Jan 15, 2019
When Two Worlds Collide: The Representation of Taiwan in International Collaborations of Picturebook Productions (I)
By Liu Meng-ying

Children’s texts that work across and between cultures are often seen in film and animations, and the animation Howl's Moving Castle is one obvious example (Bradford, 2011). The mix of culture can be seen ‘not only in terms of financing, producing and the composition of their cast and crew, but also in terms of the reach of their distribution, exhibition and reception’ (Lim, 2007: 39, cited in Bradford, 2011: 27). Similar situations can be seen in the production of the following two publishing houses with Taiwanese connection.

Yeh, Chun-Liang (葉俊良) & HongFei Cultures (鴻飛文化)

Born in Taiwan, Yeh went to France to study architecture. He started his publishing house, HongFei Cultures, with Loïc Jacob in 2007, and he first books they published are based on texts directly translated from Taiwanese authors. However, they found that readers with different cultural backgrounds might have different understandings and approaches; thus, Yeh decided to write his own stories for French children and make adaptions of stories from Chinese classics (Yeh, 2017: 54).

In his most recent book, Yeh provides a detailed outline of his editing work. He describes the role of the editor as a bridge between readers and writers (ibid: 54-59). What’s more, he is aware of his own identity. As an Asian in France, people sometimes question Yeh’s stance in book publishing; he understands how this ignorance comes about and is willing to try to break some walls (ibid: 148-153).

The publications of HongFei Cultures include the following collections: stories translated directly from Chinese or Taiwanese texts, ancient story adaptations, new stories created by Yeh, stories associated with Eastern culture but with French authors’ perspectives, and stories that have no connections with the East. With such broad topics, the core in Yeh’s publication is the true representation and true feelings (ibid: 65, 101-102).

Yeh wants Western readers to have a glimpse of what Eastern culture is really like rather than only seeing what they have expected (ibid: 99-102). Moreover, the name ‘HongFei’ means a bird leaving its claw prints on the snow, and then flies away; Yeh doesn’t expect the books to move everyone and to be understood or loved by every reader, but he hopes that the books can make a little difference in the readers’minds just like the claw prints on the snow (ibid: 139).

Hao Kuang-Tsai (郝廣才) & Grimm Press (格林文化)

Hao founded his own publishing house, Grimm Press, in 1993 and aims to publish picturebooks that have ‘high artistic values’ (Grimm Press, 2011). He believes the ‘beautiful’ picturebooks can enhance children’s ability to appreciate artworks (ibid). Different from most publishing houses in Taiwan that publish either translated picturebooks or locally created texts, Hao combines foreign illustrations with local or traditional texts, creating picturebooks from different perspectives (ibid).

Grimm Press was awarded the best children’s book publisher at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2014, and with numerous book prizes in Taiwan and globally (ibid). Besides, Hao has been invited as the judge of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and with the tight connection with international creators and publishers, he is able to create new stories with different point of view (ibid).

The original picturebooks that Hao publishes are mainly written by him and illustrated by international illustrators. However, only some of the texts have specific cultural references; other fairy-tale-like stories are somehow ‘Western’ with references like prince, princess, and other famous fairy tale characters.