The essential documentary film series on literature in Taiwan
Little Eiko from the south side of Peking came to the south side of Taipei, becoming the inimitable “Madam Lin” on the literary scene. Home in Two Cities uses Lin Hai-yin’s unique background of having two homelands as a departure point to tell her story. Narrated by her daughter Julie Chang, the film takes viewers into her life, where we see her desk, her social circle, the editor’s office, and how she fearlessly confronted the challenges in the era of censorship and suppression to cultivate a garden for the belles lettres.
Borrowing from Buddhist scripture, The Coming of Tulku captures one short day in the life of Chou Meng-tieh as a metaphor for an entire lifetime. The film recreates the atmosphere of the old Wu Chang Street and the lonely kingdom that was Chou’s bookstand. Scenes of his daily life are interspersed with reflections on his thought, spiritual practice, and writing. The film traces the changes and lessons learned due to his sickness, the exile and migration he experienced, and the meaning of such vicissitudes, as the poet dreams of a transcendent existence in the secular world and achieving permanence in a life as fleeting as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.
He has returned. The one who used to aim his sights at Sirius and travel the world like the ancient Chinese traveler Hsu Xia-ke, the one with the piercing gaze who once burned the crane-shaped kite, he has returned. Xizi Bay will be his last home, he says. The Untrammeled Traveler follows the travels of Mr. and Mrs. Yu Guang-zhong, discovering along the way the poet’s nostalgia for his motherland, his initiation to literature, his literary style, and his interactions with the literary circle, revealing the poet’s journey to find his own voice back in the days of exhilarating exchanges between Chinese and Western thought.
Who handed down the profession of the poet, so that someone would hang a lamp in the evening dusk? Port of Mists uses Zheng Chou-yu’s renowned poem of the same name as a guide into his life and the poet’s epic literary journey: from the years of burning leaves to warm wine as a dockworker, to the stimulating years in Iowa, to the calmness and expansiveness that set in after he took up teaching at Yale University.
Every night, Wang Wen-xing engages in a struggle with himself in a small room, taking out soil from his heart as though digging a ditch as he slowly writes his novel. By following a young novelist in search of something, The Man Behind the Book connects the various pieces of Wang Wen-xing’s literary career to reveal a figure who believes in words, cherishes writing, and although slow in crafting his work, makes up for it with depth.
Towards the Completion of a Poem unfolds in the sound of Yang Mu reciting his poem before launching into the exploration of a vast literary career: from the hesitant young man at National Hualien Senior High School, the college student debating and learning in the shadow of the Dadu Mountain in Taichung, the researcher dedicated to the study of ancient English at the University of Iowa, to the writer who seamlessly blends western, Chinese and Taiwanese cultural and intellectual influences into his writing to achieve a broader and deeper poetic vision.
“All memories are sodden”— so begins a chapter in Liu Yi-chang’s most celebrated work, The Drunkard. Born in Shanghai in 1918, Liu Yi-chang bore witness to the history of 20th century Chinese literature. His fictional world spans glitzy Shanghai, southeast Asia, and the old and new metropolitan charms of Singapore and Hong Kong. Travelling between the fictional and the real, his works weave together a rich tapestry of literary worlds both past and present.
In 1959 on the heavily bombarded island of Kinmen, poet Lo Fu jotted down the first lines of his long surrealist poem, Death of a Stone Cell, which has inspired generations of creative writers in Taiwan during the sixty years since its publication. In 2000, Lo Fu introduced his three-thousand-line Driftwood, once again writing a new chapter for Chinese poetry. In his nearly seven decades as a poet, Lo Fu has continued to push the boundaries, constantly exploring new possibilities of writing through imagery.
The necessity of tenderness, / the necessity of affirmation, / the necessity of a little bit of wine and sweet osmanthus… These familiar lines come from Ya Hsien’s only collection of poems. After that, he devoted himself to the work of an editor, never to publish poems again. Through a visual language that recalls poetry, A Life that Sings tells the story of Ya Hsien’s contribution and devotion to Taiwan’s literary world.
Famed as “first among the scenes of Taida”, writer Lin Wen-yue is a legend on the campus of the National Taiwan University, and a master composer of prose and translations, having devoted five and a half years to translating the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji into Chinese. Her prose spans diverse themes and sentiments, delving deep into memories, creating works of literature that stimulate the senses of sight, smell and taste.
Borrowing from the stream of consciousness technique employed in his short story Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream, Multiflorate Splendour tells the story of Pai Hsien-yung’s life and literary journey. An inspiration to generations of writers, his writing is bold in subject matter, yet subtle and infused with feeling in style, bringing his Taipei people alive through the recurring themes of riches to rags, the fall from grace, and love, lust and loss.
Xi Xi began writing in the 1950s, with ventures into poetry, film reviews, plays, fiction, prose, and illustrated writings covering topics that seem almost encyclopedic in nature. Through it all, she has maintained a genuine curiosity and is always insightful. Her varied styles and perceptive observations of Hong Kong are on full display in My City—the documentary film that gets its name from her masterpiece on her beloved city.
Boundary began shooting in 2009, at which time Ye Si suggested to the director, “If you really want to know me, get to know my friends. In each of them you will find snippets of me.” Ye Si, writing about different cultures and across various media, had friends everywhere. His poetry, prose, fiction and criticism together recall a riot of flowers on a summery day, with so many pleasing shapes and forms to appreciate.