The National Museum of Taiwan Literature yesterday released a 33-book set on Taiwan’s literary history, ranging from the oral mythology of Aboriginal communities to different modern genres, hoping to inspire research on the subject.
“From the oral literature of the Aborigines to the mother-tongue literature in the modern times, the museum is trying to explore Taiwanese literature,” museum director Lee Jui-teng (李瑞騰) said. “The team of writers and editors behind this set of books takes a jus soli approach toward Taiwanese literature, meaning that all literary works and writers of significant influence on the society and history — regardless of their ethnicity, language used in writing or nationality — are introduced and discussed.”
Lee said the first half of the set covers literary works and writers according to historic periods.
“However, as literature became more diverse in the 1970s and the 1980s, the literary history of this period has been categorized according to the genre,” Lee said.
National Taiwan Normal University professor Hsu Chun-ya (許俊雅), one of the editors of the set and a specialist in Taiwanese literature, praised the series as the most complete publication on Taiwanese literature.
“Many people have written essays or books on Taiwanese literature — notably Yeh Shi-tao (葉石濤) and Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明) — but most of such research has focused on the new literature that began to evolve in the 1920s,” she said. “However, this series also includes research on Aboriginal oral literature, written accounts about Taiwan by early European colonists as well as classical Chinese literature during the Qing Dynasty.”
Wang Chia-hung (王嘉弘), author of the book on literature during the Japanese takeover of Taiwan in 1895, said that not many researchers are concerned about the work produced during this period of time, but he finds it really interesting.
“Japan’s invasion of Taiwan was explosive news during the time, and a lot of people, including Chinese officials and writers, as well as local literary figures and Japanese writers, wrote about it,” he said. “It is very interesting to read how these people reacted to this historic event. Actually, the Japanese invasion of Taiwan had a long influence on the development of Taiwanese literature during the Japanese Colonial era.”
Liau Sui-beng (廖瑞銘), a professor at Chung Shan Medical University’s School of Taiwanese Languages and the author of the volume on mother-tongue literature, said he wanted to remind the public and researchers about the often-forgotten Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) literature written in romanized Hoklo.
Originally created by Western Christian missionaries in the 19th century to allow people who did not know Chinese characters to read religious texts, romanized Hoklo later evolved into a literary language.
“As early as in the 1920s, there was a long novel written completely romanized Hoklo, and in the 1930s, there was a heated debate among literary figures in Taiwan on whether Taiwanese literature should be written in romanized Hoklo or in characters,” Liau said. “There was a novel written in romanized Hoklo published as late as 1965.”
However, as today’s educational system focuses on Chinese characters, “not many people nowadays are familiar with romanized Hoklo,” he said.