On October 10, President Tsai Ing-wen noted in her National Day address the record performance of Taiwan’s athletes, noting “We had waited so long for that moment, for Taiwan’s achievements, Taiwan’s confidence, and Taiwan’s courage to be seen and appreciated by the world.” This is not just in the athletic arena but in other areas such as arts and culture as well. The world is taking note of the rich literary and artistic works coming out of Taiwan. Here are twelve books that illuminate Taiwan’s complex history and culture through short stories, novels, poetry, and film. These will be welcome reading both to Asian studies scholars and general readers who want to learn more about Taiwan.
- Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung, eds.
With this book, the first English-language anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, readers experience the manifold voices, styles, and textures of contemporary women writers in Taiwan. Exploring themes of motherhood, love, political power, and art, this anthology is praised by The Shanghai Literary Review for showcasing “the best examples of of contemporary Taiwanese writing by women writers, all of whom have won major literary awards in Taiwan and are recognized as leading figures of Taiwan’s literary scene.
2. A Taiwanese Literature Reader by Nikky Lin, ed.
This book takes readers to the era of Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan. Featuring short stories originally written in Chinese and Japanese, this collection testifies to the complexity of this period in Taiwan’s history and sheds light on the impact from this period of history that is still felt today.
3. A History of Taiwan Literature by Ye Shitao, translated by Christopher Lupke
Devoting comprehensive attention to all of Taiwan’s major writers as well as those who were less prominent, Ye Shitao’s History of Taiwan Literature is arguably one of the most important intellectual works of literary history. Now available to English-language readers for the first time with Professor Christopher Lupke’s translation, which he supplements with a bibliography of works Ye referenced in his own notes, this work is a must for all who want to learn more about Taiwan’s literary history.
4. The Soul of Jade Mountain by Husluman Vava, translated by Terence Russell
Before his untimely death, Husluman Vava was one of the leaders of the Indigenous cultural revival movement in Taiwan. This translation of The Soul of Jade Mountain by Professor Terence Russell is the first English translation of an ethnographic novel by a Taiwan Indigenous writer to be published by a North American publisher, marking an important step in bringing this significant Indigenous work from Taiwan to international audiences.
5. Queer Taiwanese Literature by Howard Chiang, ed.
Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, queer authors have redefined Taiwan’s cultural scene. This anthology, which includes previously untranslated stories, provides readers with a deeper understanding of these critical authors and explores AIDS, bisexuality, transgender identity, surrogacy, and many other themes.
6. A Son of Taiwan by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin, eds.
The era known as the White Terror in Taiwan—marked by suppression of dissent and widespread human rights violations—had pernicious effects on the Taiwanese people beyond direct acts of atrocities, including that many Taiwanese started to self-censor. The stories in A Son of Taiwan are set during this time and provide a critical window for us to peer into this period of Taiwan’s history.
7. Transitions in Taiwan by Ian Rowen, ed.
The Asian Review of Books commends Transitions in Taiwan for giving us “an invaluable glimpse into a difficult part of Taiwan’s history.” This collection of short stories, which range in genre (e.g., realism, satire, and allegory), comprehensively addresses the social, political, and economic aspects of the White Terror.
8. Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond by Chia-rong Wu
The first scholarly monograph on Sinophone literature in Taiwan, Supernatural Sinophone in Taiwan explores how the spectral, monstrous, and fantastic in Sinophone Taiwan literature relates to the country’s historical traumas and politics. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture praises this book for charting “a new direction at the intersections of Sinophone studies, literary studies, Taiwan studies, and gender studies.”
9. Remapping the Contested Sinosphere by Chia-rong Wu
Praised by Professor Ping-hui Liao for being “an invaluable primary resource for scholars in Asian studies, comparative literature, and Sinophone studies,” Remapping the Contested Sinosphere engages with Taiwan’s multifaceted culture by focusing on modern Taiwan and its relationship with cultural China, Chinese diasporas, nativist trend, and Aboriginal consciousness while recognizing its unresolved ethnic issues.
10. The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-Hsien by Christopher Lupke
A must read for all interested in global cinema, The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-Hsien is a comprehensive treatment of the auteur film director’s entire oeuvre, including The Assassin, and includes rare photos of the director on set as well as several interviews that have been translated into English.
11. Locating Taiwan Cinema in the Twenty-First Century by Paul G. Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang, eds.
Locating Taiwan Cinema in the Twenty-First Century is the first book to look at recent Taiwan films with the expertise of many different disciplines and brings scholarship about the films into the twenty-first century. The book probes at how Taiwan films deal with Japan’s history in Taiwan, Taiwanese filmmakers’ and audiences’ feelings toward mainland China, and how these films treat sexuality, environmental issues, and challenges facing ethnic minorities.
12. The All-Seeing Eye: Collected Poems by Shang Qin, translated by John Balcom
Shang Qin, widely considered one of the most influential Chinese poets, is a modern master of the prose poem and one of Taiwan’s leading surrealist poets. This book is a complete translation of his 2000 Millenium Collection and includes poems from his first three collections as well as many previously unpublished verse. As Professor Michelle Yeh (UC Davis) notes, “This is a beautiful translation,” and “once you have read Shang Qin’s poetry, you will want to reread it again and again!”
All books are available in print and digital editions.