Kishu An Forest of Literature in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正) and the National Museum of Taiwan Literature in Greater Tainan have joined forces to launch the Tainan Literature Exhibition, which aims to introduce Taipei residents to Tainan’s rich history of literature that spans five centuries.
The event started yesterday and runs through Aug. 19. It will include three lectures and discussions by writers, artists and second-hand bookstore owners on a variety of topics on the next three Saturdays.
“Tainan was the political, financial and cultural center in Taiwan during the 17th century. It was also where Chinese-language literature began on the island,” museum director Li Jui-teng (李瑞騰) said. “Tainan has been marginalized since the rise of Taipei and Kaohsiung, but it is also because of this marginalization that the city has been able to preserve some of its history.”
Li’s view of the city was supported by the news that Tainan was officially admitted to the League of Historical Cities last week.
With the aim of promoting dialogue between historical cities around the globe, the international organization has admitted 95 cities from 59 regions since its inception in 1987.
Though relatively small in scale and lacking written introductions in English, the manuscripts, books, old photographs and related documents currently on display at Kishu An, a literature center that opened its doors to the public in December last year, manage to offer a glimpse into the area’s rich literary past.
Divided into seven themed sections, the exhibition starts with Shen Kuang-wen (沈光文, 1613 to 1688), a Ming Dynasty official and intellectual who resided in present-day Greater Tainan’s Shanhua (善化) and is regarded as a pioneer of classical literature in Taiwan.
In the New Taiwanese Literature section, poems by Wu Hsin-jung (吳新榮) and Kuo Shui-tan (郭水潭) conjure up images of a thriving literary culture in the 1920s and 1930s on the “saline land” (鹽分地帶), which refers to the coastal areas near Tainan, where local writers and poets formed a strong, grassroots literary tradition through modern poetry and literature clubs.
Also on display is the historical tale The Chronicle of the Red Fort (赤崁記) by Nishikawa Mitsuru (1908 to 1999), a prominent figure of the cultural elite in Taiwan under Japanese rule. The Japanese novelist and poet is said to have brought the history of Taiwan and local traditions to the forefront with his literary works and the several literary magazines he helped to found.
Other highlights include literary works written in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) by Chen Lei (陳雷) and Lin Tsung–yuan (林宗源), as well as copies of the Taiwan Church News (台灣教會公報) published in 1885. The church newspaper, according to Chien Hung-yi (簡弘毅), a researcher at the museum, was responsible for pioneering Hoklo romanization.
More information about the center can be found at www.kishuan.org.tw.