• Beyond Extinction
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Gaea Books ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    For many years, scholars attempted to find evidence of clouded leopards surviving in Taiwan, but no matter how many forest paths they stalked, no trace of the creature was ever found. Thus, in spring of 2015, a Taiwanese ecologist’s article in Oryx Conservation Journal declared the Formosan clouded leopard extinct. Nonetheless, historical records, the folk songs of the Rukai people, and even specimens from the hoards of Paiwan tribal chiefs unequivocally declare that the clouded leopard once roamed Taiwan’s high-mountain forests.

    What was Taiwan like before the disappearance of the last clouded leopard? In his latest graphic novel Beast of Clouds: The Guardian of Ancient Times, artist Hambuck has attempted to re-envision the life of the clouded leopard. The four chapters of the book cover the leopard’s battle for survival in the primeval forests, the establishment of the first human villages in the mountains, the impact of societal advancement on the natural world, and finally the leopard’s transformation into the spiritual protector of a natural history museum. Throughout the book, Hambuck displays a firm grasp of the interactions between humanity and the natural world and deftly weaves them into his narrative.

    The concept for the graphic novel has its origins in the National Taiwan Museum. Museum director Hung Shih-Yu had been searching for new ways to creatively utilize the museum’s resources for community outreach across a range of media, with the goal of more effectively presenting the museum’s collections and research to the public. Founded during the Japanese colonial period, the National Taiwan Museum began as a natural history museum dedicated to the fields of botany, zoology, geology, and anthropology. As such, Director Hung feels the museum bears a great responsibility to address the many issues impacting the natural world.

    Hung is also quick to point out that the museum is but one of 25,000 in the world, and that museum visitors have decreased dramatically in recent years due to competition from digital media, to say nothing of the impact of the pandemic. “At International Museum Day the question was raised, how do we use new media and methods to get people back into museums? We’ve been trying out multidisciplinary approaches such as graphic novels to represent the immense diversity of life, and help people better appreciate rare and endangered animals.”

    In keeping with these goals, the National Taiwan Museum, in collaboration with Gaea Books, invited comic book artist Hambuck to produce a graphic novel on the subject of the Formosan clouded leopard. The combined background research, writing, and illustration took Hambuck one year to complete, with the museum operating in a supervisory role to “professionally approve” every spot on every leopard. “Nearly every drawing underwent some kind of adjustment,” Hambuck remarked, “altering a spot to make it more hooked, or changing the distribution of spots…” At the beginning Hambuck didn’t know that leopards have patterns of spots on their bellies as well, only adding them after being informed by museum staff.

    Beast of Clouds follows multiple generations of clouded leopards living in the mountain forests of Taiwan, noting the unique challenges faced by each generation. The stories of these anthropomorphic leopards help make complex issues more easily understood, whether it be extinction, the relationship of humanity and the natural world, or the tension between the advancement of human society and the exploitation of resources. In addition to the ever-present clouded leopard, the character of Muni, a native shamaness, also serves to connect the stories, cleverly illustrating themes of the affectionate bonds between humans and animals, and the appreciation of cultural heritage.

    As the project was getting underway, Hambuck and his editor were allowed to visit the museum’s storerooms, not normally open to the public. There, they could closely examine specimens of the Formosan clouded leopard to learn more about its physiology, appearance, and behavior. Hambuck recalled the sense of curiosity that filled him as he gazed at one specimen: “Although it was just a preserved specimen in a museum, it made me think about all of the things this animal must have experienced in life. It had its own family, going back generation after generation. And eventually, after many years, it made its way into the museum’s collection.”

    These musings quickly became the foundation of the plot. “I imagined four stories. First, the leopard in its natural habitat, then the leopard’s early interactions with humans, then an encounter between a museum scholar and the leopard, and finally a special relationship between the leopard spirit and the museum.” A flood of ideas came out of viewing that single specimen. “I really wanted to know all the roads that individual travelled to end up here in the museum’s collection.” In the story, the shamaness Muni has the ability to see the future, and if she is in close proximity to the leopard, her ability is magnified. But this means that ultimately she is able to see the destruction of the forest, and the extinction of the leopard on Taiwan.

    However, the clouded leopard lives on as the guardian spirit of the museum. At night, the specimens all come to life, and under the guidance of the leopard, they make contact with a museum curator, I-jou, who has the ability to see the spirits of animals. The most moving scene appears in the last story when another character tells I-jou, “If you speak poorly of her (indicating I-jou herself), I will be very angry.” Hearing these words, I-jou breaks down crying. Hambuck recalls that while storyboarding the scene he also began to cry. There, under the faint yellow lights of the café where he works, he cried with I-jou for some time.

    “I felt like that line was for myself to hear. It was also as if the character was there to speak to everyone. Don’t you feel that people are too hard on themselves? That we often reserve our harshest words for ourselves? I thought of speaking those words to my wife, and to myself, and I was quite moved. I wanted to tell everyone in the world, ‘You’ve already worked so hard. Why not go a little easier on yourself?’ There is already enough suffering in the world. So why not let ourselves off the hook, and start treating ourselves better?”

    With warmth, humor, touches of action, and stirring emotion, Beast of Clouds effortlessly carries readers on a journey to a magical place. In order to better suit the atmosphere of the work, Hambuck chose to use pencils as his primary medium. “I needed to draw scenes from nature and patterned fur. If I had used the same techniques I’ve used in the past, there would have been sharp distinctions between black and white. I wanted something softer, fuzzier.” After experimenting with pencil, he decided it would be the most suitable medium. “It’s also a very fast to work in pencil. It was a real joy to draw!”

    There were unique challenges to creating a fictional work that nonetheless has a strong basis in reality. Laughing, Hambuck describes his initial plan for the graphic novel: “The narration was full-on Discovery Channel!” But even the scholars at the museum had trouble accepting it. “When you’re trying to shake up the traditional ways of doing things, there is a lot of back and forth.” Hung also laughed, describing his role a bridge between the artist and the museum researchers. “If it was too straightforward, too academic, it would never attract a readership. After a lot of discussion, we agreed that there were some things about the clouded leopard and native culture that could not be altered. But when it came to the plot and the development of the story, we hoped the Hambuck would freely exercise his creativity.”

    Hung is delighted with the result. “Hambuck brought in so many creative ideas. The clouded leopards he drew are very appealing. They have a lot of humanity in them, which helps to erase the general impression that they were these fierce and terrifying creatures. The most moving parts of the story are the interactions between the leopards and the human characters. I really love this part.”

    Ecologically speaking, the clouded leopard is already extinct in Taiwan, but the National Taiwan Museum retains seven preserved specimens in their collection, documenting the full lifespan of the leopard from fetus, to juvenile, to near adult, to fully grown adult. The fetal specimen is likely to be the only one of its kind in the world. The museum has ranked the specimens as part of its first-tier collection, meaning they are among the most important artifacts in the collection, and are placed on permanent display on the third floor of the museum. The ecological diversity of our planet may be under threat, but the museum is planning to map the genome of its specimens to provide undeniable proof of these unique creatures that once roamed the high mountain forests of Taiwan.

  • Documenting Place, Understanding History, and Wishing for a Peaceful Future
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Lee Yi-Ni ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Home: A Common Ground for People of Different Backgrounds and Viewpoints

    “Home” is a story informed by multiple historical viewpoints. Taking the land of Taiwan as common setting, it knits together the lives of American, Japanese, ROC soldiers, and a local Taiwanese woman and her son. For the most part, the stories of these characters are pieced together from historical persons with the addition of material from local folk-tales.

    The character of the American pilot is based on Charles V. August, a prisoner of war incarcerated at the Huwei military airfield during World War II. On January 4, 1945, August was shot down as he strafed the airfield with his Grumman F6F Hellcat. His plane was seized by the Japanese and studied to learn more about American military aircraft.

    The character of the Taiwanese woman in Japanese clothing is derived from stories about local comfort woman employed by the Japanese soldiers. It is said that the chambers used by the comfort women can still be seen in the remains of the barracks, but it is likely that this is merely local legend.

    The character of the ROC airman is based upon research into the lives of the soldiers in charge of equipment maintenance at the Huwei airfield after the Japanese surrender, and the story of an ROC soldier who was forced to camp in a Japanese-built water tower because there was insufficient room in the other buildings.


    Final Entry: The Life of a Japanese Pilot Stationed in Taiwan

    The character Fuji Takahashi was modeled on the Japanese naval airmen assigned to the Huwei airfield. Many details from the story were drawn from veterans’ memories as recorded in A Squadron of Joy and Pain: Youth at 17, including the feelings of the young pilots towards Taiwan, the local snacks that reminded them of fried rice cakes from Japan, their love of tropical fruits, and the joy they felt upon learning they would be able to eat rice and meat in Taiwan.

    In the later stages of World War II, Huwei airfield was used by the Japanese military to train pilots for the war in the Pacific. The primary purpose of the airfield was basic flight training, and many Japanese and Taiwanese recruits had their first experiences of flight while based there. The recollections of these trainees often make note of that first time soaring up into the sky and the excitement of breaking through into the open expanses above the cloud layer. “It’s so wonderful! Is this what Heaven is like?” one of them exclaimed. The experiences of the pilots in the story are an accurate representation of the feelings of the naval airmen of the Huwei airfield.


    Class Dismissed: Interactions Between Local Taiwanese and Recently Arrived Mainlanders

    The story “Class Dismissed” is concerned with the interactions between local Taiwanese and the recent arrivals from the mainland in the wake of the 1949 ROC retreat to Taiwan, set within the context of the military family housing settlement that was established near the airfield. The crisscrossing pools behind Jianguo First Village were the result of American bombing during World War II. After filling with rainwater, the craters formed deep pools that were used as swimming holes by the children of the village, sometimes leading to incidents of drowning.

    The school attended by the children in the story began as the Huwei Air Force Dependents Elementary School, which only accepted the children of those serving in the ROC air force. In 1966 the name was changed to Zheng-Min Elementary School and the school began to accept children of all backgrounds. This led to the situation depicted in the story, in which local children were fined for speaking their native language of Taiwanese, as opposed to the national language of Mandarin. The National Language Movement of the 1960s and the experience of being fined for speaking Taiwanese left deep impressions in the collective memory of the people of the era.


    Handkerchief in Hand: Marital Relations Through Rootless Times

    After the release of new guidelines for the renovation of outdated military family housing settlements in 1996, many residents of older facilities were forced to move out, and Jianguo First Village in Huwei was no exception. After relocations were carried out between 2004 and 2006, Jianguo First Village ceased to exist as anything but a historical side note. Only after a successful campaign by local preservationists did the village return to use in a new form.

    “Handkerchief in Hand” reflects the decades of changes experienced by the residents of Taiwan’s military family housing settlements. The anxieties of the loving couple in the story were commonplace in the midst of the ROC retreat to Taiwan. The technical skills possessed by air force and naval personnel gave them an advantage when securing the resources required to relocate their families during the retreat. Army personnel, on the other hand, often came over to Taiwan alone, leaving their spouses and dependents behind. From the endless waiting and homesickness in the early years in Taiwan, to the disappointments experienced when travel to China was once again permitted, to the final relocation out of the outdated settlements, the story illustrates the struggles of these military families. Like colonies of duckweed, they lived a rootless existence, transplanted from one body of water to another, only to be scooped up again and carried away by the passage of time. Helpless to decide their own fate and bitter from broken promises, the suffering and futility they endured are woven into the history of military settlements all across Taiwan.


    Summary: Documenting Place, Understanding History, and Wishing for a Peaceful Future

    These four stories adopt various historical and ethnic perspectives on Jianguo First Village, bringing to life a rich array of memories regarding the ethnic tensions and conflicts produced by war. Though some of these groups saw each other as enemies or adversaries, in the end each lived out their lives on this same patch of land.

    Viewing the land itself as the common denominator helps to illustrate that each character’s story is but one small piece of history, each with roots in the events of World War II. Moving beyond the conflicting worldviews and ethical debates, we discover each character’s suffering is real, and the resolution of their suffering only comes through mutual understanding.

    Four Clear Days in Early Summer not only documents the memory of place, it also expresses a wish: that we can better understand the rich diversity of our history through the lives of these distinct characters. Even more, it is a wish for world peace and the end of all wars.

  • The Seasonal Changes of Dong Hua Chun
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Ruan Guang-Min ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    The bus slowed as it turned the corner into the alleyway, giving me more than a few seconds to notice the store front of the Dong Hua Chun Barbershop. Standing in a row of three-story townhomes with commercial storefronts on the first floor, it caught my eye not only for its name, but also for the way the sea foam green lintel and frame contrasted with its dreary metal roll up door.

    It all began with just a few scattered plot points, but as the images in my mind accumulated day by day, the outline of a story took shape. I can still remember the excitement that overtook me when, still seated on the bus, I imagined that the name of the shop was created by combining elements of each family member’s name. From then on, I thought about that family’s story day in and day out. Three years later, that story became the Dong Hua Chun Barbershop graphic novel. In the end, this made-up family exerted a remarkable influence over the way I told stories. With the printed graphic novel in hand, I went back to the barbershop to thank the proprietor, but the roll up door was pulled shut. I lifted the mail flap to peak inside, but the barbershop chairs and the wooden towel rack were no longer there. Two doors down there was a hair salon. The owner said the family now lived up on the hillside, and only occasionally came into town to do shopping and visit with old neighbors. I wrote a small thank-you note inside the cover and left the book with the salon owner.

    This graphic novel has given me many wonderful gifts. Not only was I cheeky enough to suggest to my editor that he invite renowned director Wu Nien-jen to write a blurb to promote it, Wu made a call of his own, and suddenly a television adaptation was in the works. After further midwifing from A-Mo, I ended up drawing the graphic novel adaptation of Wu’s stage play, Human Conditions 4. Precisely because I so deeply cherish all of the gifts of Dong Hua Chun Barbershop, I’ve avoided working on the many follow-up stories I have in mind. Far too often readers are disappointed by a much-anticipated sequel, and I would be disappointed as well. Nonetheless, I’ve felt this unresolved tension in my heart ever since the book’s publication in 2010, much like the knot of tension that formed in Hua’s heart on his tenth birthday, when his father left him without so much as a goodbye.


    The television adaptation was released in 2012, giving the characters the warmth of flesh and blood, and giving readers new experiences not found in the book, owing to the addition of new characters and storylines. Common sense might dictate that I strike while the iron was hot by re-issuing the original graphic novel and following up with a sequel. But common sense issued opposing counsel: to let the fields lie fallow and allow something else to grow there.

    Storytelling is something you practice for a lifetime. Although ten-odd years ago I told a different story with similar emotional considerations, I wouldn’t dare to say that has given me sufficient practice. I can only say I have a somewhat better grasp of the essentials. But just because I believe I have acquired some understanding doesn’t mean I have truly understood. Honestly speaking, I feel like I am visiting friends that I lost touch with over a decade ago, and I am trying to reintroduce them into my life. Time passes, circumstances change. Each of us has changed in ways we may not be aware of. The same goes for our friends. All of those memories we share, and the people I thought they were, are now just impressions of the past. Using these old impressions to engage the present is about as impractical as capturing fire in a cardboard box. And if I screw up, it might easily end with everyone feeling hurt. For this reason, I feel I need to tread carefully when reviewing the past. But I can never be clear what my counterparts are willing to accept. We can never be certain that a renewed friendship will be the same as it once was.

    Nonetheless, I mustered the courage to once again stand at the door of the Dong Hua Chun Barbershop, though it flusters me that I don’t know whether the occupants of the shop can accept the story that I want to tell. I feel like the best thing would be to enter and talk it over with them first. So I reach out my hand to press the door buzzer, the one with the word “Detonate” printed beneath it.

  • Bringing Smiles with CliniClowns’ Magic
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Cory Ko & Feng Shi ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Returning a Smile to Every Face (Cory Ko)

    In order to better understand the work of CliniClowns, Feng Shi, myself, and our editor at Mirror Fiction went to a children’s hospital to follow two CliniClowns on their early morning rounds. Since we weren’t allowed in the patients’ rooms, we had to quietly listen from outside as the CliniClowns played with the children. For each patient they created a unique performance tailored to the child and whatever level of interaction their condition permitted. Every single performance required overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. This wasn’t simply horsing around with kids!

    I had only observed from the wings, but after two hours I was exhausted in body and spirit. The two CliniClowns, however, continued their mentally and physically demanding work on into the afternoon.

    A video interview with the mother of a former patient also left a deep impression. From the smile on this mother’s face, you would guess her child had made a full recovery, though, in fact, her child had already passed on. She described how the CliniClowns gave her son a chance to be a kid again, to feel like a prince among boys. Still smiling, she said his fear of death had diminished, and that she had found comfort in the midst of her grief. I feel certain her son had passed that smile on to her, and that the son had only found his smile again with the help of the CliniClowns.

    In fact, that is the mission of the CliniClowns: returning a smile to every face.

    And thank heaven!

    Though I could never be a CliniClown myself, I am delighted to have had the opportunity to create the art for this graphic novel and help people to better understand and appreciate their work. This has given me the chance to put something positive back into society, insignificant though it may be.

    Everyone should to give this graphic novel a proper read! (waving goodbye!)

    The Magic of CliniClowns (Feng Shi)

    As a child I was devastated when my grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia and went into treatment at the veteran’s hospital. My mother became his primary caregiver, but she often brought me to the hospital with her. My family was afraid that my stubborn grandfather would refuse treatment, so we had to put on a ruse: we told him he only had a minor illness, and he would soon return to live at home. But with the gloomy atmosphere at the hospital and all of the cancer patients living together in one ward, we feared my grandfather would soon discover the truth. In the end, however, my grandfather was far more obliging than we had imagined. Even as he lay dying of late-stage leukemia he never asked his children why he was staying at the hospital instead of returning home.

    He endured his treatments, constantly vomiting and slowly wasting away until he was finally brought home to die. I think my grandfather must have known the truth, but being the man that he was, he remained the pillar of our family to the very end.

    Unfortunately, the memories of that time gave me nightmares for years to come. I dreamed of endless corridors lined with empty hospital rooms and blood-splattered washrooms. Our memories of those last days with my grandfather became something no one in the family cared to revisit.

    Of course medicine at the time did not place a priority on palliative care and the psychological well-being of the patient. It was only thanks to the CliniClowns of Dr. Rednose Association that my perspective on those times began to change. On my first visit to the children’s hospital to observe them in action, I found, to my surprise, that the stitches of those early memories were being prized apart, and color and song began to enter in.

    As the CliniClowns performed room by room, many of the children became exited, laughing and running around no different than healthy children. No matter how sick they were, they still had imagination, laughter, and the capacity to play. When the CliniClowns appeared, the hospital was instantly transformed as if by magic. Gloomy hospital rooms became amusement parks where children could play with their parents. The children clearly wanted them to stay as long as possible; it was heartbreaking to see them finally wave goodbye. These children obviously needed these brief periods of joy and laughter.

    As difficult as the body is to treat, healing the heart can be even more challenging. In the process of writing this story I observed CliniClown trainings and performances, and I interviewed each CliniClown to learn what had motivated them to take on this work. All of this gave me the opportunity to go back and face my own memories. Hospitals have always been a place of healing, but the colorful presence of the CliniClowns is needed to transform the atmosphere. They also transform the memories of patients and their families, giving them happier hospital experiences to reflect on in years to come, much as this story aims to do.

    May we all avail ourselves of every opportunity to say farewell, even if we fear it might be our last.

  • The Rise of Taiwan’s “Boys’ Love” Genre (II)
    Nov 15, 2022 / By Miyako Chang ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=196


    Since then, BL works have thrived in Taiwanese fandom communities and have slowly come to occupy a certain portion of the romantic fiction genre. Within commercial manga publishing however, it seems like the field might still be waiting for BL to be officially established as a genre in Taiwan, as female manga creator Nicky Lee (李崇萍) seems to be the only one who continues to include diverse, gay male characters in her works. That was until 2012, when Sharp Point Press published a collection of BL stories called Youthful Orientation: Be Your Lover (青春取向 ~ Be your Lover ~ ) which featured Cory Ko (柯宥希), Lin Min-hsüan (林珉萱), and Mi Ssu-lin (米絲琳) among others, and acted as a precursor to Taiwan officially starting to publish commercial BL comics. Elsewhere, Taipei-born American comic book artist Jo Chen (咎井淳) who was best known for her work on Speed Racer (DC Comics) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse Comics), was also an early writer of BL fanfiction and in 2010 she decided to self-publish a BL manga series called In These Words (言之罪) in Taiwan. The Japanese edition was published by LIBRE, Japan’s leading BL manga publisher, which prompted a huge surge in American-style comics that swept across Japan.

    In 2015, Mi Ssu-lin’s Heart-Stealing Playboy (偷心郎君) series became the first Taiwanese manga by a lone author to be officially marketed as BL. The Taiwanese publishing industry has produced a lot of outstanding BL titles since then, including The Monster of Memory (記憶的怪物) by MAE, American-Style Domination (明日戀人) by MORIKU (墨里可), and Tomorrow Lovers (明日戀人) by Wulin Syunji (五〇俊二). One by one, famous female manga artists have also tried their hand at creating BL works, or BL-style works, such as One Hundred Spring Nights (春夜百景)  compilation by Tong Li Comics, Yi-Huan’s (依歡) side story “Nighthawk Romance” (鳶夜艷) from her Princess Chef (馥桂吉祥) series. Elsewhere, Cory Ko returned to her story that was featured in Youthful Orientation: Be Your Lover and developed it into the Why Not (有何不可) series, while Nicky Lee (李崇萍) wrote an original BL story called Fever (熱病), and Kuang Hsia Chia (廣下嘉) wrote her masterpiece Strangers Bound by Fate (陌生人) which was the work she’d wanted to create in the first place.

    Original Taiwanese BL works have been going through a dramatic developmental period since around 2020, with titles like My Influencer Boyfriend (我的網紅男友) by Gui (桂), Day Off by Dailygreens (每日青菜), and The Shimmering Summoner (微光的召喚師) by Gene becoming so popular that they were translated into Japanese. Boys’ Love has also demonstrated that it is more than capable of holding its own alongside other genres, with The Monster of Memory by MAE winning the prize for Best Comic for Teenage Girls at the Golden Comic Awards in 2017, and His Hair Scrunchy (他的髮圈) by TaaRO winning the Golden Manga Award across all categories in 2021.

    Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage and has the most progressive gender awareness in the region, making it a great environment for creating Boys’ Love works. The open exchanges with Japanese BL and Western SLASH culture have also contributed to the unique styles and perspectives within Taiwanese BL, as can be seen in the Glittering Rainbow (彩虹燦爛之地) series developed by Halftone Press which portrays the diverse realities of same-sex marriage. The latest big hit for the genre is NU: Carnival (新世界狂歡), an 18+ role-playing game developed for mobile devices that has been wildly popular with BL fans all over the world and achieved astonishing success thanks to its bold storyline and distinctive characters. Who knows what kind of spectacular works we’ll see next, it could even be said that Taiwanese BL is experiencing a golden age of creativity.

  • The Rise of Taiwan’s “Boys’ Love” Genre (I)
    Nov 14, 2022 / By Miyako Chang ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    The concept of popular romance stories between two male protagonists spread from Japan to Taiwan in around 1986 with the emergence of derivative works (note: in Chinese these are often known as “secondary creations” or “re-creations”) and fanfiction published for non-commercial purposes by individual writers and fan groups. These derivative works originate from people consuming novels, manga, TV shows, movies, or anime, and feeling dissatisfied or unconvinced by the author’s interpretation and choosing to spontaneously interpret (or misread) the text in their own way, using the work’s existing worldview, settings, or characters to create their own stories.

    At the time, Japan was experiencing a second wave of female creative pioneers with the rise of popular works such as Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac (聖鬥士星矢) by Masami Kurumada, and a lot of female fanfiction writers were keen to use these works to create love stories, with most of the content crafting romances between male characters. Then, in 1987 Taiwan lifted martial law after 38 years and there was a huge influx of Japanese culture in various forms, although foreign works weren’t protected by copyright law until 1992 which meant unauthorised translations were a significant part of the market. During this period, a lot of fan-written male romance stories were also able to reach Taiwanese readers via various methods. Thanks to the rapid progress of printing technology that eventually became ubiquitous, there was now a much lower threshold to printing your own creative works. At the same time, Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ movement was also gaining momentum. These circumstances converged, giving rise to a creative concept that is known as Boys’ Love, or BL, which gradually became accepted by Taiwanese readers. Initially, these were male love stories written by women for women, although the genre has since expanded so that the creators and audiences are now no longer limited to women.

    Initially, most of the Taiwanese derivative works were based on Japanese texts. However, in 1990 the hit Taiwanese glove puppet TV series Pili (霹靂布袋戲, also translated as Thunderbolt) aired its “Thunderbolt Anomaly” (霹靂異數) episode which gave local female creators the chance to write texts set in their homeland and ushered in the first wave of Taiwanese fanfiction writers. They established their own unique, self-styled literary identities and created works that were purely based on their homeland. Thunderbolt has had a vast impact on fanfiction in a way that spread overseas and continues to this day.  This was also when people increasingly started to use the term “Boys’ Love” as the idea gradually spread to Taiwan and locally-created original works began to emerge. Original BL works include Cavan and Clay (卡文與克萊) by Wang Yi-wen (王宜文) and Cut Sleeves (斷袖)  by Ai Mi-erh (愛彌兒), the latter of which explores a euphemism for homosexuality (“cut sleeve”) that originated in the Han Dynasty and demonstrates how BL can be used to interpret the history of homosexuality in China. Other similar works include The Transformation of Nirvana (梵天變) by Kao Yung (高永) and Tricking a Beautiful Woman (佳人接招) by Wu Si-hsuan (吳思璇) and so on. Even the classic female manga creator Yu Su-lan (游素蘭) created a male romance plot in her masterpiece The King of Blaze (火王) which was one of the most well-known BL stories at the time.


    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=197

  • Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation (GPT)
    Oct 03, 2022 / By Books from Taiwan

    GPT is set up by The Ministry of Culture to encourage the publication of Taiwanese works in translation overseas, to raise the international visibility of Taiwanese cultural content, and to help Taiwan's publishing industry expand into non-Chinese international markets.

    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishing houses (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries.


    1. The so-called Taiwanese works must meet the following requirements:

    A. Use traditional characters
    B. Written by a natural person holding an R.O.C. identity card
    C. Has been assigned an ISBN in Taiwan
    i.e., the author is a native of Taiwan, and the first 6 digits of the book's ISBN are 978-957-XXX-XXX-X, 978-986-XXX-XXX-X, or 978-626-XXX-XXX-X.

    2. Applications must include documents certifying that the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works consents to its translation and foreign publication (no restriction on its format).

    3. A translation sample of the Taiwanese work is required (no restriction on its format and length).

    4. The translated work must be published within two years, after the first day of the relevant application period.

    Grant Items:

    1. The maximum grant available for each project is NT$600,000, which covers:

    A. Licensing fees (going to the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works)
    B. Translation fees
    C. Marketing and promotion fees (limited to economy class air tickets for the R.O.C. writer to participate in overseas promotional activities related to the project)
    D. Book production-oriented fees
    E. Tax (20% of the total award amount)
    F. Remittance-related handling fees

    2. Priority consideration is given to books that have received the Golden Tripod Award, the Golden Comic Award, or the Taiwan Literature Award.

    3. The grant will be given all at once after the grant recipients submit the following written documents to the Ministry within one month of publication:

    A. Receipt (format given along with the Ministry's formal announcement);
    B. A detailed list of expenditures;
    C. 10 print copies of the final work published abroad (if the work is published in an e-book format, grant recipients shall instead provide purchase authorizations for 10 persons);
    D. An electronic file with aforementioned documents in PDF.

    Application Period: Twice every year. The MOC reserves the right to change the application periods, and will announce said changes separately.

    Announcement of successful applications: Winners will be announced within three months of the end of the application period.

    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s official website (https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/), and use the online application system.

    For full details of the GPT, please visit https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web/PointDetail.jsp?__viewstate=pvWqz/p/nta24J579unZRwn9PKt77jmt9chKvuZNtY9YfgsNnMsauXJZcscjkMix7n5bknQ4C1jvfwxUC1ZSeBfK7nUo4Ss4

    Or contact: [email protected]

    Sep 22, 2022 / By Silvia Torchio

    What is behind the scenes of artistic creation? This is one of the most common and hard to answer question about art and creativity.

    Artistic creation is often considered as a mysterious process, but from time to time it happens that something let people come close to this mystery, have the opportunity to explore the process and find it marvelously entertaining and deeply engaging.

    This is what exactly happens in The Dream and Reality of Picture Books, where Jimmy Liao, the renowned Taiwanese picture books author, shares the story of his career path since the beginning for more than twenty untiring years, providing the readers with a great insight to his thoughts and methods behind his amazing work.

    Jimmy Liao is one of the most famous Asian contemporary adult picture book artists. Since the publication of his two first books Secrets in the Forest and A Fish with a Smile in 1998, Jimmy has created almost sixty books and his works have been translated into twenty foreign languages and have sold over a million of copies all around the world.

    How has he succeeded in keeping this astonishing creative energy for all these years? In The Dream and Reality of Picture Books, without reservation and with richness in details, he tries to answer this difficult question.

    The book starts with how Liao began to create, describing in great detail and with great warm his childhood and youth, his education (and self-education) background and his previous work as an editorial illustrator in an advertising agency. The tale is enriched by the sharing of meaningful anecdotes about his life, from the choice of his nom de plum to the farseeing encounter with a “well informed” fortune teller in 1993 and to the beginning of his battle with the illness in 1995, that completely changed his personal and professional life. About this, he says: “I started to create picture books because of a serious illness, and creation gradually turned into my daily task.”

    The book is divided into three big sections. The first one, called “Thoughts”, is about the process of creation and all the achievements and the difficulties that Liao has, respectively, reached and faced for more than twenty years as a picture book author, with many examples taken from his own experience and his works. Liao compares the creation process of a picture book to the work of gardening: the care that the gardeners have to take of their field is the same type that the artists must take of his work. The result is not guaranteed, perhaps no flowers will bloom for the gardener and there will not come out a satisfying work for the artist, but taking care is the only way. And Liao reveals his “gardening” secrets to his readers wholeheartedly. In addition, Liao warns: creation is difficult, it is like climbing a high mountain. At the beginning it is very hard and needs much patience and concentration, but as soon as the highest point has been overcome, the process increases faster and smoother. In other words: only by constantly doing and lifelong learning, an artist can truly enter the field of art.

    The second section called “Methods”, discusses the various means and techniques used in the creation process of a picture book, the importance of how the illustrations are assembled and how the story is built up. There are different ways to develop a plot and what really is important is to find the suitable technique to the story. Liao himself has tried many different creative methods for all his works and he considered himself lucky to have experienced many techniques, that lead him to create different kind of picture books. As far as he concerned, artists must always experiment with themes and styles during the creative process, in a constant challenge for themselves and their abilities.

    He explains how to organize inspiration, to build a storyboard, to set a layout, and, very importantly, how to make text and images work together. With reference to this essential aspect of picture books, Liao thinks that the story must be simple and the plot not too complicated. What people are mostly attracted are images, that must always spark different feelings, every reading, even when the reader already knows the story. In this way, Liao provides those who want to create picture books with sound advice and powerful suggestions, inspiring them with his experience and letting them not to waste energy and to save precious time to focus on their projects.

    The third part, called “Case Studies”, extensively analyzes seven of his most important works: Turn Left Turn Right, The Sound of Colors, Starry Starry Night, The Rainbow of Time, So Close Yet So Far, One More Day with You, and I’m Not Perfect. Liao reveals the background of the development of the books, the idea or the anecdote which inspired the story, the entire creation process, the difficulties (the so called “bottlenecks” and “low tides”) and the solutions that sometimes come up like epiphanies. He sincerely unveils the pain, the doubts, the questions behind every painstakingly choice he made. Nothing must be taken for granted. All the cases are equipped with illustrations from the related book and other original and interesting documents, such as drafts and maps.

    In the final part Liao shares his experience beyond the creative work, such as how to interact with editors and publishers, how to deal with comments after the book is published, how to handle the fact that books can turn in successful cartoons, movies, musicals.…

    All the works of art are our attempts to understand the chaos of life and fervently give it a shape. All the creative works can only try to suggest. Creation can only suggest, can only symbolize, and picture books are the creation of symbols and suggestions. There is no answer in life, and the final meaning of riddles seems to be the process of solving the riddle itself, not the answer. — (from Case Study 4: The Rainbow of Time)

  • The Brief But Heroic History of Taiwanese Fine Arts Needs Us to Carry It Forward: An Interview with Yen Chuan-Ying and Tsai Chia-Chiu, Executive Producers of TWO CENTURIES OF TAIWANESE FINE ARTS
    Sep 22, 2022 / By Wu Ying-Hui ∥ Translated by Ed Allen

    Originally published at Openbook: https://www.openbook.org.tw/article/p-66110


    Increasing the Value of Art Through Multiple Perspectives

    Two Centuries of Taiwanese Fine Arts follows a core chronological progression with interstitial subject essays. Volume One, “The Modern Age”, commences with Qing traditions in painting and calligraphy and their immediate inheritors before moving into the discourse of Enlightenment during the Japanese Occupation and ending with the conclusion of World War II and the rise of a new government. Planned chapters on “Modern Art and Exhibitions”, “Urban Modernity”, “War and Martial Law”, and “Men and Women in a New Era” set out the threads of each period and provide introductions to the artwork.

    Volume Two, “The Islands Call”, and its chapters on “The Call of the Mountains and Seas”, “A Return to Native Soil”, and “The Development of Subjectivity” follow movements in the fine arts amid the post-war political environment of enforced silence and through the great burst of noise and energy in the art world immediately after the lifting of martial law in 1987.

    Two Centuries of Taiwanese Fine Arts requires that the reader “consider Taiwan from its artworks”, thus giving priority to “public property” collected in public museums, supplemented by work in private collections.

    Tsai Chia-Chiu points out that works were chosen on the principle that they could “tell a good story”, yet the candid eyes of each contributor also stand out. “‘Narratability’ arises from the creative journey of the artist, the compositional depth of the work, and more importantly the links with Taiwan’s history and land.” Pursuing a popular appeal, the book eschews abstruse academic language, with each contributor enjoying carte blanche to write as they wish. As a result, chapters resonate with readers through the use of erudite but accessible techniques, for example, by drawing from individual experience or citing artistic confessions. Tsai, for example, translates and incorporates the entirety of Huang Tu-Shui’s “Taiwanese Art in Transition”, first published in the Japanese-language journal Shokumin in 1923, an essay in which the artist’s fervent desire to affect society with his art comes through strongly, the same way Huang inscribed his own life into his carvings, aspiring to immortality for his soul and his work.

    As Yen Chuan-Ying argues, this same freedom allows for varied interpretation of the same piece among the essays. In the case of Chen Cheng-po’s My Family (1931), for example, some have fixated on the Japanese-language On Painting for the Proletariat upon the table, while Yen approaches the painting from the perspective of the “woman behind the artist”, drawing up her own portrait of Chang Chieh (Chen’s wife), the silent supporter of her husband’s engagement with modern art.

    “We encourage anybody viewing these works to find their own reference point to construct a relationship with them. The work of art,” Yen believes, “no longer belongs to the artist once it has been exhibited. Fine arts cannot develop independently of society, while many opinions and ideas about a work will change with the times – this is how value accrues and builds up in art, and where its significance resides. Without recognition and confirmation from society, a work of art may be destined for the scrapheap.”


    Time: An Unfinished Project for a History of Fine Arts

    Taiwanese fine arts have until now been an appended chapter in the history of Chinese Fine Arts, such that scholars like Yen Chuan-Ying – who has dedicated herself to the subject for over three decades – seem to be blazing a treacherous trail. Yen recounts in detail her drift from the prestigious mainstream of research in Chinese fine frts to the overlooked realm of Taiwanese fine arts, starting with her enrollment at the Department of History at National Taiwan University in 1968. When she submitted a “Research Project in Taiwanese Fine Arts” to the National Science Council in 1988, her work was still deemed to be “of no academic value”, and was even ridiculed by Yen’s senior colleagues, who sneered: if we can research the history of Taiwanese Fine Arts, I suppose any rock off the street could be researched as well?

    Tsai Chia-Chiu also recalls his own frustrated ambition while still a graduate student in art history. “The atmosphere made you doubt yourself. Perhaps Taiwanese fine arts just didn’t belong in the hallowed halls of the Chinese classics?”

    “The fine arts are a core component of cultural memory; the construction of a history of Taiwanese art must originate from a popular self-identification with Taiwanese culture. We’ve never earnestly asked ourselves who we are,” says Yen, with profound force, “or who our parents are. Our understanding of our lives and environment is skin-deep. This is because we don’t wish to understand – or would rather forget.” Yen worries that if we still don’t want to learn, our opportunity may disappear, and “works of art will vanish without our being aware, and memory fade or be distorted in turn.”

    Modern art still constitutes the mainstream of research in Taiwanese fine art, a situation enabled by the majority of artists remaining in good health and the relative ease of fieldwork. Academic work on art from the Japanese Occupation, meanwhile, requires not only proficiency in two foreign languages (English and Japanese) but also such burdensome challenges as processing historical documents from over a century ago and negotiating the complex web of relationships between artists, authenticity of artworks, the search for lost pieces, and fieldwork surveys. Yen Chuan-Ying cites the case of Huang Tu-Shui’s Water of Immortality, for which a profusion of legends survives, including from involved parties such as the Chang and Hsu families. “We simply have too many dubious tales. Depending on the artist’s memory or upon oral transmission leaves one open to positive or negative influence from the individual, which will transform or obfuscate the conclusion. If not clarified now, the situation will become even more complex, while leaving things ambiguous and writing any old story is equally pointless.”


    Publication: Consolidating New Understandings and a Common Call to Action

    For decades, Yen Chuan-Ying has worked assiduously on fine art from the Japanese Occupation, all while remaining anxious and unhappy with the fringe status of her discipline. The publication of this series, however, brought difficult questions and high degrees of pressure from government departments, artists and their families, and the holders of artworks.

    The two volumes are entirely color-printed, with a generous number of foldouts and editing with special color details. Patience Chuang, Editor-in-Chief at SpringHill Publishing, chuckles: “All my colleagues have said this is a book that will ‘shake the nation to its roots’. Our ambition, though, is to keep re-printing and never stop, as long as there’s market demand. There are times when culture takes root in commerce.”

    Chuang points to the extraordinary success of books about Taiwanese history in recent years. Whether those readers can be hooked on the history of fine arts remains to be seen. “Regardless, from the editor’s perspective, Two Centuries of Taiwanese Fine Arts does fill the existing gap for a volume in the Fine Arts category for Taiwanese history.”