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«1 Introduction: Narrating Other, Narrating Self This paper deals with an area of Taiwanese literature that is off, way off from the mainstream. In ...»

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Off the Beaten Path:

(Post-) Colonial Travel Writings

on Taiwan

Faye Yuan Kleeman

1 Introduction: Narrating Other, Narrating Self

This paper deals with an area of Taiwanese literature that is off, way off from the

mainstream. In fact, in some circles it may not even qualify as ‘Taiwanese

Literature’. If the term »mainstream« implies ‘common’, ‘popular’, ‘easily

accessible’, and ‘commercially viable’, the current discussion gestures to a very different sphere of literary production. The language used in this body of literature is not Chinese but Japanese and the writers are Japanese authors, colonial settlers, travelers, and ex-soldiers.

If Taiwanese literature can be defined as written by Taiwanese writers (a loaded term) and/or on the subject matters related to Taiwan, then the body of literature dealt with here would belong to the latter category. Focusing on the travel writing of Taiwan, my paper explores the construction of ‘Taiwan’ in the colonial and postcolonial eras by various Japanese writers and Taiwanese writers who wrote in the Japanese language.

Initially, I wanted to bring in a comparative perspective by contrasting travel writings written by the native Taiwanese to those written by Japanese 44 SOS 11 · 1 (2012) writers during the colonial period in order to think through issues related to modernity, locations, and identity. But surprisingly, I found almost no writings during that period by native Taiwanese writers.

In the classical sense, there were several famous travelogues (youji ) such as Yu Yonghe’s (1645–?) Bihai jiyou (A Travel Account Taking Advantage of the Sea, 1697), Luo Dachun’s (d1890) Taiwan haifang bing kaishan riji (Taiwan’s Sea Defense with a Diary About Exploring the Mountains), Hu Chuan’s (1841–1895) Taiwan riji yu bingqi (Taiwan Diary and Report), and Jiang Shiche’s (1844–1876) Taiwan riji (Taiwan Diary), just to name a few.

However, these travelogues to and in Taiwan were all written in the 17th to 19th centuries, in other words, prior to the Japanese Colonial period. The authors of these records were predominately officials on expeditions and some exiled literati.1 On the other hand, around the same period, the Taiwanese writer Cai Tinglan (1801–1859) delineated his unexpected journey to Vietnam in (1837).2 But it seems that until the post-martial law era in Hainan zazhu the late 1980s, there was an absence of discourse on Taiwan. The nostalgic longing for a primordial landscape and for the grandeur of historical sites and monuments were directed toward the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Perhaps the writing of the Other (be it people or natural landscape) inevitably takes the eye of an outsider. The genre of travel writing stems from meaning-making on the strange and exotic (colonial) frontier. That is, the constructions of Taiwan, both in the pre-colonial and colonial period are seen through the ‘imperial gaze’.

No other writings within the confines of ‘Taiwanese literature’, either

–  –  –

mainstream or off the mainstream, come close to this genre for its sole focus on the site of ‘Taiwan’ itself.

Although the travel and ethnographic writings produced by Japanese colonial writers targeted a metropolitan audience, the concretization of knowledge concerning the heretofore »unknown« terrain and its people invoked »the spatial and temporal copresence of a subject previously separated by geographic and historic disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect.« 3 It is this interactive space and time, what Said called »imaginative geography« and what Mary Louise Pratt refers to as the »contact zone«, that a mere descriptive travel account is transformed into a discursive, transactional cultural space.

I have argued elsewhere that in the case of an ethnographer, writer, and aesthete like Nishikawa Mitsuru (1908–1999), whose fascination with traditional Taiwanese folk art dominated his artistic career, his systematization of colonial knowledge later became a source through which the native population conceptualized and even exoticized itself.4 A more recent case was proposed by Japanese scholar of Colonial Taiwan Marukawa Tetsushi (b1963). Marukawa analyzed the representations of Taiwan in the media (TV and print advertisements) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP or Minjindang ) in the 2000 Presidential election. Marukawa argues that by employing the Taiwanese New Cinema director Wu Nien-jen (b1952) to capture the native landscape and entrusting the theme song to Taiwanese-language folksong singer Chen Mingzhang (b1965), for the first time in Taiwanese history, a concrete visual construct was created to mobilize the voters. In this sense, the lush, green rice fields and the traditional red-brick farm houses evoke a nostalgic rhetoric about Taiwan while at the same time articulating a Taiwanese discourse of the self. Even though the geographical parameters (in this case, the boundaries of Taiwan proper) were historically determined, there is heterogeneity in the power dynamic, manifest in the variety of genres employed and the appropriation of the physical environment that warrants a closer examination of this body of works.

–  –  –

During the past decades interest in tourism studies has been rekindled, energized by research under perspectives such as postcolonial studies and global studies. Recent studies highlight conflicts between globalization and nationalism, ethnicities and authenticities, gender and colonial space, and reveal the ethical implications of the asymmetrical power dynamic of the tourist gaze and the native.5 This body of new research places the movement of human and material culture (often the result of the movement of capital) in the context of coloniality of the past and the current neocolonial environments, exploring mobility, dias– poras, circulations and transformations of knowledge and goods. They analyze the acceleration of crossing national and other borders seen in tourism through the lens of the (post-) colonial enterprise. In light of the politicization of space and the problematization of pleasure, neither the grand tour of monuments nor the private side trip of a personal nature can be viewed naively as just a simple jaunt.





Japanese colonialism played a major role in shaping East Asian modernity.

The process of modernization (i.e., Westernization), filtered through Japanese imperial intentions, zigzagged through the linkage of cosmopolitan cities from Dalian, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei, to British colonial Hong Kong. The circulation, assimilation, and transformation of a modernity mediated by colonial power are the focus of my current long-term project. This paper, attending to the aforementioned issues, will be a site-specific study of the cultural flows between Taiwan and Japan, addressing explicitly Japanese perceptions of Taiwan from the pre-colonial (mid-18th to late 19th centuries) through the end of the colonial rule in the mid 20th century to current conditions. Inspired by Emma Jinhua Teng’s comprehensive and groundbreaking study of the changing Chinese perceptions of Taiwan from the late 17th century on,6 I will take a parallel look at the Japanese constructions of Taiwan from the late 18th century to the postwar period by delving into various genres of travel writing and the popular mystery novel set in Taiwan, tracing Taiwan’s trajectory from ‘savage island’ to 5 Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies, ed. by Alison Blunt and Rose Gillian (New York: Guilford Press, 1994); The Ethics of Tourism Development, ed. by Mick Smith and Rosaleen Duffy (London; New York: Routledge, 2003); Tourism and Postcolonialism: Contested Discourses, Identities and Representations, ed. by C. Michael Hall and Hazel Tucker (London; New York: Routledge, 2004).

6 Teng, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography.

Yuan Kleeman · (Post-) Colonial Travel Writing on Taiwan 47 Japan’s ‘sovereign territory’. The paper will look at literary and visual representations of the journey taken by the Japanese to Taiwan and assess how the image of Taiwan was appropriated to suit the larger ideological landscape of the empire.

As one of the Asian colonial powers during the period from the late 19th century until the end of the World War II, Japan could not avoid casting its own oriental gaze toward its colonial subjects and landscapes. Fujimori Kiyoshi’s study of tourism and its impact on the formation of a modern identity for Japanese intellectuals around the turn of the nineteenth century illustrates two fundamental shifts in Japanese perceptions of their own environment. 7 The nascent practice of tourism (a privilege reserved for high-level bureaucrats and the elite), which mirrored the British »grand tour« tradition of (re-)discovering Greece and Italy, was a nostalgic awakening for the Japanese, leading them to look at their own geographical and cultural landscape anew from the point of view of a foreigner, much like the very successful »Discover Japan« campaign of the 1970s, which mobilized the mass consumption of the leisure time that was being afforded to the middle class for the first time in Japan’s history. Fujimori’s discussion focuses primarily on domestic travel, but he does mention frequent organized group tours to the colonies (Manchuria, Korea, and Taiwan) and their implications for the formation of a modern national consciousness. Fujimori effectively demonstrates, through literary works by Tayama Katai (1871–1930) and Nagai Kafū (1879–1959), how tourism at the turn of the century fostered various cultural dichotomies, such as urban/rural, nature/human, and most of all, center/periphery.8 In the following sections, I will use an array of print and visual texts to trace Japan’s construction and transformation of conceptualizations of Taiwan from early modern times, through the colonial period to the postwar period. The late Tokugawa investigative actual account of people lost at sea called hyōryūki, which recorded seafarers who inadvertently traveled outside of Japan during the period of the Shogunate’s isolationist policy (sakoku ), was revived in Meiji boys’ literature to inspire and accommodate an expanding Imperial ambition. Depictions of Taiwan in popular media such as newspapers and magazines around the Sino-Japanese war tend to emphasize Japan’s civilizing mission.

Works during the colonial period diverged, with Nishikawa Mitsuru’s

–  –  –

(1908–1999) romantic topographical read of Taiwan (Kareitō shōka ) and his constructions of historical space (Sairiuki, Taiwan sōkan tetsudō ) differing drastically from the works of writers such as Kitahara Hakushū (1885–1942), Sata Ineko (1904–1998) or Nogami Yaeko (1885–1985) who visited as official guests of the GovernorGeneral. The narratives of the native writer Lü Heruo (1914–1951), who depicted a Japanese sojourner in the short story Gardenia (»Yulanhua«, 1943),9 and Hikage Jōkichi (1908–1991), a popular postwar mystery writer who drew on his experiences as a soldier stationed in Taiwan, blending a dreamy yet vivid local landscape into his gothic tales, provide a non-imperial (if not anti-imperial) perspective. Records of actual trips, such as Japanese student’s homage to battlefields and shrines across the colonies, or the Showa Emperor’s royal visit to Taiwan will be used to compare and contrast the presentational and representational gap in this genre. Using David Spurr’s exploration of the formation of colonial discourse through the examination of journalism, travel writing, and imperial administration, this article looks at the Japanese construction of Taiwan from the pre-colonial conceptualization through the high colonial period to postcolonial writings. In The Rhetoric of Empire,10 Spurr identifies eleven basic rhetorical features of colonial discourse and studies how they were deployed. Though he draws his examples primarily from British, French, and American writing of the 19th and 20th centuries, the implications of his study can be applied to different colonial situations. His list ranges from scientifically neutral-sounding classification, naturalization, and appropriation, to demeaning terms such as debasement, negation, and surveillance, to more positive aesthetic interventions like idealization, aestheticization, eroticization, and affirmation. Many of the travel accounts of the colonial period can fit into one or more of Spurr’s rhetorical devices. By contrasting the pre-colonial valueneutral depiction with discourses infused with a civilizing mission in the early stages of colonial conquest, to the ideologically-bound high colonial period, and finally to the postcolonial enigmatic deciphering of the colonial past, this paper attempts to give a fuller picture of the development of the Japanese discourse on Taiwan.

–  –  –

Taiwan, as an island located distinctively to the South of Japan, occupied a major place in Japan’s articulation of a Southern vision. In my previous work on the colonial cultural milieu in Taiwan and the South Pacific during the Japanese occupation (1895–1945), I examined the literary construction of the South and its colonial vision.11 Largely based on Yano Tooru’s studies on the South Pacific (Nanyō, Nanpō ), the discourse of the south differs from the later colonial discourse of the North (which mainly centered on Manchuria and Mongolia). The political, economic, and military variations in the nature of the colonial administration are also manifested in literary and cultural representations of the two colonies. The longing for the south (nanpō dōkei ) and the later, northbound imagination (hoppō gensō ) pervaded Japan’s colonial imagination. The two imaginations complimented each other and can serve as a contrast to help us understand how differently the empire was conceptualized in each place.

Japan’s popular imagination of the South had its genesis in the popular genre of the seafarer epic, which fascinated male readers at the turn of the century.



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