng stands out as an important text. Lien Heng’s vision of Minnan as a historically grounded yet broadly cosmopolitan language was a particularly enabling expression of Taiwanese consciousness, which presented an island that could face many directions at once, absorbing the textual signs of a deep Sinographic past while remaining vitally open to a complex and increasingly integrated world. Lien Heng’s cultural criticism presaged many of the debates about language, history, and identity that would take place in subsequent decades in Taiwan, and as such his work continues to have resonance today for thinking critically about Taiwan’s place in the modern world.

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies

Abstract

Ecologising Taiwan means to think ecologically about, from, as well as by way of Taiwan. On the one hand, we ecologise Taiwan by viewing it through an ecological perspective; on the other hand, we also want to treat Taiwan itself as an agent that drives our thinking, no longer merely an object of our anthropocentric and anthropocenic gaze. Taiwan, as an island that encompasses a particularly wide range of biotopes, redefines insularity in its connectivity to other global spaces and networks: it pits its infinite potential for different encounters, relations, and comparisons against any bias of smallness and isolation. Culturally specific representations—the stories we tell about the environment and how we tell them—are important in environmental thinking. Thus ecologising Taiwan is not only about what ecological thinking can do for Taiwan but also about what Taiwan can do for ecological thought. In order to sound out the different resonances of what ecologising Taiwan might mean, this special issue brings together six essays that explore flexible links between ecological thought and Taiwanese culture. As such, this special issue is part of the ecological chain of Taiwan studies, featuring topics (even topoi) on languages, genres, media forms, and methodologies in contestation and transformation.

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In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies

Abstract

Mainland Chinese director Wang Quan’an’s Apart Together, which won the Silver Bear Award for Best Screenplay in 2010, tackles the issue of cross-Strait relations by telling the story of Kuomintang veteran Liu Yansheng’s return to mainland China after nearly 40 years of separation from his wife and son. Shanghainese is the main language of the film, a dialect that is used to suggest a local attitude towards the national issue. While earlier Chinese films on similar themes often emphasise the cultural and emotional ties between Taiwan and China, in Wang’s film Liu is characterised as an unwelcome Taiwanese guest, an intruder in his wife’s Chinese family. This essay argues that Wang’s Apart Together contests the People’s Republic of China’s official discourse of cross-Strait reunification by demonstrating the cultural and identity divisions between the Taiwanese character and his Chinese family. Wang provides an alternative perspective on the ‘Taiwan issue’, showing that ordinary people’s experience of cross-Strait reunion might be painful and problematic.

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies