Essential Books for Taiwan Studies

The following are essential books for Taiwan Studies. The first three have just been published in the new Literature from Taiwan Series, in collaboration with the National Museum of Taiwan Literature and National Taiwan Normal University.

A Taiwanese Literature Reader

edited by Nikky Lin

Taiwanese Literature Reader Front Cover

According to Taiwanese writer and historian Ye Shitao (see next book), the development of Taiwanese literature during Japanese occupation can be divided into three stages: the “nascent period” (1920–1925), followed by the “mature period” (1926–1937), and finally the “war period” (1937–1945). The six stories in this collection are representative works from the mature period and the war period. Each story depicts different hardships and predicaments faced by Taiwan as a colony under Japanese rule, offering insight into how this part of Taiwan’s history continues to impact contemporary Taiwanese society. Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

A History of Taiwan Literature

by Ye Shitao; translated by Christopher Lupke

Lupke Ye Shitao Front Cover

A History of Taiwan Literature by Ye Shitao, an important public intellectual in Taiwan, was published in the crucial watershed year of 1987 when the end of martial law on the island was signaled. This is arguably one of the most important intellectual works of literary history, made even more impressive by Ye’s inclusion of copious notes, including Japanese-language ones. In this translation, Christopher Lupke has painstakingly translated both Ye’s main text and notes, making this valuable resource available to English readers for the first time. Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

The Soul of Jade Mountain

by Husluman Vava; translated by Terence Russell

Soul of Jade Mountain Front Cover

Ethnographic novels, such as The Soul of Jade Mountain (Yushan hun) by Bunun writer Husluman Vava (1958–2007), have been an important tool in the process of bringing the circumstances of Indigenous people to the attention of mainstream audiences. Vava’s novel The Soul of Jade Mountain won the 2007 Taiwan Literature Award for the best novel, and this 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 Indigenous Taiwan to international audiences. Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers

edited by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung

Stalling

With this first English-language anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, readers are finally provided with a window to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese women writers. The quality and diversity of the stories in this anthology are representative of the work produced by the Taipei Chinese PEN, which curates, translates, and publishes the best Chinese Literature from Taiwan since its founding in 1972.  Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

The Sinophone Cinema of
Hou Hsiao-hsien

Christopher Lupke

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Christopher Lupke’s book is a comprehensive treatment of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s entire oeuvre, including The Assassin. Lupke was able to visit the set of The Assassin and includes rare photos of Hou on his film set. In addition to a detailed filmography and a substantial bibliography, the book also contains interviews with Hou Hsiao-hsien. This book is a must read for all interested in global cinema. It is valuable for those interested in the society and politics of postwar Taiwan and Sinophone culture in general. It will appeal to readers concerned with issues such as the representation of ethnicity, gender, political repression, and the tensions between cities and the countryside. Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond

Chia-rong Wu

Supernatural Sinophone TaiwanWhile reexamining the cultural and political complexities of Sinophone Taiwan, this book recognizes the narrative of the strange as a widely adopted artistic form in highlighting Sinophone practices and experiences separated from the China-centric ideology. The study argues that the narratives of the strange in Sinophone Taiwan cross the boundaries between the living and the dead as well as the past and the present, in response to a pastiche of phantasm, Chinese diaspora, gender discourse, and transnational politics. Save 30% on the print edition (use coupon code AAS2020) by ordering here.

 

Remapping the Contested Sinosphere

Chia-rong Wu

Wu Chia-rong Cover

FORTHCOMING AUGUST 2020

Taiwan has long been regarded as a supplementary addition to its cultural Other: China, Japan, or imperial Western powers. To create a self-claimed subjectivity, Taiwan’s localist camp has been promoting the Taiwanese consciousness via political movements and literary writings in a century-long campaign. To examine the literary expressions of Taiwan through any singular conceptual lens, such as postcolonaility and transnationalism, would be far too limiting. As such, this book reconsiders both the (trans)localist agenda and the post-loyalist discourse in the contested Sinophone arena.

 

Locating Taiwan Cinema in the
Twenty-First Century

edited by Paul G. Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang

Pickowicz-Zhang Front Cover

FORTHCOMING AUGUST 2020

This book is a much-needed study that takes the study of Taiwan cinema out of the late-twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. This is the first book to take a multidisciplinary approach to an evaluation of recent Taiwan film. It features a team of cultural studies, social science, and history specialists who use differing film materials and methodologies to analyze the ways in which filmmakers deal with the evolution of Taiwan’s society, economy and culture in the new century. 

 

Cambria Cloud Women

Professors, make going remote easy by assigning this book for readings through the Cambria Book Cloud, which allows for affordable semester-long 24/7 access to multiple books (even the entire Cambria Sinophone World Series) anywhere through web browser. Students are able to read titles on their phone, tables, laptops, or desktops.

 

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AAS 2020 Virtual Book Exhibit

Welcome to our AAS 2020 virtual book exhibit! Below are the new titles that would have been released at the AAS conference. These were also featured on the outside back cover of the AAS 2020 conference program. Save 30% on the print edition of all titles if you order directly from the Cambria Press website and use the coupon code AAS2020.

At the AAS conference, we were going to launch the Cambria Book Cloud for going remote. Now this effective teaching and learning solution has become all the more important. With the Cambria Book Cloud, professors can assign pages or chapters from multiple books—or even entire books—from our collection to their students for a low, flat fee for semester-long access. During the semester, students will be able to access multiple books via any web browser; they can read the material on their smart phones, iPads, laptops, desktops. Professors can sign up here for their free trial access.

NEW TITLES

Cambria Sinophone World Series

Letty Chen Front Cover

The Great Leap Backward
Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years
Lingchei Letty Chen

“Letty Chen has done magnificent work in looking into the art and politics of remembering, and re-membering, the Maoist era—its fanatic causes, its violent episodes, and its traumatic consequences. With sources drawn from fictional and biographical narratives, she identifies ideological and affective contestations, and ponders the possibilities of inscribing the immemorial and unthinkable. Both historically engaged and theoretically provocative, Chen’s book is a timely intervention with the prevailing narrative of the Chinese Dream. The Great Leap Backward is a compelling reference for anyone interested in memory studies, Chinese and comparative literature, and cultural and political history.”

—David Der-wei Wang,
Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature,
Harvard University

Allen Front Cover

The Chinese Lyric Sequence
Poems, Paintings, Anthologies
Joseph R. Allen

“This book is the first attempt to discuss, in both theoretical and concrete terms, the historical development of an important but decidedly understudied Chinese literary form, the poetic sequence (zushi). The poetic sequence is an important form in the Chinese tradition, as it allows the poet to build a complex argument in poetic form about an issue, an experience, or a phenomenon in life. This book is the first English-language monograph to discuss the poetic sequence in the context of the historical development of this art form as a whole, and the connection made between the poetic sequence and album leaves is thought-provoking. Each chapter contains many inspired and inspiring analyses of individual texts. The writing is lucid and accessible, and the book is a great pleasure to read from beginning to end. This book will be invaluable for both specialists in the field of Chinese literature and general readers who are interested in Chinese poetry and aesthetics; it will be essential reading for scholars and students in classical Chinese literature, cultural history, and art history.”

—Tian Xiaofei, Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

Rethinking Sinosphere Front Cover

Rethinking the Sinosphere
Poetics, Aesthetics, and Identity Formation
by Nanxiu Qian, Richard J. Smith, and
Bowei Zhang, eds.

Rethinking the Sinosphere signifies a landmark in the study of cultural interaction in East Asia in two senses. First, it tells the story that literary Sinitic has served as the platform of personal and historical connections in East Asia. Through several case studies, the book affirms that the Chinese characters are the common dominator of the Sinosphere. Secondly, it is a well-knitted tapestry in which the personal, historical, poetic and aesthetic dimensions of cultural interaction in East Asia interweave with one another. This book is a most important source for anyone interested in East Asian studies.”

—Chun-chieh Huang, Distinguished Chair Professor,
National Taiwan University

Reexamining Sinosphere Front Cover

Reexamining the Sinosphere
Transmissions and Transformations
in East Asia

by Nanxiu Qian, Richard J. Smith, and
Bowei Zhang, eds.

Reexamining the Sinosphere is an excellent and much-needed book that explores the various aspects of the concept of Sinosphere with a wealth of textual examples and on the basis of rich and multifaceted contemporary scholarship. The volume puts together a fine group of essays that discuss issues of cultural transmissions and transformations in East Asia and contribute to our understanding by raising important questions as much as by providing answers. This is a volume that stimulates our rethinking of the Sinosphere and will be essential reading for anyone interested in the historical relations of East Asian countries and how this regional concept may be relevant to the reality of our world today. I highly recommend it.”

—Zhang Longxi,
Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation,
City University of Hong Kong

Peng Front Cover

Metalworking in Bronze Age China
The Lost-Wax Process
Peng Peng

“In pre-imperial China, lost-wax casting was very rarely used. As the identification of the technique has generated lively debates among specialists, some disputing the possibility of its use, a comprehensive investigation of its history is long overdue. For the first time, through the careful investigation of Professor Peng we have with this well-researched book a complete state-of-the-field report on this issue.”

—Alain Thote, Directeur d’études, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris

Burnett Front Cover

Shaping Chinese Art History
Pang Yuanji and His Painting Collection
Katharine P. Burnett

“This comprehensive and engaging study for the first time brings into focus the full range of activities of the great collector Pang Yuanji, giving us a picture of a crucial figure in the field of Chinese art history. By situating him within a number of relevant frameworks as collector, businessman, and philanthropist, this book helps us better understand the key role which the art of the past played in the making of a modern China.

—Craig Clunas, FBA,
Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, University of Oxford

See the entire list of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, which is headed by Professor Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

New in Japan Studies

Traphagan Front Cover

Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st-Century Japan
John W. Traphagan

“A very engaging and thoughtful work that will be of great interest to Japan scholars and to any social scientists with a concern for conditions of life in contemporary rural regions in many of the advanced industrial societies. This is a book about entrepreneurship, depopulation, and the nature of the contemporary rural. Each of these is of broad and comparative significance. The Japanese countryside doesn’t look like the countryside of the sentimental imagination; it is a complex hybrid formation, much as we find in Europe and North America, giving the case a wide salience. Depopulation is a shorthand for several related trends of much consequence: population decline, yes, but rapid aging of the population and significant marriage delay, declining births, and solo living. This too is a feature of the rest of the “developed” world, but Japan’s trends are among the most advanced and there is much to learn from a judicious account such as this book. This is an impressive book, which should gain an enthusiastic and appreciative readership.”

—William Kelly,
Professor of Anthropology and Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies,
Yale University

Morgan Front Cover

Law and Society in Imperial Japan
Suehiro Izutaro and the Search for Equity
Jason Morgan

“A first-rate scholarly work that is an important contribution to understanding Japan’s legal and wartime history, especially the nature of tenko (ideological conversion during wartime Japan). Not only is this book the first serious study of Suehiro Izutaro in English, but it is also a profound analysis of the the development of law (labor law espcially) in Imperial Japan, and more broadly the impact of Suehiro’s case-study approach on Japanese law today. Built on primary sources in Japanese and other languages, the bibliography is exhaustive and will be valuable in itself as a guide to the field. There is much to learn from this book, including important lessons about the nature of wartime Japanese society and politics.”

— Kevin M. Doak, Professor and Nippon Foundation Endowed Chair;
and Chair, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University

NEW! Literature from Taiwan Series

Cambria Press is proud to announce a new series, the Literature from Taiwan Series, in collaboration with the National Museum of Taiwan Literature and National Taiwan Normal University.

Lupke Ye Shitao Front Cover

A History of Taiwan Literature by Ye Shitao
translated by Christopher Lupke

A History of Taiwan Literature by Ye Shitao, an important public intellectual in Taiwan, was published in the crucial watershed year of 1987 when the end of martial law on the island was signaled. This is arguably one of the most important intellectual works of literary history, made even more impressive by Ye’s inclusion of copious notes, including Japanese-language ones. In this translation, Christopher Lupke has painstakingly translated both Ye’s main text and notes, making this valuable resource available to English readers for the first time. Lupke also provides an introduction that contextualizes Ye’s work as well as an epilogue that outlines some of the major historical and literary developments after 1987, along with a brief mention of some of the most important literary figures of Taiwan. In addition to a glossary and index, Lupke offers a select bibliography that lists works that Ye referenced in his own notes as well as some books that Lupke consulted in completing this translation.

Soul of Jade Mountain Front Cover

The Soul of Jade Mountain by Husluman Vava
translated by Terence Russell

Cultural production, including literary work, has been a key element in the Indigenous struggle for decolonization worldwide. In Taiwan, ethnographic novels written in Chinese, such as The Soul of Jade Mountain (Yushan hun) by Bunun writer Husluman Vava (1958–2007), have been an important tool in the process of bringing the circumstances of Indigenous people to the attention of mainstream audiences. The Soul of Jade Mountain won the 2007 Taiwan Literature Award for the best novel, and this 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 Indigenous Taiwan to international audiences.

Taiwanese Literature Reader Front CoverA Taiwanese Literature Reader
Nikky Lin, ed.

According to Taiwanese intellectual Ye Shitao, the development of Taiwanese literature during Japanese occupation can be divided into three stages: the “nascent period” (1920–1925), followed by the “mature period” (1926–1937), and finally the “war period” (1937–1945). The six stories in this collection are representative works from the mature period and the war period. Each story depicts different hardships and predicaments faced by Taiwan as a colony under Japanese rule, offering insight into how this part of Taiwan’s history continues to impact contemporary Taiwanese society.

See www.cambriapress.com for more titles.

 

Cambria Press Author Carolyn T. Brown Speaks at the Library of Congress

Lu Xun

Dr. Carolyn T. Brown, former director of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, recently gave a talk about her latest book Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung (Cambria Press, 2018) at the Library of Congress. Below are excerpts of her speech and here is the link to the video of the entire speech.

*This book is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

How the book started

“This study began when I was a college sophomore in a course in modern Chinese literature in translation. I think we probably read his most iconic stories, certainly true story of Ah Q. Undoubtedly “Regret for the Past,” I don’t remember. But I do know that when I read one of his stories, “The New Year Sacrifice,” it was as if someone had like hit me in the stomach and I thought, “What has happened here?” I had never been to China and I don’t think I really knew anyone who was Chinese or certainly not well. But I do answer that question, but I’m not going to answer it here today. I do answer it in the book. But the question, my own reaction asked me to think both about my reaction and in a psychological sense and then to begin to wonder about what might be the psychological dimensions within the stories. Thus I was moved to ask about the psychological model by personal experience and I admit, as a former director of the Kluge Center, it wasn’t driven by intellectual curiosity, essentially, but by my experience.”

How this book is different

“unlike most studies, it’s not primarily about the man himself, it’s a study of text. Of course we know the man wrote the text, so they obviously trace back to the author himself, but that’s not the central concern. Similarly the work decent is the content and focuses on the structures. That is, I look at the patterns that repeat in foremost of the stories. … I’m using Jung’s concepts of the psyche as a model to explain what I was finding in the text.”

On Scapegoating

“The dog, who cannot defend himself becomes the scapegoat for the fact that the child was negligent and failed to do the assignment. More seriously this image can be projected onto entire groups. Where the community contributes some evil that has befallen it, to a group usually with insufficient power to fight back and tries to contain it. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is one very clear example of political scapegoating of an entire group. And I’m sure it doesn’t take much imagination for you to look around our current world and see it still happening. But although a part of the self can be forgotten and rendered unconscious, it cannot be destroyed, because it is part of the self.”

On the spiritual or psychological illness that Lu Xun defined as undermining China

“My book argues that one way of viewing the spiritual or psychological illness that Lu Xun defined as undermining China, is to view his analysis as the split of the shadow from the ego within the whole self. And healing as the reintegration of these two parts. He investigates this, this idea in multiple domains, that of the nation, the community, the family and the individual self and imagines different outcomes in each domain. So one way to understand the psycho dynamics in the true story of Ah Q, is to view the story as an investigation into what happens when the ego splits off and expels the unwanted, unacknowledged, despised shadow side of the self and then tries to destroy it?”

On union concepts and national character in “The True Story of Ah Q”

“Analyzing ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ as a meditation on scapegoating, defined in terms of these union concepts, reveals dimensions of the stories, the story not previously noted. … I want to provide a few examples that reveal how viewing the true story of Ah Q as a meditation on scapegoating furthers our understanding of the story. … Ah Q’s signature feature, the one he’s know for as a character, is his stunning capacity to turn physical defeat into spiritual victory. That is, when he’s defeated in some kind of brawl he redefines the experience, such that he perceives himself as having achieved the upper hand morally and psychologically. At the time of its composition Ah Q’s capacity to turn defeat into victory was read allegorically.  It was read as a representation of China’s failures to respond to the challenges brought by the west. The notion that a nation had a particular character, a national character was very current at the time, and there was considerable discussion about China’s national character, what made it unique. And then given the problems, what deficiencies were in its — in this character. Because if it was getting beaten up by the West, at least in its perception, it must have been deficient in some way. Lu Xun, viewing himself as a doctor rendering a diagnosis, looked at what was wrong with the patient, china, in order to move the body politic towards health and a better future. He himself declared a few years later that in creating the stories he had attempted to — he had attempted to describe the souls of the Chinese people. So, from the beginning Ah Q was viewed as typical, not just a literary character, but typical of the Chinese national character. And what was considered his essential feature, was this capacity to turn defeat into victory. So, we should take a look at what that actually means.”

On sexual desire and power in “Soap”

“Lu Xun made the same argument in another story, which is much overlooked, “Soap.” That is he also showed there that society has encouraged men to disown their sexuality, project their desires onto women and then accuse women of having incited it. Certainly he viewed this as an issue of power as well, but also in psychological terms.”

On Lu Xun’s implicit model

“In the book I show that interpreting this structure through Jung’s conceptual framework shows that indeed Lu Xun had an implicit model of psychological illnesses and its causes. … the union approach, combined with a focus on the structure, gives new meaning to Lu Xun’s decision to take up the profession of literature in his hope of healing the spirits of the Chinese people.”

Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung is available directly from Cambria Press, on Amazon,
and Barnes and Noble.

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Jin Yong (1924–2018): Legend in Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History

Today we mourn the passing of Jin Yong (Louis Cha) who was well loved for his wuxia novels, among his many other accomplishments.

Jin Yong

What made Jin Yong such a legend? As Ann Huss and Jianmei noted in The Jin Yong Phenomenon, “Jin Yong writes in what has been referred to by readers and critics as ‘the common language of Chinese around the world.’ [… and his]  writing has emerged as an interrogation of Chinese intellectuals’ project of modernity.”

In their seminal book, Huss and Liu argued that:

Most scholars of modern Chinese literature have studied Jin Yong’s novels within the boundaries of “martial art novels,” an approach which to a large degree has not only ignored the position of Jin Yong’s writing in the modern Chinese literary tradition, but also disregarded the impact of specific historical circumstances on the production of literary works. To remedy this weakness, our selection considers Jin Yong’s anti-Europeanized Chinese writings as works which efficiently rejuvenate long-neglected elements of the native literary tradition: huaben xiaoshuo, classical essay language, and the style of the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School (Yuanyang hudie pai), all suppressed long ago by the New Literary Tradition. In addition to reclaiming the importance of Jin Yong’s language, our collection also engages Hong Kong, and the cultural and geopolitical space within which Jin Yong’s writings were produced from the 1950s through the 1970s. In this way, we go beyond the limits of literature, ushering the research of Jin Yong’s novels into the interdisciplinary world of political, social, cultural, and film studies.

They also add that:

the popularity of Jin Yong’s works offers us an opportunity to reconceptualize the relationship between high and popular culture, the canon and the uncanon, the modern and the traditional, the East and the West. A closer look at the wuxia project of this seasoned politician, businessman, and master of the literary jianghu will lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.

We are indebted to Jin Yong for what he has done for the Chinese literary world; his works will continue to, as Huss and Liu have noted, “lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.”

Jin Yong
The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (Cambria Press, 2009)

This book is available in print and e-book editions.

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Cambria Press Author Interview with Professor Christopher Rea

Before Crazy Rich Asians, there were the Chinese celebrities in the 1930’s. In his latest book Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Professor Christopher Rea (University of British Columbia) takes us into the world of Chinese elites and what they had to say about each other. Louise Edwards, Scientia Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, hails Professor Rea’s latest book as “satirical, witty, and compulsive reading.”

So, what did it mean to be a celebrity in modern China? In Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Christopher Rea presents fifty brilliant pen sketches of Chinese cultural and political elites, written and edited in 1934 by Wen Yuan-ning, a Cambridge-educated ethnic Hakka from Indonesia and a master literary stylist. In this interview, Christopher Rea discusses what Imperfect Understanding reveals about the politics fame in China, then and now.

Cambria Press Publication Author Christopher Rea

Question: Professor Theodore Huters (UCLA) has called this collection “an extraordinary artifact of Chinese literary and social history.” Could you please elaborate on this and why it was so important for you to edit this book?

Christopher Rea: I got the idea for Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in 2012. Geremie Barmé, the Director of the Centre, invited me to co-guest edit with William Sima a double issue of the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly focused on the Chinese-edited English-language weekly The China Critic, which was founded in Shanghai in 1928. In the pages of the Critic I discovered a column of “Unedited Biographies” of Chinese celebrities, which I found to be often brilliant and consistently entertaining, even when I didn’t know much about the person being profiled. The editor of the column, Wen Yuan-ning, was a favorite professor of Qian Zhongshu’s, a writer whom I’m keenly interested in. I discovered that Wen not only edited fifty celebrity profiles for the Critic in 1934, but that he also released a book of seventeen of them under his own name in 1935 as Imperfect Understanding. His takes on Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Zhou Zuoren, Liang Yuchun, Wellington Koo, Gu Hongming and other cultural celebrities are insightful, funny, and often mischievous. In many cases, Wen knew them personally and would try to reconcile their personalities with their reputations. His instinct was to deflate the puffed-up biographies found in books like Who’s Who in China, and the results are refreshing.

As I read more of the essays and started researching the individuals involved, it became clear to me that Wen Yuan-ning is a literary voice who deserves to be rediscovered. His influence on the satirical style of Qian Zhongshu is unmistakable and his essays make good reading in their own right. Like many members of his generation, Wen’s literary career was cut short by war and politics—but in his case it likely had more to do with being elected to China’s legislature and later being appointed Ambassador to Greece. But what he left behind is treasure trove for the essay lover and the historian.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
CR: For starters, I hope that they enjoy discovering Wen Yuan-ning’s writings as much as I did. Imperfect Understanding contains much good humor, well-turned wit, and judicious character appraisal, along with flights of arch mockery, physiognomic satire, and poetry. Some pieces are quite touching. I hope that readers enjoy the results of some literary sleuthing that went into this book. For example, one of the best sources on Wen turned out to be writings by the New Yorker journalist Emily Hahn, who worked with him in Shanghai in the 1930s. One essay, the one on George T. Yeh (Ye Gongchao), I figured out was almost certainly written by Qian Zhongshu. I discovered that many of the essays—which were originally written in English—were translated and retranslated into Chinese many times in the 1930s and 1940s. And, as a literary historian, I learned quite a bit about celebrities outside my field, including plague fighters of Manchuria, Manila businessmen, university presidents from Singapore, rubber tycoons, diplomats, physicists, philanthropists, and musicians. Just the selection of persons profiled—the mix of professions, of male and female, living and dead—provides ample material for thinking about the politics of celebrity in in China’s age of print, and in its publishing center of Shanghai. Who was included or excluded from the list, and why? I also hope that this book inspires greater appreciation of how multilingualism has been a part of China’s literary sphere. Apart from some material in the appendices, this book is not a translation; Wen and his co-authors wrote in English. Finally, I hope that readers find useful all of the photographs, summary biographies, and bibliographic material about Wen Yuan-ning and his peers at the back of the book.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

CR: There’s plenty more research to be done on Wen Yuan-ning, besides the material I was able to get from Cambridge, Stanford, Taipei, and a few other places. Next steps might include tracking down his personal papers and archives in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan. Wen is just one of many talented writers of modern China who could write in English or another language besides Chinese, and much more work is needed to elucidate the multilingual dimension of modern Chinese literary history. We need more treasure-hunters in the archives, as many literary gems remain hiding in old magazines and journals, waiting to be rediscovered. The politics of fame has had a tremendous impact on modern Chinese culture, before and after the extraordinary example of Mao Zedong. Celebrities abound in contemporary China, for example, and our tendency is to interpret them based on the archetypes we’re most familiar with. Yet it’s clear, even before factoring in the latest digital twist, that not all of them fit the mold. Insofar as celebrity is a function of things like money, status, power, time, and attention, its configurations in Chinese contexts deserve our attention too.

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

About Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. He holds an MA and PhD from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. His previous books include The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (cotranslated with Bruce Rusk), China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters, and The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, which the Association for Asian Studies awarded the Joseph Levenson Book Prize (post-1900 China) in 2017.

About Wen Yuan-Ning

Wen Yuan-ning (1900–1984), also known as Oon Guan Neng, was born into a Hakka family on the island of Banka, and educated in Singapore, London, and King’s College, Cambridge. He taught English literature at universities in Peking, including Tsinghua University, and served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages of Peking University. He subsequently became a contributing editor of the English-language weekly The China Critic (1928–1940, 1946) and editor-in-chief of T’ien Hsia Monthly (1935–1941), releasing his essay collection Imperfect Understanding in 1935. He was made a member of the Legislative Yuan in 1933 and in 1947 became China’s Ambassador to Greece, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement, he taught English literature at Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

 

 

Cambria Press Book Launch at iPreciation with Mabel Lee, Shen Jiawei, and Victor Mair

The Cambria Press double book launch at iPreciation on July 14, 2018,  was a great success! The audience was treated not only to fascinating talks by celebrity artist Shen Jiawei and Professor Mabel Lee about their  books Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics  but also the introductory speech by distinguished guest of honor Professor Victor Mair and an impromptu speech by another eminent guest Professor Wang Gungwu. In addition, attendees were able to view the paintings of another Cambria author Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who has his major paintings held at iPreciation.

Cambria Press iPreciation book launch
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (Singapore)
Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Toni Tan Helina Chan Wang Gungwu Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (left to right): Mabel Lee, Toni Tan, Helina Chan, Wang Gungwu, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair books
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair with books–Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context, and Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair 
Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Victor Mair
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: In addition to discussing her two books, Mabel Lee also introduced another book she was involved in-Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair edited by Haun Saussy
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei book signing
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History
Cambria Press iPreciation book signing Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations, and Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History
Cambria Press iPreciation Victor Mair signing
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations
Cambria Press authors with books Mabel Lee Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press authors with their books: Mabel Lee, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei with Shen Jiawei’s painting of Chin Peng

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Publication Excerpt from Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers

Stalling

The following is an excerpt from the introduction in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, edited by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung.

A Pacific island of roughly 14,400 square miles, Taiwan lies just over a hundred miles off China’s southeast shoreline and seven hundred miles south of Japan. It has been a contested cultural space between its original aboriginal inhabitants (Taiyals and Vonums), and then among many generations of Chinese immigrants as well as waves of Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonial inhabitants, all of which provides the backdrop for some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world. Unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese writers—from the experimental poetry pioneer Hsia Yu to younger multimedia poets like Ye Mimi to powerhouse authors like Li Ang and Chu T’ien-wen—are continually pushing the boundaries of the possible and unlocking new directions for Sinophone literature in the twenty-first century.

With this first American anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, the editors hope to expose English readers to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese writers. In Ping Lu’s “Wedding Date,” we meet a wheelchair-bound mother who seems to get younger by the day as her filial daughter prematurely ages. A talented writer in her youth, the protagonist’s imagination imbues a possible romance with an intimacy that seems so real it almost becomes so, despite piling signs to the contrary. In “The Story of Hsiao-Pi,” by Newman Prize–winning author Chu T’ien-wen, the narrator lovingly examines the life of a troubled village boy, who builds an unexpected future upon the fierce if complicated love of his mother and step-father. Then Taiwan itself becomes the protagonist in Tsai Su-fen’s “Taipei Train Station,” where the station serves as an aperture through which numerous lives pass, if only briefly, into view before emerging into the boundless possibilities of the city.

Chung Wenyin recalls her first steps into literature and love through her story “The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl,” an adventure that explores the evolving ideas of love and the eros of art, and the open-ended possibilities of life itself. After being told by an amateur psychic that her not-yet-conceived son is following her around, waiting for his time to enter the world, the narrator of Marula Liu’s story “Baby, My Dear” begins to search for his father. Su Wei-chen, however, enters the traumatic space of a mother losing her daughter to leukemia in “No Time to Grow Up,” asking if children who die so young have had enough time to even know they are alive. Yuan Chiung-chiung traces the dynamic and transformative process of divorce, reinvention, and love through the story “A Place of One’s Own,” while Liao Hui-ying opens a window into class identity, fate, motherhood, and, ultimately, love in the context of an arranged marriage in “Seed of the Rape Plant.” Li Ang offers a tale of Taiwanese oppositional politics, personal sacrifice, and unrequited love in “The Devil in a Chastity Belt.” Chen Jo-hsi draws the collection to a close with a poignant vignette exposing the point where international politics and the dinner table meet, somewhere between the imagination and anticipation and the machinations of political power in her story “The Fish.”

Read the rave reviews for Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, which is available for purchase directly from Cambria Press or on Amazon.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Pi-twan Huang
Introduction: From Taiwan: Some of the Richest Sinophone Literature by Jonathan Stalling
Chapter 1: Wedding Date by Ping Lu
Chapter 2: The Story of Hsiao-Pi by Chu T’ien-wen
Chapter 3: The Party Girl by Lin Tai-man
Chapter 4: Taipei Train Station by Tsai Su-fen
Chapter 5: The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl by Chung Wenyin
Chapter 6: Baby, My Dear by Marula Liu
Chapter 7: No Time to Grow Up by Su Wei-chen
Chapter 8: A Place of One’s Own Yuan by Chiung-chiung
Chapter 9: Seed of the Rape Plant by Liao Hui-ying
Chapter 10: The Devil in a Chastity Belt by Li Ang
Chapter 11: The Fish by Jo-hsi Chen
About the Editors

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