Sun, Nov 26, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The miner of literary gems

In addition to being a prolific writer, Lin Hai-yin helped launch or revive the careers of many Taiwanese literary heavyweights following World War II

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

A portrait of Lin Hai-yin in an undated photo.

Photo: Hu Shun-hsiang, Taipei Times

Nov. 27 to Dec. 3

Lin Hai-yin (林海音) was a talented writer who also had an eye for talent.

As editor of the United Daily News literary supplement (聯合報副刊), Lin published the first pieces of future literary heavyweights such as Chi Teng Sheng (七等生), Cheng Ching-wen (鄭清文) and Huang Chun-ming (黃春明).

Lin also encouraged writers such as Chung Chao-cheng (鍾肇政) and Chung Li-ho (鍾理和), who were educated during the Japanese colonial era, to continue writing — even though they were forced to work in Mandarin because the newly-arrived Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had banned the use of their native Japanese in 1946. Lin recognized the value of their work, and took the time to edit their clunky Mandarin so they could be published.

Among these pieces was Chung Chao-cheng’s Lupine Flower (魯冰花), one of the first full-length novels by a Taiwanese writer to be serialized in newspapers after World War II. The novel, which critics generally agree is a classic of Taiwanese literature, received the movie treatment in 1989 and 2009.

Cheng says in Lin’s biography that “Taiwan’s literary scene would have arrived five or 10 years later if not for Lin Hai-yin.”


There was not much of a stage for literature written by Taiwanese authors during the early days of KMT rule because the party prioritized Mandarin over all other languages and held an iron grip over published materials.

“We did not have the life experiences to break into the 1950s scene, which championed anti-communist and war literature,” Chung says, noting that it was a big deal when Chiayi-born writer Wen Hsin’s (文心) novel, Thousand Year Cypress (千年檜), appeared in the literary supplement in 1957.

“Could the rest of us also be published there as well?” Chung wondered.

Born in Japan to Taiwanese parents, Lin grew up in Beijing and did not return to Taiwan until the KMT retreat in 1949. In the book, Lin Hai-yin and her Publishing Career (林海音及其出版事業), Wang Shu-chen (汪淑珍) writes that Lin’s unique background allowed her to keep an open mind and see past identity to recognize good work.

“She was able to recognize the potential and talent in submissions, even if their prose and techniques were still raw,” Lin’s daughter Hsia Tzu-li (夏祖麗) writes in her biography.

“Not only did she choose to publish these works, she would quickly write letters of encouragement to these writers. That meant a lot to aspiring authors.”

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) was also one of Lin Hai-yin’s beneficiaries. A 14-year-old Lin Hwai-min used the NT$30 he received for a story he wrote in 1961 to enroll in his first ballet class.


The 1950s were the height of the White Terror era, when anyone suspected of being subversive toward the government could be punished. Wang writes that Lin Hai-yin was treading dangerous ground by publishing works by local authors.

“She was a free spirit,” Chung Chao-cheng recalls. “She did not care about anti-communism or White Terror. She believed that she was pure and genuine. But free spirits often do not have enough political awareness.”

“I only knew that she was encouraging me, I had no idea that she was sitting on a chair of needles as editor of the supplement. Anything we sent to her could be troublesome,” Huang says. “She received a fixed salary, and she did not need to take such risks.”

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