Taiwan Lecture Series - Summer Term 2022
Or/AND?!—Transcultural Perspectives on (Aboriginal) Taiwan and its global context
May 24-July 5th with Composer-in-residence, CHEN SHIH-Hui & Film-maker-in-digital-residence HU Tai-li & Special Guest LUNG Ying-tai
This year’s Taiwan Lecture Series will offer glimpses into (aboriginal) MUSICAL Taiwan and its global context in the long 20th century through the work of documentary film-maker HU Tai-li and composer CHEN Shih-hui who have cooperated on a number of projects together all of which are related to living musical, migratory lives in dialogue with (aboriginal) Taiwan. Through their work, and in conversations with their creators, students will be able to probe the uses and importance of artistic renderings of lived experience in the writing of transcultural histories. They will also be part of the world premiere of or/And?! a composition about questions of identity by CHEN Shih-hui.
Students who would like to take this course for credit will participate in all activities related to the class, including lectures and dialogues with the composer and the film maker, a concert performance and several film screenings. They will each analyze and introduce one film/composition, and they will prepare abstracts of the readings for the lecture series. At the end, students will write a seminar paper.
For more information, please contact Barbara Mittler.
More details about the lecture series are available in LSF and Moodle.
On May 31st, Taiwan’s first Cultural Minister, Professor LUNG Ying-tai will come to Heidelberg digitally as part of the ENCOUNTERS series, entitled:
“In 1975 when I went to the US for the first time I went to the library and by chance I got a book about Chinese history. That opened my eyes and I thought ‘Oh my God what I was told before were all lies!’’ Lung Yingtai
Lung Ying-tai remembers how, in the mid-1980s, her father would call her every day—just to make sure that she had not been taken away by government spies—for publishing her controversial column “Wild Fire” in the Taiwan daily China Times. Her essays—criticizing Orwellian conditions in Taiwan: government corruption, human rights violations, punched milk powder and more—would soon be published in book form. They have been considered milestones in the history of democratization—Taiwan remained under martial law until 1987—and they were also read on Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, in 1989.
Born on Taiwan as daughter of parents from the mainland (Hunan, Mao’s native province), educated in the US and resident of Europe—where she raised her two sons—and Hong Kong—where she “observed the growing pains of that special administrative region”—Lung Ying-tai has developed a distinct voice of cultural criticism that is informed by global perspectives. And she has never stopped calling on those around her (in Europe as well as in China): “Where is your Outrage?” was the title of her first piece, addressing her fellow Chinese citizens, “Please, show me your Civility” would speak to those at the top of the political echelon—Chinese President Hu Jintao, in this case with the closing of Freezing Point magazine in 2006. Her voice continues to be heard, even as she moves into other well-established positions of the Chinese public intellectual—the silent loner practicing solitude (as in her most recent work Walking—Practice of Solitude 走路 (2022). Her voice (as well as her silence) continues to resonate today, on both sides of the Taiwan Straits—and even if many of her writings are forbidden on the mainland, they circulate, nevertheless, in clandestine copies.
In her interventions—which she also put into action, serving her country by acting as Taiwan’s first minister of culture 2012-14—she connects the private and the public, as in her 2009 documentary novel Big River, Big Sea, the story of a war, the civil war that killed 10 million people and that forced a mass exodus and divided many families across the Taiwan Straits—her older brother (whom she meets, for the first time in 1985) remains on the mainland while her parents flee, with Chiang Kai-shek—who would reign, as a dictator, for many decades to come—from the Communist People’s Liberation Army to Taiwan. But her novel is not the story of a particular war, it tells the story of war more generally, one especially pertinent today: the cruelty of it. Lung captures the suffering from the perspective of individuals, ordinary people, families, thus counteracting the propaganda of both sides: “If we continue to be the unthinking cogs in a machine,” she once said, “then how do you know whether these tragic misfortunes would not be repeated.”
In this installment of Encounters, we thus probe into questions of democracy, civility, and war, and how they can be approached—from a writer’s point of view.
Transcultural Taiwan? The Work of Film Maker Hu Tai-Li
Hu Tai-Li (1950-2022) was a research fellow and documentary filmmaker at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica in Taiwan; a concurrent professor at National Chin-Hua University, and the president of Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival. After graduating from the History Department of the National Taiwan University, she entered the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, and obtained her Ph.D. degree in anthropology. She has directed and produced eight documentary films (The Return of Gods and Ancestors, Songs of Pasta’ay, Voices of Orchid Island, Passing Through My Mother-in-law’s Village, Sounds of Love and Sorrow, Encountering Jean Rouch, Stone Dream, After Passing, and Returning Souls). She passed away, completely unexpectedly in early May 2022. We are screening a series of three films in which she deliberates questions of Taiwan identity.
SCREENING 1 SOUNDS OF LOVE AND SORROW (2000) | May 31st, 14.00-16.15
The Paiwan Aboriginal people live in the mountains of southern Taiwan. Flutes of various designs are used as part of courting rituals, and also for the expression of sorrow and longing for people dead or far away. Sounds of Love and Sorrow lets the eerie sounds of the Paiwan flutes, including the nose flute, which legends say imitates the call of the deadly hundred-pacer snake, mix in with the recollections of tribal elders and traditional tales to present a rich background of Paiwan life
SCREENING 2 STONE DREAM (2004) | June 7th, 14.00-16.15
This film touches the sensitive issue of national and ethnic identity in Taiwan. In the first Taiwanese documentary, “Liu Pi-Chia,” made by Director Chen Yao-Chi in 1965, the main character Liu Pi-Chia was press-ganged into the army in China and came over to Taiwan with President Chiang Kai-Shek. After several decades, director Hu Tai-Li unexpectedly met Liu in a village on the banks of the Mukua River. This new immigrant village consists of mainland veterans whose wives are from different ethnic groups, mostly Aborigines.
Stones, the most important symbols of this film, link Liu Pi-Chia’s generation, who worked hard on the stony riverbed to reclaim land, and the new generation of Liu Pi-Chia’s son, whose interest is in collecting rose stones for artistic and economic purposes. Liu Pi-Chia and his family are like these rose stones, which are black and unattractive on the outside, but cut open or polished, reveal wonderful scenes. This film, accompanied by the flowing music played on the Chinese zither guqin, presents the flow of the stone dream.
SCREENING 3 RETURNING SOULS (2012) | June 8th 14.00-16.15
In the historically most famous ancestral house of the matrilineal Amis tribe in Taiwan, the carved pillars tell legends. After a strong typhoon toppled the house some 40 years ago, the pillars were moved to the Institute of Ethnology Museum at Academia Sinica. Recently young villagers, with assistance from female shamans, pushed the descendants and village representatives to communicate with the ancestors on the pillars. They eventually brought the ancestral souls (rather than the pillars) back and began reconstructing the house. This documentary interweaves reality and legends as well as the seen and the unseen as it records this unique case of repatriation.
“or/and” A Chamber Operatic Poem by Shih-hui Chen
or/and is a chamber operatic poem, following the journey of a composer who finds her voice only when she accepts the seeming contradictions of her immigrant identity. Choosing “and" over the divisive “or," this work taps into the inclusive power of AND to help mend our divided world.
When we meet the composer, she's struggling to write a piece of music inspired by two events half a world apart—a sacred ceremony of the indigenous Paiwan people of Taiwan and the Women's March in Houston. She was in attendance at both, and she gleaned from them different lessons about herself that she can't yet reconcile. This search for the right notes is mirrored by a search for the right words. Her only daughter is heading to college, and there's a pivotal sentence that the composer-mother wants to complete: “Before you go, I want you to know…." Musical and maternal instincts flow, once the composer begins to understand that she belongs to a continuum, buoyed by human connections rather than divisions.
About the composer
(Photo Credit: David Long)
About the librettist
(Photo Credit: Haruka Sakaguchi)