Modernist Aesthetics in Taiwanese Poetry Since the 1950s 9004167072, 9789004167070

Drawing on the phenomenon of placelessness, this book offers an alternative approach to reexamine Chinese modernist lite

118 12 3MB

English Pages 210 [221] Year 2008

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Modernist Aesthetics in Taiwanese Poetry Since the 1950s
 9004167072, 9789004167070

Citation preview

Modernist Aesthetics in Taiwanese Poetry since the 1950s

Sinica Leidensia Edited by

Barend J. ter Haar In co-operation with

P.K. Bol, D.R. Knechtges, E.S. Rawski, W.L. Idema, E. Zürcher, H.T. Zurndorfer


Modernist Aesthetics in Taiwanese Poetry since the 1950s By

Au Chung-to


Cover illustration: Another view of the ‘food-steamer lamp’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan. This book is printed on acid-free paper. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Au, Chung-to. Modernist aesthetics in Taiwanese poetry since the 1950s / By Au Chung-to. p. cm. — (Sinica leidensia ; v. 85) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-90-04-16707-0 (alk. paper) 1. Chinese poetry—Taiwan—History and criticism. 2. Chinese poetry—20th century—History and criticism. I. Title. PL3031.T3A86 2008 895.1’15209951249—dc22 2008009746

ISSN 0169-9563 ISBN 978 90 04 16707 0 Copyright 2008 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. printed in the netherlands

For Theo


Acknowledgements ............................................................................ List of Illustrations ............................................................................. Notes on Translation and Spelling ..................................................

ix xi xiii

Chapter One Introduction ............................................................ ‘Place’ and ‘Placelessness’ ............................................................. The Mutable and the Immutable ................................................ The Poetic Space ............................................................................ Taiwanese Modernist Aesthetics .................................................

1 7 8 16 18

Chapter Two Unhomely Houses .................................................. ‘Homely’ and ‘Unhomely’ ............................................................. Buried Alive .................................................................................... Transparent Space .......................................................................... The Dark Space .............................................................................. The Window as an Opening to the Public Realm ...................

27 28 33 35 47 55

Chapter Three Imagining Taipei .................................................. Modernism in Imagination .......................................................... The Unreal City ............................................................................. The Disappearance of the Crowd ............................................... An Invisible Persona ..................................................................... The Urban Uncanny ...................................................................... Gender Space ................................................................................. Estrangement ..................................................................................

61 62 64 67 71 79 82 89

Chapter Four Homelands as Shifting Ground ........................... Yearning for the Lost Origin ....................................................... Quest for a Mythic Origin ........................................................... Searching for a Cultural Identity ................................................ The Uncanniness of Homecoming ............................................. Traveling as Collecting of One’s Identity .................................. Making Exile His Homeland ....................................................... The Origin is a Shifting Ground ................................................. Finding Stability in Instability .....................................................

101 104 110 114 124 129 132 134 139



Chapter Five Imagined Literary Community: Language, Memory and Nature ...................................................................... Horizontal Comradeship .............................................................. Vertical Comradeship ................................................................... Language as Home ........................................................................ Fabricating Memories ................................................................... Return to Nature ............................................................................ Homeland (Re)located ..................................................................

141 145 147 148 157 175 190

Chapter Six

Conclusion .................................................................


Bibliography ........................................................................................ Index ....................................................................................................

197 203


This book is full of beauty. This is not only because the subject of my discussion is poetry or aesthetics. It is rather also because of the people I met or worked with during these years. I wish I could include all their names here. For those names I have omitted, I will never forget you or your contributions. My first thanks go to Professor Esther Cheung (University of Hong Kong). Her criticisms on drafts of this book drove me in a direction I never dreamed of, or had feared to tread. Nevertheless, I am more happily at home there now. Although the ideas she introduced to me sometimes drove me crazy, most of the time, I was intoxicated by them. However, it is Professor Tom Rendall (Peking University) who really saw me embark on this intellectual journey when I was an undergraduate student. He not only taught me to appreciate the beauty of English, by extension, but also of Chinese literature. His trenchant comments and queries helped to better structure the book and made it more readable. His graciousness and concern have been a moral support. My thanks also go to the poetic couple Lomen and Rong Zi, who invited me to visit their ‘House of Light’ in Taipei. I will never forget the time and thoughts we shared together. Above all, the publication of this book would not have been possible without the generous support and assistance of Professor Ngai Ling Tun (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Lucy Moore. Finally, I express heartfelt thanks to my family for their support; without them, I could not have completed this project.


Figures 2.1 The location of Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ in Taipei. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ................................................. 2.2 The outside view of the building in which Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ located. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan .... 2.3 A partial view of the ‘House of Light’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ............................................................................. 2.4 The living room of the ‘House of Light’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ............................................................................. 2.5 Third Nature Spiral Structure. Reproduced by permission from Lomen ......................................................... 2.6 The windows in the ‘House of Light’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ............................................................................. 5.1 The ‘old-rattan-chair lamp’ in the ‘House of Light’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ................................................. 5.2 The ‘food-steamer lamp’ in the ‘House of Light’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan ................................................. 5.3 Another view of the ‘food-steamer lamp’. Photo courtesy of Ivan Chan .............................................................................

36 36 37 39 41 44 188 189 189


The translation of a Chinese text is mine, if the source is in Chinese. I use the pinyin system of transliteration in most cases, except for a few occasions; the Wade-Giles spellings of a name are retained. The English spelling will follow the American spelling system, except for quotations of texts published in the British spelling system.



I have found much of the discussion on Taiwanese modernist poetry unsatisfactory because the analyses are so frequently mechanical and political, simplifying Taiwanese modernist poetry into ideological arguments.1 Critics from Mainland China claim that Taiwanese modernist poetry is a continuation of the Chinese modernist tradition, whereas Taiwanese critics maintain that their modernist poetry departs from the May Fourth Chinese literary tradition. According to many critics from Mainland China, there is no difference between Chinese modernism as it flourished in Taiwan in the 1960s and Chinese modernism that developed in Mainland China in the 1940s. Many books have been published on the subject of Chinese modernism since the nineties, for example, Tang Zhengxu’s 唐正序 Er Shi Shiji Zhongguo Wenxue Yu Xifang Xiandai Zhuyi Sichao [Twentieth Century Chinese Literature and Western Modernism] (1992), Zeng Qingyuan’s 曾慶元 Xifang Xiandai Zhuyi Wenyi Sichao Shuping [On Western Modernism] (1993), Tan Chuliang’s 譚楚良 Zhongguo Xiandaipai Wenxuelun [On the Chinese Modernist School] (1996), and Zhang Tongdao’s 張同道 Tanxian di Fengqi [The Flag of Quest] (1998). In most of these books, the development of Taiwanese modernist literature is discussed in parallel with that of modernist literature in Mainland China. In other words, these critics consider Chinese modernist poetry on the Mainland similar to that in Taiwan. Although Taiwanese critics’ opinions on modernist poetry are not as uniform as those of their Mainland counterparts, they tend to agree that Taiwanese modernist poetry represents a discontinuity with the May

1 It is not my purpose to argue that Taiwanese modernist poetry has nothing to do with politics in this project. On the contrary, the following discussions demonstrate that Taiwanese modernist poetry is related to politics to a certain extent. However, the relationship between art and politics does not neatly fall into ideological arguments as some critics presented in their works. In fact, the relationship between art and politics is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, art does not subordinate to political power. On the other hand, art ties itself closely with society in order to protect its autonomy. I will discuss the complicated relationship in detail in this chapter.


chapter one

Fourth Chinese literary tradition. There are at least two kinds of opinions on modernist poetry in Taiwan. First, according to Lu Zhenghui 呂正惠 and Guan Jieming 關傑明, most Taiwanese modernist poetry written in the 1950s and 1960s is an inferior translation of Western modernist poetry (Lu, 1995, 24). Second, critics like Zhong Zhaozheng 鐘肇正 consider all literary works written by exiled writers anti-communist propaganda (Gong, 1997, 43). Zhong points out that these works also reflect the writers’ nostalgic feelings for Mainland China. And, he implies that exiled writers have no interaction with Taiwan’s landscape and its people (Gong, 1997, 46). Though it is true that most Taiwanese modernist poets read Western modernist literature, this does not mean that Taiwanese modernist poetry is an inferior translation of Western modernist poetry. Gong Pengcheng 龔鵬程 disagrees with Zhong and questions how exiled writers can live in Taiwan and have no interaction with the ‘place’ at all (Gong, 1997, 56).2 This simplified dichotomy of continuity and discontinuity not only ignores much of the significance of everyday experience, but also neglects the subtlety of modernist aesthetics. Aesthetics or art is not subordinate to political power. The critics from the Mainland and Taiwan seem to ignore the autonomy of aesthetics and stress its subordinate status. They also introduce their political stances in explaining the modernist movement in Taiwan. When Terry Eagleton discusses the emergence of aesthetics in eighteenth century Germany, he points out that aesthetics “is among other things a response to the problem of political absolutism” (Eagleton, 1990, 14). However, the aesthetic is not simply an oppositional force to the political hegemony. In fact, according to Eagleton, the concept of the aesthetic embodies contradictory forces. The aesthetic, then, is from the beginning a contradictory, double-edged concept. On the one hand, it figures as a genuinely emancipatory force— as a community of subjects now linked by sensuous impulse and fellowfeeling rather than by heteronomous law, each safeguarded in its unique particularity while bound at the same time into social harmony. . . . On the other hand, the aesthetic signifies . . . a kind of ‘internalised repression’, inserting social power more deeply into the very bodies of those it sub-


In her Modern Chinese Poetry, Michelle Yeh tries to ignore the politico-geographical domains and to focus her discussion on the intrinsic elements of poetic art, for example, images and forms. The relationship between place and the Taiwanese modernist poets is not examined.



jugates, and so operating as a supremely effective mode of political hegemony. (Eagleton, 1990, 28)

Eagleton remarks that the rise of aesthetics in the eighteenth century is used as a means to consolidate the absolute power of reason. This is because reason cannot explain the world of perception or sensation. However, it turns out that the relationship between aesthetics and political power, instead of being a subordinate one, is a paradoxical one. Although aesthetics is subject to political power, the characteristics associated with it, like imagination, help to make aesthetics difficult for the authorities to control. In addition, aesthetics has the power to revolt against authority. Further, absolute power cannot eradicate the aesthetic, because by extirpating the aesthetic, the power of the authority will also be shattered (Eagleton, 1990, 28).3 The dual essence of art subtly changed in the modern world. Art gains its autonomy and freedom from absolute power with the assistance of the bourgeois consciousness. However, Theodor Adorno argues that art is actually opposed to society: Art . . . is social primarily because it stands opposed to society. Now this opposition art can mount only when it has become autonomous. By congealing into an entity unto itself—rather than obeying existing social norms and thus proving itself to be ‘socially useful’—art criticizes society just by being there. . . . What is social about art is not its political stance, but its immanent dynamic in opposition to society. . . . The mystery of art is its demystifying power. Its social essence calls for a twofold reflection: on the being-for-itself of art, and on its ties with society. (Adorno, 1984, 321–22)

In other words, modernist art revolts against society in order to protect its autonomy. As such, the status of art is supreme, embodying a power that can criticize authority. However, it is noteworthy that art gained this supreme power in the modern world when it no longer enjoyed its former privileged status.4 In this case, art is no freer than it used to be. Since society does not grant art privilege anymore, it must tie itself closely with society if it wants to survive.

3 A detailed account of the relationship between the aesthetic and absolute power can be found in Eagleton’s The Ideology of the Aesthetics. The ‘Introduction’ and the chapter on ‘Free Particulars’ are the most important. 4 A discussion of the issue of the decline of poetry in the modern era can be found in Graham Hough’s “The Modernist Lyric” (Hough, 1991, 312–22).


chapter one

Raymond Williams further elaborates on the relationship between society and art in the modern era. Williams’ concept of society no longer refers to an absolute power. In fact, it is associated with certain social phenomena such as diaspora and urbanization. According to Williams, the metropolis plays an important role in the emergence of modernism. In addition, a twentieth-century metropolis such as Paris houses many immigrants and exiles (Williams, 1994, 34, 36). As Williams points out, the modernist sentiment is anti-bourgeois. Different poets and writers choose their own ways to represent this sentiment. For example, the modernists “either choose the formerly aristocratic valuation of art as a sacred realm above money and commerce, or the revolutionary doctrines, promulgated since 1848, of art as the liberating vanguard of popular consciousness” (Williams, 1994, 34). Williams’ remarks not only echo Adorno’s concept of the dual essence of art, but also imply that under the umbrella of modernism there are different kinds of ideas that are not necessarily compatible with each other.5 How does the complex relationship between political power and aesthetics in the West shed light on our understanding of Taiwanese modernist poetry? In spite of the different socio-political and economic situations in the West and in Taiwan, it is interesting to note that Western and Taiwanese modernist writers and poets have something in common. For example, the Nationalist government’s literary policy advocated in postwar Taiwan reminds us of political absolutism in Germany. As Michelle Yeh points out: After the move to Taiwan in 1949, the Nationalist government controlled literature to a high degree by sponsoring literary activities and censoring the mass media. In April 1950 the Chinese Literature and Art Awards Committee was set up; the next month the Chinese Literature and Art Association was formed; and they were soon followed by the Young Writers’ Association and the Women Writers’ Association. In addition, the few newspapers in the early postwar period were mostly owned and run by the government, and books by many Chinese writers who stayed on the mainland and by some foreign writers were labeled subversive and banned. Through these and other means, the Nationalist government created a dominant discourse geared to the restoration of the Chinese mainland to

5 In spite of the discrepancies of these modernists, I will refer to them as the ‘Western modernist poets and writers’ in this book. The word ‘Western’ is written with a capital letter for the sake of convention rather than to imply a homogeneity among these writers.



Nationalist rule and the legitimation of the Nationalists as the true heirs to Chinese culture, not the Communist usurpers. (Yeh, 1992, xxxviii)

In spite of the absolute power of the Nationalist government, Taiwanese modernist poets seemed to gain autonomy by refusing to write anticommunist literature. According to Yeh, “their works contrast sharply with the mainstream discourse promoted by the Nationalist government, particularly from the 1950s through the early 1970s, in challenging the anticommunist ethos of the time and in engaging in the avant-garde.” (Yeh, 1992, xxxviii) However, the reason why the Nationalist government tolerated the existence of Taiwanese modernist poetry is different from that of the German government’s tolerance of aesthetics in the eighteenth century. While the German government used aesthetics as a means to consolidate its absolute power, the Nationalist government relied on Western countries to consolidate its power. As Chen Yingzhen 陳映真 points out, Westernization was the focus of Taiwan’s spiritual life from the 1940s to the 1970s. Sociologically and economically speaking, Taiwan was subordinated to the West. In areas such as literature and art, there were no exceptions (Liu, 1996, 34–35). It is noteworthy that although the Nationalist government did not promote modernism in literature and art, the obscure language of modernism and its Western style were two of the factors that helped Taiwanese modernist works escape censorship. The Western style of Taiwanese modernist poetry was coincidentally in line with the government’s Westernization policy. The relationship between art and society in Taiwan is complicated due to the Nationalist government’s different policies. On the one hand, the Taiwanese modernist poets’ refusal to write anti-communist propaganda seemed to, in Adorno’s words, stand opposed to society. On the other hand, the Western style manifested in their poetry seemed to suggest that the Taiwanese modernist poets followed the Westernization policy advocated by the government. According to Adorno, “art is social primarily because it stands opposed to society” (Adorno, 1984, 321). I believe that the case in Taiwan is different from that in the West. I will suggest that art (or at least modernist poetry) is social in Taiwan because it stands opposed to, and supports, the government at the same time. While Eagleton’s and Adorno’s ideas of aesthetics are concerned with abstract theories, Williams’ concept is about concrete social and historical circumstances. In fact, Taiwanese modernist writers, like their Western counterparts, faced social phenomena such as diaspora and


chapter one

urbanization. Nevertheless, the modernist sentiment in the West, as Williams points out, is anti-bourgeois, whereas the modernist sentiment in Taiwan is the nostalgia resulting from diaspora and urbanization. In short, the Taiwanese modernist poets are closely tied to society. One of the factors in the development of the Taiwanese modernist poetry could be seen as political because these poets were all sent into exile. However, the exiled poets’ interactions with Taipei and the urbanization of the city also play a significant role in the development of Taiwanese modernism. In fact, being in exile, dwelling in the city and the urbanization of Taipei all contribute to the phenomenon of making a ‘place become placeless.’ My study supports the development of an alternative approach to understanding aesthetics in Taiwanese modernist poetry. It is concerned not with abstract ideologies, but with the daily living space of the Taiwanese modernist poets.6 The diversity and intensity of these poets’ experiences of ‘place’ and ‘placelessness’ will be emphasized.

6 The word ‘space’ here actually refers to both ‘place’ and ‘space.’ The concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ have become controversial nowadays. In his Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, which was published in 1977, Tuan Yi-fu has a relatively clear-cut distinction on the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space.’ According to Tuan, “‘space’ is more abstract than ‘place’ ” (Tuan, 1977, 6). Similarly, Edward Relph states that “space is amorphous and intangible and not an entity that can be directly described and analyzed. Yet, however we feel or know or explain space, there is nearly always some associated sense or concept of place. In general it seems that space provides the context for places but derives its meaning from particular places” (Relph, 1976, 8). However, the characteristics such as abstract and intangible no longer help to distinguish ‘space’ from ‘place.’ For example, Ackbar Abbas, in his Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance, which was published in 1997, points out that “ ‘place’ and ‘space’ cannot be opposed in any simple way, nor can they be considered separately.” Abbas argues that “it is clearly not possible to think of place merely in terms of definable physical characteristics and situatedness because the changing nature of space—that results from information technology, for example—inevitably entails a changing idea of place” (Abbas, 1997, 69). While Abbas refers to the development of Hong Kong in the last decades, my research focuses on Taipei in the 1960s. Although information technology had yet to become an issue in Taipei during the 1960s, things such as industrialization, war, development of transportation and communication started to undermine the essence of place. The essence of ‘place’ refers to a deep association with the ‘place’ where we were born and grew up, or where we have had particularly moving experiences. When the essence of ‘place’ disappears, ‘place’ becomes ‘placelessness.’ When ‘place’ becomes ‘placelessness,’ it becomes more abstract and intangible. In other words, the characteristics of ‘place’ become similar to those of ‘space’ in the old sense. As a result, I found that the distinction between the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ is a difficult one. For instance, Lomen’s home, House of Light, is both a physical as well as an abstract ‘place/space.’ Likewise, Taipei and the idea of homeland have metaphorical meanings which shift from time to time. In this case, the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ are ambiguous in my study. The concept of ‘place’ embodies the characteristics of ‘space’ and vice versa.



‘Place’ and ‘Placelessness’ The phenomenon of ‘placelessness’ is a problem of modernity that is a central concern of twentieth-century literature.7 Leonard Lutwack notices that industrialism, war, and the development of transportation and communication undermined the essence of place (Lutwack, 1984, 183). According to Edward Relph: The essence of place lies in the largely unselfconscious intentionality that defines places as profound centres of human existence. There is for virtually everyone a deep association with and consciousness of the place where we were born and grew up, where we live now, or where we have had particularly moving experiences. (Relph, 1976, 43)

Furthermore, when the essence of ‘place’ disappears, ‘place’ becomes ‘placelessness.’ Relph elaborates: Placelessness describes both an environment without significant places and the underlying attitude which does not acknowledge significance in places. It reaches back into the deepest levels of place, cutting roots, eroding symbols, replacing diversity with uniformity and experiential order with conceptual order. At its most profound it consists of a pervasive and perhaps irreversible alienation from places as the homes of men. (Relph, 1976, 143)

Living in such a fast-changing and chaotic world, how do modern writers respond to these conditions? The experience of ‘placelessness’ and ‘lost places’ contributes to the development of modernism. Harry Levin notices that most modernist writers and painters such as Joyce, Picasso, Eliot, Pound and so forth, lived in places other than the places of their origins (Levin, 1966, 287). Joyce’s home country was Ireland; however, he spent his prime in Paris. Similarly, Eliot and Pound were born in the United States but spent most of their lives in Europe. In fact, Eagleton is also well aware of this phenomenon; he writes: “the seven most significant writers of twentieth-century English literature have been a Pole, three Americans, two Irishmen and an Englishmen” (Eagleton, 1970, 9). These writers left their home countries due to various reasons, and their statuses were


Although Paul Smethurst applies the concept of ‘place’ and ‘placelessness’ to his study of postmodernist fiction, he notices that placelessness is not merely a postmodern problem. It is also a modernity problem. See Smethurst’s The Postmodern Chronotope (Smethurst, 2000, 93).


chapter one

different; for instance, while Conrad was a migrant, Joyce was a selfexile. Paul Fussell points out the direct relationship between diaspora and literary modernism: Diaspora seems one of the signals of literary modernism, as we can infer from virtually no modern writer’s remaining where he’s ‘supposed’ to be except perhaps Proust—we think of Pound in London, Paris, and Italy; Eliot in London; Joyce in Trieste and Paris; Mann ultimately in the United States. (Fussell, 1980, 11)

It is noteworthy that Proust is different from other writers in that he suffers temporal instead of spatial displacement. Although he did not leave Paris his entire life, Proust led life as an exile because he continually felt nostalgic for his past. I will suggest that losing a geographical ‘place’ helps the modernist writers to develop an imaginative space. As Jean Baudrillard points out: “only the exiled have a land. I know some people who are only close to their country when they are 10,000 kilometers away” (Kaplan, 1996, 72). The land Baudrillard refers to is not a physical land; it is the land the exile yearns for. The land is in the exile’s memory. In other words, going into exile triggers the writers to invent a remembered land no matter whether it is his or her homeland or a totally imagined space. Since modernist aesthetics is an outgrowth of ‘placelessness,’ a study of the following five major Taiwanese modernist poets—Lomen 羅門, Luo Fu 洛夫, Rong Zi 蓉子, Yu Guangzhong 余光中 and Zheng Chouyu 鄭愁予—not only helps to shed light on these poets’ interactions with their ‘places’ but also enhances our understanding of modernist aesthetics.8

The Mutable and the Immutable The literary works of the five Taiwanese modernist poets I have chosen for study and their interactions with their daily living spaces are full of contradictory ideas. In Marshall Berman’s wording, the world these poets conjured up is “where everything is pregnant with its contrary” (Berman, 1982, 22). For instance, these poets’ works always show their nostalgia for Mainland China. However, when they were free to go back

8 The pinyin transcription for Lomen should be Luo Men. Since the poet always refers himself as Lomen instead, this book will follow the poet’s practice.



to and to stay in their homeland after 1987, all the poets chose not to do so. Luo Fu and Zheng Chuoyu emigrated to Canada and the United States respectively. Yu eventually settled down in Taiwan after having spent almost two decades in the United States and in Hong Kong. Lomen and Rong Zi have been living in Taipei since 1949 and do not plan to move. Moreover, although the works of these poets always embody a sense of anti-urbanism, they have lived in cities most of their lives. Most thinkers and critics in the West agree with the fact that modern aesthetics embodies contradictory forces, the mutable and the immutable.9 However, different critics put stress on different ends of the spectrum. For instance, although Berman notices the contradictory forces in modern life, he puts emphasis on mutability. On the other hand, geographer David Harvey goes to another extreme and considers the ‘spatialization of time’ as the basis of modern aesthetics. In his study of modern aesthetics, Berman points out the ambivalent feelings modern people experience. He traces the origin of this ambivalence back to Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Baudelaire. In his “Speech at the Anniversary of the People’s Paper,” Marx says: In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary. Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labor, we behold starving and overworking it. The new-fangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want. The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance. All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force. (Marx, 1978, 577–78)

Similarly, Nietzsche remarks: At these turning-points of history there appear side by side and often entangled and entwined together a glorious, manifold, jungle-like growth and up-stirring, a kind of tropical tempo in competition in growing, and a tremendous perishing and self-destruction, thanks to the savage egoisms which, turning on one another and as it were exploding, wrestle together ‘for sun and light’. . . . (Nietzsche, 1981, 181–82)10


The introductory chapters of Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity and Daniel R. Schwarz’s Reconfiguring Modernism give a detailed account of this issue. 10 Emphases in all quoted passages are those of the authors’, unless stated otherwise.


chapter one

Marx’s and Nietzsche’s comments share two things. First, both philosophers notice that “everything is pregnant with its contrary” (Berman, 1982, 22). Second, I think both Marx and Nietzsche put emphasis on the pros and cons of the mutable in modern life. If we compare Marx’s and Nietzsche’s understanding of the contradictory forces with those of Baudelaire’s, we will fi nd that the latter’s idea of duality is slightly different. Instead of putting emphasis on the contradictory forces within the changes, Baudelaire pays attention to the binary opposition of the ephemeral and the eternal. In his essay on modern aesthetics, “The Painter of Modern Life 1859–60,” Baudelaire shows us another possible interpretation of the concept that ‘everything is pregnant with its contrary.’ The poet writes: “By ‘modernity’ I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable” (Baudelaire, 1995, 12). In other words, Baudelaire believes that one half of modernity is composed of the transient and the rest is the eternal. However, when we examine Baudelaire’s poetry, we will see that the transient is essential to the major themes of his work. As Walter Benjamin points out in his “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” shock and the crowd are two important motifs in Baudelaire’s poetry (Benjamin, 1970, 165–70). In his poem “A une passante” [To a Passerby], we not only observe the themes of shock and the crowd but also the theme of a fleeting world: A lightning-flash . . . then night!—O fleeting beauty Whose glance all of a sudden gave me new birth, Shall I see you again only in eternity? Far, far from here! Too late! Or maybe, never? For I know not where you flee, you know not where I go, O you I would have loved (o you who knew it too!) (Benjamin, 1970, 171)

The poem is about the poet who spots a beautiful woman in the street. By the time Baudelaire feels himself falling in love with her, the woman is out of his sight. According to Benjamin, this poem shows “the delight of the urban poet is love—not at first sight, but at last sight” (Benjamin, 1970, 171). Although Baudelaire does not tell us the reasons why the woman disappears so quickly, I believe that the fast tempo of life in the city is one of the reasons. The woman may be forced by the crowd to walk quickly, or the density of the crowd may make the city become opaque, thus hiding the woman. Moreover, life in the city is fl ooded with perceptions. City dwellers do not have time to digest the last perception before the next one, and yet another, have already appeared. As a result,



city dwellers are always in a state of ‘delayed response.’ For example, the poetic persona in Baudelaire’s poem does not realize that he falls in love with the woman until later.11 It is, by then, too late. Although Baudelaire tells us that his modern aesthetics is to strike a balance between the transient and the eternal, his poetry implies that he is off balance. The poet’s mind seems to be dominated by the transient. Likewise, Berman claims in his All That Is Solid Melts into Air that the purpose of his book is to: Illuminate the contradictory forces and needs that inspire and torment us: our desire to be rooted in a stable and coherent personal and social past, and our insatiable desire for growth—not merely for economic growth but for growth in experience, in pleasure, in knowledge, in sensibility—growth that destroys both the physical and social landscapes of our past, and our emotional links with those lost worlds. . . . (Berman, 1982, 35)

Berman’s ideal echoes Baudelaire’s modern aesthetics. He wants to remind us of how those great thinkers and writers such as Marx, Nietzsche and Baudelaire reacted to modernity. Berman feels nostalgic for those good old days. However, did Berman believe those great minds ever struck a balance between stability and instability? In the preface of Berman’s book, we get an implicit answer: Shortly after I finished this book, my dear son Marc, five years old, was taken from me. I dedicate All That Is Solid Melts into Air to him. His life and death bring so many of its ideas and themes close to home: the idea that those who are most happily at home in the modern world, as he was, may be most vulnerable to the demons that haunt it; the idea that the daily routine of playgrounds and bicycles, of shopping and eating and cleaning up, of ordinary hugs and kisses, may be not only infinitely joyous and beautiful but also infinitely precarious and fragile; that it may take desperate and heroic struggles to sustain this life, and sometimes we lose. (Berman, 1982, 14)

This account is a sad one. However, it tells us what Berman truly believes. He thinks the world is fleeting, transient, and that life is ephemeral. Berman again is similar to Baudelaire in that he has an ideal of striking a balance between the transient and the eternal, but he finds it hard to achieve his high ideal.


Detailed discussions of Baudelaire’s “A une passante” can be found in Benjamin’s “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” in Illumination (Benjamin, 1970, 157–202) and Esther Cheung’s preface to “City Imagination” in Hong Kong Literature as/and Cultural Studies (Cheung, 2002, 285–96).


chapter one

Harvey notices the emphasis of Berman and of those thinkers Berman depicted. He remarks that Berman overemphasizes the transitory side of Baudelaire’s dual formulation and he disagrees with Berman and those who share his views. He stresses the eternal side of Baudelaire’s dual formulation. According to Harvey: The successful modern artist was one who could find the universal and the eternal. . . . But how to represent the eternal and the immutable in the midst of all the chaos? To the degree that naturalism and realism proved inadequate . . ., the artist, architect, and writer had to find some special way to represent it. Modernism from its very beginning, therefore, became preoccupied with language, with finding some special mode of representation of eternal truths. . . . Modernism could speak to the eternal only by freezing time and all its fleeting qualities. (Harvey, 1997, 20–21)

Harvey labels this modernist aesthetics ‘spatialization of time.’ He uses space and time as metaphors for the immutable and the mutable. Harvey explains that “since modernity is about the experience of progress through modernization, writings on that theme have tended to emphasize temporality, the process of becoming, rather than being in space and place” (Harvey, 1997, 205). In comparison with modernity which refers to the mutable and the transient, modernist aesthetics is about the immutable and the eternal. As Harvey points out: Aesthetic theory, on the other hand, seeks out the rules that allow eternal and immutable truths to be conveyed in the midst of the maelstrom of flux and change. The architect, to take the most obvious case, tries to communicate certain values through the construction of a spatial form. Painters, sculptors, poets, and writers of all sorts do no less. Even the written word abstracts properties from the flux of experience and fixes them in spatial form. (Harvey, 1997, 205–06)

Harvey is not alone in terms of striving for immutability in mutability. Martin Heidegger and Gaston Bachelard share similar ideas. Perhaps the only difference is that Heidegger and Bachelard concretely describe their ideas using the example of a house while Harvey chooses a rather abstract image—space—as a metaphor. In his “Building Dwelling Thinking,” Heidegger likens building a house to dwelling in the house. The philosopher points out that we should not take dwelling and building as two separate activities. When we build a house, we take the dwellers’ requirements into consideration. Building a house to dwell in is not merely about construction. The essence of building a house as a dwelling is to create a peaceful environment for the dwellers. Heidegger



concludes that building is really comparable to dwelling. (Heidegger, 1975, 146, 148–49) He elaborates that the nature of dwelling is: To be set at peace, means to remain at peace within the free, the preserve, the free sphere that safeguards each thing in its nature. The fundamental character of dwelling is this sparing and preserving. (Heidegger, 1975, 149)

Heidegger wrote this article after World War II when people everywhere were talking about housing shortages. However, the philosopher reminds us that “the real plight of dwelling does not lie merely in a lack of houses. . . . The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell” (Heidegger, 1975, 161). Physically speaking, the displaced and homeless people of that time needed to have somewhere to dwell. Heidegger, however, thought that the real plight lay in the fact that people did not know the nature of dwelling. Heidegger likens the nature of dwelling—“to spare, to preserve”—to the immutable that helps us to resist the mutable world. Nevertheless, the philosopher’s opinion on dwelling is in fact not fully elaborated, compared to Bachelard’s idea of ‘house.’ Bachelard is similar to Heidegger in that he believes a house (or in Heidegger’s words building a house or dwelling) is not simply a geometrical space. However, unlike Heidegger who briefly points out that to dwell is to be set at peace, Bachelard explains in detail the way in which a house develops close relationships with human beings. He compares a house to an eternal space that helps us to shelter our dreams in the fleeting world. Bachelard writes “the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer . . . the house allows one to dream in peace. . . . Without it, man would be a dispersed being. It maintains him through the storms of the heavens and through those of life.” (Bachelard, 1994, 6–7) Bachelard’s account implies that the outside world is a chaotic one. In addition to protecting the occupant’s dreams, the house also helps to store memories. According to this philosopher, “a great many of our memories are housed” in the house (Bachelard, 1994, 8). Bachelard elaborates: We think we know ourselves in time, when all we know is a sequence of fixations in the spaces of the being’s stability—a being who does not want to melt away, and who, even in the past, when he sets out in search of things past, wants time to ‘suspend’ its flight. In its countless alveoli space contains compressed time. That is what space is for. . . . Memories


chapter one are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are. (Bachelard, 1994, 8–9)

Dreams and memories are two significant elements that contribute to making a house, a building and a ‘place’ more than merely a geometrical space. They help to secure us in a fast changing world. To do so, Bachelard implies that both memories and space are fixed. But these elements are not as stable as Bachelard imagines. The images—space, building and house—which Harvey, Heidegger and Bachelard choose to illustrate their aesthetics, create confusion. For example, the concept of space is not as static as they think. In her “The Political Place of Locality Studies,” Doreen Massey disputes Harvey’s idea of ‘spatial fixity.’ Massey notices that Harvey tries to generalize the concept of locality to a wider field. While Massey focuses on the concept of locality on a daily life level, Harvey focuses on the aesthetic concept. According to Massey, localities are not static because “they are about the intersection of social activities and social relations and, crucially, activities and relations which are necessarily, by defi nition, dynamic, changing.” (Massey, 1998, 136) Massey realizes that Harvey follows the arguments of Heidegger and Bachelard in relation to space. However, she does not think the interpretations of those writers are the only ones or the most appropriate ones. I agree with Massey that Harvey’s application of space to explain modernist aesthetics is problematic. First of all, terms such as ‘space,’ ‘place’ and ‘localities’ have become controversial nowadays. Secondly, the changes of the conception of ‘place’ in history must be considered.12 Moreover, Harvey is not consistent in using the concept of space. On one hand, he uses the connotative or metaphorical meaning of space to explain his aesthetics: “Time connotes Becoming. . . . Space connotes Being” (Massey, 1998, 135–36). On the other hand, Harvey uses the literal meaning of space, giving architecture as an example and illustrating how architects achieve the ‘spatialization of time.’ Furthermore, is a house or dwelling as homely and secure as Bachelard and Heidegger think? Based on Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny,” Anthony Vidler further develops the idea of the unhomely home. 12 Tuan Yi-fu in the introductory chapter of his Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience distinguishes the concept of ‘space’ from ‘place.’ Edward S. Casey gives a detailed account of the changes of the conception of ‘place’ in history in his The Fate of Place. Doreen Massey’s Space, Place and Gender helps us understand the current debates on the controversial issues of ‘space,’ ‘place’ and localities.



According to Vidler, the unhomely home is a by-product of modernity. This does not mean that our homes have become uncanny in modern times. In fact, as Freud points out, the word ‘home’ is a paradoxical term, because it embodies both the meanings of homely and unhomely. The feeling of uncanniness has been suppressed by religions, civilizations and so forth. However, certain modern conditions such as wars, modern architecture, exile and modern technologies have helped to maintain and reinvigorate the feeling of uncanniness. As a result, modern people no longer feel at home in their homes. In other words, a house or dwelling is not as homely as Bachelard and Heidegger think. The issue of the ‘Unhomely House’ will be discussed in detail in the next chapter. In addition to space, the idea that memory is fixed is also questionable. According to Bachelard and Harvey, memories are static; they can be fixed and compressed in space. Recent studies show, however, that memories are subject to change. David Gross points out that “most psychologists dismiss the notion that memory operates by means of mental imprints or iconic likenesses” (Gross, 2000, 4). In addition: Memories are not inertly stored like so many items in a warehouse. On the contrary, contemporary explanations assume that memories are preserved through elaborate mental mappings or schemata which evolve and change over time. . . . Finally, current scientific opinion maintains that there is no such thing as an exact recall of what was initially registered as a memory. Rather our memories are said to get reconfigured in the process of being preserved so that what comes forth in the end as a ‘memory’ is to a great extent a construction—or reconstruction—of what actually happened in the past. (Gross, 2000, 4)

Gross’s account not only shows us that memories are unstable but also helps us to reconsider the concept of space. According to Bachelard’s and Harvey’s logic, space is mainly for memories. These critics believe that memories are static and space is motionless, too. As such, if memories are mutable, the idea of space being static should be reconsidered. Finally, the ways in which Harvey suggests the architects, the painters, the sculptors, the poets and the writers achieve the ‘spatialization of time’ are also questionable. First of all, Harvey, as a geographer, rightly points out that architects reflect their values through spatial form. Space traditionally is thought to give us an impression of the static and immutable. However, this does not mean that the ways in which architects handle space never change at all. Even the architects Harvey favor, such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, only represent the style of modern architecture. They cannot stop changes of architectural styles.


chapter one

Additionally, if the ‘spatialization of time’ merely means to put thoughts into words, Berman’s and other thinkers’ works which put emphasis on the fleeting world should be considered as having achieved the modern aesthetics of ‘spatialization of time’ as well. Harvey resembles Berman, who puts stress on one side of the dual formulation. While Berman emphasizes the mutable, Harvey accents the immutable. Although they understand that modern aesthetics embodies both contradictory forces, these critics do not understand that modernist writers’ responses to the phenomenon of ‘placelessness’ are not as definite as they imagine.

The Poetic Space Modernist writers’ attitudes toward ‘lost places’ are ambivalent. On the one hand, they try to escape from the state of ‘placelessness’ through traveling and distorting their living spaces. On the other hand, they accommodate ‘placelessness’ by conjuring up an imaginative space. Modernist writers such as Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, Pound and so forth exemplify these phenomena. First, they tried to escape from ‘placelessness’ through displacement. It is noteworthy that some of these writers such as Eliot and Pound chose exile voluntarily. Pound considered the United States “an uncongenial place for a serious artist to live. . . .” The poet declares: “If you have any vital interest in arts and letters . . . you will sooner or later leave the country” (Eder, 1984, 23). Likewise, “America seemed to Eliot, as it did to Pound, a cultural desert” (Eder, 1984, 56). In other words, the United States was not a ‘place’ for artists, and so Pound and Eliot escaped through life in exile. On the other hand, to try to escape from the state of ‘placelessness’, these modernist writers also attempted to accommodate themselves to the phenomenon. They tried to do without ‘place’ by conjuring up an imaginative space. Lutwack argues that: Those who anguish over the condition of placelessness probably overemphasize the importance of place in human affairs. . . . Indeed, traditions may thrive without localization among groups of people having an especially intense common interest, and many of the more civilized activities of the world have been carried on by groups less identified by shared places than by shared interests. (Lutwack, 1984, 236)

In their literary works, Western modernist writers do not invent and share an identical imaginative world with their Taiwanese counterparts.



They create different mythic worlds in their works. Yeats, for instance, tries to escape from, and to accommodate, ‘placelessness’ in his poems. In “Easter 1916,” the poet distorts ‘place’ through hallucination, which is another way to escape: Around the fire at the club, Being certain that they and I But lived where motley is worn: All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. [. . .] From cloud to tumbling cloud, Minute by minute they change; A shadow of cloud on the stream Changes minute by minute (Ferguson, 1996, 1089–90)

Yeats shows us in this poem a world that changes minute by minute. The ‘place’ changes so much that the poet imagines that ‘a terrible beauty is born.’ This does not mean, however, that the poet simply escapes from the fleeting world. In fact, Yeats also tries to conjure up a timeless world in his Byzantium poems. “Sailing to Byzantium” is a good example: Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come. (Ferguson, 1996, 1095)

At the beginning of this poem, Yeats tells us that there is no ‘place’ for old men in the world. It is noteworthy that the poet uses an old man as a protagonist in the poem. Old men are obviously beaten by time. They become old in time. However, the persona, or Yeats, decides to resist time’s tyranny. He sets out to an imagined world, ‘Byzantium.’ At last, he achieves eternity, because people there know nothing about the past, present or future. Time in Byzantium seems to come to a standstill. Yeats is not an exceptional case. Other modernist writers also embody their ambivalent attitudes in their works. Proust believes that the phenomenon of ‘placelessness’ is caused by urbanization. He laments that “houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years” (Proust, 1982, 462). What Proust tells us goes beyond some changing houses and roads. He blames the fast tempo of life in the modern world for changing


chapter one

everything rapidly. Since reality is ephemeral, Proust tries to accommodate ‘placelessness’ through conjuring up or through reinventing a past that can preserve his happiness. If the past is a foreign country, as David Lowenthal claims, Proust resembles Yeats who also imagines a foreign country for himself. Likewise, Joyce, Eliot and Pound build mythic worlds in their works. They are similar to Yeats and Proust who are also interested in the past, no matter whether it is a mythic past such as ‘Byzantium’ or the comparatively authentic past of Proust’s childhood. As Doris Eder remarks: The work of all three writers is imbued with the modern attitude to the past—that the past was radically different from the present but eternally haunts it and so is inescapably past-present. The Waste Land, The Cantos, and Ulysses all make use of the mythic method, juxtaposing past and present for comic, mock-heroic, or tragic effect, always for ironic contrast, and for completeness too. (Eder, 1984, 2–3)

One thing Eder does not mention here is that the juxtaposition of the past and present creates a timeless effect that helps the writers reach an accommodation with ‘placelessness.’ Modern aesthetics indeed consists of two contradictory forces. However, the two forces do not, as Baudelaire suggests, claim an equal share in the dual formulation. In fact, the contradictory forces have a paradoxical relationship, which is the mutable embodied in the immutable or vice versa.

Taiwanese Modernist Aesthetics The paradoxical relationship between the mutable and the immutable, as well as between ‘place’ and ‘placelessness’ in modernist poetry not only helps to shed light on our understanding of modern aesthetics but also distinguishes Taiwanese modernist poetry from its Mainland counterpart. The association between modernism and modern Chinese poetry can be traced back as early as the literary revolution of 1917. While modern Chinese poetry was still in the experimental stage, the poets were aware of the changes in the tempo of modern living. For instance, the early poems of Hu Shi 胡適 and Guo Moruo 郭沫若 reflect these poets’ sensitivity to modern life. In the 1920s and 1930s, Bian Zhilin 卞之琳, Fei Ming 廢名, Feng Zhi 馮至 and poet-architect Lin Huiyin 林徽因



depicted the mutable modern world in further detail. Fei Ming’s “Jie Tou” [Street Corner] is a good example: as I walk to the street corner, a car drives by; thus, the loneliness of the mailbox. mailbox P O thus, can’t remember the car’s number X, thus, the loneliness of arabic numbers, loneliness of the car, loneliness of the street, loneliness of mankind. (Yeh, 1991, 5) 行到街頭乃有汽車馳過, / 乃有郵筒寂寞。/ 郵筒 PO / 乃記不起 汽車的號碼 X, / 乃有阿拉伯數字寂寞, / 汽車寂寞, / 大街寂寞, / 人類寂寞。

Fei Ming portrays a fugitive world in his poem, which was written in the 1930s. The poet stands on a street corner in Beijing. A speeding car passes him. A PO box is located on the other side of the street. The two letters ‘P’ and ‘O’ on the PO box remind the poet of two big eyes. The poet thinks the eyes are staring at him. He feels lonely. When he looks back to the car, it has already disappeared. The poet cannot recall the numbers on the car’s license plate. He feels lonely. Why does Fei Ming feel lonely at the street corner? Yeh succinctly points out that Fei Ming’s loneliness “arises from his bewilderment at the material conditions of the modern world, captured in the paradox that the hustle and bustle in the external world instills in him only a deep sense of isolation and helplessness” (Yeh, 1991, 7).13 In fact, the modern sentiments depicted in Fei Ming’s poem echo those of Baudelaire’s “To a Passerby.” In addition to the theme of the fast tempo of life of the modern city, Fei also seems to be in a state of ‘delayed response.’ When he wants to recall the car’s number, it is too late. This is because the car is too fast and the poet’s response, too slow.


Fei Ming (Feng Wenbing) and Michelle Yeh discuss this poem in detail in Tan Xinshi [On Modern Chinese Poetry] (Feng, 1984, 223–24) and Modern Chinese Poetry (Yeh, 1991, 6–10) respectively.


chapter one

In the 1940s, poets of the so-called Jiu Ye Pai 九葉派, such as Wang Xindi 王辛笛, Hang Yuehe 杭約赫, Chen Jingrong 陳敬容, Mu Dan 穆旦, and Zheng Min 鄭敏, continued to write modernist poetry. These poets resembled most of the Chinese people, who believed that change and progress could lead them out of their predicament. As Leo Lee Ou-fan 李歐梵 remarks, “in their eagerness to catch up with the West, Chinese intellectuals and creative writers did not have the luxury of hindsight to adopt a totally hostile stance toward modernity” (Lee, 1999, 147). According to Matei Calinescu, modernity can be divided into two different kinds: “modernity as a stage in the history of Western civilization . . . and modernity as an aesthetic concept” (Calinescu, 1987, 41). The modernity as an aesthetic concept, when it refers to modernism, is a revolt against modernity as a historical stage. Lee points out that the modernist poets in Mainland China in the 1940s were different from their Western counterparts. Instead of revolting against the everprogressing historical modernity, the poets embraced it. In other words, these poets praised the mutable, ephemeral world and the development of ‘placelessness.’ The exile experience of the Taiwanese modernist poets and the urbanization of Taipei contributed to making them different from their counterparts in Mainland China. In the late 1940s, the Kuomintang (KMT) was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and more than one million people retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Although Taiwan officially became part of China in 1684, the Qing government paid little attention to the island. Shortly before Taiwan was ceded to Japan, the Qing government realized the importance of the island and started to implement new policies toward it. Nevertheless Taiwan was given to Japan after it defeated the Qing government in 1895 and remained a colony of Japan for fifty years. Subsequently, Taiwan underwent dramatic modernization under Japan’s control and the people of Taiwan had to learn to speak and write Japanese. In addition, infrastructure and architecture were developed under Japan’s occupation.14 It is therefore not difficult to imagine that the Taiwanese landscape and the Taiwanese themselves would have seemed quite foreign to the Mainland Chinese who arrived later. As such, these Mainland Chinese are similar to people who have been exiled to a foreign country. Besides, according

14 A detailed account of contemporary Taiwan history can be found in Chen Shuiyuan’s Taiwan Lishi de Guiji [Taiwan History].



to Malcolm Bradbury, modernism finds its home in cities (Bradbury, 1991, 95–104).15 Taiwan has intensively developed her economy since the 1960s, and as a result, rural areas have gradually been replaced by cities. Taipei is one example.16 Urbanization makes people feel nostalgic for the countryside as well as for the past. The exile experience and the movement of the population to urban centers such as Taipei stimulate the Taiwanese modernist poets to escape from, and to accommodate to, ‘placelessness.’ The Taiwanese modernist poets are therefore different from their Mainland counterparts. Instead of embracing progressive historical modernity, the Taiwanese modernist poets criticize it, or try to do without it, by means of conjuring up an imagined literary community. I will discuss the formation of the community in detail in Chapter Five. This study focuses on five exiled poets: Lomen, Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu. One may ask why only the poets from the Mainland were chosen. I noticed that certain native poets such as Lin Hengtai 林亨泰, Ye Shan 葉珊, Bai Qiu 白萩, and so forth, were also interested in modernism contemporaneously with the exiled poets. In fact, some native Taiwanese poets embody nostalgic sentiments or anti-urbanism in their works, which are similar to those of the exiled poets. However, I believe that any discussion of native Taiwanese poets must deal with the issues of post-colonialism and colonialism to a certain extent. Since my study does not cover these particular areas, I will concentrate my discussion only on the exiled poets from the Mainland. From a host of poets in exile, why were these writers chosen? As exiles these five poets differ from their contemporaries in the 1950s and 1960s. While most of their fellow poets ceased to write, these five poets are still actively composing poetry. I think this point is very important because poets who stopped writing poems at an early stage tend to put emphasis on only one side of the contradictory forces I have discussed earlier. Ya Xian 瘂弦, who wrote poetry for about eleven years, is one example. The poet subjectively depicted the objective world around him, and in his most famous poem, “Shen Yuan” [Abyss], he vividly outlined the transience of modern life (Liu, 1996, 246–52). On the other hand, Zhou

15 Thorough accounts on the relation between the city and modernism can be found in Malcolm Bradbury’s “The Cities of Modernism” in Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930 and Richard Lehan’s The City in Literature. 16 In his Taiwan History, Chen Shuiyuan describes in detail how the economy developed in Taiwan in the 1960s. Chapter Eight and Chapter Nine are the most important.


chapter one

Mengdie 周夢蝶 invented a world based on Buddhism in his work. Zhou tried to lessen the pain of being in exile by turning to Buddhism and Zen, depicting a religious world in his poetry. The poets I am going to discuss are different from Ya, Zhou or other Taiwanese modernist poets. Rather than trying to resolve the opposition between mutability and immutability, ‘placelessness’ and ‘place,’ the five poets embody these contradictory forces in their poetry. They not only illustrate a mutable world in their poems but also an immutable one; they not only escape from ‘placelessness’ but also accommodate it. Moreover, these poets belonged to the three major poetry societies of the 1950s: Xiandai Pai 現代派, Lan Xing 藍星 and Chuang Shiji 創世紀. Yu Guangzhong, Lomen and Rong Zi are from the Lan Xing; Zheng Chouyu is from Xiandai Pai; Luo Fu is from Chuang Shiji. Each of these three societies has its own characteristics. While Xiandai Pai advocated a direct literary transplantation from the West from the work of Baudelaire onwards, Chuang Shiji promoted surrealist poetry. Lan Xing was a revolt against Westernized poetics, and it advocated the Chinese lyric. Although most poets of these schools stress that their work is not restricted by the poetic tenets of their group, the characteristics of different schools are to some extent manifested by these poets. Another important reason for choosing these poets for study is that they belong to the same generation. Except for Zheng Chouyu who was born in 1933, all of them were born in 1928 and share elements of a similar background. Although they hail from different walks of life, they were all related to the KMT government to some extent. Lomen, Rong Zi and Luo Fu were civil servants: Lomen served in the Civil Aviation Bureau in Taiwan; Rong Zi worked for the telecommunications bureau; and Luo Fu was a soldier. Yu taught at universities, but his father was a senior official in the government. Likewise, Zheng’s father was a prominent general, though Zheng worked at Jilong Harbor before he left Taiwan for the United States.17 I believe that studying poets from similar yet different backgrounds helps to shed light on the whole picture of Taiwanese modernist poetry.

17 Background information on the five poets chosen for my study can be found in Michelle Yeh’s Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry and Liu Denghan’s Bian de Miusi: Taiwan Shigelun [The Muse on the Other Shore: On Taiwanese Poetry].



Last but not least, why is poetry chosen as the subject of this study? There are many reasons. One of them is that “the crisis of Modernism was felt particularly sharply in poetry, because poetry, above all the genres, tends to experience changes of relationship and belief in a culture at the direct levels of subject-and-object relationship, and at the very base of form and language” (Bradbury, 1991, 311). I believe that, to some extent, these remarks on modernist poetry are not only applicable to Western modernist poetry but also to its Taiwanese counterpart. Modern Chinese poetry has been marginalized in the modern era by mass media and popular culture.18 This displacement of poetry from the center to the margin is similar to being sent into exile. In other words, the exiled Taiwanese poets suffer from double-exile: a geographical one and an aesthetic one. As such, the crisis of modernism is undoubtedly felt more deeply and sharply by the Taiwanese modernist poets than by other writers. Since modernist poetry ‘takes the lyric as its primary model,’ which means that it always tends to ‘follow the contours of individual experience,’ a study of modernist poetry may more accurately reflect the spirit of the modernist movement (Hough, 1991, 320). In the age of diaspora, language acquires new roles. It is no longer only a means of communication. It represents identity and home, too. This issue of language will be discussed in Chapter Five. In this introduction, I have discussed two sets of oppositions: ‘place’ and ‘placelessness,’ mutability and immutability. These apparently different oppositions are actually related. While ‘place’ and ‘placelessness’ are the causes, mutability and immutability are the effects. While the former opposition is associated with social phenomena such as diaspora, urbanization and so forth, the latter is a key element of modernist aesthetic theory that represents a response to these social facts. The focus in this study will be on the modernist aesthetics or spatial aesthetics in Taiwanese poetry. However, as I pointed out before, the relationship between society and art is a paradoxical one. Since the modernist aesthetic or modernist art is tied to society, it is impossible to discuss the modernist aesthetic in Taiwanese poetry without considering the social context in which the poetry was written. Three major social facts

18 A detailed account of the marginalization of modern Chinese poetry in the modern era can be found in Michelle Yeh’s Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry. The introduction is the most important.


chapter one

are derived from the opposition of ‘place’ and ‘placelessness,’ namely, unhomely houses, urbanization and exile. The remaining chapters of this book will examine the modernist aesthetic embodied in the Taiwanese poetry written by the five poets mentioned above.19 One of my aims is to show how ‘place’ becomes ‘placelessness.’ To do this, three kinds of ‘places’ are examined: the house, the city and the homeland. Another aim of my study is to examine the Taiwanese modernist poets’ ambivalent responses to the phenomenon of ‘placelessness.’ I will not only demonstrate how these poets escape from the predicament of ‘placelessness’ but also show how they accommodate it through conjuring up an imaginative space—an imagined literary community. This book is divided into four parts. I will start by examining the most personal and substantial space—the house—and end my study with the most public and abstract one—an imagined literary community. Between these extremes, I will observe the city of Taipei and the concept of homeland. A house as a home is always considered a secure and homely space. Nevertheless, as we shall discover, one of the leitmotifs of Taiwanese modernist poetry is the desire to have a homely home. This fact raises the following questions: What is home? What factors contribute to making a home homely or unhomely? Why do Taiwanese modernist poets long to have a homely home? The study in Chapter Two shows that dwelling is not only a physical and architectural issue but also an aesthetic and psychological problem. I will try to answer the above questions by addressing the following topics: ‘Homely and Unhomely,’ ‘Buried Alive,’ ‘Transparent Space’ and ‘Dark Space.’ The examinations of Lomen’s and Luo Fu’s dwellings—the light space and the dark space, respectively—show the idea of home becoming paradoxical as it embodies both homeliness and uncanniness, or light and darkness. The city is an essential locus of modernist aesthetics and Taipei is no exception; it is the home of Taiwanese modernist poets. However, these poets did not like Taipei, and most of them did not write urban poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. Even when these poets do write about the city, their poetry embodies a sense of anti-urbanism. Paradoxically, these poets

19 I realize that the five poets I chose for this study are still actively writing and publishing poetry; however, this project will only cover the works written by them from the 1950s to the 1990s.



have lived in cities most of their lives. Given this contradiction, I will try to investigate the following questions in Chapter Three: What does the silence of the poets on the subject of the city in the 1950s and 1960s imply? Why do Taiwanese modernist poets show hostility toward cities? What factors contribute to the making of the urban uncanny? My study suggests that in modernist poetry the city represents more than a physical ‘place.’ I will try to answer these questions by examining three major topics: ‘The Unreal City,’ ‘The Urban Uncanny’ and ‘Estrangement.’ Homeland becomes an unstable entity in the modern world. The word ‘origin’ embodies numerous meanings due to modern people’s mobility. As a matter of fact, the poets featured in this book try to escape from ‘placelessness’ through travels, migration, study or work abroad. As a result, homeland becomes a shifting ground. The exiled poets always embody their nostalgic feelings in their poetry; they yearn for their lost origins. However, the poets I chose for this study have different ideas on origins. In Chapter Four, I will study three different concepts of origin under three major topics: ‘Yearning for the Lost Origin,’ ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Origin as a Shifting Ground.’ In addition, I will explore to what extent poststructuralist theories of origin help to explain the concept of homeland of the Taiwanese modernist poets. After having examined how ‘places’ become ‘placeless’ or how the essence of ‘place’ is undermined, I will discuss in Chapter Five how an imaginative space—imagined literary community—is created out of ‘placelessness.’ The so-called imagined literary community actually represents ancient Chinese tradition. In other words, Taiwanese poets want to reconnect with their cultural roots. These poets try to return to Chinese tradition through three elements: language, memory and nature. It turns out that, on the one hand, these poets try hard to return to ancient Chinese culture. On the other hand, they reconstruct the tradition to various degrees when they attempt to reconnect with it. In Chapter Five, I will examine how the imagined literary community is formed through the Chinese language, the fabrication of memories, and the return to nature. Since the Taiwanese modernist poets cannot return to the Chinese tradition without distorting it, can the imagined literary community ever be formed? What other alternatives do these poets have for seeking a ‘place’ out of ‘placelessness’? I will try to answer these questions by considering the following major topics: ‘Horizontal Comradeship,’ ‘Vertical Comradeship,’ ‘Language as Home,’ ‘Fabricating Memories,’ and ‘Returning to Nature.’


chapter one

Can a study of modernist aesthetics in Taiwanese poetry have a conclusion? Given the scope and depth of the subject, in the last chapter I will not only attempt some conclusions about the significance of my discussions, but will also raise important issues which have not been examined in the current study.



A house as a ‘home’ is always considered a secure and ‘homely’ space. However, the desire for a ‘homely home’ is an essential theme that repeatedly occurs in Taiwanese modernist poems. This observation leads me to pursue the reasons behind, and the role of, such desire in these writings. From a psychoanalytic point of view, this desire may be indicative of the need for a sense of security. ‘Homes’ are essential to human beings fighting against the sense of insecurity. Without a proper ‘home,’ like an animal without a proper shelter, humans feel uneasy. I suppose it is this uneasiness or uncanny feeling which nurtures Taiwanese modernist poetry. However, the meaning of ‘home’ to humans is somewhat different, or perhaps wider, than the meaning of ‘shelter’ to animals. ‘Home’ to humans is psychological as well as physical. It is reflected in a human’s perception of space in one’s surroundings as well as in architecture. There are several questions in connection with the issue of ‘home’ in Taiwanese modernist poems. Why does the strong desire for a ‘homely home’ exist and ultimately turn out to be an essential theme in these poems? Would the criteria for a ‘homely home’ be more physical or psychological? Finally, when and how does the idea of ‘home’ become paradoxical? Why does ‘home’ embody both homeliness and uncanniness? Since ‘home’ is a universal requirement for all human beings, Taiwanese modernist poets also want to have a ‘homely home.’ Although these poets come from a non-Western cultural background, they have faced problems similar to those of their Western counterparts in the twentieth century, such as wars, exile, urbanization and so forth. In fact, many people became homeless. Among the five poets I have chosen for my study, Lomen and Luo Fu are most sensitive to the sense of unhomeliness embodied in architectural space. In order to escape the modernity problem, Lomen turned his house into a museum of light, and Luo Fu turned inward and wrote surrealistic poetry. In the rest of the chapter, I will draw parallels and identify relevant findings from other disciplines, as well as Western civilization, to assist my analysis of the issue of ‘home’ in Taiwanese modernist


chapter two

poetry. I will try to answer the questions mentioned above by examining Lomen’s and Luo Fu’s poetry as well as their dwelling places.

‘Homely’ and ‘Unhomely’ In The Architectural Uncanny, Anthony Vidler directly points out the relationship between ‘the unsettling qualities’ of contemporary architecture and ‘the unstable nature of house and home’ (Vidler, 1992, ix). In other words, uncanny ‘homes’ were byproducts of modernity. There are a couple of reasons. First of all, the emergence of the bourgeoisie and the rent system helped make the ‘home’ ‘unhomely.’ The insecurity felt by the bourgeoisie in their own ‘homes’ was best exemplified in detective novels. As Ernst Bloch points out in “A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel,” “The setting in which detective stories are enjoyed the most is just too cozy. In a comfortable chair, under the nocturnal floor lamp with tea, rum, and tobacco, personally secure and peacefully immersed in dangerous things, which are shallow” (Bloch, 1998, 209). In the detective novel, murder is always committed in this kind of environment or in the cozy house of the bourgeoisie. This reminds us that the apparently ‘homely’ house is in fact ‘unhomely.’ In addition, the emergence of the rent system means that many people no longer own their own ‘homes.’ We can never feel at ‘home’ because we are always in someone else’s house (Vidler, 1992, 5). Besides, the First and Second World Wars of the West not only made a lot of people homeless, but also made a lot of houses desolate. Lastly, the aesthetics of modernist architecture embodies a sense of unhomeliness. Vidler points out: The Enlightenment dream of rational and transparent space, as inherited by modernist utopianism, was troubled from the outset by the realization that space as such was posited on the basis of an aesthetics of uncertainty and movement and a psychology of anxiety, whether nostalgically melancholic or progressively anticipatory. (Vidler, 2000, 3)1

In other words, the modernist glass buildings people dwell in contribute to the development of the feeling of uncanniness.

1 A detailed account of the development of the transparent space of the Enlightenment can be found in Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918.

unhomely houses


In his celebrated article “The Uncanny,” Freud thoroughly treats the notions of heimlich [homely] and unheimlich [unhomely]. Freud traces the meaning of ‘homely’ back to Daniel Sanders’ and Grimm’s dictionaries which were published in 1860 and 1877 respectively. He concludes that the word ‘homely’ is an ambiguous term: “on the one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight” (Freud, 1964, 224–25). In other words, the word heimlich also embodies the meaning of unheimlich. The paradoxical relationship between ‘homely’ and uncanny is further explained by Freud with the assistance of F.W.J. Schelling’s remark on the uncanny. According to Schelling, “ ‘Unheimlich’ is the name for everything that ought to have remained . . . secret and hidden but has come to light” (Freud, 1964, 224). Freud referred to Schelling’s definition of the uncanny and redefined uncanny as “in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression. . . . The uncanny as something which ought to have remained hidden but has come to light” (Freud, 1964, 241). Although Freud successfully applies the theory of repression to explain how things are hidden, he is not in the least interested in the reason why Schelling comes to such a definition of the uncanny. Freud did not further pursue this question; Vidler, however, did. According to Vidler, Schelling’s explanation of the origin of the uncanny is related to the origins of religion, philosophy and poetry. Vidler concurs with Schelling and proclaims that “the Homeric sublime was founded on the repression of the uncanny” (Vidler, 1992, 26). As Schelling points out, the reason why Greece has a Homer is that ancient Greece is dominated by an uncanny power, which is a kind of primal dread. The Homeric sublime is an outgrowth of the uncanny. As a result, the dark and obscure powers are repressed by the sublime and reduced to the Mysteries (Vidler, 1992, 27). Schelling’s explanation of the origin of the uncanny cannot be thoroughly understood without the help of Edmund Burke’s idea of the sublime. In A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke writes clearly that terror is a source of the sublime: Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime. (Burke, 1990, 36)


chapter two

In other words, if there is no terror, the sublime will not be possible. ‘The Enlightenment dream of rational and transparent space’ was founded on the repression of dread or of the dark space which triggers dread (Vidler, 2000, 3). One of the main concerns of the Enlightenment “was to cast light on ‘dark’ and confused ideas and spirits” (Delius, 2000, 62). According to Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, the Enlightenment is in contrast with the Middle Ages which were earlier referred to as the Dark Ages (Delius, 2000, 65). In contrast to the Dark Ages, during the Enlightenment human beings were mature enough to make use of their intellect without the guidance of God. People in the era of Enlightenment had the determination and courage to use their intellect on their own (Delius, 2000, 62). Although the philosophy of the Enlightenment period also extended its influences on architects, the technical development of architecture did not keep pace with thought. Architects did not have the appropriate techniques and materials to build a light or transparent space. This limitation is best exemplified by an architect— Etienne-Louis Boullee—of the Enlightenment period. In the eighteenth century while most architects returned to the classics, Boullee expressed his idea of the sublime through his drawings. It is noteworthy that most of Boullee’s imaginative projects are only on paper, and that his executed works are conventional ones. We can see from Boullee’s drawings that the architect notices the paradoxical relationship between light and dark: the former is an outgrowth of the latter or vice versa. Nevertheless, architectural technology of the time could only allow Boullee to build a dark space, not a light one. For example, in Boullee’s drawing “Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton,” we can see that under the thick wall which usually contributes to the development of the dark space, the interior of the sphere is illuminated by a fire hanging in the dome. The dream of building a light or transparent space was not realized until the nineteenth century. In 1851, Joseph Paxton used iron and glass to build the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. This greenhouse-like exhibition building was a harbinger of modernist transparency style. The later invention of reinforced concrete helped to perfect the transparent space. As a result, it was possible for Le Corbusier to build houses which were flooded with air and light. However, this apparently transparent space embodied dark space and vice versa. Although Freud’s discussion of the uncanny was in relation to aesthetics, he did not make note of the paradoxical relationship between the sublime and the uncanny. He even considered the sublime and the uncanny a binary opposition (Freud, 1964, 219). Among numerous def-

unhomely houses


initions of the unheimlich one can find in the dictionaries, Freud chose Schelling’s explanation. Freud’s interpretation clearly suggests that the uncanny he discussed is a kind of primitive dread which is repressed for a long time.2 Although this kind of dread should remain hidden, it may come to light. It is not the purpose of this chapter to examine the reasons why this dread came to light at the end of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, I believe the rapid changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution and urbanization, by the changing pace of life and by the First and Second World Wars, undoubtedly helped destroy people’s belief in the ‘homely home.’ For instance, Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead. In fact, traditional European Christianity was similar to the Homeric sublime which was used to repress the uncanny power. Finally, the absolute light or transparent space emphasized by the Enlightenment project and realized by the modernist architects inevitably destroyed the balance between dark and light spaces. As I mentioned before, terror is an outgrowth of the sublime and vice versa. As such, the absolute repression of dark space brings forth the feeling of uncanniness.3 Since the defense mechanism was broken, the primal dread or the sense of insecurity emerged. The feeling of uncanniness can be triggered by anything that makes us feel insecure, for instance, social and political instabilities. In short, ‘home’ has metaphorical meaning. It is not only a physical shelter, but is also a spiritual shelter which helps human beings repress primitive dread. The situation and development in China are naturally different from those in the West. Since primal dread is a universal phenomenon, I believe the ancient Chinese undoubtedly also faced this

2 In “The Uncanny,” Freud points out that the uncanny touches the residues of animistic mental activity within us (Freud, 1964, 241). He further elaborates on the relationship between the uncanny and primitive belief: “Let us take the uncanny associated with the omnipotence of thoughts, with the prompt fulfilment of wishes, with secret injurious powers and with the return of the dead. The condition under which the feeling of uncanniness arises here is unmistakable. We—or our primitive forefathers—once believed that these possibilities were realities, and were convinced that they actually happened. Nowadays we no longer believe in them, we have surmounted these modes of thought; but we do not feel quite sure of our new beliefs, and the old ones still exist within us ready to seize upon any confirmation. As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seems to confirm the old, discarded beliefs we get a feeling of the uncanny” (Freud, 1964, 247–48). 3 A detailed account of the relationship between the Enlightenment project’s transparent or light space and the dark space can be found in Vidler’s The Architectural Uncanny. The Introduction and the chapters on “Unhomely Houses” and on “Dark Space” are the most important.


chapter two

kind of fear. Although there was neither sophisticated religion nor the Homeric sublime in Chinese culture, Chinese people developed numerous philosophies to lessen their sense of insecurity. Among them, Confucianism was the most important, though it faced severe challenges after the nineteenth century and was almost eradicated at the beginning of the twentieth century and during the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China. Marxism replaced Confucianism as the dominant philosophy in Mainland China after 1949. The physical and spiritual shelters of the exiled Taiwanese modernist poets were also shaken in the 1950s. After the KMT government retreated to Taiwan, the ruling party advocated ‘combat literature’ which helped to propagate anti-communist ideology. In addition, the KMT government maintained that it was the guardian of traditional Chinese culture. The “traditional Chinese cultural values, symbols, history, art, handcrafts, Mandarin, the Mainland landscape, and the like, were officially extolled” (Hsiau, 2000, 66). The KMT government’s decision to protect Chinese tradition can be best seen in the ‘Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement.’ Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石 tried to maintain the nation’s heritage through this campaign. In spite of the ruling party’s great effort to reconnect with Chinese tradition, the exiled poets and writers did not feel its appeal. As Wai-lim Yip 葉維廉 ascertained, exiled people are in a drifting state. Ancient China is far removed from them. The real world is shattered. The subjective world is the only certain thing left to them (Yip, 1982, 52). These exiled writers were interested in modernism from the West, for they shared similar kinds of feelings with Western modernist writers. The exiled writers chose to turn inward and to distance themselves from the outside world.4 In short, Taiwanese modernist poets lost their cultural traditions and spiritual ‘homes.’ Moreover, these Chinese in exile were physically homeless in Taiwan. In fact, even if they were fortunate enough to rent an apartment, they suffered from being forced to move from time to time. In addition, the war between the KMT and the CCP did not come to a quick end. The soldier poet, Luo Fu, lived in an air raid shelter for one year. All

4 The relationship between the exiled Mainlanders’ and the Chinese tradition is examined in A-chin Hsiau’s Contemporary Taiwanese Cultural Nationalism. The chapter on “Postwar Linguistic Problems, Literary development, and the Debate on Hsiang-t’u Literature” is the most useful.

unhomely houses


the above-mentioned factors made a ‘homely home’ impossible in Taiwan for the Mainlanders.5 Although the factors contributing to the development of the feeling of uncanniness of the Taiwanese modernist poets were different from those affecting their Western counterparts, the sentiments they shared were similar.

Buried Alive The difficulties of finding ‘homely homes’ in the Chinese context are best exemplified in Taiwanese modernist poetry, as well as in some of the poets’ dwellings, for example, Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ and Luo Fu’s stone chamber. According to Freud, among all the factors that help to produce the feeling of uncanniness, some people consider being mistakenly buried alive the most powerful (Freud, 1964, 244). Freud noted this fear in his patients. Freud points out, “it often happens that neurotic men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs. This unheimlich place, however, is the entrance to the former Heim [home] of all human beings, to the place where each one of us lived once upon a time and in the beginning” (Freud, 1964, 245). Freud seems to liken the prenatal state of humans to someone who is buried alive. Biologically speaking, a fetus is a living entity. But, its condition of living in a womb makes its situation different from that of a living human being; its situation reminds us of someone being buried alive. Of course, while the fetus comes out of the womb after nine months, people who are buried alive inevitably lose their lives. Vidler further elaborates on Freud’s remark by using a real and fi ctional example, namely the city of Pompeii and Herman Melville’s short story “I and My Chimney.” The relationship between the idea of being buried alive and the city of Pompeii is obvious. The whole city and its citizens were literally buried alive by a volcanic eruption. All the inhabitants and their houses have been well preserved by lava. This archaeological site was rediscovered in the nineteenth century and has since become a national park. There are at least four factors which help to trigger the feeling of uncanniness in relation to the site of Pompeii. First is what some people

5 The term wai-sheng-ren (外省人) [Mainlanders] usually refers to the Chinese people from Mainland China who were exiled to Taiwan shortly before or after 1949.


chapter two

consider to be the most uncanny; all the citizens of Pompeii were literally buried alive by the natural disaster. Second, the mystery of the dead city was suppressed by both the ash and history, but eventually came to light. The archaeological site became a haunted ground, especially when people saw the lively gestures and the vivid expressions on the faces of the dead. It seemed as though the dead had come back to life. Th ird, most of these people were killed in their own houses. In other words, the once familiar and secure place became unfamiliar and insecure. The feeling of uncanniness emerges when one’s own ‘home’ becomes a killing ground. Last but not least, the city of Pompeii is uncanny because it has become a work of art. All its citizens were turned into sculptures which were molded by death. Vidler remarks that “art itself takes on the aspect of the uncanny” (Vidler, 1992, 35). According to Vidler, “art is then uncanny because it veils reality, and also because it tricks. But it does not trick because of what is in itself; rather it possesses the power to deceive because of the projected desire of the observer” (Vidler, 1992, 35). In order to understand the uncanniness of art, we have to consider the idea of the double. Art is the double of nature. The reason why human beings invented art is to ward off extinction. Freud remarks that the Ancient Egyptians developed the art of making images of the dead as a protection against extinction (Freud, 1964, 235). In other words, art was developed to veil the fact that human beings are mortal. However, a feeling of uncanniness arises if art possesses the power to deceive, as when the images of the dead are mistaken for the immortal soul which has come back to life. As such, Pompeii presents a reversed example. The ‘sculptures’ we see today were actually human beings, but they are nevertheless mistaken for art. In this case, we are deceived by both the dead and art. The ‘sculptures’ are the doubles of life which were created through death. If we only take the literal meaning of being buried alive into consideration, the examples we can think of are very few. However, if we consider the figurative meaning of the term, there are many examples. For example, Vidler uses Melville’s short story “I and My Chimney” to demonstrate the figurative meaning of being buried alive. The story is about the narrator and his gigantic chimney. Since the chimney is so huge, it occupies most of the narrator’s house’s space. Nevertheless, no matter how much inconvenience the chimney brings to his daily life, the narrator resists removing it. In order to protect the chimney from destruction, the narrator withdraws himself from the outside world. He

unhomely houses


is bound to his chimney until he dies. Vidler remarks that the gigantic chimney reminds us of the pyramids of Egypt, which are the tombs of kings (Vidler, 1992, 42). In other words, the narrator’s situation is similar to living in a tomb. As such, the association between being buried alive and living with a gigantic chimney becomes plausible. In fact, Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ and Luo Fu’s stone chamber are two further examples which can be figuratively associated with being buried alive.

Transparent Space Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ is a bit more complicated than Luo Fu’s chamber because the house itself is already a piece of art. The ‘House of Light,’ located in Taipei, is the residence of Lomen and his wife Rong Zi. The outer appearance of the building is similar to that of other residential buildings in Taipei. It is a five-storied building located on a side street. Hawkers, stores and shoppers in the alley create an atmosphere familiar to all city dwellers (see Fig. 2.1 and Fig. 2.2).6 This apparent domestic atmosphere provides a fertile site for uncanny disturbances. As I mentioned before, the favored setting of detective stories is as cozy, domestic and familiar as possible. This familiar atmosphere sharpens the contrast between the ‘homely’ and uncanny as one moves between the two spaces. In this instance, the feeling of uncanniness arises when an expected ‘homely home’ turns out to be a museum-like space. Lomen calls his ‘home’ the ‘House of Light’ because of the lights he made to decorate his apartment. He considers the lights he made a kind of art installation which is for artistic rather than functional purposes. For example, the first light he made resembles a lighthouse and is approximately six feet tall. The light is made of wood and an old rattan chair (see Fig. 2.3). Lomen states that the reason he made his first artwork installation— the ‘lighthouse’—is because of his marriage to the poetess Rong Zi. On the day of their wedding, Lomen noticed that “the cross on the top of the church looked bright and shiny, which reminded us [Lomen and Rong Zi] of a lighthouse. We were like a sailing boat entering a harbor” (Lomen, 1995f, 86). Lomen further elaborates that “a lighthouse

6 I interviewed Lomen and Rong Zi in 1999, 2000 and 2002. All the pictures of Taipei and the ‘House of Light’ were taken during my visits.


chapter two

Fig. 2.1. This photo was taken in Taipei in 2002. Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ is located on this street. Hawkers, stores and shoppers in the alley create an atmosphere familiar to city dwellers.

Fig. 2.2. The tiny building in between the two bigger buildings is where Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ is located. Lomen’s apartment is on the top floor.

unhomely houses


Fig. 2.3. This photo is a partial view of the ‘House of Light.’ The gigantic lamp standing against the wall is the ‘lighthouse’—Lomen’s first artwork installation.


chapter two

is located in the harbor, which guides the homing ships back to it.” This first lamp Lomen made actually “symbolizes a lighthouse. Its warm light shines on our course of life” (Lomen, 1995f, 86). Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ shares several similarities with Melville’s chimney. First of all, the lamp ‘lighthouse,’ which is situated between the sofas, occupies the most important position in the ‘House of Light.’ Lomen and Rong Zi like to sit on the sofas so the poets always sit beside the lamp. The shape of the lamp and the relationship between the lamp and the poets (especially Lomen) reminds us of the narrator and his chimney in Melville’s “I and My Chimney.” It is noteworthy that Lomen also wrote an essay about his ‘House of Light’ and entitled it “Dengwu yu Wo” [‘The House of Light’ and I]. While the gigantic chimney is the central object of Melville’s narrator’s fantasy life, the lamp ‘lighthouse’ is obviously the central object of Lomen’s poetic and imaginative life. The lamp not only triggered the later development of the ‘House of Light,’ but also contributed to the development of Lomen’s poetic theory of ‘Di San Ziran’ [Third Nature]. I will discuss Lomen’s poetic theory in detail in the next part of this chapter. Broadly speaking, Lomen’s poetic world is based on the ‘House of Light.’ In addition, Melville’s narrator was bound to his chimney until he died. Similarly, Lomen implies that he will take care of all the lamps in his ‘House of Light’ until he dies (Lomen, 1995f, 92). In fact, the poet does not leave his house very often. If the gigantic chimney reminds Vidler of “the distant pyramids of Egypt and the dark Druidical ritual standing stones,” I will suggest that the ‘lighthouse’ has a similar effect (Vidler, 1992, 42). Both the chimney and the lamp ‘lighthouse’ remind us of the tombs of kings. Finally, there are at least twenty-four large lights in the ‘House of Light,’ not to mention the minor ones. As a result, the living room of the poets’ apartment has become a museum of lights (see 2.4). Who would live in a museum? The other museum we have discussed is the city of Pompeii; however, those people were literally buried alive. Of course, Lomen is different from the people of Pompeii, for he is figuratively buried alive. The poet reminds us of the state of a fetus; although Taipei is a living world, Lomen is buried alive in his ‘House of Light.’ The reason why Lomen prefers to be figuratively buried alive in his ‘House of Light’ is also similar to that of the narrator in ‘I and My Chimney.’ Melville’s narrator wants to resist changes in reality and decides to protect his old-fashioned chimney from destruction; therefore he withdraws from the outer world. The reason why Lomen created the ‘House of Light’ and decided to dwell in it became clear when Lomen’s

unhomely houses


Fig. 2.4. The living room of Lomen’s ‘House of Light.’

poetic theory, the ‘Di San Ziran Louzhuan Jiaguo’ [Third Nature Spiral Structure] was completely established in the 1970s. Lomen noticed the disadvantages resulting from urbanization and the rapid changes of a fast living tempo in the modern world. According to the poet, the speed of our city life has quickened due to the invention of public transport. As a result, time expands while space contracts (Lomen, 1995a, 93). The poet perceives that these changes in time and space have resulted in a chaotic conception of time and space. In the modern world, past, present and future are compressed together. Consequently, modern people are especially indifferent to the conception of time and space (Lomen, 1995a, 80). Lomen further elaborates that in order to free themselves from a limited, suffocated, blockaded and gloomy reality, and to set their spirits free, modern people naturally indulge themselves in surrealistic and abstract worlds (Lomen, 1995a, 81). However, Lomen surmises that it is not very easy for the spirit of an artist to sustain itself in a boundless and abstract world. Consequently, he suggests that after having escaped and wandered continuously, the soul strives to fix the unstable and flowing self, by seeking something such as a handrail, a handle or a dependable concretized world to grip tightly. (Lomen, 1995a, 88) As a result, Lomen created the ‘House of Light’ to resist these changes. Although Lomen’s


chapter two

ideas share similarities with some Western theories, for example David Harvey’s ‘compression of time and space’ and Yeats’ spiral tower, Lomen denied the Western influence in his works during our first interview. It is noteworthy that the city Lomen depicted is corrupt and dark, which is in sharp contrast to the light and transparent space created in the ‘House of Light.’ However, the relationship between light and dark space is similar to those of ‘homely’ and uncanny, sublime and terror. One is an outgrowth of the other. In other words, the apparent light and transparent space embodies a dark space as well. All of Lomen’s creative works—poetry, assemblage art and installation art—are related to his theory of the ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure.’ The so-called ‘Third Nature’ refers to the imaginative world of artists and poets. Poets and artists work hard to transcend the external world, or the real world, such as the countryside or fields ‘Di Yi Ziran’ [First Nature] or the cities ‘Di Er Ziran’ [Second Nature]. Then, eventually the transcendent beauty of the ‘Third Nature’ emerges. Lomen’s ‘Third Nature’ theory is mainly concerned with poetic space and time. First of all, the space of ‘First Nature’ refers to the past and the space of ‘Second Nature’ refers to the present. The ‘Third Nature’ refers to the imaginative world, which has surrealistic space and time. The poet takes the element of time into account when he uses a graph to express the ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure.’ Instead of being motionless, the structure moves around in circles (see Fig. 2.5e). Although the poet puts emphasis on objective time, I do not think that he considers time more important than space. On the contrary, judging from his poetry and installation art, I believe that proceeding from ‘First Nature’ to ‘Second Nature’ is merely a transitional process to Lomen. His ultimate goal is to enter ‘Third Nature’—timeless space. In other words, Lomen’s main concern is space instead of time. In Lin Yaode’s 林耀德 “360 Du Cengdie Kongjian—Lun Lomen de Yishi Zuoxing” [360 Degree Multi-layered Space—On Lomen’s Ideology Model] Lin points out accurately that the most important characteristic of Lomen’s poetics is to concretize the abstract thought with images and geometric figures (Lin, 1990, 3). In fact, when Lomen explains his ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure,’ he uses a circle to symbolize ‘First Nature’ or the space of countryside (see Fig. 2.5a); a triangle, a square and rectangle to symbolize ‘Second Nature’ or urban space (see Fig. 2.5b); and the pinnacle of a spiral structure to symbolize the space of timelessness which is represented by the ‘House of Light’ (see Fig. 2.5e). According

unhomely houses


Fig. 2.5. Lomen’s ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure,’ from Lomen Lun Wen Ji (Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe, 1995) 101.

to Lomen, the relationship between ‘First Nature’ and ‘Second Nature’ is a reciprocal one. At the beginning of industrialization, the countryside is destroyed by urbanization. In his diagram, Lomen draws a circle inside a triangle to depict this situation (see Fig. 2.5c). When the city is developed to a certain stage, the limitations of urban life emerge and city dwellers yearn for ‘First Nature’ which has been lost. Lomen puts the triangle, square and rectangle which all represent urban civilization inside the circle (see Fig. 2.5d). Since people cannot go back to the past or ‘First Nature,’ they try to transcend their unsatisfactory living space. Poets and artists reach the poetic space through their work (Lomen, 1995a, 95–113). In what follows I would like to focus my discussion on the ‘House of Light’ (‘Third Nature’). Since the contradictory relationship between nature (‘First Nature’) and city (‘Second Nature’) found in Lomen’s structure is usually discussed under the topic of urbanization, I will examine it in the next chapter, which is about the city of Taipei. The development of the ‘Third Nature Spiral Theory’ was not completed until 1960, when the complete idea of the theory was refl ected in the long poem “Di Jiu Ri de Diliu” [The Undercurrent of the Ninth Day]:


chapter two When the phono stylus draws a spiral tower all buildings vanish from sight [. . .] My mood is as beautiful as an exquisite fabric entering your transparence Which is as silent as snow scenery flashing in winter time (Au, 2006, 112–13) 鑽石針劃出螺旋塔 / 所有的建築物都自目中離去 . . . . . . / 我的心境美 如典雅的織品 置入你的透明 / 啞不作聲地似雪景閃動在冬日的流 光裡

In this poem, Lomen uses four lines to show us the most significant elements of his ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure’: the circle (the stylus touches the record, which is circular in shape), the spiral tower and the pinnacle of the tower. According to the poet, the top of the tower is a transparent space, which is very quiet and beautiful. In “Guang de Jianzhu” [The Architecture of Light], Lomen further elaborates on what is inside the transparent space: It does not stop there as if it is merely a soundproof and mud-guarded glass building It is an ever burning and glowing rotating object [. . .] During the purest trip of light, inside the transparent light space it has already transformed into a crystal building which can embody the whole sky [. . .] Whenever eternity comes to this space poetry and art will wait for it in the light (Au, 2006, 175) 它不是只停在那裡 / 隔音擋灰的玻璃大廈 / 而是一不斷燃燒發光的 / 動體 . . . . . . / 在純粹的光之旅中 / 透明的光境裡 / 它已升華成那座 / 可 容進整個天空的 / 水晶大廈 . . . . . . / 至于永恆什麼時候會來 / 叫詩與藝 術站在光裡等

In this poem, Lomen compares the transparent space with a crystal building. Although it resembles a glass building, the crystal building is different from an ordinary curtain-walled modern office building. It embodies the whole sky. In addition, eternity, poetry and art dwell in this light space. The transparent space is not only associated with beauty and poetry, but also refers to Rong Zi, as well as nature. For example, in “Hu zhi Ge”

unhomely houses


[The Song of the Lake], the transparent space represents Rong Zi and nature: Sitting at the gaze You are the transparency which flows from the light You are also the mirror which is flowing into the transparency (Lomen, 1995h, 237) 坐在凝眸中 / 你是自光中流出的透明 / 也是在透明中流動的 / 那面 鏡

The word ‘you’ in the second line may refer to both the lake and Rong Zi. The title “The Song of the Lake” implies that ‘you’ refers to the lake. However, since the subtitle of this poem is ‘To Rong Zi,’ ‘you’ also refers to Rong Zi. As such, both nature and Rong Zi are associated with transparent space. In short, the transparent space refers to the thing and person Lomen loves most. According to Lomen, the transparent space on the top of the spiral tower is above all human activity and architecture. Although the poet’s ‘home’ is located in the center of Taipei, he thinks that the ‘House of Light’ isolates him from the real world if he closes the windows: The tightly closed doors and windows express a steadfast refusal The drawn curtain completes the tranquil isolation Outside is like the wind which disappears far away Inside is like the waves going ashore touching after the completed isolation Inside is like a ringing bell suddenly born in the air the lightening of electricity This is the purest space [. . .] (Au, 2006, 153) 門窗緊閉 示以堅然的拒絕 / 帘幕垂下 完成幽美的孤立 / 外面是消 失在遠方的風 / 裡邊像波流涉及岸 / 全然絕緣後的觸及 / 是驟然在空 氣中誕生的鐘之聲 電之光 / 這一塊純美的空間

In the first two lines of this poem called “Luoxuanxing zhi Lian” [The Love of Spiral] Lomen tells us how he isolates himself from the external world. The secret is that he keeps the windows continually closed (see Fig. 2.6). As a result, he dwells on his imagination and believes that the ‘House of Light’ is the purest place in the world. In other words, in addition to its function of providing a living place for the two poets to work and to take a rest, the ‘House of Light’ is also a work of art or an imaginative space which protects them from the tyranny of time and the chaotic world.


chapter two

Fig. 2.6. The windows in Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ are always closed.

It is noteworthy that, on the one hand, Lomen tells us that he always keeps the windows closed and feels at ‘home’ in the transparent space of the ‘House of Light;’ on the other hand, the poet wants to open the windows. However, when he opens the windows, he finds himself being locked in the transparent space. In other words, the transparent space is similar to the word heimlich which embodies contradictory meanings. For example, in the poem “Chuang” [Window], Lomen shows us the negative side of the transparent space. At the beginning of the poem, the poet points out that he is attracted to the natural scenery outside the window. We learn later that the natural scenery actually only exists in Lomen’s memories. Lomen uses nine lines to convey how much he misses, and how deeply he loves, his past. One may ask what is outside the windows now. The poet only uses the last two lines to satisfy our curiosity: human beings suffering from lack of freedom and locked up by transparent shackles: I fling it open my hands follow the flow of a stream always mountains and rivers always eyes with no return Being seen into the distance you become a bird with a thousand wings Leaving the sky you no longer have your wings

unhomely houses


Being heard you become a flute with a thousand holes The road of music is as deep as the eyes gazing at the past I fling it open

but I am locked in an inescapable transparency (Au, 2006, 125)

猛力一推 雙手如流 / 總是千山萬水 / 總是回不來的眼睛 / 遙望裡 / 你被望成千翼之鳥 / 棄天空而去 你已不在翅膀上 / 聆聽裡 / 你被聽 成千孔之笛 / 音道深如望向往昔的凝目 / 猛力一推 竟被反鎖在走不 出去 / 的透明裡

Although Lomen does not tell us what the word ‘transparency’ refers to, Walter Benjamin’s remark on the art of dwelling helps us understand that it is the death knell for the ancient art of dwelling which refers to a sense of security. According to Benjamin: In the imprint of this turning point of the epoch, it is written that the knell has sounded for the dwelling in its old sense, dwelling in which security prevailed. Giedion, Mendelssohn, Le Corbusier have made the place of abode of men above all the transitory space of all the imaginable forces and waves of air and light. What is being prepared is found under the sign of transparency. (Vidler, 1992, 217)

I believe the ‘transparency’ mentioned by Lomen is similar to what is explained by Benjamin. The word ‘transparency’ refers to glass architecture which was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. As Vidler points out, “modernity has been haunted . . . by a myth of transparency,” and this idea is manifested, for example, in the architecture of Le Corbusier which was characterized “by a universal transparency of building materials, spatial penetration, and the ubiquitous flow of air, light, and physical movement” (Vidler, 1992, 217). According to Benjamin, modern architecture destroyed the sense of security that was provided by old buildings. Benjamin’s concern is reinforced by architect Adolf Behne. In 1918, Behne said that “the European is right when he fears that glass architecture might become uncomfortable. Certainly it will be so. And that is not its least advantage. For first of all the European must be wrenched out of his cosiness” (Frampton, 1997, 117). In other words, people will have the feeling of uncanniness when they live in glass buildings. Lomen does not literally live in a glass house. However, since his apartment is located at the center of Taipei, he will see nothing but windows of other apartments if and when he opens his windows. For example, in his poem “Dushi • Fangxing de Cunzai” [City • A Square Existence], Lomen tells us that his apartment is surrounded by other apartments:


chapter two Eyes look out from the square windows of the rooms They immediately are themselves looked at by rows of square windows of other apartments (Au, 2006, 50) 眼睛從屋裡 / 方形的窗 / 看出去 / 立即被高樓一排排 / 方形的窗 / 看回來

This poem helps us to understand the previous poem entitled “Window.” Lomen tells us that he is “locked in a blocked transparency” without any further explanation. In “City • A Square Existence,” the poet clearly points out that when he looks out of his window, his eyesight is blocked by the glass windows of other apartments, and he is in turn, immediately looked at by the windows. Lomen personifies the windows and turns them into a kind of monster. They force humans to stay inside. I will discuss this topic—the urban uncanny—in detail in Chapter Three. The ‘House of Light’ is literally flooded with light, which reminds us of modernist transparency. While modernist transparency destroyed the earlier sense of security, the brightness of the ‘House of Light’ undoubtedly disturbs the coziness of the poets’ ‘home.’ As a result, the feeling of uncanniness arises. In fact, the double function of the ‘House of Light’ also contributes to the development of the uncanny. As Freud points out: An uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes, and so on. (Freud, 1964, 244)

In the ‘House of Light,’ it is undoubtedly the case that the distinction between imagination and reality is always challenged. On the one hand, the ‘House of Light’ is a poetic space; on the other hand, it is a living room, a dining room, and so forth. Rong Zi also lives in the ‘House of Light.’ Since her poetic theory is different from that of Lomen, it is only a dwelling place to Rong Zi, and not the work of art or the imaginative space that it is to Lomen. According to Rong Zi, Lomen is a person who embraces the modern city and civilization. Twentieth century city life is his poetic inspiration, for the focus of his poetry is on criticizing today’s city life. On the contrary, Rong Zi draws her inspiration from nature as well as from the

unhomely houses


innocent characters of the people of the country. As such, living in a chaotic city for such a long time has resulted in lessening Rong Zi’s creativity. Thus there is a great difference between Rong Zi and Lomen in terms of poetic preference (Rong Zi, 1995b, 40). Lomen realizes that in order to maintain the ideal form of the ‘House of Light,’ Rong Zi must sacrifice herself to his interests. For example, Rong Zi loves flowers, but since flowers do not harmonize with the ideas of the ‘House of Light,’ Rong Zi can only put flowers in their bedroom (Lomen, 1995f, 90). The existence of Rong Zi in the ‘House of Light’ reminds Lomen that he is living in the real world. Although Lomen tries to resist the rapid change and chaotic life of the external world by creating his own ‘homely’ dwelling place, ironically the ‘House of Light,’ or the transparent space, also embodies the feeling of uncanniness or dark space. In one of Lomen’s earliest poems “Guang Chuanzhe Heise de Shuiyi” [Light is in Black Pajamas], the poet clearly conveys the paradoxical relationship between light and darkness: Under the violet circular lampshade Under the azure circular sky Under Churchhill’s circular top hat [. . .] under the domed-shaped graveyard

Light is flowing Light is flowing Light is flowing

even the priest, who is the support of heaven, also frequently complains that light is in black pajamas (Au, 2006, 111) 紫羅蘭色的圓燈罩下 光流著 / 藍玉的圓空下 光流著 / 邱吉爾的圓禮 帽下 光流著 . . . . . . / 而在圓形的墳蓋下 連作為天堂支柱的牧師 / 也終 日抱怨光穿著黑色的睡衣

In this short poem, Lomen shows us that light is flowing under different beautiful circular shapes, for example, the “violet circular lampshade,” the “azure circular sky,” and “Churchill’s circular top hat.” However, the poet also tells us that light is always in black pajamas which means light is always covered by darkness. In other words, light embodies darkness and vice versa.

The Dark Space While the ‘House of Light’ may be an example of being figuratively buried alive, Luo Fu’s stone chamber is an example of being buried alive in a comparatively literal sense. Luo Fu joined the KMT army in 1949 and


chapter two

was immediately sent to Taiwan. In 1959, the poet was sent to Jinmen, the frontline of the war between the KMT and CCP. Although the situation on the battlefield was not severe, there was continual exchange of fire. Luo Fu and his comrade-in-arms were forced to stay inside a stone chamber in order to avoid being shot, and he lived in the stone chamber for almost one year. Luo Fu started to compose his long poem “Shishi zhi Siwang” [Death in the Stone Chamber] during his stay. The long poem is composed of sixty-four short poems and each poem consists of ten lines. The meanings of all of the poems are not closely related or even necessarily related. These lines are fragments which touch on the topics of life, death and religion. There are at least two factors contributing to Luo Fu’s feeling of uncanniness associated with living in the stone chamber. First of all, literally speaking, the stone chamber resembles a tomb. The chamber is actually an underground passage which was tunneled through Mt. Da Wu and is approximately two hundred meters in length. For security reasons, the soldiers were left in the dark at night. One would easily think of death in such a dark environment and Luo Fu was no exception. According to the poet, death is one of the main themes of his long poem (Luo Fu, 1988, 194). Almost all sixty-four poems mention death either directly or indirectly. Luo Fu remembers that the first line he wrote was: Holding my head high and facing the corridor which is flooded with blood occasionally, I am seized with terror (Luo Fu, 1988, 194) 偶然昂首向血水湧來的甬道, 我便怔住

Since he considered this first draft too straightforward, Luo Fu rewrote the line as follows: Only holding my head high and facing the corridor next-door occasionally, I am seized with terror (Luo Fu, 1988, 194) 祇偶然昂首向鄰居的甬道, 我便怔住

The major difference between these two versions is the description of the tunnel. As a matter of fact, the Chinese characters ‘甬道,’ which I translated as ‘corridor,’ are usually associated with a tomb. This is because the meanings of the Chinese characters refer to a paved path leading to a main hall or a tomb. In the first version of the line, the poet uses ‘blood’ to reinforce the idea of death; however, Luo Fu makes the meaning of

unhomely houses


death less explicit in the final version by deleting the word ‘blood.’ He describes the corridor as “the corridor next-door.” In fact, “the corridor next-door” probably refers to a tomb, and is thus associated with death. If the corridor next-door was a tomb, Luo Fu lived in a tomb, too. In Poem 61, Luo Fu points out that he is living in a tomb: In those days, Ching Ming Festival, we are awake in the tombstone [. . .] We are still living in the death (Luo Fu, 1988, 68) 那一陣子, 清明節, 我們在碑中醒著 . . . . . . / 我們仍住在死中

Ching Ming Festival is also called tomb festival. On this day, many Chinese people visit the graveyards of their ancestors. Since Luo Fu is living in a tomblike chamber, he considers himself a member of the living dead. The poet is like the dead person who waits for someone to visit his ‘graveyard’ during Ching Ming Festival. There is no doubt that we cannot call a tomblike ‘home’ ‘homely.’ The second factor that helps to make the stone chamber an uncanny site is that it is located on the battlefield. The reason why Luo Fu lived in the stone chamber is because of the war. This fact reminds us of Freud and his study of the uncanny. Vidler notes that: ‘The Uncanny’ seems to incorporate, albeit in an unstated form, many observations on the nature of anxiety and shock that he [Freud] was unable to include in the more clinical studies of shell shock. . . . The site of the uncanny was now no longer confined to the house or the city, but more properly extended to the no man’s land between the trenches, or the fields of ruins left after bombardment. (Vidler, 1992, 7)

Vidler suggests that the reason why Freud wrote “The Uncanny” was because of the postwar traumas he witnessed in his patients. Freud developed his theory of the uncanny when he saw the once ‘homely’ Europe become fields of ruin. Similarly, the stone chamber was Luo Fu’s dwelling place. Since it was bombarded every other day, it is natural that the feeling of uncanniness arose in him. In Poem 49, Luo Fu tells us that an uncanny effect is produced by war: Building all the tombs inside the ear, I only want to listen clearly The sounds of your boots when you go out to battle All roses fade during the night, which is similar to your names Your names become a group of numbers, which is similar to your weariness I cannot recall which city had collapsed in my heart What are you praying for, we have no eyes to close


chapter two We will never find our seventh day from the fire If it is winter, it should live inside of us forever If it is snow, it should enter our ear, taking off our clothes To cover our naked sons (Luo Fu, 1988, 56) 築一切墳墓于耳間,只想聽清楚 / 你們出征時的靴聲 / 所有的玫瑰在 一夜萎落, 如同你們的名字 / 在戰爭中成為一堆號碼, 如同你們的疲 倦 / 不復記憶那一座曾在我心中崩潰 / 還默禱甚麼, 我們已無雙目 可閉 / 已再無法從燃燒中找到我們的第七日 / 是冬天, 就該在我們 裡面長住 / 是冰雪, 就該進入耳中, 脫自己的衣裳 / 去掩蓋我們赤身 的兒子

In the first stanza of the poem, Luo Fu reveals that people are killed and cities destroyed during war. Soldiers resemble roses which do not live long. When soldiers go to the battlefield, they lose their identities and become only numbers. Besides the loss of human lives, cities are also destroyed during wartime, and people lose count of how many cities are destroyed. In the second stanza, the poet tells us that prayer or religion cannot help to improve the situation. The word ‘fire’ is associated with war. And the term ‘seventh day’ reminds us of Sunday, which is the day of rest and worship among Christians. As such, the line “We will never find our seventh day from the fire” can be interpreted as people losing their faith and being deprived of a rest during the war. These people feel no hope and find winter and snow to be their best company. However, in the last line, Luo Fu implies that these people do not totally lose hope, though their behaviors seem to be suicidal. Since these people believe the next generation to be their future, in order to preserve hope, they take off their clothes to cover their naked sons during chilly days. Although their children might be spared, it is unlikely these people can survive the bad weather and the war. It is interesting to note that finding hope in hopelessness and finding life in death are the leitmotivs of “Death in the Stone Chamber.” In some poems of the series, we can see brightness in darkness. Poem 16 is one example: Being made by some deficiencies I am no longer the original one but a shattered sea I am a nut which died in generosity I am the sun which always tries to Struggle to get free from the eyes of the blind child I think I should be a forest, and some ill fibers are among the trees A solitary pine tree is among the trees

unhomely houses


The vastness of the whole universe is living on its arm And the theme locked inside me is Glimmering in it, which is similar to the shining skin of a hippopotamus (Luo Fu, 1988, 23) 由某些欠缺構成 / 我不再是最初, 而是碎裂的海 / 是一粒死在寬容中 的菓仁 / 是一個, 常試圖從盲童的眼眶中 / 掙扎而出的太陽 / 我想我 應是一座森林, 病了的纖維在其間 / 一棵孤松在其間 , 它的臂腕上 / 寄生著整個宇宙的茫然 / 而鎖在我體內的那個主題 / 閃爍其間, 猶之 河馬的皮膚的光輝

In the first stanza, words such as ‘deficiencies,’ ‘shattered,’ and ‘died’ communicate to us that the poet is suffering. In addition, he compares himself to the sun which tries to “struggle to get free from the eyes of the blind child.” It is noteworthy that neither the blind child is able to see, nor does the sun dwell inside the child’s eyes. The world is left in the dark, then, without the sun. In other words, the poet’s struggle is hopeless. In the first three lines of the second stanza, Luo Fu continues to tell us that his situation is not good. For example, he compares himself to a forest where some pine trees are ill, yet the last lines convey that he still has hope. Although Luo Fu does not tell us what the “theme locked inside” him refers to, the words ‘glimmering’ and ‘shining’ in the last line of the poem imply that the theme may refer to hope. In short, this poem clearly shows us that there is brightness within darkness. Nevertheless, darkness sometimes gets the upper hand over lightness. In Poem 5, Luo Fu tells us that light is destroyed by darkness: Snow season has already arrived. Sunflowers turn around their necks to seek for the echoes of the sun I again see the darkness of the corridor walking sideways through the door which tries to kill the fire Light is in the middle. Bats eat up layers and layers of street lamps (Luo Fu, 1988, 12) 雪季已至, 向日葵扭轉脖子尋太陽的回聲 / 我再度看到, 長廊的陰 暗從門縫閃進 / 去追殺那盆爐火 / 光在中央, 蝙蝠將路燈吃了一層 又 一層

We find two pairs of binary oppositions in this poem: the cold and the heat, the light and the dark. The cold and the dark always remind us of death. In the above poem, we learn that winter has arrived. Although there should be no sunflowers, Luo Fu tells us that these sunflowers look for the echoes of the sun. In other words, there is no sunshine in winter.


chapter two

In addition, the dark, which is always associated with the cold, tries to kill the fire (heat). Moreover, the bats, which are dark in color, destroy the street lamps, though they do not actually eat the lamps, of course. However, if they are great in number, they will probably darken the light with the shadows of their wings. In short, dark and the cold have control over light and the heat in this poem. The paradoxical relationships between the darkness and the light, death and life can also be found in Poem 63: I insist on my words until I die The man belongs to snow which is so bright and clear He resembles the light which hides in the nakedness, in the whiteness of the Korean dancing [. . .] He is a baby. He is a circle which pops its head out of the door of the moon If snow stands on its own and partly turns away We like the nakedness of this kind of existence We applaud wholeheartedly and our ten fingers tell ten kinds of pain We readily agree that the man is the snow of last year because of his whiteness, because he leaves a space inside his eyes (Luo Fu, 1988, 70) 至死還是那句話 / 那個漢子是屬于雪的, 如此明浄 / 如光隱伏在赤裸中, 韓國舞之白中 . . . . . . / 他是嬰孩, 是從月門中探首而出的圓 / 倘雪站 了起來, 且半轉著身子 / 我們就喜愛這種剝光的存在 / 用力呵我們擊 掌, 十指說出十種痛 / 我們一口咬定那漢子就是去年的雪, 因為很白 / 因為他眼中留一個空格

At the beginning of the poem, Luo Fu brings in the element of death: “I insist on my words until I die.” However, what the poet insists on is about life. Words such as ‘bright and clear’ and ‘nakedness’ remind us of a baby. In the fifth line, Luo Fu explicitly points out that the man is a baby. The image of a baby is always associated with life which is in opposition to death. In fact, the man is not a baby but the snow of last year. Snow and a baby share the quality of purity. Purity reminds the poet of the color of white. At the end of the poem, Luo Fu compares the whiteness of the snow to that in the man’s eyes. It is noteworthy that this comparison echoes the opposition of light and dark. Generally speaking, the pupil and the iris of Chinese people tend to be dark-brown. The poet compares the whiteness of snow to the white in one’s eyes and leaves the dark-brown unmentioned. Luo Fu not only shows the paradoxical relationship of life and death—light and dark—in this poem, but

unhomely houses


also implies that the light, the whiteness, purity and life can get control over the dark, the blackness and death. One question arises from this interpretation: why do Freud and Luo Fu maintain different attitudes toward their ‘homes’ after bombardment? While Freud perceived Europe as a haunted place, Luo Fu still had hope of a better future though he lived in a tomblike chamber. I believe that this is because Europe was Freud’s homeland before and after the First World War, and he therefore felt deeply about the transformation of the place. The once familiar buildings were in ruins. Since neither Taiwan nor Jinmen was Luo Fu’s ‘home’ before or after the national war, the poet did not suffer as much as Freud did after the bombardment of Europe. Luo Fu was a stranger in Taiwan. His hope was always for the Mainland and not for Taiwan. Later, in 1960 Luo Fu left Jinmen for Taiwan. He was then sent to Vietnam in 1965, and the poet immigrated to Canada in 1996. I will suggest that once Luo Fu left Mainland China for Taiwan, he was forced to lead a vagrant life. The images of light and dark, death and life, can still be found in Luo Fu’s later poems. It is interesting to note that in Canada Luo Fu names his study the ‘Tower of Snow.’ In contrast with the stone chamber which reminds us of darkness, the ‘Tower of Snow’ is associated with whiteness. Nevertheless, the paradoxical relationship between dark and light in Luo Fu’s stone chamber series can be found in his poems written after his emigration too. In “Die Jing” [Double Scenery] we also find explicit and implicit images of dark and light, life and death: A chilly crow flies casually from the roof, an expanse of white snow, to here. My window is suddenly blackened. A sharp sword emerges from my television which strikes me on my rough forehead giving out sparks. My window is lightened again. (Luo Fu, 1999b, 122–23) 一只寒鴉 / 從皚皚白雪的屋頂 / 似有若無地 / 飛 / 了 / 過 / 來 / 我的窗 口 / 驟然黑了一下 / 電視裡閃出一把鋒利的劍 / 在我粗礪的額角 / 擊 出一星火花 / 窗口 / 又亮了起來


chapter two

At the beginning of the poem, the crow and the roof help to make an opposition between light and dark. While the crow is black in color, the snow is white. The dark, as represented by the crow, wants to get control over the poet’s house. However, the image or the light on television seems to scare the crow away. The house is lightened again. Although light and dark are a binary opposition in this poem, the light is not represented by the snow, but rather by the television. We can, in fact, associate this substitution with the dichotomies of nature and the city, rural life and urban life. While snow is a product of nature, a television is a product of modern life. The implications of these dichotomies are significant. Nevertheless, Luo Fu’s “Chu Xue” [Early Snow] series written the same year suggests that the binary opposition of dark and light is still his main concern, and the image of snow is no longer associated with life. On the contrary, snow now reminds us of death. Luo Fu writes in “Early Snow” Poem 2: Yesterday’s dream is sleeping outside the wall An unfinished letter is put aside on the table I concentrate on looking at the courtyard where the snow is holding a funeral for a frozen stiff robin . . . I am drinking my hot coffee My hands are holding and rubbing the cup turning it around, turning it around speedily until the snowflakes on the glass window fall down one after another (The clock is destroying itself continuously) (Luo Fu, 1999b, 115) 牆外睡著昨夜的夢 / 桌上擱著一封未寫完的信 / 我專注地望著 / 院子 裡大雪在為一只凍僵的知更鳥 / 舉行葬禮 . . . . . . / 我喝著熱咖啡 / 雙手 捧著杯子搓著, 揉著 / 一直轉著, 快速地轉著 / 及至 / 玻璃窗上的積雪 紛紛而落 (時鐘 / 不停地在消滅自己)

At the beginning of the poem, Luo Fu tells us that it is snowing outside. “An unfinished letter” implies that the poet is in his study, or the ‘Tower of Snow.’ However, instead of representing life, the snow and the ‘Tower of Snow’ suggest death. In the last line of the first stanza we are told that a robin has frozen to death. A funeral is being held outside in the courtyard. In addition, the image of coffee reminds us of the color of black. The poet compares his turning the cup of coffee around to the falling of the snowflakes. Eventually, time is destroyed by itself. There is no time remaining. Everything comes to a standstill in death.

unhomely houses


There are four poems in total in the “Early Snow” series. The image of snow is associated with death in all of them. In Poem 1, Luo Fu directly tells us that snow has no history. Moreover, the laughter of snow is an elegy. Poems 3 and 4 are similar to Poem 2 in that snow reminds us of the self-destruction of time. This finding brings forth the following questions: Why did Luo Fu change his attitude toward life? When he lived in the tomblike stone chamber, Luo Fu still had hopes for a better future. Although he perceived darkness and death in his daily life, the poet tended to see also brightness and life in it. On the contrary, Luo Fu’s living conditions were much improved in Canada; the poet even had his own study. However, why does Luo Fu associate his living or working place—the ‘Tower of Snow’—with death? I believe that this change in representation of snow suggests that Luo Fu had totally lost his hope in life. If his hope in the past was to return to Mainland China, the poet had given it up long before. As a matter of fact, Luo Fu went back to the Mainland in the 1980s. The feeling of uncanniness raised by the trip acted as a catalyst which helped the poet to decide on emigration. I will discuss this issue in detail in Chapter Four. Luo Fu realized that he had lost his ‘home’ forever after he went back to the Mainland. The poet’s dwelling place in Canada was only a shelter but not a ‘home’ in the same sense as his previous one in Mainland China. In this regard, although Luo Fu notices the paradoxical relationship between light and dark, he stresses darkness.

The Window as an Opening to the Public Realm After having examined the dwelling places and poetry of Lomen, Luo Fu and the relationship between Rong Zi and the ‘House of Light,’ we have learned that it is difficult for Taiwanese modernist poets to have a ‘homely home.’ As I mentioned before, there are various reasons why the poets cannot have a ‘homely home.’ War, exile, the modern rent system and modernist architecture are some of the factors which contribute to this feeling of uncanniness. When I discussed earlier the issue of modernist architecture, I put emphasis on its interior space. For instance, light or transparent space floods a modernist building and the dark space is repressed. However, I did not examine the relationship between the interior and the exterior. In fact, Lomen’s, Rong Zi’s and Luo Fu’s poems always embody the


chapter two

images of windows, which are the openings to the public realm (Vidler, 2000, 38). Although Lomen seems to love to dwell in ‘Third Nature’ or the ‘House of Light,’ the poet tells us in “Window” that he does occasionally try to open the windows. It is noteworthy that the poetic space of the ‘House of Light’ cannot be maintained unless all windows are closed; the poetic space will be destroyed by opening the windows. In fact, the poet cannot look outside the windows, and is also locked in by the transparent space. I believe that the transparent space referred to is that of modernist glass buildings. One question is brought forth by this analysis: Why does Lomen insist on opening and looking outside the windows since the price he pays for it is to give up his poetic space? Similarly, Rong Zi complains in “Luan Meng” [Chaotic Dreams] that her house is windowless. She feels as if she is trapped in a deep pond. The poetess says in another poem, “Sanjiaoxing de Chuang” [The Triangle Window], that she feels hopeless even though she has a window: My left shoulder is a petal of a falling flower, my right shoulder is a mockery of the skyscraper The tiny triangle window cannot reflect your gentle and caring face Being imprisoned today, I cannot predict tomorrow, I do not know whether tomorrow I can overcome death or not (Rong Zi, 1995a, 99) 我的左肩是一瓣落花,右肩是整幢摩天大樓的篾笑 / 小小的三角形 的窗映不出你溫婉的關懷的臉容 / 被禁錮的今天我不能預測明天超 越死亡的明天

Rong Zi was ill when she wrote this poem, and as a result, the poetess could not go outside. She thought of her mother, who had passed away long ago, in Mainland China. To her disappointment, Rong Zi could not see (imagine) her mother’s gentle face through the tiny triangle window. According to the poetess, she is imprisoned by skyscrapers. Luo Fu resembles Lomen and Rong Zi in that he also wants to have a window. When he lived in the tomblike stone chamber, Luo Fu did not forget to cut a window into it: I put my head among the long list of surnames The stone tomb is so humble, it grasps me with its cold hand To cut another window inside the chamber. Then I read The happiness on the branches of the olive tree, the whiteness of the whole garden The voice of death is so gentle, similar to the forehead of a peacock (Luo Fu, 1988, 19)

unhomely houses


我把頭顱擠在一堆長長的姓氏中 / 墓石如此謙信, 以冷冷的手握我 / 且在它的室內開鑿另一扇窗, 我乃讀到 / 橄欖枝上的愉悅, 滿園的潔 白 / 死亡的聲音如此溫婉, 猶之孔雀的前額

In the second stanza of Poem 12, Luo Fu clearly tells us that he lives in a tomb. I believe that “the long list of surnames” refers to the names of the dead. Luo Fu juxtaposes the dead and himself (his head) together, which implies the poet is also dead. However, even though he is dead, Luo Fu still wants to cut a window. After the poet cuts the window, he feels very happy; death becomes something as gentle and as beautiful as the peacock. In other words, windows help Luo Fu out of the predicament. Although Lomen does not tell us the reason why he wants to open the windows of his ‘House of Light,’ Rong Zi’s and Luo Fu’s poems suggest an answer: these poets do not want to be ‘imprisoned’ in a small space; they want to go outside. While Rong Zi does not like her small apartment in Taipei—for the ‘House of Light’ is Lomen’s poetic space, not hers—Luo Fu wants to escape from the tomblike chamber. The reason why Lomen turned his apartment into a ‘House of Light’ is that he was not satisfied with the physical space of reality, and as a result, the poet developed a poetic or imaginative space for himself. It is interesting to note that all of these poets use the image of a window to symbolize the opening to the outside world. Their use of the image of a window seems to suggest that they suffer from a kind of claustrophobia. Since claustrophobia is a disease, most people are adverse to it. These Taiwanese modernist poets try hard to get rid of this fear by reaching public space, but they may not realize the importance of isolation in their poetry writing. Wang Dewei 王德威 points out the direct relationship between claustrophobia and the gloomy style of Chinese women writers (Wang, 2006, 80–81). Although it is uncertain whether claustrophobia contributes to the gloomy style of Chinese women writers, I believe this disease is highly related to poetic inspiration. 7 As a matter of fact, when Lomen composes poems he closes all the windows and doors in order to distance himself from the outside world. The poet deliberately creates a confined place which may trigger claustrophobia. Paradoxically, this particular condition inspires Lomen to write poetry.

7 In fact, Chen Lifen disagrees with Wang Dewei’s remark and points out that Wang’s interpretation is sexist. Chen’s article “The Quality of Innocence” can be found in Esther Cheung’s Hong Kong Literature as/and Cultural Studies (Cheung, 2002, 517–30).


chapter two

Luo Fu is different from Lomen in that he was sent to Jinmen. Luo Fu did not voluntarily choose to live in the stone chamber, but this claustrophobic space inspired him to write sixty-four poems. According to Luo Fu, he suffered from insomnia and hallucinations when he lived in the stone chamber (Luo Fu, 1988, 194). These symptoms may not be specific to those of claustrophobia, but they were caused by the small, enclosed space in which he was forced to live. Luo Fu brooded on the imaginations and images of death for such a long time that he felt an urge to write them down (Luo Fu, 1988, 194). The poet’s confession clearly shows us the direct relationship between claustrophobic space and creative poetic inspiration. Whether these poets are aware of the relationship between claustrophobia and poetic inspiration or not, they all seem to want to escape from their respective small places. But even if they can go out into the public realm, they suffer from another kind of phobia which is common among city dwellers, namely, agoraphobia. In short, claustrophobia cannot be cured by leaving the uncanny ‘home,’ for the uncanny caused by modernity is not restricted to domestic space. It is everywhere in the city. On the surface, Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ and Luo Fu’s ‘Stone Chamber’ are totally different living spaces. The former often reminds us of a light space, whereas the latter is associated with a dark one. Nevertheless, this study suggests that the light space embodies the dark side and vice versa. Freud’s theory of the uncanny helps to explain that it is impossible to have a ‘homely home.’ This is because the word ‘homely’ embodies the meaning of uncanny. Although human beings have been trying to use civilization to suppress the feeling of uncanniness, the feeling is always there. My analyses of Lomen and Luo Fu suggest that feelings of uncanniness were triggered in the modern world due to diaspora, wars, modern architecture and so forth. Rong Zi adds one more factor to the list: gender. The poetess does not feel ‘homely’ in the ‘House of Light’ because her private space has been invaded by Lomen’s poetic belief. Since Rong Zi always uses the dichotomy of the city and nature to represent the problem of gender space, I will discuss this issue in the next chapter about Taipei. In Chapter Three, “Imagining Taipei,” I will focus on the paradoxical relationship between Taiwanese modernist poets and the city. These poets are unable to find themselves a ‘homely home.’ Worse still, they do not find the city they are living in a ‘homely’ place. The monstrous

unhomely houses


modern buildings, crime, sexual excesses and the poets’ own exile not only contribute to making Taipei an uncanny place, but also distance the poets from it. However, it turns out that these unsatisfactory living spaces, whether they are an ‘unhomely home’ or an uncanny city, are a source of the poets’ inspiration.



The Taiwanese modernist poets chosen for this study, namely Lomen, Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu, are all city dwellers. Except for Lomen, however, the city seems not to be the subject of interest in the early poetry of these Taiwanese modernist poets.1 Lomen began writing urban poetry in the 1950s. Although he wrote numerous poems in relation to the city, his early urban poetry is considered ‘city fable.’ In other words, he did not depict Taipei’s everyday reality. Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu did not write urban poetry until years later, and then wrote only a few poems. What does the silence on this topic imply? What does Lomen’s representation of an unreal Taipei in his early poetry suggest? In spite of the above dissimilarity between Lomen and his fellow poets, they share one thing: their poems embody a sense of anti-urbanism. Why do these poets dislike Taipei? These poets have lived in cities most of their lives. Are they trying to hide something? If so, what is it? In A Theory of Literary Production, Pierre Macherey points out that two questions are essential to the critical task: “What is a man saying? What is he hiding when he says what he says?” (Macherey, 1986, back cover). According to Macherey, “in order to say anything, there are other things which must not be said. . . . What is important in the work is what it does not say” (Macherey, 1986, 85, 87). Macherey brings forth further problems: “Can we make this silence speak? What is the unspoken saying? What does it mean? To what extent is dissimulation a way of speaking? Can something that has hidden itself be recalled to our presence?” (Macherey, 1986, 86). Macherey’s theories are in relation to literary production in the Western context. To what extent can they help us to understand Taiwanese modernist poetry? I suggest that the theory of absence not only helps us to discern the significance of the unspoken in individual poems, but also helps us to raise the following questions:

1 Luo Fu only writes a few urban poems. Since the topics Luo discussed in his poetry are similar to those of Lomen’s, I will not discuss Luo’s urban poetry in this chapter.


chapter three

What are the Taiwanese modernist poets hiding when they choose not to write about the city of Taipei? Although Lomen was the first one to write urban poetry, does his work in fact say something that they do not say? When P.K. Leung 梁秉鈞 comments on the stories of Hong Kong, he points out that every writer is telling a different story. According to Leung, although the stories themselves do not tell a great deal about Hong Kong, the storytellers reveal their positions in the ways they tell their stories (Cheung, 2002, 319). In this regard, what kind of stories do the Taiwanese modernist poets try to tell us in their works? What various positions do these poets exhibit from the ways in which they represent Taipei in their work? This chapter is divided into four main parts. In the first part, I will discuss how Taipei is represented in the early poetry (written in the late 1950s and the early 1960s) of Lomen, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu. These poets are divided into two groups: the one who speaks of the city in his poems and those who are silent. Lomen belongs to the former category and the rest of the poets belong to the latter. I will not only examine the unreal city Lomen depicts, but will also try to discern what the other poets’ silence represents. In the second part of this chapter, the focus will be on an invisible persona Lomen depicted in his works. Lomen’s later works, which were written in the 1970s and 1980s, will also be discussed. A comparison between Lomen’s invisible persona and the flaneur depicted in Baudelaire’s works will shed light on some issues in relation to cross cultural studies. A further question arises in this discussion: Why is Lomen’s persona absent from the city? The issue of anti-urbanism will be examined through Lomen, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu’s poetry in the third part. I suggest that factors such as the spatial uncanny, eroticism, materialism and the Taiwanese modernist poets’ nostalgia for nature and Mainland China contribute to the development of their sense of anti-urbanism. Finally, I will try to suggest the reason why the Taiwanese modernist poets remained in the cities, rather than moving away. I believe that their unsatisfactory living spaces contribute to the flourishing of their poetic spaces.

Modernism in Imagination According to Richard Lehan, the modern city undergoes “three stages of development—a commercial, industrial, and ‘world stage’ city” (Lehan,

imagining taipei


1998, 3). Lehan also remarks that London became an industrial city in the 1850s. Evidence of the rise of new industrial cities can be found in the works of Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot (Lehan, 1998, 39–47). However, Stevan Harrell’s study shows us that Taiwan “was still an agrarian society” in 1945: There had been considerable development of primary-product processing industries under the Japanese colonial regime . . . and there was also important infrastructural construction. Education had been brought to most boys and a few girls, and there were some institutions of local selfgovernment, at least until the colonial government resumed direct rule during the war years. But the island was still undeveloped: 75 percent of the population were agriculturalists, a large proportion of them tenants; an even larger proportion of the population lived in rural communities. Even in 1956 the largest city, Taipei, had a population of only 748,000. . . . Many communities were reached only by dirt roads or even foot trails. (Harrell, 1994, 170)

Taipei was not yet an industrial city in the 1950s and so could not be compared at that time to other Western industrial cities such as London, Paris, or New York. Taipei became a shelter for more than one million exiled Mainlanders after 1949. Since Taipei was the center of the exiled KMT government, the city became a kind of replica of Mainland China. Wang Zhihong 王志宏 states that after the KMT government retreated to Taiwan and made Taipei its capital, the exiled government’s ideology was seen everywhere in Taipei. The new street names of Taipei such as Nanjing, Beijing, Zhongqing, Kulun, Xizang and Hami, faintly draw an outline of the Mainland (Wang, 1999, 22–23). Clearly, the KMT government tried to create a miniature nation of China within Taiwan, and as such, Taipei underwent dramatic changes. To the native Taiwanese nothing was ever the same; the once familiar streets became unfamiliar. Nor did the Mainlanders feel at home in Taipei. The familiar street names in Taipei did not change the fact that they were away from their home. This phenomenon is, in fact, common among most colonized cities. For instance, Hong Kong was made a replica of London and Macau a replica of Lisbon. Postwar Taiwan, however, was different from other colonized cities or countries in terms of the fact that it was not a colony.2

2 My argument on this issue is based on the historical fact that Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China at the Cairo Conference in 1943. I have noticed that some critics suggest that postwar Taiwan was re-colonized by the KMT government. However,


chapter three

Most of the poets I chose for study were forced into exile. They did not want to be in Taipei, and did not, therefore, feel attracted to the city. As I mentioned earlier, most of the exiled poets except Lomen did not write any poetry about Taipei in the 1950s. Even though Lomen wrote city poetry, he depicted a city of his imagination, and not the true Taipei. Although the dialogue between Taipei and Lomen tended to be an imaginary one, this fact does not distance the exiled poet from his Western counterparts. On the contrary, this characteristic brings them closer together, because the Western modernist writers and poets also portrayed unreal cities in their works.

The Unreal City Among all the Taiwanese modernist poets, Lomen was the first to write poems about the city. His first urban poem dates as early as 1957. As I mentioned before, Taipei was not yet a modern industrial city in the 1950s. Because of this fact, the city depicted in Lomen’s poems is an imaginary or unreal city. This characteristic of Lomen’s urban poetry reminds us of the works of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce and so forth, who tend to portray unreal cities in their works. In the Cantos, Pound depicts an empire city and the poet tells us “what happens when a culture loses contact with the land, man with his work, and the city with a community of shared values” (Lehan, 1998, 127). The empire city is a fictional one, and of course what happens in it is unreal. Although the setting of Eliot’s The Waste Land is London, the poet does not present the real London to us. He shows us a collective history of the city which starts with Athens and includes Jerusalem, Alexandria, Vienna, London and so forth (Lehan, 1998, 134). In short, Eliot also presents an unreal city. Similarly, in Ulysses, Joyce tells us a story which takes place in Dublin. However, it turns out that the novel is a juxtaposition of Dublin and ancient Greece, and the reader must draw a parallel between the two places in order to understand the novel. since my interest and research focus are on the exile or the Mainlanders, my discussion will stem from the Mainlanders’ perspective. To the Mainlanders, Taiwan is part of the Mainland and was returned to China after 1945. A detailed account of postwar, re-colonized Taiwan can be found in Zhou Yinxiong’s Writing Taiwan: Literary History, Postcolonialism and Postmodernism. The chapter on “Post-colonialism and Postmodernism” written by Chen Fangming is the most pertinent.

imagining taipei


According to Lehan, the reason these Western modernist writers depict cities in this manner is that they see the city with impressionist, subjective and personal eyes. “Impressions thus become a way of seeing the city. The city became a personal, often isolated experience, with each inhabitant caught in his or her own subjectivity” (Lehan, 1998, 129). Lehan further elaborates that Western modernist writers tend to turn “away from physical reality toward inward process and subjectivity” because the city offers more experience than the writers can assimilate (Lehan, 1998, 77). Georg Simmel points out that the fast tempo of city life offers us ‘excessive stimulation’ (Simmel, 1969, 48). In other words, when the physical environment became uncanny, modernist writers had no choice but to make, in Lehan’s words, an inward turn. It is noteworthy that although Lomen also depicts an unreal or a subjective city in his works, his city is different from those of Pound, Eliot and Joyce. Instead of depicting his contemporary Taipei, Lomen portrays a futuristic Taipei in his poetry. Why does Lomen choose to represent Taipei in this manner? Why do the other poets choose not to write urban poetry? Chen Fangming 陳芳明 maintains that the reason why Taiwanese modernist writers were interested in modernism from the West is basically a form of negative political resistance. Chen compares Taiwanese modernist writers to colonized writers in general. According to Chen, colonized writers cannot directly resist their colonizer. In the case of postwar Taiwan, Chen considers the KMT government the colonizer and the exiled writer such as Bai Xianyong 白先勇 a colonized writer. Bai and other native Taiwanese writers reluctantly went into self-exile or turned away from physical reality toward the inner world (Zhou, 2000, 48–49). I think Chen’s theory may be applicable to native Taiwanese writers and poets but cannot be applied to the modernist writers and poets in exile. There are at least two reasons. First, these exiled poets were either soldiers (Luo Fu), civil servants (Lomen and Rong Zi) or children of the KMT government’s officials (Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu). As such, the relationship between the government and these poets cannot be compared to that of a colonizer and the colonized. Second, Chen’s focus is on the political system and he neglects the fact that the experience of exile can provoke various responses. As Timothy F. Weiss points out: The experience of exile can produce . . . a splitting of self and world. . . . The exile may withdraw into the self. . . . The exile may escape into fantasy. . . .


chapter three The exile may forever seek to return to the past, and, of course, always fail. . . . The exile . . . may try to re-create the motherland from which he has been torn and end up living in a world of fantasy instead. (Weiss, 1992, 9–10)

I believe the experience of exile helps the Taiwanese modernist poets withdraw into their inner selves and escape into fantasy.3 While Lomen chooses to escape from the city by ‘distorting’ it, other poets prefer to run away from the city by writing nothing about it at all. Although we cannot see a direct relationship between the city and their poetry, these Taiwanese modernist poets actually respond to their living place negatively. Lomen is different from his Western counterparts and his Taiwanese contemporaries in that he withdraws more deeply than the others into his inner self. The poet creates two unreal worlds, one on top of the other. His first inward turn is to create an unreal city and his second inward turn is to create the ‘House of Light.’ A detailed discussion on the ‘House of Light’ has been presented in Chapter Two. Lomen wrote his first urban poem “Cheng li de Ren” [City Dwellers] in 1957: Their brains are the most prosperous traffic hub in modern times Numerous driving routes connect with hell and heaven Those glittering eyes are headlights They illuminate the faces of devils and angels at anytime They pack into the city As if they pack into a ferry heading to Pearl Harbor Desire is those smuggled goods, conscience is a just custom officer (Lomen, 1995b, 217) 他們的腦部是近代最繁華的車站, / 有許多行車路線通入地獄與天堂, / 那閃動的眼睛是車燈, / 隨時照見惡魔與天使的臉。 / 他們擠在城裡, / 如擠在一只開往珍珠港去的船上, / 慾望是未納稅的私貨, 良心是嚴 正的關員。

The city depicted in this poem is unreal because Taipei was not yet a well-developed modern city in the 1950s. Taiwan was still an agrarian society and there were only a few cars in existence at that time. “Vehicles

3 Lomen and Rong Zi wrote me in a letter dated 15 November, 2000, that they are not interested in political issues at all. These poets stress that they write poetry out of their private interests. While Lomen and Rong Zi do not associate their inward turn with their experiences of exile, Luo Fu points out that his inward turn is triggered by his exile. A detailed account of Luo Fu’s inward turn can be found in Luo Fu’s Death in the Stone Chamber and Related Criticisms (Luo, 1988, 192–93).

imagining taipei


belonged only to the very rich” (Harrell, 1994, 170–71). Based on his imagination, however, Lomen outlines several characteristics in relation to the city and the city dwellers in this short poem. First of all, they have endless desires. The poet compares the brains of the city dwellers to the busy traffic of the city. These people’s minds are busy with thinking. Since their thoughts or desires will deliver them either to hell or to heaven, whether they will be saved or condemned depends on their consciences. Moreover, the city dwellers are materialists. According to Lomen, living in the city is similar to living in “a ferry heading to Pearl Harbor.” As Chen Huang 陳煌 points out, the term ‘Pearl Harbor’ does not necessary refer to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. We should take the literal meaning of the word ‘pearl’ into account. As such, the poet implies that the city dwellers chase after material wealth (Lomen, 1995b, 218). The poem also tells us that the urban space is very crowded with people and cars everywhere. Lomen eventually depicts the crowd in the city. The poet uses the pronoun ‘they’ to represent city dwellers. He refers not to an individual but to the crowd. Since Lomen uses ‘they’ instead of ‘we’ as the pronoun, the poet does not include himself in the crowd. He regards himself as an outsider who is invisible. It is noteworthy that Lomen does not mention the city in “City Dwellers” at all. Instead, the poet focuses on portraying the crowd. This characteristic reminds us of Western modernist works which tend to consider the crowd a metonym for the city. I will discuss this issue in detail in the next section.

The Disappearance of the Crowd In his long poem “Dushi zhi Shi” [Death of a City], Lomen reinforces the themes which are found in “City Dwellers.” The poet shows us a clear picture of the kinds of desires we can find in the city. Lomen also makes the city a metonym for the crowd in this poem. The layers of the buildings hold people’s faces upward The displays of the food hall carve people’s stomachs The show-windows flash with seasons’ sharp eyes People buy the years’ appearances with banknotes Right here footsteps do not transport the souls Right here priests cover their eyes with bibles and by falling asleep all restricted areas become markets all eyes become hawks’ eyes in the blue sky (Au, 2006, 36)


chapter three 建築物的層次 托住人們的仰視 / 食物店的陳列 紋刻人們的胃壁 / 櫥 窗閃著季節伶俐的眼色 / 人們用紙幣選購歲月的容貌 / 在這裡 腳步 是不載靈魂的 / 在這裡 神父以聖經遮目睡去 / 凡是禁地都成為市集 / 凡是眼睛都成為藍空裡的鷹目

At the beginning of the poem, Lomen communicates that people in the city are stimulated by their desires, and that these desires can be fulfilled by money. The poet compares these people to hawks, which means they are no longer human beings. The image of hawks reminds us of predators who are looking for victims. The city dwellers hunt their quarry. The reason why the city dwellers cease to be human is because the rhythms of city life change too quickly. According to Lomen, the tempo of living is much accelerated in the city. The poet points out at the beginning of his poem that this tempo of city living controls people completely and makes them become soulless: It is like the running cars clinging to the roads at high speed People seize their own shadows rushing off to look inside the changes which are too rapid to understand to think inside the cyclotron which is too rapid to understand to perish inside the death which is too rapid to die Speed controls the circuits . . . (Au, 2006, 36) 如行車抓住馬路急馳 / 人們抓住自己的影子急行 / 在來不及看的變 動裡看 / 在來不及想的迴旋裡想 / 在來不及死的時刻裡死 / 速度控制 著線路 . . .

These few lines are quoted from the first part of the long poem. They succinctly depict the speed of city life by telling us how people respond to rapid changes. The people are always in a hurry. They believe that their shadows are not walking fast enough. They “seize their own shadows rushing off.” City dwellers are always chasing after something because changes occur so quickly. They feel that they cannot catch up with these changes. As a result, the city dwellers become indifferent to the fast changing tempo of city life. Robert Musil labels the insensitivity of the city dwellers to ‘onrushing’ city life as people become ‘without qualities,’ or, in Simmel’s description, these people are in the condition of a ‘blunting of discrimination’ (Lehan, 1998, 72). In the second part of the poem, Lomen raises the issue of religion as a counterforce against materialism in the urban environment. The poet tells us that people try to use religion to resist desires such as gourmand-

imagining taipei


ism, eroticism and materialism stimulated by city life. However, religion cannot save us from falling into decay: Sundays people return after getting away for six days The houses of their hearts having been cleansed by pastors tomorrow they will again go to smell the rosy scent on women’s skin will go to see the seven suns squatting in front of the bank counters [. . .] City the crossroad on your neck clamors all the day, God does not believe in God God is even more restless than the sea Although the spire of the church takes in the tranquil blue of the sky that color cannot be injected into your rosy veins The Cross is then used to make your half nude breasts glimmer (Au, 2006, 36–37) 禮拜日 人們經過六天逃亡回來 / 心靈之屋 經牧師打掃過後 / 次日 又 去聞女人肌膚上的玫瑰香 / 去看銀行窗口蹲著七個太陽 . . . . . . / 都市 卦 在你頸項間終日喧叫的十字街 / 那神是不信神的 那神較海還不安 / 教堂的尖頂 吸進滿天寧靜的藍 / 卻注射不入你玫瑰色的血管 / 十字 架便只好用來閃爍那半露的胸脯

These lines indicate that city dwellers indulge themselves in a sexually gratifying and materialistic life. Although they go to church on Sundays, religion cannot keep these people from pursuing their desires. In this part of the poem, Lomen also raises the issue of the crowd and the city as well as the dichotomy of desires and religion. In the first stanza of part two, the poet mainly depicts the personalities of the crowd; nevertheless, the city is personified and becomes a metonym for the crowd in the second stanza of part two. While Lomen tells us that the crowd goes to church on Sundays, for instance, he tells us that the city wears a cross on its neck in the second half of the poem. By doing so, Lomen directly replaces the crowd with the city. It is noteworthy that the way Lomen deals with the city is different from his Western counterparts. Both Lomen and Western modernist poets notice the relationship between the crowd and the city. Western modernist poets consider the crowd as a metonym for the city. Lomen sees the crowd as a metonym for the city on the one hand, and the city as a metonym for the crowd on the other. For example, in “City Dwellers,” the crowd becomes a metonym for the city. In “Death of a City,” the city becomes a metonym for the crowd. Lehan explains the reason why the crowd becomes a metonym for the city :


chapter three As the crowd became more extensive, the artist’s vision of the city became more opaque, more mysterious and uncanny. The crowd became a metonym for the city in modernist discourse, and a great deal of urban study is given over to the study of the crowd. (Lehan, 1998, 71)

On the contrary, the crowd depicted in Lomen’s “Death of a City” is dehumanized. It becomes a kind of monster which is similar to the monster-like city portrayed in Lomen’s other works. Lomen’s urban poetry, then, exhibits a feeling of uncanniness which is different from that of his Western counterparts. While in Western modernist works, the crowd becomes extensive in the city, it disappears in Lomen’s poem. The fact that there is no crowd in “Death of a City” contributes to the feeling of uncanniness in the reader. In the fourth part of the poem, Lomen associates the city with a faceless beast. This association reminds us of the first part of the poem in which the poet compares the people or the crowd with hawks. The city resembles the crowd which is a beast or non-human: City daytime winds round your head nighttime drapes over your shoulders You are an ugly belly without a face a faceless beast which swallows lives without leaving any wounds which gnaws the bones and muscles of God (Au, 2006, 38) 都市 白晝纏在你頭上 黑夜披在你肩上 / 你是不生容貌的粗陋的腸胃 / 一頭食生命不露傷口的無面獸 / 啃著神的筋骨

In the last part of the poem, Lomen indicates that the overloaded stimuli of the city is another factor which makes it an uncanny place: City before the bell of the terminus rings [. . .] You are like Death who dies with wide eyes dies in the wine bottles dies in the ashtrays dies on the bed dies under the Eiffel Tower dies of an overdose of civilization’s drugs [. . .] City everything dies quickly during Easter And you are a bride just coming out from a sedan-chair [. . .] a nude beast the most empty primitiveness a screen hiding the shadows of the graveyard a carved coffin loaded with moving death (Au, 2006, 38)

imagining taipei


都市 在終站的鐘鳴之前 . . . . . . / 你是等于死的張目的死 / 死在酒瓶裡 死在煙灰缸裡 / 死在床上 死在埃爾佛的鐵塔下 / 死在文明過量的興 奮劑中 . . . . . . / 都市 在復活節一切死得更快 / 而你卻是剛從花轎裡步 出的新娘 . . . . . . / 一只裸獸 在最空無的原始 / 一扇屏風 遮住墳的陰 影 / 一具彫花的棺 裝滿了走動的死亡

In the first five lines of the passage, Lomen reiterates the themes of desire and overloaded stimuli of the city. The poet tells us further that the city becomes ‘a nude beast,’ ‘a screen’ and ‘a carved coffin.’ In brief, the city is a place for the living dead, and the crowd is composed of the living dead. The uncanny city outlined by Lomen in “Death of a City” is also an unreal one because Taipei was not yet a modern city in 1961. Aft er having discussed two of Lomen’s earliest urban poems, I would like to suggest that the poet’s unreal city is not a direct ‘copy’ from the West. Although the way Lomen deals with the city and the crowd in “City Dwellers” reminds us of his Western counterparts, this poem is not a representative work of his urban poetry. For instance, the poet did not include “City Dwellers” in his anthology of urban poetry. “Death of a City,” however, was the first poem placed in the collection. As I pointed out before, Western modernist poets tend to consider the crowd a metonym for the city, whereas Lomen considers the city a metonym for the crowd. In other words, Lomen’s city poetry is different from that of his Western counterparts to some extent. I believe Lomen’s early urban poetry depicted a vision of the future Taipei.

An Invisible Persona Lehan remarks that “two kinds of urban reality emerged from literary modernism: the city as constituted by the artist, whose inner feelings and impressions embody an urban vision, and the city as constituted by the crowd, which had a personality and urban meaning of its own” (Lehan, 1998, 71). On the surface, Lomen’s “City Dwellers” and “Death of a City” mainly depict the crowd and the city, respectively. It is noteworthy, however, that the poet uses the terms ‘they’ and ‘the people’ instead of ‘we’ in the poems. Here Lomen distinguishes himself from the crowd, suggesting the image of an invisible observer. The role of observer reminds us of the persona depicted in Baudelaire’s poetry, or what Walter Benjamin calls a flaneur.


chapter three

Benjamin labels the observer as a flaneur. The flaneur feels at home in an arcade: “the street becomes a dwelling for the flaneur” (Benjamin, 1985, 37). It is clear that the flaneur enjoys being in a crowd. Baudelaire, quoting Guys, remarks that “anyone who is capable of being bored in a crowd is a blockhead. I repeat: a blockhead, and a contemptible one” (Benjamin, 1985, 37). The observer tries to look for diversity in the crowd and to associate the person who steps out of the crowd with his or her own experience. This process involves internalization or an inward turn (Lehen, 1998, 72). The city is not a homely place because the crowd is heterogeneous instead of homogenous. When the flaneur goes out to the arcades, his senses are overloaded. When the secret of the city, which should remain hidden, is disclosed, the urban uncanny emerges.4 In spite of the basic similarities between Lomen’s persona and Baudelaire’s flaneur, the persona depicted in Lomen’s poetry is different. First of all, although Lomen indirectly portrays an observer in his early poems, he does elaborate later on the diversity of the crowd. The poet only started to identify different urban subjects in the crowd in his later works which were written in the 1970s and 1980s. Lomen’s poetic persona is often absent from the scene, whereas in Baudelaire’s poetry the poetic persona is always present. In “Maidanglao Wucan Shijian” [Lunch Hour at McDonald’s] which was written in 1985, Lomen divides the city dwellers into three different types and shows us how these people react to the changes of the living tempo. The poet tells us that the younger generation finds no problem in adapting to the fast pace, they [. . .] sit together with the whole city [. . .] The knives and forks in their hands which are faster than the cars, passing by: a charming and handsome afternoon (Au, 2006, 52)


The chapter on “The Flaneur” in Walter Benjamin’s Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism and the chapter on “The Inward Turn” in Richard Lehan’s The City in Literature provide detailed information in relation to the issue of the flaneur.

imagining taipei


同整座城 / 坐在一起 . . . . . . / 手裡的刀叉 / 較來往的車 / 還快速地穿過 / 迷你而帥勁的 / 中午

Although middle-aged men become accustomed to city life, they are exhausted and feel nostalgic for the past: Two or three middle-aged men dwell inside exhaustion The knives and forks in their hands stretch out slowly and become the legs of chopsticks They return to thirty years ago to the old town and the small restaurant there (Au, 2006, 52) 三四個中年人 / 坐在疲累裡 / 手裡的刀叉 / 慢慢張開成筷子的雙腳 / 走回三十年前鎮上的小館

And finally, the older generation finds it hard to adapt to this new environment: An old man sits in the corner wearing a wrong size ready-made suit finishing a not-to-his-taste hamburger [. . .] The old man sits until he becomes a withered old pine, an interior decoration (Au, 2006, 53) 一個老年人 / 坐在角落裡 / 穿著不太合身的 / 成衣西裝 / 吃完不太合 胃的 / 漢堡 . . . . . . / 枯坐成一棵 / 室內裝潢的老松

There is a remarkable contrast among these three generations. In the first part, Lomen imparts how the younger generation responds to the rapid tempo of city life. The young men not only easily adapt to the rapid living pace, but even change faster than the living tempo itself. According to Lomen, these young people move faster ‘than the cars.’ In the last part of the poem, Lomen reveals that the older generation feels that modern city life is not suitable for them. The city, then, is not a homely place to the middle-aged and to the elderly. It is noteworthy that in this poem Lomen starts to consider the crowd as heterogeneous instead of homogenous, although he only divides the crowd into three different groups. However, the poetic persona depicted in this poem is still an invisible one because the persona is absent from the scene. Among other factors, the city’s population density contributes to making it an uncanny place. In the words of a Parisian secret agent in


chapter three

1798, as quoted by Benjamin, “it is almost impossible . . . to maintain good behaviour in a thickly populated area where an individual is, so to speak, unknown to all others and thus does not have to blush in front of anyone” (Benjamin, 1985, 40). Therefore, one can easily spot criminal behavior in the city. Benjamin compares the flaneur with a detective. According to Benjamin, “criminological sagacity coupled with the pleasant nonchalance of the flaneur. . . . No matter what trail the flaneur may follow, every one of them will lead him to a crime” (Benjamin, 1985, 41). Lomen’s poems remind us that the poet is similar to the flaneur or the detective who finds crimes everywhere in Taipei. “Qiangjie yu Qiangbao” [Robbery and Rape] is one example: Under the dim street lamp at midnight the swaying curve of her body connects to his sight The pearl necklace hanging around her neck strikes his eyes The breasts towering on her chest are like his territory Mt. Chang Bai The whole visual space enters a fearful, primitive, barbarous place Once the church, the court and the police station are out of sight he can do whatever he wants (Au, 2006, 57) 在深夜暗淡的街燈下 / 她身上擺動過來的曲線 / 與他的視線接上 / 她 項間垂掛的珍珠 / 與他的眼珠碰上 / 她胸前聳起的乳峰 / 與他經常走 險的長白山 / 對上 / 整個視覺空間 / 便走入原始可怕的蠻荒 / 看不見 教堂法院與警察局 / 便什麼都能做

This poem is obviously about a robber or a rapist and his victim. Lomen identifies the criminal from the crowd and discloses his thoughts to the reader. The woman’s figure and her necklace lure the criminal to commit the crime. Since the woman is alone and the scene is set in the darkness of night, the criminal is free to do what he wants. The flaneur is not exactly the detective. Although the crowd can easily hide criminals, every individual is not necessarily a criminal. Lehan concurs with Benjamin and points out the dissimilarity between the flaneur and the detective. He notices that the former is unlike the latter because the flaneur “goes to the arcades to be stimulated by the crowds” (Lehan, 1998, 74). In this case, Lomen is also unlike the flaneur in that his poetic persona does not seek stimulation from, and actually avoids, the city crowds. Lomen or his poetic persona does not appear at the crime scene

imagining taipei


in this poem. This observation triggers further questions: Does Lomen ever walk in the street? Does the poet depict McDonald’s™ and the crime scene based on his imagination? My queries are reinforced by Lomen’s “Dushi de Wujiaoting” [The City’s Pentagonal Pavilion]. In this poem, Lomen depicts five persons, namely, the Newspaper Boy, the Shoeblack, the Woman Singer, the Waiter and the Ragpicker. He differentiates among these people by their professions and divides the poem into five sections. I will discuss the first three characters in detail. In “Song Zaobao Zhe” [Newspaper Boy], the issue of city life is described thus: Yesterday is not shot dead Yesterday is smuggled back by the printing machine Before the milk bottles’ sounds can be heard before Anna swims out of the arms his bicycle rushes before the sun’s one-wheel-car Like a garden, Yesterday is brought back by him People’s eyes are polished until they become vases waiting for different flowers’ various colors Civilization opens into flowers bombs open into flowers no matter whether God is willing to see or not (Au, 2006, 40) “昨日” 沒有被斃掉 / “昨日” 坐印刷機偷渡回來了 / 那是在牛乳瓶的 聲響之前 / 安娜還未游出臂灣之前 / 他的兩輪車衝在太陽的獨輪車 之前 / “昨日” 像花園被他搬了回來 / 人們的眼睛擦亮成瓶子 / 等著插 各色各樣的花 / 文明開的花 炸彈開的花 / 上帝愛看或不愛看的花

Lomen not only portrays the newspaper boy’s job, but also presents the lives of city dwellers. The city dwellers read newspapers every day in the morning. The newspaper boy must get up early to deliver these newspapers. However, what is reported in the newspapers is actually yesterday’s news. Yesterday’s news keeps on repeating itself in the newspapers, and the city dwellers, as well as God, seem to be indifferent to whether there is good news or bad. In short, Lomen portrays the newspaper boy’s diligence and the crowd’s indifference in this poem. The second poem is about a shoeblack: He and his kit sit together until they become [an] “L” shaped vacuum cleaner sit together until they become a tiny desert In a sand-storm his hands are a durable rope


chapter three While he pulls the boats which transport sunshine over to the roads He is not sure whether his hands are the sails or the cactuses (Au, 2006, 40) 他與他的工具箱 / 坐成 L 型的吸塵器 / 坐成一小小的沙漠 / 在風沙裡 / 他的手是拉不斷的繩索 / 將一只一只運陽光的船 / 拉上路時 / 他已 分不出自己的手 / 是帆 / 還是仙人掌

In “Caxiejiang” [Shoeblack], Lomen’s imagination is triggered by a shoeblack on the street, and he thinks of the uncertainties people face in the modern world. The way the shoeblack places his kit reminds the poet of ‘a tiny desert.’ Lomen imagines that the shoes the shoeblack polishes for the passers-by are ‘the boats which transport sunshine.’ The poet compares the life journey of modern people to sailing boats. The shoeblack’s hands are either the sails or the cactuses. The sails obviously help keep the boats sailing smoothly, whereas the cactuses belong to the desert and cannot help the sailing boats. The passage implies that the boats sail the desert, which is impossible and full of obstacles. The shoeblack does not know whether his hands are like sails or cactuses to the boats, which means he does not know whether the people whose shoes he polishes will have an easy life or a difficult one. In “Genu” [Woman Singer], Lomen not only delineates the decadent life of a woman singer, but also presents the lives of city dwellers in general: When it gets dark something will look for her either to do massage or to receive her electric treatment In the flammable air she is a Ronson lighter Night is a hempen cigarette When her vocal chords extend they become the road where citizens always go to take a walk Going ahead of the road is Fifth Street Going ahead further is her garden Going ahead further is the fountain in her garden Going ahead further is the ruin dying in the mist it is as bleak as her face which next morning is deserted by cosmetics (Au, 2006, 41)

imagining taipei


天一黑 / 某些東西不是找她按摩 / 便是接受她的電療 / 在那一擊便著 火的空氣裡 / 她是一只 RONSON 牌打火機 / 夜是一支大麻煙 / 聲喉一 伸 / 便伸成市民常去散步的那條路 / 那條路往前走 是第五街 / 再往 前走 是她的花園 / 再往前走 是她花園裡的噴水池 / 再往前走 是那 死在霧裡的廢墟 / 荒涼如次晨她那張 / 被脂粉遺棄的臉

Although this poem is mainly about a singer, it also shows us how the city dwellers spend their evenings, going to nightclubs to seek comfort. In the first stanza, Lomen does not directly identify who seeks the singer out. He tells us instead that “something will look for her either to do massage / or to receive her electric treatment.” However, the poet exhibits in the second stanza that ‘something’ refers to people. When the citizens hear the singer’s voice, they follow it, and are consequently led to ‘the ruin,’ or corruption. Although the singer plays the role of a savior, she cannot save herself from decadence. The singer looks ill without the assistance of cosmetics. The singer and the people are all ruined by their unhealthy lifestyles. The above examples demonstrate the similarities and dissimilarities between Lomen and Baudelaire. Lomen resembles Baudelaire in that they both like to depict ordinary people. However, while Baudelaire enjoys being in the crowd and is stimulated by his ability to enter into the lives of whoever he wants, Lomen seems to distance himself from the urban crowd by being absent from the scene. According to Baudelaire: The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege of being able to be himself or some one else, as he chooses. Like those wandering souls who go looking for a body, he enters as he likes into each man’s personality. For him alone everything is vacant. . . . The solitary and thoughtful stroller finds a singular intoxication in this universal communion. (Baudelaire, 1970, 20)

Baudelaire remarks that the heroism of modern life can be found in our everyday lives. All we need to do is to open our eyes to recognize it. Berman distinguishes Baudelaire’s attitude toward ordinary people from that of the avant-garde. Berman points out that Baudelaire searches for hidden heroism in ordinary people, whereas the members of the avantgarde distance themselves and have “scorn for ordinary people and their travails” (Berman, 1982, 144).5 Although Lomen does not scorn 5 Marshall Berman explains in detail Baudelaire’s idea of the heroism of modern life in his All That is Solid Melts Into Air. Chapter Three, “Baudelaire: Modernism in the Streets” is the most important. Baudelaire’s original idea of modern heroism can be found in his The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Chapter 1, “The Painter of Modern Life” is especially useful.


chapter three

ordinary people as those of the avant-garde, he distances himself from them. Lomen is not intoxicated by being with ordinary people, rather, he describes the individuals with a detached mind. Baudelaire’s generosity and sympathy toward ordinary people is best exemplified by his “The Eyes of the Poor.” Baudelaire tells us in the poem that he and his lover are sitting “in front of a new café forming the corner of a new boulevard still littered with rubbish but that already displayed proudly its unfinished splendors” (Baudelaire, 1970, 52). A man in his forties, who carries two little boys, is standing in front of the couple. “They were in rags” (Baudelaire, 1970, 52). The poet attempts to read what he sees in their eyes: The eyes of the father said: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! All the gold of the poor world must have found its way onto those walls.” The eyes of the little boy: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! But it is a house where only people who are not like us can go.” As for the baby, he was much too fascinated to express anything but joy—utterly stupid and profound. (Baudelaire, 1970, 53)

If we compare the above extract of Baudelaire’s prose poem with those of Lomen’s just discussed, we will find some basic differences. For example, while Baudelaire is present at the scene, Lomen is absent from it. Lomen never describes the city of Taipei in his poetry, whereas Paris always plays a significant role in Baudelaire’s works. The new boulevard depicted in this poem implies that Haussmann’s new boulevard project is a work in progress.6 Furthermore, Baudelaire is always intoxicated by ordinary people and feels sympathy for them at the same time. Song writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and softens the heart. The song was right that evening as far as I was concerned. Not only was I touched by this family of eyes, but I was even a little ashamed of our glasses and decanters, too big for our thirst. (Baudelaire, 1970, 53)

Lomen often presents objective descriptions in his poetry. A brief comparison between Baudelaire and Lomen gives rise to the following questions: Why is Lomen absent from the scenes he depicted? Why is Taipei not portrayed in Lomen’s poetry? Does this silence mean anything? I believe that the absence of a poetic persona and the city of Taipei in Lomen’s poetry implies that Lomen wants to escape from the city.

6 For more information in relation to Baron Georges Haussmann’s design for modern Paris, please see Richard Lehan’s The City in Literature. The chapter on the “City of Limits” is the most pertinent to this discussion.

imagining taipei


The poet’s dream is realized in his poems, for he is not in the city at all. In other words, Lomen resembles his fellow poets Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu in feeling hostile toward the city. Nevertheless, while most Taiwanese modernist poets choose to keep altogether silent about urban subjects in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lomen chooses to escape from Taipei either by depicting an unreal city or by being absent from his urban poetry. This phenomenon raises a further question: What factors contribute to the development of the Taiwanese modernist poets’ sense of anti-urbanism?

The Urban Uncanny The Taiwanese modernist poets in this discussion did not keep silent about Taipei throughout their full careers. For instance, Rong Zi started to write a few poems in relation to Taipei in the 1960s. Zheng Chouyu, Luo Fu and Yu Guangzhong also wrote a few from the 1970s onwards. Likewise, the city of Taipei is not always absent from Lomen’s later poetry. The poet depicted Taipei’s landscape in some of his works in the 1980s. Nevertheless, anti-urbanism is a recurrent theme of Taiwanese modernist poetry. According to these poets, the uncanniness of the urban space is mainly caused by the modern city’s monstrous architecture, the overcrowded living environment, the eroticism of urban life and the dichotomy of the city and the country. I will discuss these factors in detail in what follows. Vidler points out that life in the modern city causes urban diseases such as agoraphobia (Vidler, 2000, 29). Agoraphobia is a kind of spatial disease which was first noticed in 1871 by the Berlin psychologist Carl Otto Westphal. According to Westphal, “the symptoms of what he called ‘agoraphobia’ included palpitations, sensations of heat, blushing, trembling, fear of dying and petrifying shyness.” (Vidler, 2000, 28) The psychologist also noticed that these symptoms occurred “when his patients were walking across open spaces or through empty streets or anticipated such an experience with a dread of the ensuing anxiety” (Vidler, 2000, 28). Different theorists have different ideas of the disease’s cause. While William James believed that agoraphobia is a hereditary disease, Freud claimed that it is caused by abnormalities of sexual life.7 Despite the

7 A detailed account of the history and the theorists’ arguments of agoraphobia can be found in Vidler’s Warped Space. The chapter on “Agoraphobia” is especially useful.


chapter three

discrepancies in the theorists’ arguments, I agree with Vidler that no theorist can deny or “remove the urban and spatial associations from the illness” (Vidler, 2000, 34). As such, what kind of urban space causes agoraphobia? The Viennese architect Camillo Sitte remarks that “the spatial emptiness of the new Ringstrasse” causes agoraphobia (Vidler, 2000, 26). According to Sitte, even statues might suffer from this disease; they would undoubtedly prefer a traditional little plaza in an old town to a gigantic empty square in the modern city (Vidler, 2000, 26). While the former makes people feel comfortable, the latter offers just the opposite feeling. Wilhelm Worringer suggests that the dread of open space is a kind of ‘primitive fear.’ Worringer elaborates that: This physical dread of open places may be explained as a residue from a normal phase of man’s development, at which he was not yet able to trust entirely to visual impression as a means of becoming familiar with a space extended before him, but was still dependent upon the assurances of his sense of touch. (Vidler, 2000, 44)

Similarly, William James’ comment on agoraphobia echoes Worringer’s idea of primitive fear. James notices that the symptoms of agoraphobia are not only found in human beings. When domestic cats or animals feel anxious, they also “cling to cover, and only venture on a dash across the open as a desperate measure—even making for every stone or bunch of weeds which may give a momentary shelter” (Vidler, 2000, 34). James asks whether agoraphobia is not “an odd kind of fear” which is “due to the accidental resurrection, through disease, of a sort of instinct which may in some of our ancestors have had a permanent and on the whole a useful part to play?” (Vidler, 2000, 34). In other words, agoraphobia is triggered by the open spaces of the city, which is similar to the fears of our ancestors brought forth by the open wilderness. In Vidler’s and James’ words, “the spiritual dread of open space was a throwback to a moment of instinctive fear conditioned by man’s feeling of being lost in the universe” (Vidler, 2000, 44–45). Urbanization is a universal phenomenon. We can also find the uncanny urban space depicted in the works of Taiwanese modernist poets. For example, Lomen notices the feeling of estrangement caused by modern architecture. In “Boli Dasha de Yihua” [The Alienation of the Glass Buildings], the poet tells us that the glass buildings alienate the scenery:

imagining taipei


Standing at the street corner I look at the glass buildings They freeze the scenes one after the other and keep them in the glass windows (Au, 2006, 54) 站在街口 / 看玻璃大廈 / 將風景一塊塊 / 冷凍在玻璃窗裡

In these few lines Lomen shows us that the urban space makes us feel cold or uneasy because of the glass buildings. As I mentioned before, transparency is the architectural ideal of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier. Glass became the main material which helped them to realize their aesthetic ideals. However, glass also helps to erase the boundary between the inside and the outside. The effacement of the boundary contributes to creating a feeling of uncanniness. Freud points out that “the feeling of the uncanny implies the return to that particular organization of space where everything is reduced to inside and outside and where the inside is also the outside” (Vidler, 1992, 222). When the interior is also the exterior or vice versa, the boundary between the domestic and public spaces is effaced. Human beings are taken back to the primitive days when there was no space in which to take shelter from the dangers of the open. In effect, there is no place we can call home. Postmodernist architects criticize glass buildings for this particular reason. They want to re-establish the distinction between the domestic and public spaces. In short, postmodernist architects try to make the glass opaque.8 In addition to the issue of transparency, Lomen’s poem also brings forth the theme of windows. According to the poet, the window is the culprit which imprisons scenery. However, in “City ˙ A Square Existence,” Lomen tells us that there is nothing to see outside the windows. The poet clearly points out in the poem that high-rise buildings block the scenery, making it impossible to look out of the windows: Eyes look out from the square windows of the cars They immediately are themselves looked at by rows of square windows of high-rise buildings

8 A detailed account on transparency can be found in Vidler’s The Architectural Uncanny (Vidler, 1992, 217–25).


chapter three [. . .] Eyes look out but see nothing All windows are blind and set into the square walls With no choice, the eyes search for the square windows in the dining tables in the mahjong tables They have looked them over Finally through the square windows of the TV sets all eyes escape (Au, 2006, 50) 眼睛從車裡 / 方形的窗 / 看出去 / 立即被高樓一排排 / 方形的窗 / 看 回來 . . . . . . / 眼睛看不出去 / 窗又一個個瞎在 / 方形的牆上 / 便只好在 餐桌上 / 在麻將桌上 / 找方形的窗 / 找來找去 最後 / 全都從電視機 / 方形的窗裡 / 逃走

In the first stanza of the passage quoted above, Lomen tells us that we are surrounded by high-rise buildings, and as a result, we are forced to stay inside our apartments. In this poem Lomen suggests one more answer to the question of why some people always stay away from their windows. According to Freud, anxiety about windows is one of the syndromes of agoraphobia. Freud “constructs this anxiety as ‘Anxiety + . . . window . . .,’ where the ‘unconscious idea’ of ‘going to the window to beckon a man to come up, as prostitutes do’ leads to sexual release, which, repudiated by the preconscious, is turned into anxiety” (Vidler, 2000, 38). It is obvious that Freud’s interpretation of window anxiety is not a comprehensive one. He presumes agoraphobia is a housewife’s disease, which was a common preconception during his day. Clearly, Freud’s explanation is sexist, and he did not take the effect of urban space into account. Under these circumstances, Lomen’s point supplements Freud’s limitations. Lomen suggests that the reason human beings do not want to leave their homes or look out of the windows is that there is nothing to see outside. The scenery is blocked by high-rise buildings.

Gender Space Lomen agrees with Freud in that he depicts a gender space in another urban poem. The poet considers Taipei a woman who causes the urban uncanny in “Dushi, Ni yao dao Nali Qu” [City, Where Are You Going?]:

imagining taipei


The high-rise buildings bend down to look at her The names of the companies turn their heads to call her Restaurants prepare for your good appetite Fashion boutiques dress your desire Perfumes lead you to the primitive sense of smell Everything has its latent directions Which way should you go? Roads have already known From roads to pavements to subways from ladders to staircases to escalators from offices to reception desks to bedrooms you look at your arms and cranks they move to and fro at work Finally they always go back to the original movement Things are always simple all you need to do is to leave them to your bodies (Lomen, 1995b, 70) 高樓大廈都低下頭來 / 看她 / 公司行號都轉過頭來 / 叫她 / 餐館調配 好吃慾 / 時裝店打扮好性慾 / 香水帶引著原始的嗅覺 / 一切都有了潛 在的去向 / 你該往那裡走 / 路還會不知道嗎 / 從行車道到人行道到地 下道 / 從階梯到樓梯到電梯 / 從工作房到門房到臥房 / 你一天看著手 臂與曲柄 / 在工作中動來動去 / 最後總是動回那個 / 原本的動作裡來 / 事情就那麼簡單 / 交給身體去辦便得了

In this long poem, Lomen stresses that the city is an erotic place. Everything in the city—restaurants, boutiques and roads—is associated with sexual desire. After having worked a full day, all people can think of is sex. It is noteworthy that locations such as ‘pavements,’ ‘subways,’ ‘staircases’ and ‘escalators’ easily arouse phobia. The protagonist ‘you’ in the poem resembles an animal who seeks shelter from danger. However, the shelter for ‘you’ is not a place, but a woman. Lomen’s depiction of city as a woman is a Freudian idea, for he associates woman with home: You approach to the top of the world embracing her letting your hands slip and reach the terminus Isn’t it your home (Lomen, 1995b, 73) 你便走上世界的頂點 / 抱著她 滑下來 / 那終點 / 不就是你的家

The above extracts are from the long poem “City, Where Are You Going?” Lomen tells us what happens when the persona meets a woman. ‘The


chapter three

top of the world’ refers to the woman’s breasts, ‘the terminus’ the private parts. In effect, the poet sketches a sex scene in these lines. The word ‘home’ refers, in Freud’s words, to ‘the female genital organs.’ According to Lomen, it is not difficult to go back ‘home’: Whenever you want to go back, all cafe restaurants bars are bus stops She is both a long-distance and short-distance bus which is waiting for you [. . .] Escape from the streets and lanes takes you back to your naked, original home (Lomen, 1995b, 75–76) 只要你想回去 / 咖啡廳 / 餐廳 / 酒廊 / 都是候車站 / 她便是跑長途跑 短途的 / 交通車 / 等著你來 . . . . . . / 從大街小巷逃跑 / 跑回你赤裸裸的 原來 / 你的家

In the postscript of the poem Lomen criticizes the materialism and sensuality of city life, although the poem indicates that ‘woman’ is the protagonist’s home. It seems that Lomen paradoxically considers ‘woman’ the culprit who causes the city’s uncanniness, as well as a home which keeps us from danger. I believe that if ‘woman’ is a home, she must be an uncanny one. As Freud points out, “neurotic men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs” (Freud, 1964, 245). He further elaborates that the female genital organs are the former home of all human beings. We all live in our mothers’ bodies before birth. This once familiar place becomes unfamiliar when neurotic men revisit it. A woman’s body may remind them of their mothers’, but it is undoubtedly not the same. As such, the feeling of uncanniness arises. Similarly, Elizabeth Wilson points out that the city is “a place of growing threat and paranoia to men.” She explains that: At the heart of the urban labyrinth lurked not the Minotaur, a bull-like male monster, but the female Sphinx, the ‘strangling one’, who was so called because she strangled all those who could not answer her riddle: female sexuality, womanhood out of control, lost nature, loss of identity. (Wilson, 1992, 7)

imagining taipei


Wilson’s remarks help to explain the reason Lomen compares the uncanny urban space to a woman. According to Wilson, the city “might be a place of liberation for women. The city offers women freedom” (Wilson, 1992, 7). Wilson elaborates that this kind of freedom offered to the woman, on the one hand, disturbs the traditional authoritarian control of men over women. On the other hand, the disorder of urban life may help to make the city a dangerous place for women. Prostitutes and prostitution are recurring problems of city life that not only cause danger to women but also endanger men if they indulge in sex. As such, the female city resembles the Sphinx who asks a riddle and the answer is her female sexuality. If men cannot control their desires, they will be ruined; they will be strangled by the Sphinx. Rong Zi is the only woman poet I have chosen for this study. Her idea of the city is different from that of Wilson’s because she does not feel free in the city. Instead, the poetess thinks she is trapped in it. In “Women de Cheng Buzai Fei Hua” [Flowers No Longer Fly in Our City], Rong Zi depicts the wilderness-like space of Taipei. In addition to the uncanny atmosphere, Rong Zi coincidentally raises the issue of gender through the image of the Sphinx in this poem. The poetess compares the modern buildings in the city to the Sphinx in the desert, and the she-monster also reminds us of women in the city. Nevertheless, Rong Zi’s reaction toward the Sphinx is rather interesting. Like Lomen, she is afraid of the she-monster. A question arises here: What perspective does Rong Zi possess? Is her perspective a female or a male one? Flowers no longer fly in our city in March Monstrous buildings squat everywhere— Sphinxes in the desert, squinting at you in mockery And a pack of urban tigers howl From morning to night From morning to night The downpour of pitch-black smoke, the thunder of the city Squabbles between cogwheels Conflicts between machines Time broken into pieces, life fading away by the moment At night our city is like a poisonous spider Extending its web To snare pedestrians The loneliness of the heart The emptiness of the night (Yeh, 1992, 100–01)


chapter three 我們的城不再飛花 在三月 / 到處蹲踞著那龐然建築物的獸—— / 沙 漠中的司分克斯 以嘲諷的眼神窺你 / 而市虎成群地呼嘯 / 自晨迄暮 / 自晨迄暮 / 煤煙的雨 市聲的雷 / 齒輪與齒輪的齟齬 / 機器與機器的 傾軋 / 時間片片裂碎 生命刻刻消褪 . . . . . . / 入夜, 我們的城像一枚有 毒的大蜘蛛 / 張開它閃漾的誘惑的網子 / 網行人的腳步 / 網心的寂 寞 / 夜的空無

In the first stanza, Rong Zi likens the city to the wilderness. There are monsters everywhere in the city, embodied in the gigantic buildings. The poetess also compares the city with the desert because there are no flowers even in spring. In addition, Rong Zi associates the monstrous buildings with the famous Sphinx in the desert and compares the tiger with the car. In the second stanza, we are told that the modern buildings and vehicles make the city an uncomfortable space. The air is filled with ‘pitch-black smoke’ and ‘thunder’ at all times. In the third stanza, Rong Zi shows us the city during the night. The city is likened to a monstrous insect, a huge poisonous spider that traps all city dwellers in its web. It is noteworthy that when Rong Zi describes the Sphinx, the poetess says the monster is ‘squinting at you in mockery.’ Why does the Sphinx mock Rong Zi? I think the Sphinx’s attitude toward Rong Zi is different from the monster’s attitude toward men. According to Wilson, the Sphinx asks men riddles. If men fail to solve the riddles, they will be strangled to death. The relationship between the Sphinx and men is similar to that of the predator and its prey. If the prey is fortunate enough to escape from its predator, or to solve the riddle, it can survive; otherwise, the prey will be killed. The relationship between the Sphinx and Rong Zi is different, however. The Sphinx and the poetess are not a predator and its prey. They are of the same species, though Rong Zi is a lesser member. This is why the Sphinx laughs at her. In other words, Rong Zi uses a female perspective to write this poem, though it is clear that the poetess does not feel free in the urban space. The reasons why Rong Zi does not consider the urban space a pleasant one are different from those of the male poets. She feels nostalgia for her homeland, which is symbolized by nature. I will discuss this issue in the next section entitled “Estrangement.” In addition, Rong Zi’s living space has been invaded. As I pointed out in Chapter Two, Rong Zi is living in Lomen’s poetic space—the ‘House of Light’—which is not her ideal home. Rong Zi loves flowers, but flowers are not welcome in the ‘House of Light’ because Lomen thinks that flowers do not correspond to his poetic space. As such, when Rong Zi says that ‘flowers no longer fly in our city,’ the poetess not only refers to the city but also to her

imagining taipei


home as well. I believe this is the reason why the Sphinx laughs at the poetess. Instead of killing men as the Sphinx does, Rong Zi is strangled by them. In Rong Zi’s long poem “Qiyue de Nanfang” [July in the South], the poetess uses one line to depict the city but ninety-two lines to describe nature, which is represented by the South: I decided to head for the South from now on— leaving from the shadows of the cold and grayish buildings in the city winding the long corridor of bird’s songs the South is calling me! (Rong Zi, 1995c, 44) 從此向南—/ 從都市灰冷建築物的陰暗 / 繞過鳥聲悠長的迴廊 / 南方 喚我!

These few lines are the beginning of “July in the South.” Rong Zi uses a single line to describe and conclude that the city is an uncomfortable place because it is full of monstrous buildings. In the rest of the poem, she portrays a beautiful South, a rural area. Does the absence of the city say anything? It is noteworthy that Rong Zi uses the singular pronoun ‘I’ in this and other poems in relation to nature. Lomen is absent from the scene, and his absence is related to the absence of the city in her poetry. As I mentioned in Chapter Two, Rong Zi remarked that Lomen draws his inspiration from the city. The poet embraces the modern city, and the city is a metaphor for Lomen. Rong Zi wants to get away from the city and from Lomen. The poetess suffered a personal identity crisis after her marriage with Lomen, when she felt the pressure to be a housewife and a civil servant simultaneously. I will discuss this issue in Chapter Five under the section called “Return to Nature.” As a result, the poetess stopped composing poetry for a few years after she got married. Since “July in the South” was written after her marriage, I believe it reflects Rong Zi’s sentiment toward her marital life. She wants to escape from her marriage and take refuge in nature. The dichotomy of the city and nature will be discussed in detail in the next section. Lastly, the monstrous buildings in the city contribute to the development of the urban uncanny. In “Niuyue, Niuyue” [New York, New York], Rong Zi compares the civilization of the city to a monster. She wants to leave New York as soon as possible: New York is cold, for it has too much iron and steel Since it is overloaded, the heart of New York is numb The sun and sky are covered by the flags of material desire


chapter three The skyscrapers, the monsters— The city is thickly dotted with grayish shadows Which are gigantic but without spirit [. . .] The invisible restlessness comes from the visible gazes of the monsters They all have iron and steel hearts [. . .] New York is both magnificent and inferior Visitors earnestly want to have a look at the city but also want to leave it in a hurry! (Rong Zi, 1995c, 241–43) 紐約因擁有過多的鋼鐵而寒冷 / 因承載過重的負荷而麻痺了心臟 / 物慾文明的旌旗掩天敝日 一枝獨秀 / 那摩天大樓的怪獸—— / 看城 內密密集集地都是那灰黑的影子 / 巨大而無有靈性 . . . . . . / 無形的不 甯來自那巨物有形的瞪視 / 它們又全都有鋼鐵的心臟 . . . . . . / 紐約 既 堂皇又卑下 / 是觀光客極思一睹也急欲離去的城!

According to Rong Zi, New York makes her feel uneasy because its modern architecture is monster-like. These buildings are gigantic and cold, for they are made of iron and steel. The poetess notices that the city is overloaded with gigantic buildings. On the one hand, Rong Zi personifies these monstrous buildings; they seem to have eyes to gaze on people. On the other hand, the poetess reminds us that they are nonhuman, because their hearts are made of steel and iron. In a word, they are monsters, and as such, Rong Zi wishes to leave New York at once. Although Rong Zi is only a tourist in New York, her feeling of hostility toward the city is no less than that toward Taipei. What does Rong Zi’s attitude toward the cities imply? Nor does Rong Zi like Hong Kong. In “Hui Taipei Qu” [Going Back to Taipei], the poetess tells us that she does not like Hong Kong because of its overcrowded population: The hands of consciousness quickly push this space away Mongkok crowded with people and shops and Victoria Harbor’s unstable moonlight I go back to the dwelling place where I spent thirty years (Rong Zi, 1986, 156) 意識的手便迅速推開此間 / 人雜市鬧的旺角 和 / 維多利亞海峽不安 的月光 / 回我卅多年的居地。

Rong Zi tells us in this poem that she is afraid of the overcrowdedness of Hong Kong. Mongkok, one of the most popular places in Hong Kong, is always crowded with people. The poetess imagines that she can push Mongkok, or the noisy space, away. Rong Zi’s behavior reminds

imagining taipei


us of another kind of phobia—haptophobia. As Simmel observes, this fear—that of touching—has recently become more widespread. People who have this disease show the following symptoms. They fear being in “too close a contact with objects . . . for which every live and immediate contact produces pain” (Vidler, 2000, 58). Although we are not certain whether or not Rong Zi has this fear of contact, her desperation at going home suggests that she wants to take shelter from the crowded streets. It is noteworthy that the poetess seems to consider Taipei her home in this poem. As such, does Rong Zi really feel hostile to the urban space?

Estrangement To Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and even Lomen, the city not only refers to the physical urban space, their living place, but it is also the antonym of nature and their homeland. According to the poets, urbanization makes the city an unhomely space because it destroys nature. It is interesting to note that although these poets live in the city, they only notice the drawbacks of urban life. Their perception of the city is simpler than Raymond Williams’ generalization of people’s perception of the city. According to Williams, the dichotomy of the country and the city are always stereotyped: On the country has gathered the idea of a natural way of life: of peace, innocence, and simple virtue. On the city has gathered the idea of an achieved centre: of learning, communication, light. Powerful hostile associations have also developed: on the city as a place of noise, worldliness and ambition; on the country as a place of backwardness, ignorance, limitation. (Williams, 1973, 1)

Although Williams comments that the above account in relation to the city and the country is a stereotypical one, it is in fact a comparatively objective and comprehensive list. At least we see the merits as well as the shortcomings of both living spaces. Nevertheless, the Taiwanese modernist poets have a tendency to mention only the disadvantages of living in the city. In addition to being a refuge from her marital life, nature also signifies Rong Zi’s homeland. The opposition of the country and the city is one of the major themes in Rong Zi’s poetry. The poetess tells us in her “Linfu zhi Yuan” [Nymph’s Wishes] that she belongs to the countryside:


chapter three I feel weary and tired Tired of this noisy wasteland [. . .] My friends, the twitter of the birds are calling The life which belongs to the forests, to the lakes to the purple lucerne fields is calling! [. . .] Aphrodite let us rouse ourselves to catch up! My nostalgia is getting stronger And the art of playing music with wind and water has been neglected for a long time! (Rong Zi, 1995, 42–43) 我是倦怠,倦怠了 / 倦于這喧嚷的荒原 . . . . . . / 鳥鳴啁噍 / 我底友人 們在呼喚 / 原屬于林,原屬于湖 / 原屬于紫色苜蓿田的生命在呼 喚!. . . . . . / 阿爾伐 / 讓我們急起直追吧! / 鄉愁濃了 / 風籟水聲的琴 藝久久地荒蕪了!

Rong Zi describes the city as a wasteland. She tells us that her homeland is in the countryside where ‘lucerne fields,’ ‘forests’ and ‘lakes’ are found. The poetess wants to go back to her homeland at once. This poem not only establishes the opposition of the city and the country, but also implies that the country represents Rong Zi’s homeland. In short, ‘the country’ resembles ‘the city’ in signifying more than one meaning. It refers to the poetess’s homeland as well as to a rural area. In her poem “Weinisi Boguang” [The Clear Ripples of Venice], the poetess shows us that although she is physically in Venice, her mind is tied to Jiangnan where she spent her childhood. Jiangnan is a dreamscape to most Chinese poets because it is famous for its natural beauty: A city which is full of clouds, rainbows and dreams However, my boat is rocking from left to right and as I look back and forth I find they are not the bank of Jiangnan Not Jiangnan Not Xuanwu not Xihu ——I do not see the lotus I am familiar with Going back through time machine when you are in your glory days Nevertheless, dusk is approaching now spectacular views are no longer We pass through and never look back! (Rong Zi, 1995c, 236) 多雲彩多虹橋多夢的城 / 只是左搖右晃 前顧後盼 / 都不是那江南岸 / 不是江南 / 不是玄武 亦非西湖 / —— 不見我熟悉的蓮荷 / 返回時光 隧道 在你輝煌時刻 / 唯此刻暮色已至 盛景難再 / 我們走過也不再 回頭!

imagining taipei


When Rong Zi feels nostalgic for nature, she may refer to her homeland as well. As a matter of fact, if nature only referred to rural areas, the poetess could go back whenever she wanted. I believe Rong Zi’s countryside embodies symbolic meaning which refers to her homeland of the past. As such, the poetess remarks that she can never go back. Even if she could go back to the past through a time machine, the result would not be the same since Rong Zi would no longer be a young girl. Rong Zi may not like the modern buildings in the city, but this is not the major reason for the sense of anti-urbanism in her poetry. I believe the metaphorical meanings of the city contribute to her hostility to the city. In other words, Rong Zi does not hate the concrete space of city. This is the reason why she wants to go back to Taipei immediately when she does not feel comfortable in Hong Kong. Taipei shelters her from insecurity after all. Likewise, Yu Guangzhong also embodies the dichotomy of the country and the city in his poem “Dianhua Ting” [Telephone Box]: This small pavilion is neither classical nor pastoral I am always locked inside of it [. . .] I listlessly grasp the receiver, the line is disconnected A broken umbilical cord is in my hand What numbers should I dial? Who am I going to talk to after the line is connected? I just want to get away from to get away from this box, this telephone box to get away from this box, this city to get away from these drawers, these apartments to get myself through to the sound of wind to get myself through to the sound of water to get myself through to the sound of birds and to the snores of the primeval forest (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 58–59) 不古典也不田園的一間小亭子 / 時常, 關我在那裡面 . . . . . . / 茫然握著 聽筒, 斷了 / 一截斷了的臍帶握著 / 要撥哪個號碼呢? / 撥通了又該找 誰? / 不過想把自己撥出去 / 撥出這匣子這電話亭 / 撥出這匣子這城 市 / 撥出這些抽屜這些公寓撥出去 / 撥通風的聲音 / 撥通水的聲音 / 撥通鳥的聲音 / 和整座原始林均勻的鼾息

Yu uses a ‘telephone box’ to represent the city. The poet tells us that the city is neither ‘classical nor pastoral’ and he feels being ‘locked inside of it.’ He wants to leave the busy life of the city as well as the crowded environment and go back to nature. On the surface, Yu’s perception of


chapter three

the city and the country is a simple binary opposition. The urban space is evil and the rural space is holy. However, the line “a broken umbilical cord is in my hand” implies that the ‘nature’ the poet mentioned embodies symbolic meaning. ‘A broken umbilical cord’ reminds us of a newborn baby. When a baby is born, it has to separate from its mother’s body. As Freud points out, mother’s womb is our first home. Since Yu compares the disconnected telephone line to a broken umbilical cord, I believe the telephone line symbolizes the poet’s effort to connect with his homeland through the telephone. In the last few lines of the poem, Yu Guangzhong tells us that he wants to return to nature. Since Yu lived in Jiangnan when he was a child, I think Yu’s yearning to return to nature can be interpreted as his yearning to return to Mainland China. The poet tries to use the telephone as an agent to reconnect with his homeland. It is clear that even if Yu Guangzhong can connect to his homeland by a telephone line, he cannot reach a concrete place. The poet’s homeland is still absent from his real life. As such, why does Yu use the image of the telephone to express his nostalgic feeling? I think Yu is obsessed with an abstract feeling rather than a concrete place. I will examine this issue in Chapter Four. While nature in Rong Zi’s and Yu Guangzhong’s poetry represents Mainland China, physical nature as depicted in Lomen’s poetry is only a way to achieve a higher state of existence, or ‘Third Nature.’ As such, his nature poetry seldom depicts physical nature. In his long poem “Kuangye” [Wilderness], Lomen describes beautiful natural scenery in the first stanza. In the second stanza, we are told that the countryside has been destroyed by urbanization. In the third stanza, instead of showing us an opposition of the country and the city, Lomen tells us that the city and the country are in harmony with each other, which inspires one to write a new chapter of Great Harmony: You are a piece of unfolded blank paper on which a brush and a pen are writing the New Great Harmony High-rise buildings sit with mountains Streets run with rivers Smoke drifts with clouds Markets wave with seas Eyes and waves have the same shape Display windows and scenery have the same face Restaurants and garden fields have an identical ancestor Hotels and wilderness have an identical tribe Man and the sun have identical last names

imagining taipei


Woman and the moon have identical first names Bedding and the four seasons sleep together Lips and petals open in the same way Alcohol and dew ripple in the same way Pregnant women and dawn radiate in the same way The crematorium and night dim in the same way Squares and the sky walk together Watches and the earth go around together (Au, 2006, 88) 你是被掀開的一張 / 被毛筆鋼筆寫著新的 “大同篇” / 高樓與山同坐 / 街道與河同流 / 煙塵與雲同飄 / 鬧市與海同盪 / 眼睛與波浪同形 / 櫥窗與風景同貌 / 餐廳與田園同宗 / 旅館與荒野同族 / 男人與太陽同 姓 / 女人與月亮同名 / 床被與四季同睡 / 唇瓣與花瓣同開 / 酒液與露 水同漾 / 孕婦與黎明同光 / 焚屍爐與夜同暗 / 廣場與天空同行 / 鐘錶 與地球同轉

Lomen objectively juxtaposes natural and man-made elements in this part of the poem. It is noteworthy that the poet does not include any value judgments. He does not tell us that mountains are better than highrise buildings or that rivers are better than streets. The reason Lomen does not feel nostalgic for destroyed nature is that he creates ‘Third Nature’ as his homeland. As I mentioned in Chapter Two, ‘Third Nature’ is a transparent space which helps Lomen resist the rapid changes of urban life. In other words, the poet accepts the fact that social development must destroy rural space, and he chooses to create an imaginative space for himself. In this case, Lomen’s nature does not represent Mainland China. The countryside is a living space for him. In the last stanza of the poem, the poet transcends the country (‘First Nature’), the city (‘Second Nature’) and reaches ‘Third Nature’: Temples prefer mountains’ aloofness The Cross matches the coordinates of heaven You burnish emptiness and remoteness into a mirror looking at where the light starts to flow where water spring starts to gush where flowers start to blossom where birds begin to fly Allowing all the roads to see the starting point all the sounds to merge into your stillness (Au, 2006, 88) 廟選中了山的清高 / 十字架對正了天堂的座標 / 你把空茫磨亮成一 面鏡 / 望著光開始流動的地方 / 泉水開始湧現的地方 / 花開始開的地 方 / 鳥開始飛的地方 / 讓所有的路都能看見起點 / 所有的聲音都歸入 你的沉寂


chapter three

In the last stanza of the poem, Lomen shows us the wilderness again, though this wilderness is different from the one sketched before. The poet implies that this wilderness is transformed by religions. ‘Temples’ and ‘the Cross’ represent the religions of the East as well as the West. Everything in this wilderness seems to be reborn again because everything starts from the beginning. Although this space reminds us of the wilderness depicted at the beginning of the poem, the two are not the same. The wilderness in the last stanza is destroyed but is reborn again. In other words, it is an imaginary wilderness which is the poet’s ‘Third Nature.’ In short, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Lomen assign symbolic meanings to nature and to the countryside. As such, when these poets reveal their hatred of the city, they may not be referring to the real city. Since they have been forced into exile, undoubtedly these poets do not like where they are forced to live. In other words, the Taiwanese modernist poets show enmity to a living space other than their homeland, and this other space happens to be an urban space—Taipei. I will suggest that this is one of the reasons why the Taiwanese poets never see the merits of living in the city. If urban space is one major factor that contributes to the making of urban diseases, being an exile will be another. The exile seems to have no choice but to live a vagabond life. Jean-Martin Charcot associates urban diseases such as neurasthenia with vagabondage and questions the cause and effect of them. Charcot asks, “Would it be the case that vagabondage leads to hysterical neurasthenia, or rather the reverse that neurasthenia leads to vagabondage?” (Vidler, 2000, 74) In the case of the Taiwanese modernist poets, they became vagabonds when they arrived in Taiwan. In fact, the situation of these Taiwanese modernist poets is more complicated than that of a vagabond, because they did not come today only to leave tomorrow. These poets came today and will have to stay tomorrow. Simmel calls this kind of urban dweller ‘the stranger.’ According to Simmel, “the stranger was not the ‘wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow but the person who comes today and stays tomorrow.’ Fixed within a particular spatial group, the stranger was one who has not belonged from the beginning. ‘In the stranger,’ Simmel concluded, ‘are organized the unity of nearness and remoteness of every human relation,’ in such a way that in relationship to the stranger ‘distance means that he who is close by is far, and strangeness means that he who also is far is actually near’” (Vidler, 2000, 70).

imagining taipei


When Simmel analyses the characteristics of the stranger, he talks about social life in a large city. Simmel remarks that city life creates “the sense of utter lonesomeness, and the feeling that the individual is surrounded on all sides by closed doors” (Vidler, 2000, 70). The psychological distance suffered by city dwellers is shared by the exiled or the Taiwanese modernist poets. This phenomenon also enhances the feeling of estrangement. Although these poets are physically tied to the land of Taiwan, their minds are far away from it. Lomen’s “Liulang Ren” [A Vagabond] best exemplifies this psychological distance: The boat, exhausted by the sea’s vastness, is in the harbor By the coffee table, he uses the lamp to bring his own shadow to heel the animal he carries always with him Besides it Nana is only as close as what is far away He drinks the wine until it becomes the moonlight of his hometown and looks at the empty bottles until they become a desert island He carries the animal with him walking toward his own footsteps Far away, a star is walking and carrying the sky with it Tomorrow

when the first roll of the blinds tugs at the sun and turns it into a ladder he does not know whether he will go up or go down (Au, 2006, 39) 被海的遼闊整得好累的一條船在港裡 / 他用燈栓自己的影子在咖啡 桌的旁邊 / 那是他隨身帶的一種動物 / 除了牠 娜娜近得比什麼都遠 / 把酒喝成故鄉的月色 / 空酒瓶望成一座荒島 / 他帶著隨身帶的那條 動物 / 朝自己的鞋聲走去 / 一顆星也在很遠很遠裡 / 帶著天空在走 / 明天 當第一扇百葉窗 / 將太陽拉成一把梯子 / 他不知往上走 還是 往下走

In the first line of the poem Lomen compares the protagonist—‘he’—to a boat. This association implies that he is a wanderer since the normal state of a boat is to sail in the sea. The boat entering into the harbor implies that he is settling down. However, the second line tells us that nothing can hold a vagabond in place: “he uses the lamp to bring his own shadow to heel.” The metaphor Lomen chooses emphasizes that the vagabond must wander around forever, for it is impossible to tie anything up by a lamp. Moreover, it is also useless to leash one’s shadow instead of oneself. The third line shows ‘the sense of utter lonesomeness’ of the protagonist because he is always on his own, his only company


chapter three

being his own shadow. The last line of the first stanza shows us a paradoxical relationship of distance. Nana is probably a waitress at the cafe. She is physically close to the protagonist, yet he feels that she is psychologically far away from him. Likewise, his hometown is actually far away, but the wine makes him feel that it is close by. This contradictory perception of distance reminds us of Freud’s theory of the uncanny. The relationship between the familiar and unfamiliar becomes ambiguous. In this case, the conception of distance and proximity becomes vague. In the rest of the poem, Lomen portrays the subject of the poem as a loner and a wanderer. Although the wanderer seems to settle down at the beginning, he is still uncertain about his direction at the end. The poet implies that two factors contribute to the development of the estrangement between nearness and remoteness, namely, urban space and the condition of being an exile. The setting of the poem—a cafe—suggests that the protagonist has settled in a city. The existence of coffeehouses is a significant indicator of the development of a modern city.9 As such, the urban space may cause the estrangement. However, the word ‘hometown’ suggests another possibility. Only people who are far away from home, such as the exile and the wanderer, yearn for their hometown. Lomen’s “A Vagabond” hints that both factors can cause estrangement. I believe the exile experience aggravates the feeling of estrangement. This is because the vagabond depicted by Lomen is different from Simmel’s stranger. Whereas Simmel’s stranger ‘comes today and stays tomorrow,’ Lomen’s vagabond comes today and stays for a while. However, he wanders, either spiritually or physically, from one place to another all his life. Zheng Chouyu in his “Pandi de Cheng” [The Basin City] combines the two factors and proclaims that Taipei is a city of exile: Taipei city is bathing in the afterglow in her basin (which is the biggest bathtub for exiles) Neon lights are floating in the sky, which resemble the kind of laziness that comes after having a bath And the Big Dipper, one by one, buttons up the night on the left

9 When Leo Lee Ou-Fan discusses the modernization of Shanghai, he examines the development of coffeehouses in the city among other things such as department stores, dance halls and so forth. A detailed account can be found in Lee’s Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China 1930–1945. Chapter one, “Remapping Shanghai,” is the most useful.

imagining taipei


Oh, at this moment, a flock of crows confuses the person who looks far into the distance He mistakes the skyscrapers for mountains and rivers (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 287) 台北城在她的盆中沐浴餘溫 / (那是世界上最大的流浪人的浴盆啊) / 霓虹如浴後的慵懶在夜空浮出 / 而七星依次扣上這夜的左衽 / 啊, 此刻, 鴉群弄亂眺遠人的視線 / 錯將幢幢華廈當是亂帔風的山水

Zheng clearly points out in this poem that Taipei is both a city and a place for the exiled. An exile’s homeland is an absence; therefore the exile always looks ‘far into the distance.’ However, the skyscrapers in the urban space block his or her long distance sight, and the exile mistakes the high-rise buildings for mountains. Zheng is similar to his fellow poets who use natural images such as ‘the mountains and rivers’ to represent their homeland. In fact, either being in the city or being in exile will make people suffer from psychological diseases such as agoraphobia, neurasthenia and so forth. If these two factors are combined, the Taiwanese modernist poets undoubtedly have a kind of double nostalgia. On the one hand, as city dwellers, the fast living tempo contributes to their feeling of nostalgia for the past. On the other hand, as exiles, they always feel nostalgia for their lost homeland. Consequently, the feeling of estrangement of the exiled city dwellers is two-fold. What happens when people contract urban diseases? Dr. Bruck from Driburg recorded that one of his patients was a priest “who was terrified if he was not covered by the vaulted ceiling of his church, and was forced when in the open to walk beneath an umbrella” (Vidler, 2000, 29). This priest’s symptoms remind us of Rong Zi’s poem “San” [Umbrella]: A tiny green umbrella is a lotus leaf The early morning’s red sun the late evening’s black clouds which can walk on their own . . . An umbrella goes against the sky facing the bright sunny sky braving rain carrying the transparent notes of simple children’s songs It is a leisurely and carefree small world With an umbrella on hand open or close it as you wish Closed, it will become a stick open, it will become flowers and a pavilion And I am tranquilly hidden inside this pavilion (Rong Zi, 1995c, 59–60) 一把綠色小傘是一頂荷蓋 / 紅色朝暾 黑色晚雲 /. . . . . . 而且能夠行 走 . . . . . . / 一柄頂天 / 頂著艷陽 頂著雨 / 頂著單純兒歌的透明音符 / 自在自適的小小世界 / 一傘在握 開闔自如 / 闔則為竿為杖 開則為 花為亭 / 亭中藏一個寧靜的我。


chapter three

Although this poem does not show us that the poetess is afraid of open space, her attitude toward an umbrella reminds us of a person suffering from agoraphobia. According to the poetess, the umbrella becomes a stick when she closes it, and changes to a pavilion when she opens it. She feels calm under the umbrella. It is noteworthy that besides the umbrella, a walking stick is the other thing that an agoraphobic patient usually likes to carry when he or she goes out in the street. This is because patients find relief in these physical aids (Vidler, 2000, 29). Rong Zi also compares the umbrella to a pavilion or a shelter. This comparison implies that when the poetess walks in the street, she seeks shelter. An umbrella can help protect her from being exposed to open spaces. Lomen also wrote a poem on the umbrella. It is interesting to note, however, that the poet is not as optimistic as Rong Zi. He believes that nothing can help us resist loneliness and the uncanniness of the city: He leans against the window of his apartment looking at the umbrellas in the rain they walk and become a multitude of lonely worlds He thinks of the crowd who come from the crammed buses and subways They wrap themselves up, hide at home and lock the doors Suddenly all the rooms of the apartments rush out into the rain and exclaim ‘they are also umbrellas’ He is shocked and stands still, grasping himself tightly until he becomes an umbrella’s handle the sky an umbrella’s folding frame Inside the umbrella it is raining there is no rain outside (Au, 2006, 166) 他靠著公寓的窗口 / 看雨中的傘 / 走成一個個 / 孤獨的世界 / 想起一 大群人 / 每天從人潮滾滾的 / 公車與地下道 / 裹住自己躲回家 / 把門 關上 / 忽然間 / 公寓裡所有的住屋 / 全都往雨裡跑 / 直喊自己 / 也是 傘 / 他愕然站住 / 把自己緊緊握成傘把 / 而只有天空是傘 / 雨在傘裡 落 / 傘外無雨

At the beginning of the poem, the protagonist—‘he’—is inside his apartment. When he looks outside of his window, the umbrellas remind him

imagining taipei


of “a multitude of lonely worlds.” This is because the people in the crowd beneath the umbrellas lead lonely lives. Since these people do not have a sense of security, “they wrap themselves up, hide at home and / lock the doors.” The umbrellas may help to distance one from the other, and these people cannot help but feel lonesome. In the second stanza, Lomen sketches a surrealistic scene, “all the rooms of the apartments / rush out into the rain.” The poet directly associates the rooms with the umbrellas because they share one thing in common: they are supposed to protect people from the rain. In the last stanza, we are told that the whole sky becomes “an umbrella’s folding frame.” We are all beneath the umbrella. This transformation reminds us of the first stanza in which the poet says that the umbrellas in the rain are a multitude of lonely worlds. As such, we find ourselves inside one big, lonely world at the end. Ironically, there is no rain outside the big umbrella but it is raining inside of it. Lomen shows us that we cannot seek safety or protection under an umbrella, in an apartment or anywhere else in the world. The analysis of this chapter suggests that the city of Taipei is represented in different ways in Taiwanese modernist poetry. However, all the poets share one thing—their sense of anti-urbanism—which manifests itself in many different forms, such as distorting the city, doing without the city, feeling hostility toward the monstrous buildings, crimes, sexual desires and so forth. Since these poets dislike the city so much, why have they lived in the cities all their lives? There may be many reasons. According to Esther Cheung, one reason is that the city inspires these poets to write poetry (Cheung, 2002, 295). As Cheung points out, there are so many unsolved problems in our world; however, these limitations become a kind of motivation which drives our imagination to new heights (Cheung, 2002, 295–96).10 Although Cheung’s comment is in relation to the urban writings of Hong Kong authors, I think it also helps to explain why the Taiwanese modernist poets have not moved out of cities. The city is a source of inspiration for them, and Lomen is a good example of this. Though he always criticizes the city in his poetry he has, nevertheless, been living in

10 Discussion of the relationship between unsatisfactory living environments and poetic inspiration can also be found in Tung Qizhang’s “The Realistic Experience of the City and the Textual Experience” (Cheung, 2002, 394–407) and Chen Qingqiao’s “On the Cultural Imaginary in the City” (Cheung, 2002, 408–22). These articles are collected in Esther Cheung’s Hong Kong Literature as/and Cultural Studies.


chapter three

Taipei for more than forty years. Rong Zi directly points out that Lomen draws his inspiration from the city. Lomen must live in the city in order to conjure up his poetic space. Likewise, Rong Zi is also in a sense an urban poet. She has to be away from her ideal home—nature—in order to yearn for it. The city is an ideal location, for it is a binary opposite to nature. Yu Guangzhong, Luo Fu and Zheng Chouyu do not say very much about the city in their poetry, but their silence implies that they are simply not interested in their physical living space. As a result, they turn to create topics other than the city. In a sense, the city is an indirect source of inspiration to them as well. When the house and the city become uncanny spaces, the poets naturally put their hopes on their homeland. But while the private and the urban spaces are distorted, can the national space be kept intact? In the last stanza of “Umbrella,” Lomen hints that no space can be a refuge. In the next chapter, I will discuss how the concept of a fixed homeland begins to shift as we examine the works of Yu Guangzhong, Zheng Chouyu and Luo Fu. I will suggest that although the exile experience of these poets contributes to their loss of a sense of fixed origin, different poets have different ideas of their homeland. For example, Yu believes in such things as a fixed origin though he changes the meaning of his homeland from time to time. Luo resembles Yu who believed in a fixed origin in the early years, but changed his mind after he returned to his homeland. As a result, Luo Fu considers ‘homeland’ to be on shifting ground. In contrast to these poets, Zheng has never believed in such a thing as a fixed origin. He thinks life is a process of wandering. Since a lot of recent scholarship on exile writing in the West is influenced by poststructuralist theories, I will also try to examine to what extent these theories shed light on our understanding of Taiwanese modernist poetry.



The exiled Taiwanese modernist poets’ works always embody a sense of yearning. As they yearn for a lost homeland, the meaning of that homeland changes from time to time. ‘Homeland,’ always considered a stable entity in the past, has been made unstable in the modern world by wars, diaspora and so forth. In other words, the mobility of modern man has resulted in ‘homeland’ as a signifier embodying more than one meaning. In fact, poststructuralists such as Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan reconsidered the meanings of structure and origin in the late 1960s. Although the beginnings of poststructuralist theories were a counter-movement in linguistic theory, they have had great influence on the scholarship of exile writing. In his well-known article “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” Derrida brings forth numerous important insights in relation to structure. One of them concerns the center, or a fixed origin, of a structure, which is especially useful for our understanding of people in exile. Before the ‘rupture’ that the poststructuralists proposed in the 1960s, people tended to think of structure as having ‘a center.’ Or, they referred to it as ‘a point of presence, a fixed origin,’ which is its native land. However, Derrida shows us that there is no such thing as a ‘fixed origin.’ The reason why a structure cannot have a center or a fixed origin is that the function of the center is to organize coherence and to permit the free play of its elements inside the structure. In this case: At the center, the permutation or the transformation of elements (which may of course be structures enclosed within a structure) is forbidden . . . the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere. The center is not the center. (Derrida, 1977, 248)

Derrida further elaborates that “the center had no natural locus, that it was not a fixed locus but a function, a sort of non-locus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play” (Derrida, 1977, 249). In short, Derrida shows us the impossibility of having a fixed origin or a


chapter four

center within a structure. Since there is no such thing as a center or fixed origin, due to the ‘structurality of structure,’ the meaning of a center only can be granted by a supplement. Derrida remarks: One cannot determine the center, the sign which supplements it, which takes its place in its absence—because this sign adds itself, occurs in addition, over and above, comes as a supplement. The movement of signification adds something, which results in the fact that there is always more, but this addition is a floating one because it comes to perform a vicarious function, to supplement a lack on the part of the signified. (Derrida, 1977, 260–61)

In other words, it is always the ‘supplement,’ or in Jacques Lacan’s words ‘one more,’ that holds the meaning of its preceding one. Similarly, in his “Of Structure as an Inmixing of an Otherness Prerequisite to Any Subject Whatever,” “Lacan problematizes the unity or oneness attributed to structure” (Chow, 1999, 32). Lacan points out that when we consider the genesis of numbers we find the basic formula ‘n plus 1’ (n + 1). For instance, if we put number 2 in the place of n, number 3 will appear. In this case, number 3 is here to grant existence to number 2. In other words, the later appearing number 3 holds the meaning of number 2 (Lacan, 1977, 191). Both Derrida and Lacan try to tell us that there is no a priori presence of meaning. Rey Chow succinctly summarizes that: A structure (such as an integer), no matter how integrated (as one) it appears, must be understood to be the effect of retroaction—a belated conferral of meaning on an event (such as the number [2]), which does not have such a meaning until it has been repeated in an other, subsequent event (the number [3]). (Chow, 1999, 32)

In short, meaning only can been found in retrospect. Lacan’s (n + 1) theory sheds light on the question of why the origins of the poets, embodied in their poems, changed over time. In fact, the ‘n’ in the formula is an unknown number; the genesis of numbers can be any number. For example, the number 0 is the genesis of numbers if we put number 0 in the place of n. We can also put number –1 in the place of n as well, if we wish to. In this case, number –1 might then become the genesis of numbers. On the one hand, no number can become the genesis of numbers, and on the other, every number can claim to be the genesis of numbers. In short, the origin is a shifting ground. Following the poststructuralist idea of origin, a number of contemporary studies of exile writings have reconsidered the ideas of home, iden-

homelands as shifting ground


tity, homecoming and so forth. To name only a few of them, in “Home and Identity,” Madan Sarup writes “we speak of ‘home from home’ ” (Sarup, 1998, 94). Home, therefore, is not static. Sarup is also fascinated by the idea of identity. “It can be hybrid or multiple. It can be constituted through community: family, region, the nation state. One crosses frontiers and boundaries” (Sarup, 1998, 93). Sarup associates the concept of home with the notion of identity and concludes that “identity is not to do with being but with becoming” (Sarup, 1998, 98). Sarup’s ideas of identity echo those of Stuart Hall’s discussed in “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” According to Hall, “there are at least two different ways of thinking about ‘cultural identity’ ” (Hall, 1990, 223). While one concept assumes “a fixed origin to which we can make some final and absolute Return,” the other considers that ‘cultural identity’ is a matter of positioning (Hall, 1990, 226). However, a study of Yu Guangzhong’s poetry suggests a third kind of cultural identity which is a combination of Hall’s two concepts. I will discuss this issue in detail in the latter part of this chapter. Rob Nixon notes that “homecoming does not allow for simple restorations” (Nixon, 1998, 114). According to Nixon, homecoming may create a feeling of anxiety, as the exile may have become used to the sense of loss. In some cases, the obsession with the sense of loss that sustains the returnees in exile becomes a “version of security” that they do not want to lose (Nixon, 1998, 116). As a result, the exile defers his or her homecoming, and the imaginative obsessions of homecoming take hold instead. In addition, the meaning of homecoming also multiplies; the dreamland may take the place of the actual homeland. Inspired by the poststructuralist theories of origin, Chow re-examines the meaning of nostalgia in Wong Kar-war’s Happy Together. In her “Nostalgia of the New Wave: Structure in Wong Kar-war’s Happy Together,” Chow suggests that the object of nostalgia in this film is “no longer an emotion attached to a concretely experienced, chronological past; rather, it is attached to a fantasized state of oneness, to a time of absolute coupling and indifferentiation that may, nonetheless, appear in the guise of an intense, indeed delirious, memory” (Chow, 1999, 35). The nostalgic object of the film is, then, a mythic one. Chow points out that the main characters pursue “an originary state of togetherness— a kind of Edenic perfection in terms of human relationships” (Chow, 1999, 36). Chow’s analysis not only reinforces the idea that the concept of origin embodies multiple meanings, but also suggests the possibility of employing poststructuralist theories to explain non-Western cultural


chapter four

works. How do these theories help us to understand the concept of origin in the Taiwanese modernist poets’ works? Among the five poets I chose for study, Yu Guangzhong, Rong Zi, Luo Fu and Zheng Chouyu’s works often embody a recurrent theme: their nostalgia for the lost origin. If we examine their poetry closely we will find that these poets have different ideas on the concept of origin. Yu Guangzhong believes in the concept of a fixed origin, and he struggles to find this lost origin. Nevertheless, traveling, studying and working abroad helped Yu Guangzhong understand that the lost origin could not be restored, and as a result, he tried to construct a mythic one.1 Similarly, Luo Fu also believed in the concept of a fixed origin at first. His idea of origin also changed after he returned to his homeland in Mainland China. Luo’s homecoming contributed to the development of a feeling of uncanniness. The once familiar homeland had become unfamiliar. Luo Fu’s later idea of origin reminds us of that of the poststructuralists: the origin is a shifting ground. When Zheng Chouyu started to write poetry, his idea of origin was already similar to that of the poststructuralists’. He considers life a process of wandering. In the rest of the chapter, I will examine these three different concepts of origin under three major topics, “Yearning for the Lost Origin,” “Homecoming” and the “Origin as a Shifting Ground.”

Yearning for the Lost Origin Yearning for the lost homeland and searching for cultural identity are two essential themes that repeatedly occur in Yu Guangzhong’s poetry. The concept of ‘homeland’ changes from time to time and Yu Guangzhong’s cultural identity undergoes transformations as well. Paradoxically, despite the changeable nature of home and identity shown in the poet’s works, Yu Guangzhong always believes in, and searches for, a fixed origin. Eventually, Yu Guangzhong constructed for himself a fi xed ori-

1 Rong Zi shares similar beliefs with Yu Guangzhong. For instance, the poetess believes in such a thing as a fixed origin and she tried hard to search for it. In spite of the fact that Rong Zi’s idea of homeland changes from time to time, the poetess eventually finds herself a fixed homeland—the world of nature. Detailed accounts of the meanings of nature can be found in Chapter Three and Five. My study in this chapter will concentrate on Yu Guangzhong.

homelands as shifting ground


gin (ancient China) and an identity (Chinese poet). I will discuss these issues in detail in what follows. Mother, child and the map are Yu Guangzhong’s favorite images. Th e poet frequently employs these images to symbolize his lost origin. A study of the maternal and infantile images in Yu Guangzhong’s poetry helps to demonstrate that the poet’s lost origin has various meanings. It can refer to a concrete place such as Mainland China or Taiwan. In addition, the lost origin can be an abstract idea; it may refer to Chinese culture or to an obsession with the sense of loss. An examination of the image of the map can help to answer the question: how is Yu Guangzhong’s origin developed? I will discuss the maternal and infantile images first and the image of the map later. In “Xiangchou” [Nostalgia], the maternal and infantile images are employed to represent Mainland China: When I was a child, nostalgia is a small postage stamp. I am on this side, mother is on the other. [. . .] Now nostalgia is a shallow strait. I am on this side, the Mainland is on the other. (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 56–57) 小時候 / 鄉愁是一枚小小的郵票 / 我在這頭 / 母親在那頭 . . . . . . 而現 在 / 鄉愁是一灣淺淺的海峽 / 我在這頭 / 大陸在那頭

In the first stanza of the poem, Yu Guangzhong does not tell us that the image of the child is a metaphor for Yu Guangzhong and the image of the mother is a metaphor for Mainland China. The suspension of this information reminds us of Freud’s idea of homeland. Freud’s theory of the uncanny suggests that our first homeland is our mother’s womb (Freud, 1964, 245). Once we leave our mother’s body, we are sent into exile. This idea helps to explain the reason why nostalgia exists between the child and the mother. In “Nostalgia,” a small stamp is used to bridge, or to measure, the gap. We learn in the last stanza that the gap can never be bridged. The Taiwan Strait separates the Mainland China and Taiwan, or the mother and the child. This poem shows that Yu Guangzhong’s concept of homeland is static; the lost origin is always there. While Freud’s theory helps to explain “Nostalgia,” it is contradicted in Yu Guangzhong’s other poem “Toutai” [Reincarnation]. The concept of


chapter four

having a fixed origin can be best exemplified by the idea of going back to mother’s womb. In “Reincarnation,” Yu Guangzhong reveals that he longs to return to his mother’s womb. Let me kneel down feeling repentance and in prayer a crawling baby prostrates itself and worships in order to return to its mother to suckle its mother’s sweet milk Oh, open your fertile womb and let me reincarnate again (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 110–11) 讓我翻身跪倒 / 一半懺悔, 一半是禱告 / 一個匍匐的嬰孩 / 膜拜用五 體來膜拜 / 為了重認母親 / 吮甘醇的母奶 / 張開肥沃的子宮啊 / 讓我 再從頭 / 向你投胎

The maternal image in this poem is similar to that in “Nostalgia,” implying that the lost origin is a fixed one. However, if the maternal image in “Nostalgia” clearly refers to a concrete homeland, the mother depicted in “Reincarnation” symbolizes something different. It is noteworthy that when the baby wants to return to his mother’s womb, it shows repentance. Why and what does the baby, or Yu Guangzhong, need to repent? The poet was, in fact, forced into exile. He did not want to leave Mainland China, so leaving his motherland for Taiwan was not by his own volition. For this reason, I suggest that the maternal image is a metaphor for Chinese culture, rather than the geographical space of China. Yu Guangzhong turned his back on Chinese tradition in favor of the Western modernist one in the early 1960s. He did, however, choose to reclaim Chinese tradition a few years later. For this reason, the lost origin Yu Guangzhong refers to is not necessarily a concrete place, but an abstract idea. As I discussed in Chapter Three, Freud’s neurotic patients considered women’s genitals uncanny; they did not wish to return to the womb. Although Yu Guangzhong’s maternal image reminds us of Freud’s theory, the poet’s image embodies different meanings from Freud’s. While Freud considers the literal meaning of a woman, Yu Guangzhong is interested in the metaphorical meaning of the image. For instance, since the maternal image is associated with Chinese culture in “Reincarnation,” Yu Guangzhong longs to return to his mother’s womb. Yu Guangzhong reinforces the idea that the lost origin can be an abstract idea instead of a concrete place in “Shi Nian Kan Shan” [Look-

homelands as shifting ground


ing at the Mountains for Ten Years]. However, the abstract idea does not refer to Chinese culture as it does in “Reincarnation.” Yu Guangzhong reveals in this poem that the lost origin he yearns for is basically an obsession with the sense of loss. In other words, it does not matter to which specific home the poet refers. Looking at the mountains for ten years, not these green mountains in Hong Kong But those behind these green mountains Those in the vast land [. . .] Looking at the mountains for ten years, I hate these green mountains which block my dreamland in the North It is merely because of the stubborn memories of my childhood I look at the mountains for ten years and never see them [. . .] Suddenly I realize these mountains actually are my lost dreamland (Yu Guangzhong, 1985, 54–55) 十年看山, 不是看香港的青山 / 是這些青山的背後 / 那片無窮無盡的 後土 . . . . . . / 看山十年, 恨這些青山擋在門前 / 把那片朝北的夢土遮 住 / 只為了小時候, 一點頑固的回憶 / 看山十年, 竟然青山都不曾入 眼 . . . . . . / 頓悟那才是失去的夢土

Yu Guangzhong tells us in this poem that he regrets spending all his time yearning for what is lost. The poet’s dreamland is the landscape of mountains behind those he faced in Hong Kong. Yu Guangzhong uses an infantile image—the memories of a child—to express his nostalgic feelings for his motherland. The poet does not feel nostalgia for the Mainland, but is obsessed with the dreamland or the loss itself. After Yu Guangzhong left Hong Kong for Taiwan, he developed nostalgic feelings for Hong Kong, which became a dreamland, or a new loss. In “Duan Nai” [Weaning], Yu Guangzhong not only embodies the idea that his lost origin is an obsession with the sense of loss, but, by employing two maternal images, he indicates that he wishes to break away from this obsession. Yu Guangzhong would like to choose one of them as his homeland. I always think that I belong to the extensive land on the other side Because of a vague map A broken map, which is soaked through by tears I forget to appreciate the soil under my feet This land provided me with clothes, food and sheltered me until I grew up


chapter four This evergreen overseas fairyland [. . .] I always think that it is only a sampan Until one day I start to worry about Losing this tiny fairyland as well, I have found that I also belong to this island The mother who no longer feeds me with her milk is still my mother The weaning child, I am so happy that Although I lost Lei Zu, I still have Ma Zu (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 131–32) 一直, 以為自己只屬于那一望大陸 / 為了一張依稀的地圖 / 淚溼未干 的一張破圖 / 竟忘了感謝腳下這泥土 / 衣我, 食我, 屋我到壯年 / 海外 這座永碧的仙山 . . . . . . / 一直, 以為這只是一舢渡船 / 直到有一天我開 始憂慮 / 甚至這小小的蓬萊也失去 / 才發現我同樣歸屬這島嶼 / 斷奶 的母親依舊是母親 / 斷奶的孩子, 我慶幸 / 斷了嫘祖, 還有媽祖

There are two maternal images in this poem: Lei Zu 嫘祖, and Ma Zu 媽祖. While Lei Zu is associated with ancient Mainland China, Ma Zu refers to Taiwan. Lei Zu is a legendary figure who was the concubine of China’s earliest legendary king—King Huang 黃帝. Though it is difficult to determine the exact time of her existence, she undoubtedly lived prior to the Xia dynasty 夏朝, which was established approximately four thousand years ago. Ma Zu is a goddess worshipped by Chinese fishermen. According to the legend, Ma Zu was a fisherman’s daughter who became a goddess after her death in 987 (Song dynasty). Ma Zu is considered the patron saint of the fishermen. Since most Chinese people who migrated to Taiwan from Fujian province were fishermen in the second half of the sixteenth century, Ma Zu became a popular goddess in Taiwan. In the last line of the poem, the poet tells us that the mother he breaks away from is Lei Zu. The poet points out that although he loses one of his mothers, namely, Mainland China, he still has the other one, Taiwan. It is interesting to note that the poet actually breaks away from feeling nostalgic for the concrete place that was Mainland China. This is because he ‘lost’ Mainland China long ago. Although Yu Guangzhong proclaims himself a weaning child, he is still obsessed with the fear of losing his mother. It seems that the poet can never grow up. In effect, Yu Guangzhong cannot do without a homeland and needs to have a sense of security. In this case, the poet wants to reconnect with Taiwan. In addition to the maternal images, Yu Guangzhong also uses the image of a map to represent his lost origin. He describes the map as ‘broken’ and ‘vague.’ The poet compares the map to Mainland China

homelands as shifting ground


and the soil under the poet’s feet to Taiwan in this poem. In fact, the map is associated with ‘an illusion,’ but the soil reminds us of something concrete (Wood, 1992, 108). Yu Guangzhong wrote “Weaning” in 1973 when he had been in exile from the Mainland for more than twenty years. The poet associates Mainland China and Taiwan with Lei Zu and Ma Zu accordingly. He again not only refers to his origin as a geographical location, but also as a cultural tradition. Is it then possible for Yu Guangzhong to break away from China as a concrete place and as a representation of Chinese culture, and turn to Taiwan and Taiwanese culture? The poem “Huhuan” [Calling] shows that the meaning of Yu Guangzhong’s origin changes yet again. However, he seems to anchor himself with Chinese culture at last. My mother calls me going home having dinner I can think of my old age When the sun sets, my sweat is getting cold Inside a five-thousand-year deep ancient house A calling comes from it which is more comfortable, touching From far away, calling me to go home (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 83–84) 母親喊我 / 吃晚飯的聲音 / 可以想見晚年 / 太陽下山, 汗已吹冷 / 五 千年深的古屋裡 . . . . . . / 就傳來一聲呼叫 / 比小時更安慰, 動人 / 遠遠, 喊我回家去

The ‘five-thousand-year deep ancient house’ refers to five thousand years of Chinese culture; ‘home’ also refers to Chinese culture. The maternal image no longer refers to a homeland. Interestingly, the mother becomes someone who calls to her son, or to the poet, to return home. It is noteworthy that this poem depicts Yu Guangzhong’s old age. Although the poet still portrays a maternal image in this poem, he implies that having a home is the most important thing to an old man. In fact, the poet says that he returns to the house and not to his mother. I believe the poet is searching for a fixed or an eternal home. While human beings represented by the images of mother and child are ephemeral, the five thousand year-old ancient house of Chinese culture is able to resist the tyranny of time. As such, the poet declares that this five thousand yearold culture is his final home. This idea is reinforced by my examination of the image of the map in the next section of this chapter. Yu uses the image of the map to depict the subtle relationship between the meanings of his origin and the poet’s displacements.


chapter four Quest for a Mythic Origin

Yu Guangzhong uses the image of the map to demonstrate that his lost origin is a mythical one. Using a map as an image implies that the poet is not talking about reality because a map is associated with illusion. In The Power of Maps, Denis Wood says that maps pretend to show us reality. However, it is just a kind of construction (Wood, 1992, 18). Wood further elaborates that a map is only: An illusion: there is nothing natural about a map. It is a cultural artifact, a cumulation of choices made among choices every one of which reveals a value: not the world . . . but loaded with intentions and purposes; not directly, but through a glass; not straight, but mediated by words and other signs; not, in a word, as it is, but in . . . code. (Wood, 1992, 108)

Although Yu Guangzhong does not draw a real map, the images of the maps he employs in his poetry are also loaded with ‘intentions and purposes.’ They represent the poet’s dreamlands. In this section, I will examine how Yu Guangzhong’s idea of a mythic origin developed over time. Before Yu Guangzhong left Mainland China for Taiwan, he felt nostalgia for a mythic origin, the countries of the West. According to Yu Guangzhong, he loved making maps from the time he was only a middle school student. Though the poet liked drawing the map of China, he enjoyed drawing the maps of foreign countries even more. Countries such as Finland, Greece, Switzerland and The Netherlands were among his favorites, though he loved Italy the most due to his fascination with Venice, Rome, Caesar, Juliet and so forth (Yu Guangzhong, 1980, 67). In Yu Guangzhong’s well-known poem “Yin Yi Ba Si Er Nian Putaojiu” [Drinking the Wine of 1842], the poet takes us to Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa and so forth. What pure and scarlet blood of the wine! It injects itself into my chest warmly and slowly, Which makes my pleasant heart conceive the summer nights of South Europe, Conceive the golden sunshine of the Mediterranean, And the songs of the nightingales of Provence [. . .] However, all these things withered during that summer. A thousand miles away, one hundred years before, other people’s past events [. . .]

homelands as shifting ground


Everything is gone, only the magic cup in my hand remains Which is still holding the spring night and summer morning of the foreign country of one hundred years ago! (Yu Guangzhong, 1974, 115–17) 何等芳醇而又鮮紅的葡萄的血液! / 如此暖暖地, 緩緩地注入了我的 胸膛, / 使我歡愉的心中孕滿了南歐的夏夜, / 孕滿了地中海岸邊金黃 色的陽光, / 和普羅旺斯夜鶯的歌唱 . . . . . . / 但是這一切都已經隨那個 夏季枯萎。 / 數萬里外, 一百年前, 他人的往事 . . . . . . / 一切都逝了, 只 有我掌中的這只魔杯 / 還盛著一世紀前異國的春晚和夏晨!

Yu Guangzhong draws a kind of map of Southern Europe in this poem. Although the image of a map is not directly mentioned in the poem, his favorite countries and places are presented simultaneously in it, as on a map. When the poet wrote this poem, he had never been to Europe. In other words, Yu Guangzhong does not yearn for a concrete place in this poem. The mapping of the various locales and the French wine clearly suggest that the poet is obsessed with Western culture. The origin the poet depicts here therefore, is an imaginative one. After Yu Guangzhong left Taiwan for the United States, the displacement helped to change the meaning of maps for him. For example, in “Dang Wo Si Shi” [When I am Dead], the poet indicates that his home is in Mainland China. When I am dead, bury me between the Yangtze River and the Yellow River My head will rest; my white hairs will be covered with black soil In China, the most beautiful and the most motherly nation, I will sleep calmly . . . [. . .] I want to pierce through the darkness for the dawn of China For seventeen years, I devoured the map of China with my hungry eyes, From Xihu to Taihu And to Zhongqing, where there are Chinese francolins everywhere, As if I were at home (Zheng, 1994, 357–58) 當我死時, 葬我, 在長江與黃河之間, / 枕我的頭顱, 白髮蓋著黑土 / 在 中國, 最美最母親的國度 / 我便坦然睡去 . . . . . . / 想望透黑夜看中國的 黎明 / 用十七年未饜中國的眼睛 / 饕餮地圖, 從西湖到太湖 / 到多鷓 鴣的重慶, 代替回鄉

The mapping in this poem is obviously different from that of “Drinking the Wine of 1842.” Rivers and places such as the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, Xihu, Taihu and Zhongqing help to suggest a map of China. It


chapter four

is noteworthy that Yu Guangzhong refers to China as ‘the most motherly nation.’ This expression implies a comparison; it seems that Yu Guangzhong has more than one motherland. Among all of them the poet feels most at home in Mainland China. As I discussed before, the term ‘homeland’ embodies various meanings, and the observation is again reinforced by this poem. Yu Guangzhong further suggests that the term ‘homecoming’ has more than one meaning. On the one hand, it refers to physically going back to China. Yu Guangzhong hopes that if he cannot return to the Mainland while he is alive, he can be buried in China after he dies. On the other hand, it seems that looking at the map of China can take the place of the poet’s actual return to his homeland. On the surface, the China Yu Guangzhong mentions here is contemporary because he is talking of a place he can return to after he dies. However, since the image the poet uses to signify China is a map or an illusion, I believe that Yu Guangzhong also considers contemporary China a mythical origin. This is most likely because the poet cannot go back to his motherland for political reasons. Yu Guangzhong uses ‘the darkness’ to symbolize China of the 1960s. Although the poet is not explicit about the situation, I believe he is referring to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Yu Guangzhong's travel experience was relatively extensive. He had been to the United States three times, and had also taught in Hong Kong for approximately ten years. These subsequent displacements, however, did not change the locus of Yu Guangzhong’s origin, but rather changed the period of time of the location. For example, in “Xiangchou Si Yun” [Four Stanzas on Homesickeness], and “Haitang Wen Sheng” [Begonia Tattoo], the time period of Yu Guangzhong’s home shifts from contemporary Mainland China to the China before 1949. In the second stanza of “Four Stanzas on Homesickeness,” the poet tells us that a red begonia triggers his ‘pain of homesickness.’ Give me a red begonia, oh, red begonia Begonia as red as blood The scalding pain of seething blood Is the scalding pain of homesickness Give me a red begonia, oh, red begonia (Yeh, 1992, 102) 給我一張海棠紅啊海棠紅 / 血一樣的海棠紅 / 沸血的燒痛 / 是鄉愁的 燒痛 / 給我一張海棠紅啊海棠紅

Yu Guangzhong does not mention maps nor include any reference to mapping in this poem. However, the map of old China during the KMT’s rule before 1949 was in the shape of a begonia. After 1949 the map of

homelands as shifting ground


China is in the shape of a rooster (Jiao, 1999, 49). Choosing the begonia instead of the rooster to describe the map of China, Yu implies that his origin has changed from contemporary China to the pre–1949 China. In “Begonia Tattoo,” Yu Guangzhong not only reinforces the idea of his obsession with the old map in the shape of a begonia, but also indicates that this kind of obsession is a painful one. The small scar on the left of the chest was forgotten [. . .] Until he got old And felt pain in his heart one day He looked at his naked body in the mirror The scar, the scar has already grown up Who slapped him on his chest and left the fingerprint A bloody crab, a begonia tattoo He surprisingly looked at the distorted picture The begonia, he does not know Whether it is an external Or internal injury He cannot tell (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 43–44) 一向忘了左胸口有一小塊傷痕 . . . . . . / 直到晚年 / 心臟發痛的那天 / 從鏡中的裸身他發現 / 那塊疤, 那塊疤已長大 / 誰當胸一掌的手印 / 一只血蟹, 一張海棠紋身 / 那扭曲變貌的圖形他驚視 / 那海棠 / 究竟 是外傷 / 還是內傷 / 再也分不清

The period of time of Yu Guangzhong’s origin does not change in this poem; it remains the China before 1949. However, the poet associates the begonia map with negative images such as scars and injuries. These associations foretell Yu’s later break from his obsession with Mainland China. In the poem “Baiyu kugua” [The White Jade Bitter Gourd], Yu Guangzhong again depicts the image of a map, this time referring to ancient China. Vast were the Nine Regions, now shrunk to a chart, Which I cared not to enfold when young, But let stretch and spread in their infinities Huge as the memory of a mother’s breast. (Yu Guangzhong, 1992, 82) 茫茫九州只縮成一張輿圖 / 小時候不知道將它疊起 / 一任攤開那無 窮無盡 / 碩大似記憶母親, 她的胸脯

The map is a symbol of ancient China. Generally speaking, China was divided into nine regions in ancient times. On the surface, Yu Guangzhong’s origin changes from modern China to ancient China. However,


chapter four

it is noteworthy that the maternal and infantile images again emerge. The map is compared to ‘the memory of a mother’s breast.’ Both the images of map and mother refer to the poet’s origin. The mother’s breast, which is associated with breastfeeding, may refer to nurturing. In addition to ancient China, then, these two images are also associated with Chinese culture. In fact, the major image of this poem is the bitter gourd, and Yu Guangzhong’s emphasis is on searching for his cultural identity instead of questing for his origin. I will examine this poem in detail in the next part of this chapter. All in all, my analyses of the image of the map show that although the map as a metaphor for the origin shifts its meaning from time to time, Yu Guangzhong finally came to consider ancient Chinese culture as his mythic origin.

Searching for a Cultural Identity I believe no other Taiwanese modernist poet demonstrates the instability of identity better than Yu Guangzhong. Since the poet traveled extensively, he wrote numerous poems on the topic of identity crisis. Yu Guangzhong left Mainland China for Taiwan in 1950, and he spent one year, 1958, studying in the United States. The poet was twice invited to teach in the U.S. in the 1960s, and he taught in Hong Kong in the 1970s before settling down in Taiwan in 1985. The poet did not suffer from a cultural identity crisis until he went to the U.S. Yu Guangzhong considered his American trip a kind of “cultural exile” (Yu Guangzhong, 1986, 8). Cultural identity is not a simple issue. Stuart Hall in his “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” says that: There are at least two different ways of thinking about ‘cultural identity’. The first position defines ‘cultural identity’ in terms of one, shared culture, a sort of collective ‘one true self ’, hiding inside the many other, more superficial or artificially imposed ‘selves’, which people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common. (Hall, 1990, 223) According to Hall, the second position of cultural identity is: A matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being’. It belongs to the future as much as to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history and culture. Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture and power. (Hall, 1990, 225)

homelands as shifting ground


If we examine Yu Guangzhong’s work closely, we will fi nd that Hall’s two interpretations of cultural identity help us to understand the poet’s cultural identities. Yu Guangzhong has been searching for a ‘one true self ’ and for an ever-transforming self in history for decades. Though Yu Guangzhong realizes that he can never return to his lost past, in searching for an ever-transforming self in history, the poet fi nds himself returning to ancient Chinese culture. In other words, one of the interpretations of Yu Guangzhong’s cultural identity—searching for an ever-transforming self—is not an equivalent to Hall’s second position of cultural identity. Although they have similarities, Yu Guangzhong’s cultural identity is a derivative of both of Hall’s definitions of cultural identity. Yu Guangzhong spent some time searching for a ‘collective true self.’ In the preface “Zhi Duzhe” [To the Reader] of Zai Leng Zhan di Nian Dai [In Time of Cold Wars], Yu clearly points out that there is such a thing as a ‘collective one true self,’ who can represent all Chinese: A thousand stories make one story: The theme forever is the same theme Forever the shame and the glory: When I say China I only mean Such as myself and you and him. (Yu Guangzhong, 1970, 2) 一千個故事是一個故事 / 那主題永遠是一個主題 / 永遠是一個羞恥 和榮譽 / 當我說中國時我只是說 / 有這麼一個人: 像我像他像你

Yu Guangzhong made this declaration upon his return from his second visit to the U.S. This ‘searching for a collective one true self ’-type of cultural identity is not a ready-made concept in Yu Guangzhong’s case. As I discussed in the last section, the meaning of homeland in Yu Guangzhong’s poetry changed over time, and the definition of China was no exception; it, too, underwent a transformation. For example, China refers to contemporary Taiwan and Mainland China, as well as ancient China (Huang, 1979, 92). The theme of China first appeared in Yu Guangzhong’s works which were written during his first visit to the U.S. “Xindalu de Zaochen” [The New Continent’s Morning], “Wo zhi Gutihua” [The Solidified Me] and “Wo de Nianlun” [My Annual Ring] are some examples. In the poem “The New Continent’s Morning,” the poet juxtaposes ‘ancient China’ with Chilung Harbor (Yu Guangzhong, 2004, 264–66). Yu Guangzhong does not distinguish China from Taiwan. When the poet says in “The Solidified Me,” “But the sun of China is too far away from me” 中國的太陽距我太遠, it appears that ‘China’ refers to both Mainland China and Taiwan (Yu Guangzhong, 2004, 297). The poet was not an exile in the United States—he spent only a year


chapter four

there before returning to Taiwan—and therefore the theme of ‘China’ was not well established before he returned to Taiwan. Yu Guangzhong wrote three volumes of poetry after returning to Taiwan, namely, Wu Ling Shaonian [A Youth of Tang], Tianlangxing [Sirius] and Lian de Lianxiang [Associations of the Water Lily]. Several poems in A Youth of Tang and Sirius embody the theme of nostalgia for China, or the search for the collective one true self. In Associations of the Water Lily, however, Yu Guangzhong denotes a new direction, a search for cultural identity, which for him, is a search for an ever-transforming self in history. In what follows I will concentrate my discussion on the ever-transforming self. Yu Guangzhong’s struggle between the two types of cultural identity remained latent for many years. This is because the poet put emphasis on transformation, exploration and experimentation in terms of style and theme in his early years. As a result, it is not easy to discern the development of the poet’s two cultural identities. Generally speaking, Yu Guangzhong began to search for an ever-transforming self—the second position of cultural identity—in his Associations of the Water Lily, which was written between 1960 and 1963. This second kind of cultural identity was developed simultaneously with the first, since A Youth of Tang and Sirius were also written during this period. Although Associations of the Water Lily was a great success, with more than seven editions published by 1969, Yu Guangzhong did not finish developing this theme until he began his lyric collection called The White Jade Bitter Gourd. In the preface of Associations of the Water Lily, Yu Guangzhong points out that he wishes his water lily could achieve a kind of ‘trinity,’ by which he means that ‘thing,’ mankind and god can become three in one.2 The ‘thing’ transforms into mankind, and mankind transforms into god (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 7). In this case, ‘thing’ refers to a water lily, and mankind refers to a girl. As a matter of fact, the girl is both a water lily and a god because, in the poems, she transforms into both of them. In addition, Yu believes that the life of a water lily is a kind of reincarnation that lasts only one summer. The water lilies of this year are the same as those of last year (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 8). The stems of this

2 In English, the singular of ‘god’ is usually capitalized and refers to the Christian, Jewish or Muslim God. Lower-cased ‘god’ is usually used in the plural and refers to the gods of polytheistic religions. In Yu Guangzhong’s case, since the ‘god’ he refers to is his lover—a girl—I use the lower case, singular ‘god.’

homelands as shifting ground


year’s water lilies connect with last year’s and also with those of a thousand years ago (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 11). In effect, a kind of eternity is achieved. However, this transformation is not directly related to the development of Yu Guangzhong’s cultural identity, for this lyric collection is mainly about the poet’s romantic interest. Th e lovers (the poet and the girl) cannot be together, and as a result, the poet chooses the water lily to symbolize the girl; whenever the poet sees water lilies, they will remind him of Zhen Zhen. In “Yongyuan, Wo Deng” [Forever, I Am Waiting], Yu Guangzhong directly points out the relationship between Zhen Zhen and water lilies: In the pond, in the summer, if only there is A petal of scarlet in them, why is it necessary to see you? Water lily is Zhen Zhen’s nickname; a water lily is Zhen Zhen Whenever I think of you, Zhen Zhen, looking at a water lily is like seeing You (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 84) 只要池中還有, 只要夏日還有 / 一瓣紅艷, 又何必和你見面? / 蓮是甄 甄的小名, 蓮即甄甄 / 一念甄甄, 見蓮即見人

The poet further elaborates the relationship between Zhen Zhen and a god in “Liangqi” [Amphibious]: Planting you in the middle of water, Zhen Zhen, you become a sleeping water lily Transplanting you on the bank, O water lily, you wake up and become Zhen Zhen [. . .] in the water you are a god, out of water you are a human being Amphibious is your soul (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 88–89) 植你于水中央, 甄甄, 你便是睡蓮 / 移你于岸上, 蓮啊, 你便醒為甄甄 / . . . . . . 你入水為神, 你出水為人 / 兩棲的是你的靈魂

Since Yu Guangzhong’s romantic love is restricted in the secular world, he tries to place his hope in the divine world, which is beyond restrictions including time and space. His love, therefore, becomes eternal. In “Zhuguang Zhong” [Under the Candlelight], Yu Guangzhong describes how he achieves eternity through his love: We only have, only have the present. The crimson fog of the candlelight Pushes time away from all sides [. . .] A pair of stubborn lovers who fall in love with each other, in Italy In the ripples of Luo river, in the fields of Mt. Huashan, in here, in eternity (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 108–10)


chapter four 我們也只有, 只有現在。 燭光的紅霧 / 將時間向四面推開 . . . . . . / 一對 頑固的情人相愛, 在意大利 / 在洛水波心, 在華山畿, 在此地, 在永恆

In this poem, Yu Guangzhong tells us that he and Zhen Zhen have neither the past nor the future; they only have the present. The element of time, then, is eliminated. Eternity is achieved in a timeless world. However, Yu Guangzhong questions this eternal love in his poem “Mijin” [Getting Lost] which was penned one year after he wrote “Under the Candlelight”: After you die you will come out of water, fluttering, and become a fairy After I die? I will go into water Drifting and will become a ghost, become a shark-man with frozen skin You are on the water at that time. I am under the water At that time; do you remember, last summer? (Yu Guangzhong, 1964, 122) 你死後該出水, 翩翩, 成水仙 / 我死後? 我死後應入水 / 漂漂成水鬼, 成冰膚的鮫人 / 你在水上, 那時, 我在水下 / 那時你記不記得, 去夏?

In short, although the poet tries to undergo transformation and achieve eternity through love, he eventually fails to do so. There are, however, at least two elements in this lyric collection that contribute to the further development of the theme of continual transformation in history. First of all, the poet’s identity is rooted in Oriental culture, or to be specific, in ancient Chinese culture. Secondly, his cultural identity is not static and is under the process of transformation. These two elements can be found in Yu Guangzhong’s later poem “Huo Yu” [Bathing in Fire]. According to Zhong Ling 鍾玲, the poem is about the processes of ‘making a decision—catharsis—eternity.’ The poet realizes that there are two roads leading to eternity, namely bathing in fire and bathing in ice. Although bathing in fire is much more difficult than bathing in ice, the poet chooses fire instead of ice. This is because “Fire is more transparent than ice, deeper than water” (Huang, 1979, 166). The poet is like a phoenix that is born from a fire: My song is a kind of eternal yearning My blood is burning. My soul is bathing in the fire In the blue ink, listen, there are songs from the fire Rising, becoming clear after death, and more sonorous (Yu Guangzhong, 1970, 39) 我的歌是一種不滅的嚮往 / 我的血沸騰, 為火浴靈魂 / 藍墨水中, 聽, 有火的歌聲 / 揚起, 死後更清晰, 也更高亢

homelands as shifting ground


Zhong points out that the kind of phoenix mentioned here is not a Chinese phoenix, but comes from ancient Arabic legend (Huang, 1979, 168). Nevertheless, the phoenix is an Oriental symbol, which is comparable to the Western symbol of the swan. In addition to the elements of Oriental culture and processes of transformation, another new element is found in this poem—Yu Guangzhong’s goal or ambition. Th e poet is unlike the phoenix; he cannot be reborn after he dies. In order to achieve eternity or immortality, the poet wishes to be remembered in history for his creative writing. If this goal is not clearly expressed in this poem, it becomes more obvious in “Gouweicao” [Green Bristle Grass] and “Siwang, Ta Bushi Yiqie” [Death, It is Not Everything]. In “Green Bristle Grass,” the poet says that death is our only permanent address. Unless our reputations can match R. M. Rilke’s or Li Bai’s 李白, eternity is merely a mirage: In a word, no one can argue against the grave Death, is the only permanent address [. . .] Unless the names transcend and keep up with stars To join Rilke or Li Bai (Yu Guangzhong, 1970, 51–52) 總之最後誰也辯不過墳墓 / 死亡, 是唯一的永久地址 . . . . . . 除非名字 上升, 向星象去看齊 / 去參加里爾克或者李白

In “Death, It is Not Everything,” Yu Guangzhong makes it clear that he will be different from the others when he dies, and that his reputation will be preserved for posterity: Death, you are not everything For my hearse will go in a different direction [. . .] Death, you are not everything, you are not, For the most important thing is not What I hand over to the grave, but What I hand over to history (Yu Guangzhong, 1970, 80–81) 死亡, 你不是一切 / 因為我的柩車不朝那方向 . . . . . . / 死亡, 你不是一 切, 你不是 / 因為最重要的不是 / 交什麼給墳墓, 而是 / 交什麼給歷史

We have so far discussed the three elements that help to establish the poet’s second cultural identity. While the processes of transformation and the poet’s ambitions are well defined, his cultural preference is still in question. The symbols such as the water lily and the phoenix do not originate from Chinese culture, but have roots in Oriental culture. This


chapter four

problem was solved after Yu Guangzhong came back from his third visit to the United States, when most of the lyrics collected in The White Jade Bitter Gourd were written. In the preface of the collection, the poet points out that when he reached middle age, he started to look back to ancient Chinese culture. Yu Guangzhong writes poems in relation to his meditation on the past. The poet further elaborates that ‘three-dimensional’ modern poetry should embody the vertical historical sense, the horizontal regional sense and the crisscross network of reality. People who are reluctant to enter into the special temporal-spatial region of their nation and talk about transcending time and space are simply engaging in a kind of escape (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 3). As a result, the poet uses a Chinese symbol—a white jade bitter gourd—to represent his ever-transforming self in history in the poem “The White Jade Bitter Gourd.” According to Huang Weiliang 黃維樑, the bitter gourd is a favorite food among Chinese people, although Westerners would probably not appreciate its bitterness. Moreover, the gourd referred to in the poem is made of jade, and jade has always been favored with the highest status in ancient China (Huang, 1979, 279–80). In addition to the focus on Chinese culture, emphasis has also been placed on the processes of transformation. An ordinary bitter gourd is transformed into a white jade bitter gourd through an artist’s craftsmanship. The original bitter gourd, which was the model for the white jade bitter gourd, and the artist who made the white jade bitter gourd, disappeared long ago. Only the artifact, the white jade bitter gourd, can survive the tyranny of time and achieve eternity. It is noteworthy that the white jade bitter gourd is not merely a ‘thing’ according to the poet; it seems to be ever transforming and eternal at the same time: Seeming awake yet asleep, in a light slow and soft, Seeming, idly, to wake up from an endless slumber, A gourd is ripening in leisureliness [. . .] once a gourd and bitter, Now eternity’s own, a fruit and sweet. (Yu Guangzhong, 1992, 82–83) 似醒似睡, 緩緩的柔光裡 / 似悠悠醒自千年的大寐 / 一只瓜從從容容 在成熟 . . . . . . / 曾經是瓜而苦 / 被永恆引渡, 成果而甘

In addition to the eternity that the white jade bitter gourd embodied, it is important to note that Yu Guangzhong actually saw this artifact at the National Museum of Taiwan. The environment of the museum may

homelands as shifting ground


also contribute to the visitor’s experiencing a sense of eternity. According to Nelia Dias, “In the space of the museum, the visitor was invited to take account of the linear development of ideas. Through the sense of vision, the spectator was able to transcend the time and space of the objects to situate himself in the timeless, abstract and analytic space of the museum” (Dias, 1998, 168). I will suggest that the characteristics of the museum and the white jade bitter gourd help the poet to shape his second cultural identity. Huang Weiliang and Huang Guobin 黃國彬 remark that Yu Guangzhong compares himself to the white jade bitter gourd (Huang, 1979, 217, 283). Huang Weiliang explains that if this poem were merely about the bitter gourd itself, Yu Guangzhong would not use terms such as ‘memory,’ ‘chart’ and ‘young’ to describe it. In fact, as I have mentioned, reading or drawing a ‘chart’ (map) has been one of the poet’s favorite activities since he was a child (Huang, 1979, 285). A detailed discussion of the image of the map can be found in the previous section of this chapter. Huang Weiliang further elaborates that the poet wishes to achieve immortality or eternity, just as the bitter gourd has done. Yu Guangzhong believes that he can achieve eternity or immortality through his poetry (Huang, 1979, 287–92). The white jade bitter gourd was crafted in ancient China. It transcends the past and the present as a piece of art. Likewise, the cultural roots of Yu Guangzhong also date back to ancient China. In short, the poet’s ‘second cultural identity’ is well established in the poem “White Jade Bitter Gourd.” However, as I pointed out before, this cultural identity is not an equivalent to Hall’s second position on cultural identity. According to Hall’s second interpretation, cultural identity should not be “eternally fixed in some essentialised past” (Hall, 1990, 225). As we can see, Yu Guangzhong’s second interpretation of cultural identity is based on ancient Chinese culture, and it is ‘eternally fixed in eternity.’ The elements such as ‘eternity’ and a ‘fixed past’ remind us of Hall’s first interpretation of cultural identity, whereas other elements such as the ‘future’ and ‘transformation’ remind us of Hall’s second interpretation of cultural identity. I suggest that the development of Yu Guangzhong’s second cultural identity is a combination of Hall’s first and second interpretations of cultural identity. The development of Yu Guangzhong’s two cultural identities is then completed. There has been no further major change in his poetry up to the present. I will discuss Yu Guangzhong’s cultural roots in detail in Chapter Five.


chapter four Homecoming

The best way to examine whether there is such a thing as a fixed origin is to go back to the so-called place of origin. In his “Ellipsis,” Derrida remarks that “repeated, the same line is no longer exactly the same, the ring no longer has exactly the same center, the origin has played” (Derrida, 1985, 296). Although Derrida does not deal with the issue of homecoming in “Ellipsis,” his theory helps us to discern the idea of homecoming. In his paper, Derrida uses a book as a metaphor for a center or a tradition, and writing as a metaphor for the wandering from the center. Paradoxically, writing is not possible without consulting or returning to the book, because it has all the resources the writing needs. However, the return to the book does not mean a mere repetition. According to Derrida: Repetition does not reissue the book but describes its origin from the vantage of a writing which does not yet belong to it, or no longer belongs to it, a writing which feigns, by repeating the book, inclusion in the book. Far from letting itself be oppressed or enveloped within the volume, this repetition is the first writing. The writing of the origin, the writing that retraces the origin, tracking down the signs of its disappearance, the lost writing of the origin. (Derrida, 1985, 295)

In other words, every return of the writing to the book is a rewriting of the origin. As the title of the paper “Ellipsis” implies, something is missing and the circle is incomplete. In fact, the word ‘ellipsis’ has a Latin origin, which embodies two meanings: omission and an incomplete circle. The French title “L’ellipse” also refers to two meanings: omission and a regular oval (Zheng Min, 1998, 58). Each time the poet returns to the book, he contributes to the construction of a spiral which is an incomplete circle. This is because every return is not an exact repetition of the original circle. The exile’s return to his origin is similar to the writing’s return to the book. Neither the exile nor the writing can return to their origins. Derrida’s “Ellipsis” raises one important point which helps us to reconsider the issue of homecoming: every return is a creation rather than a repetition. The exiles can never return to their previous homes. There are at least two reasons why such a homecoming is impossible. First, the exiles may become used to a kind of melancholy caused by the wandering life. Sometimes, these sad feelings become ‘imaginative obsessions’ of the exiles’ writings (Nixon, 1998, 116). They do not wish to lose these feel-

homelands as shifting ground


ings by returning home. Second, the sense of uncanniness caused by displacement makes the once familiar homeland unfamiliar. I will use Yu Guangzhong as an example to briefly discuss imaginative obsessions. The relationship between uncanniness and homecoming will be examined through a study of Luo Fu’s poetry in the next section. In his “Refugees and homecomings: Bessie Head and the end of exile,” Rob Nixon discusses in detail how the exiled writers may really not want to go home. Nixon points out that: The decision to re-enter may offer release; it may also provoke, in the same breath, an outpouring of trepidation. On the one hand, return, however compromised, presents the prospect of imaginative renewal. This is a priceless prospect for writers who have found themselves plumbing an ever-shallower pool of recollections, the initial wrong of banishment having been compounded by that secondary injustice, the evaporation of memory. Yet the promise of replenishment has its threatening side, too, for it draws writers away from the imaginative obsessions that sustained them in exile, obsessions which, however melancholy, came over the years to offer a version of security. (Nixon, 1998, 116)

Nixon thoroughly lists all the pros and cons of homecoming. Among the poets I chose for my study, Yu Guangzhong is most obsessed by yearning for his lost homeland. For instance, Yu Guangzhong exceeds other poets in the number of nostalgic poems he writes on China. It is interesting to note, nevertheless, that though he yearned to go back to Mainland China, he deferred his homecoming for years. The KMT lifted martial law in 1987, but Yu Guangzhong did not go back to China until 1992 and then only to attend a conference in Beijing. In fact, Yu’s wife visited the Mainland via Hong Kong on her own in 1980, and other poets such as Luo Fu and Lomen went back to China in 1988, only months after the lifting of the travel ban. I believe that Yu Guangzhong did not go back to his homeland as soon as he could have because he did not want to lose his imaginative obsession. I think writing nostalgic poems offers Yu Guangzhong, in Nixon’s words, ‘a version of security.’ As Fu Mengli 傅孟麗 points out, after Yu Guangzhong went back to China, “he had to deconstruct his nostalgic poems” (Fu, 1999, 228). Homesickness is always a major theme in Yu Guangzhong’s poetry; therefore ceasing to write nostalgic poems undoubtedly would threaten his inspiration.


chapter four The Uncanniness of Homecoming

Luo Fu’s idea of ‘origin’ was dramatically transformed aft er his homecoming. Luo Fu resembles Yu Guangzhong in that he believed in the idea of a fixed origin before he returned to Mainland China. Luo Fu’s homecoming contributed to the change of his concept of homeland. The poet came to believe that the origin was a shifting ground. Luo Fu discovered that his homeland was an uncanny place. I will first discuss Luo Fu’s idea of a fixed origin and then the uncanniness of his homecoming. The concept of origin as a shifting ground will be examined last. Although Luo Fu believed in a fixed origin early in his career, his idea of homeland underwent a process of change. Luo Fu’s first nostalgic poem can be traced back as early as 1970. In his poem “Yue Wen” [Asking the Moon], Luo expresses his nostalgia for Mainland China when he is looking up at the moon: Looking up at you My hometown has already become yesterday’s light cough Is nostalgia farther than Changan? (Fei, 1994, 181) 仰首向你 / 故鄉已是昨日的一聲輕咳 / 鄉愁比長安還遠?

Fei Yong 費勇 points out that the moon symbolizes Chinese culture as well as Luo’s homeland (Fei, 1994, 180). According to Fei, the moon has special meaning in Chinese tradition. Although Fei does not further elaborate on the meaning of the moon, it is always associated with the theme of nostalgia in classical Chinese poetry. In addition, Changan was an ancient capital that was especially influential and prosperous during the Tang dynasty. Whenever people mention Changan, they immediately refer to the Tang thereafter. As such, I think Luo Fu’s homeland refers to both ancient Chinese culture and ancient China. These ideas—homeland as ancient Chinese culture and ancient China—are reinforced in “Yun Tang Lushe Chuye” [First Night at Yun Tang Inn]: Except for snow Everything belongs to the Tang dynasty The style of the door, the height of the window [. . .] Aeolian bell carries Wang Wei’s chanting through the wind (Luo Fu, 1981, 11) 除了雪 / 一切都是唐朝的 / 門的款式, 窗的高度 . . . . . . / 簷鈴自風中傳來 / 王維的吟哦

homelands as shifting ground


When Luo Fu wrote this poem, he was in South Korea. Since South Korea is close to Mainland China in terms of both geographical location and culture, Luo’s trip reminded him of ancient China, ancient Chinese tradition and his separation from both of them. The interior design and the furniture in his hotel room, for example, were associated with ancient China. The aeolian bell reminded Luo of the Tang poet Wang Wei, another link to ancient Chinese culture. The meaning of homeland is equated to Luo’s hometown in “Wuye Xiao Li” [Peeling a Pear at Midnight]. The word ‘pear’ in Chinese shares an identical pronunciation with the Chinese word for ‘separation.’3 As a result, the pear is always used as a metaphor for separation. In Luo’s case, the pear in this poem is associated with his separation from his hometown in Mainland China. It is an Ice-cold Pear Which shines with brassy skin Cutting the pear open into halves, I find Its chest Hiding A deep well [. . .] The knife falls from my hand I bend down to look for it Why, the floor is all of My brassy skin (Luo Fu, 1981, 25–26) 那確是一只 / 觸手冰涼的 / 閃著黃銅膚色的 / 梨 / 一刀剖開 / 它胸中 / 竟然藏有 / 一口好深好深的井 . . . . . . / 刀子跌落 / 我彎下身子去找 / 啊! 滿地都是 / 我那黃銅色的皮膚

This poem is about peeling a pear at midnight. Since the poet feels thirsty, he wants to eat a pear to quench his thirst. When the poet peels the pear, the color of its skin—brassy—reminds him of Chinese people. In addition, the hollow where the stone sits reminds him of a well. The well is very important to Chinese people, since it is always associated with ‘hometown.’ There is a Chinese saying, ‘Beijing-lixiang’ 背井離鄉, which means literally ‘turning away from the well and leaving one’s hometown,’ or more commonly, ‘leaving one’s native place.’ As such, it is

3 The word ‘pear’ in Chinese 梨 [li] shares an identical pronunciation with the Chinese word for ‘separation’ 離 [li].


chapter four

obvious that the main theme of this poem is the poet’s nostalgia for his hometown in Mainland China. In “Xuedi Qiuqian” [A Swing in Snow], Luo Fu makes it clear that his homeland is where he spent his childhood: Looking back, on yesterday’s swing I see My childhood as cold and bleak as snow Forcing in my face Ah! The fragrance of snow The fragrance of my sister who was on the swing If I swing higher, I will feel sad I will see that inside the courtyard The setose thistle-like nostalgia walks gradually faster (Luo Fu, 1981, 32) 回首, 乍見昨日鞦韆架上 / 冷白如雪的童年 / 迎面逼來 / 啊! 雪的膚香 / 鞦韆架上妹妹的膚香 / 如再盪高一些, 勢將心痛 / 勢將看到院子裡 漸行漸速的 / 薊草般的鄉愁

Luo reveals a personal experience in this poem. He remembers playing with his sister in the past and this memory triggers his nostalgia. In other words, his origin refers to his hometown. It is noteworthy that Luo and his sister play on a swing in the poem. The swing is associated with something unstable. The higher the poet swings, the farther he is from the ground or the land. This image reminds us of Luo Fu’s separation from his homeland and his family. Since Luo considered his hometown his origin, the poet went on a ‘trip’ to his homeland immediately once the political situation permitted. Luo’s idea of homeland was shattered, however, on his return to his native land. The uncanny always has its place in the exiles’ works on homecoming. Shortly before Luo Fu went back to his homeland, he wrote a poem about his trip. He imagines that he meets the poet Li Yuanluo 李元洛 in the Mainland. Both Luo Fu and Li Yuanluo came from Hunan Province, and had become acquainted through correspondence. Luo Fu planned to meet Li Yuanluo when he went back to the Mainland. He surmised that the trip would create an uncanny feeling. In his poem “Hunan Da Xue” [Heavy Snow in Hunan], Luo Fu tells us that: Before we exchange a few words of greeting I feel somewhat as though I’ve been cut off for generations, which seized me with terror Fortunately, the fragrance of the wine coming from the stove Eliminates the shivering caused by history (Luo Fu, 1990a, 17–18) 寒暄之前 / 多少有些隔世的怔忡 / 好在火爐上的酒香 / 漸漸袪除了歷 史性的寒顫

homelands as shifting ground


Luo Fu clearly points out that the uncanny is caused by history, that is, by temporal displacement. Although the poet realized the uncanniness of homecoming before he went back to his old town, he thought that he could easily overcome it. According to this poem, he imagines that wine can help him eliminate the uncanny feeling. It is clear, then, that Luo believed that he could return to his origin even before his homecoming. Nevertheless, when Luo actually stepped onto his native land, he understood that he could never get rid of the feeling of uncanniness. In “Yu Hengyang Binguan de Xishuai Duihua” [Talking With a Cricket at Hengyang Guest House], the poet found that his hometown was no longer familiar to him: Lying in Hengyang Guest House, where my hometown was before It becomes a foreign land in the rest of my life [. . .] You ask where I will go in the future Where will I settle down when I grow old? [. . .] These questions really embarrass me, my friend I had once been A fish trapped in a dry rut Then I transformed into a silkworm which was covered by a cocoon Now I have become an old spider Hanging over a broken thread, And am destined to sway all my life (Luo Fu, 1990a, 27–30) 躺在這前半生是故土後半生是 / 異鄉的 / 衡陽賓館 . . . . . . / 你問我今 後的行止 / 終老何鄉? / 這個問題問得我多麼難堪啊, 老鄉 / 我曾是 / 一尾涸轍的魚 / 一度變成作繭的蠶 / 于今又化作一只老蜘蛛 / 懸在一 根殘絲上 / 註定在風中擺盪一生

It is interesting to note that Luo uses a ‘fish,’ ‘silkworm’ and ‘spider’ to symbolize himself. The poet tells us that he undergoes a process of transformation. At the beginning he is a fish, and as a fish he is trapped in a dry rut. A fish cannot live without water; it cannot go anywhere or do anything but wait to die in a dry rut. In other words, the poet does not have freedom. According to Luo Fu, he later transformed into a silkworm. Since the silkworm is covered by a cocoon, he not only loses freedom, but is also kept from the outside world. Although ‘dry rut’ and ‘cocoon’ remind us of homes for a fish and a silkworm respectively, they are unhomely homes. The fish will die eventually in a dry rut, and the silkworm will also ‘die’ in a sense, for it will metamorphose into a moth. The images of fish and silkworm share one thing in common, which is that both subjects will die in their unhomely homes.


chapter four

In Luo Fu’s case, Taiwan is the poet’s home away from his original home. Since he was not able to go back to Mainland China before 1988, he might have died in Taiwan or somewhere else other than his original home. Once Luo Fu returned to China, he no longer compared himself to a fish or to a silkworm. Instead, he transformed into ‘an old spider,’ which is ‘hanging over a broken thread.’ A spider’s web always reminds us of its home. The comparison between Luo Fu’s homecoming and a spider hanging over its broken web implies that the poet became homeless after he returned to his so-called homeland. A spider can always repair its broken web by spinning it again. However, Luo Fu’s comparing himself to an old spider implies that the spider or the poet may be too old to spin or to make a new web or home again. As a result, the old spider and the poet can never settle down or be at home. Luo Fu does not tell us the reason why he became homeless after his homecoming. However, in the first two lines of the passage cited above, the poet implies that the uncanny feeling created by temporal displacement cannot be dismissed easily. His hometown of Hengyang has become a strange or foreign place to him. The homecoming shattered his dream of going back to the place he treasured in his memory. Consequently, he predicts that he will never in his life be able to settle down. Words and phrases such as ‘hanging over’ and ‘sway’ imply that the poet will lead a wandering life in the future. One year after Luo returned from Mainland China, he wrote “Zai Bie Hengyang Chezhan” [Saying Good-bye Again to Hengyang Station]. If the poet does not clearly explain his uncanny feelings in “Talking with a Cricket at Hengyang Guest House,” he tells us more in this poem: That year, I was here to say good-bye to you My hand waved in the wind, Which was like a broken lotus root Forty years later Its fibers are still hanging in the middle of the air [. . .] It is good to go home It is good to be sad It is good to see my own shadow Posted loosely on the broken wall of my old house However, my clothes are not warm enough to endure the cool autumn days Before it snows I bring with me a small pocket of childhood again I glue together my shattered dream

homelands as shifting ground


With saliva and pack it into my knapsack hastily [. . .] And my waving hand Still remains hanging over the forty-year Yet-to-be defrosted Nostalgia (Luo Fu, 1990a, 52–56) 那年, 我在此向你告別 / 風中舉起的手 / 如一截斷藕 / 四十年後 / 藕絲 依舊懸在半空 . . . . . . / 回家真好 / 淒涼真好 / 看到自己的影子 / 浮貼在 老屋的半堵牆上真好 / 只是, 衣衫單薄, 不耐秋寒 / 下雪之前 / 我又 帶著剩下小半口袋的童年 / 把碎了的夢 / 用口水黏合 / 草草摺入行囊 . . . . . . / 而我揮動的手 / 依舊懸在四十年來 / 未曾冰解的 / 鄉愁裡

This poem is divided into three parts. In the first part, Luo is leaving his hometown for Taiwan at Hengyang station forty years ago. In the second part, we learn that the poet did not feel at home when he returned to his old house forty years later. Luo went to visit his birthplace during his trip to the Mainland, and after he arrived at his old home, he was totally disappointed. The mountain was barren, the pond dried up, and all the trees were cut down. His nostalgic dream was destroyed on the spot, and the poet even asked whether it was really his hometown. His old home was broken, looked a lot smaller than he remembered, and a group of strangers lived there who considered Luo Fu to be a passing traveler instead of the owner. The poet concluded that if nostalgia is a kind of illness, it would be an incurable disease in him (Long, 1998, 209–10). As a result, in the last part of the poem, the poet tells us that his nostalgia for his hometown will always remain. In addition to the uncanny feeling caused by temporal displacement, I think another reason that contributes to the poet’s nostalgia for his hometown after his return to it is that he is a returnee to his native land. He does not belong any longer to the locals.

Traveling as Collecting of One’s Identity Every homecoming entails travel since the returnee must journey back to his homeland. However, being a traveler implies that the returnee is different from the locals, which means he can never be at home. Being a traveler is, in fact, different from being a tourist. Critics such as Paul Fussell lament that “travel is now impossible and that tourism is all we have left” (Fussell, 1980, 41). Fussell distinguishes the traveler and explorer from the tourist. According to Fussell:


chapter four The genuine traveler is, or used to be, in the middle between the two extremes. If the explorer moves toward the risks of the formless and the unknown, the tourist moves toward the security of pure cliché. . . . It is between these two poles that the traveler mediates, retaining all he can of the excitement of the unpredictable attaching to exploration, and fusing that with the pleasure of “knowing where one is” belonging to tourism. (Fussell, 1980, 39)

Although Fussell succinctly tells us the differences between the explorer, the traveler and the tourist, he fails to demonstrate how a person can choose to be a traveler instead of a tourist. While we can easily understand that not all common people can be explorers, we cannot easily tell the subtle difference between a traveler and a tourist. Trinh T. Minh-ha points out that a traveler is always considered a “privileged seer and knowledgeable observer” (Trinh, 1998, 22). In order to distinguish him- or herself from the banal tourist, Trinh Minhha states: The traveler has to become clandestine. He has to imitate the Other, to hide and disguise himself in an attempt to inscribe himself in a counterexoticism that will allow him to be a non-tourist—that is, someone who no longer resembles his falsified other, hence a stranger to his own kind. . . . To travel can consist in operating a profoundly unsettling inversion of one’s identity: I become me via an other. (Trinh, 1998, 22–23)

According to Trinh, being a tourist means to look for exoticism. In order to be a non-tourist, one has to ‘imitate the Other,’ which means to imitate the locals, and to counter exoticism. In other words, in order to be a traveler instead of a tourist (a falsified other), one has to turn oneself “into another falsified other (in imitating the Other)” (Trinh, 1998, 23). Traveling implies that “the process of othering in the (de)construction of identity continues its complex course” (Trinh, 1998, 23). The identity of the returnee is much more complicated than that of the traveler and the tourist. In theory, the returnee’s identity is no different from that of the locals. Nevertheless, since homecoming involves a process of traveling, the identity of the returnee undoubtedly undergoes a process of transformation. As such, in the case of the returnee, there is otherness within what seems to be familiar. Even if the returnee wants to hide and disguise himself as a non-tourist, not to mention a local inhabitant, he will easily be singled out. In other words, a returnee seems to have no choice but to be someone other than a traveler or a local inhabitant.

homelands as shifting ground


The title of the collection of Luo Fu’s homecoming poetry is “Shenzhou zhi Lu” [A Trip to the Divine Land]. ‘The Divine Land’ is a poetic name for China, and therefore Luo considers his going back to China as a trip instead of a homecoming. The poet visited a lot of tourist spots after he left his unfamiliar hometown: Hangzhou’s Xi Hu, Shaoxing’s Lu Xun Museum, Shanghai’s Long Hua Temple, Beijing’s Imperial Palace, the Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and so forth. Luo Fu was treated as a guest during his so-called homecoming trip, and he did not stay with his family. According to Long Bide 龍彼德, the poet and his wife stayed at Hengyang Guest House instead. After having unpacked his luggage at the guesthouse, Luo went to visit his brothers and their families. He realized then that things had changed tremendously in his hometown (Long, 1998, 204). Since Luo Fu was one of the first Taiwanese poets to go back to Mainland China, his return was not simply a personal matter—it became a national event. In addition to the poet’s relatives, other people such as news reporters, Mainland writers and government officials waited for Luo at Hengyang station (Long, 1998, 200). Even when the poet went to visit his mother’s grave, government officials accompanied him. Although Luo Fu traveled around China, he tried to distinguish himself from other tourists. In “Shanghai Hongkou Gongyuan Jijing” [The Scenery at Shanghai Hong Kou Garden], Luo plays the role of observer and tells us how the Japanese tourists disturb the sleeping Lu Xun 魯迅: Both God And the muddy carrot Can enter Of course those Japanese tourists, who bow whenever they meet people are included You see They are holding their cameras And roasting a poem for autumn Under their flowered umbrellas They are twittering [. . .] At last, their noises Arrived at Lu Xun’s graveyard [. . .] The master is holding an enormous Chinese stone Falling asleep with his frowning brows and angry eyes (Luo Fu, 1990a, 64–66)


chapter four 上帝 / 和帶泥巴的胡籮蔔 / 皆可進入 / 當然包括逢人鞠躬的日本遊客 / 你看 / 他們正舉起照相機 / 在拷貝一首秋天的詩 / 小花洋傘底下 / 嘈嘈切切, 啁啁啾啾. . . . . . / 他們終於 / 鬧到了魯迅的墓前 . . . . . . / 大師 正抱著一塊巨大的中國石頭 / 橫眉入睡

This poem clearly depicts the characteristics of tourists. Luo points out that tourists are noisy and ignorant, as the words ‘twittering’ and ‘noises’ clearly indicate. Visiting a graveyard should be a solemn activity. Nevertheless, these Japanese tourists behave as if they are having a garden party. They compose poems, talk loudly and take photos. As an observer, Luo is obviously different from these tourists. He perceives something that other tourists will never know. The poet surmises that Lu Xun is unhappy with the tourists, especially the Japanese visitors. According to Luo, tourists tend to be noisy, which is not in harmony with the solemn graveyard. Lu Xun was a revolutionary writer, and he was strongly against the idea of China becoming a semi-colonial, semifeudal society. Although Lu died before Japan’s full-scale invasion, Japan was one of the major aggressors before his death. As such, the Japanese tourists’ presence at Lu Xun’s graveyard is rather ironic. It seems that these Japanese tourists are not aware of the embarrassment involved. They carelessly give salutes to Lu Xun before they continue chatting. The cynicism embodied in Luo Fu’s depiction reminds us of Lun Xun’s writing style. The image of the ‘muddy carrot’ is reminiscent of Japanese people; when Japan invaded China, Chinese people called the Japanese ‘the root of a carrot.’4 To distinguish himself from the tourists, Luo Fu tries to identify with the locals and even with Lu Xun. However, it seems that the poet ultimately fails to become a local inhabitant in Mainland China ever again.

Making Exile His Homeland After having taken his first trip to Mainland China, Luo Fu returned repeatedly. Between 1988 and 1995, he returned to the Mainland eleven times. In addition to Mainland China, he also visited Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Western Europe and the United States during this period. Luo’s experiences reinforced his feelings of being a

4 Chinese people called Japanese people ‘the root of a carrot’ luobotou 蘿蔔頭 during Sino-Japanese war.

homelands as shifting ground


passing traveler. For instance, in “Hui Mian Jiu” [Gray Vulture], the poet tells us that he is only a passing traveler in his native land: We fly from our far away home And take a rest here. Suddenly we hear some noises from the forest The hunting rifles are blowing their noses Our faces turn to gray at once [. . .] Native land, is only An inaudible call in the autumn wind Passing traveler. Passing traveler. Passing traveler. Is aimed at, is trapped Is treated as an ‘alien’ passing traveler (Luo Fu, 1999b, 92–93) 我們從很遠的家園飛來 / 在此棲息 。驟然聽到樹林中 / 獵槍擤鼻 涕的聲音 / 我們的顏面 / 便頓時灰了起來 . . . . . . / 故鄉, 只是秋風中 / 一聲聽不清楚的呼喚 / 過客。過客。過客。 / 被瞄準, 被誘捕 / 被視 為 “非我族類” 的過客

Luo Fu compares himself to a gray vulture in this poem. Luo and the gray vulture leave their native land and rest ‘here.’ It is noteworthy that the poet’s homeland turns into ‘An inaudible call in the autumn wind.’ His concrete homeland is deconstructed and becomes a voice or something abstract. Luo Fu does not directly point out the nature of the voice, but the next line implies that the voice is calling to the ‘passing traveler.’ His homeland considers the poet a passing traveler, or Luo Fu is a passing traveler in his homeland. The poet not only becomes a passing traveler or an alien in his homeland but also in other places. This is because the setting of this poem is a place other than the poet’s homeland. He is ‘aimed at’ and ‘trapped’ and ‘treated as an alien’ in this resting place as well. In short, Luo Fu becomes homeless. In 1996, one year after he wrote this poem, Luo Fu immigrated to Canada. According to the poet, he had been hesitant to make the decision to emigrate. He made his choice, however, after he went back to Taiwan from the Mainland in 1994. This fact seems to reinforce the idea that Luo lost his homeland after he returned to it. During an interview with the reporter Chen Weixin 陳慧心 in Canada, Luo Fu remarks that home is a center to Chinese people, though he does not know where it is now. The poet concludes that home and homeland is wherever he is (Long, 1998, 341). Luo Fu is not at a loss for the idea of his homeland. According to Luo, he hopes that his choosing exile will bring a breakthrough in his poetry writing. Luo notices that many great poets in Chinese literary history,


chapter four

such as Qu Yuan 屈原, Han Yu 韓愈, Du Fu 杜甫 and Su Dongbo (Su Shi) 蘇東坡(蘇軾), were sent into exile, where many masterpieces were written. Luo remarks that “Death in the Stone Chamber” is the product of his first exile. He expects his second exile will help him to create something original (Long, 1998, 337–38). In other words, Luo’s emigration does not separate him from Chinese tradition. On the contrary, Luo Fu and Chinese culture are linked even more tightly by his second exile. A detailed account on the relationship between Luo Fu and Chinese tradition can be found in Chapter Five.

The Origin is a Shifting Ground Although Yu Guangzhong occasionally changed the time period of his idea of homeland, he was consistent in terms of geography, always referring to Mainland China. In comparison, the meanings of Zheng Chouyu’s ‘home’ are continually moving along on a chain of signifiers. Meaning has no exact location, for it is never tied to one particular sign; it always rests in between two signs. The poet seems to have no fixed origin, not even a mythic one. Zheng Chouyu’s idea of origin reminds us of that of the poststructuralists. Zheng’s father was a prominent fi gure in the military, and even as a child he often accompanied his father, who fought on many fronts, both north and south. The poet’s early, frequent changes of home in the Mainland contributed to making him a stranger everywhere. As a result, he cannot integrate into any community, not even his own country. Zheng Chouyu claims that life is a process of wanderings. Not being home, or the absence of home, is his plausible ‘home.’ In the rest of the section, I will not only examine how the idea of origin as a shifting ground is depicted in Zheng’s works, but will also discuss to what extent the poet’s idea resembles the poststructuralist theories in relation to origin. In spite of his enthusiasm for climbing mountains, Zheng chose to work at Chilung harbor. The poet’s choice of employment is similar to self-exile. According to Liu Denghan 劉登翰, the sea symbolizes wandering and drifting in Zheng’s poems; mountains represent the poet’s tranquil home (Liu, 1996, 257). When the poet chose to work at sea, he left his home for a wandering life. Nevertheless, Zheng spent most of his leisure time climbing mountains, and he wrote many poems related to mountains.

homelands as shifting ground


When the poet visits the mountains, he does not want to leave. In “Shan Wai Shu” [A Letter to the Outside of the Mountains], Zheng declares that he feels at home in the mountains, and that he will never think of returning to the sea: You don’t need to miss me I am in the mountains . . . [. . .] I am from the sea Mountains are the frozen waves (I no longer believe in the news from the sea) My yearning to return Never emerges again (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 57–58) 不必為我懸念 / 我在山裡 . . . . . . / 我是來自海上的人 / 山是凝固的波 浪 / (不再相信海的消息) / 我底歸心 / 不再湧動

It is noteworthy that Zheng compares mountains to ‘the frozen waves.’ The curves of the mountains remind the poet of those of waves. Since mountains are motionless, the ‘waves’ made by them seem to be ‘frozen.’ Although the poet tells us that he will not yearn for the sea again, the image he uses implies his nostalgia for the sea. In other words, Zheng finds himself a center (the mountains) and at the same time denies it within the same poem. In “Xiangwang” [Yearning], the poet reveals that the sea represents Taiwan and that the mountains refer to the Mainland: Pushing the window open We live in the sea We laugh in the sea Our songs resound through the sea . . . [. . .] We live in the sea On the window, there are the shadows of the August greenery on the island However, my heart is thinking of The land in the outer sky— (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 7–8) 推開窗子 / 我們生活在海上 / 我們笑在海上 / 我們的歌聲也響亮在海 上 . . . . . . / 我們生活在海上 / 窗扉上是八月的島上的叢蔭 / 但啊, 我心 想著那天外的 / 陸地—

Zheng Chouyu again claims and disclaims a place as his homeland within this poem. Zheng tells us that he feels at home in Taiwan, and that he enjoys living on the island. In the first stanza of the poem, the


chapter four

poet indicates that he and his people live in the sea. We learn, however, that these people live on an island instead of living in the sea. The island always refers to Taiwan in modern Taiwanese poetry. The poet and his people seem to be happy to live on the island. They laugh and they sing songs; they love the landscape. In spite of all of this, the poet misses the Mainland. When Zheng continues to describe the Mainland in this poem, he shifts from one place to the other. It seems that he cannot rest in one place: I think of the stories of guns and horses in the border town In the northern open country, the seasons in which tents are pitched on the Chinese sorghum I think of The grayish watchtower and the attic which shines with golden lights One after another, the footsteps of the camels And I also think of the evenings, which are filled with the running water of Jiangnan Of the nights at the small teahouse by the bank of Xiangjiang River And of the lyrical bugle from the mountains of Guizhou and Guangxi . . . (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 8) 我想著那邊城的槍和馬的故事 / 北方原野上高梁起帳的季節 / 我想 著 / 那灰色的城角閃金的閣樓 / 一步一個痕跡的駱駝蹄子 / 而我也 想著江南流水的黃昏 / 湘江岸上小茶館的夜 / 和黔桂山間抒情的角 笛......

Zheng does not consider China a homogenous place. The China Zheng Chouyu mentions is full of diversities and complexities. Different areas and places have various customs and landscapes. For instance, the border town brings to mind guns and horses. There are tents, Chinese sorghum and camels in the northern part of China. In essence, after the poet chooses the Mainland as his homeland, he deconstructs it from within. Zheng eventually overthrows the center he established within the poem. When Zheng wrote this poem in the 1950s, he was optimistic about going back to the Mainland. He says: We live on the sea The setting sun has already filled the gorge with the dense golden flowers, which are like a long bridge connecting to the west, connecting to hopes. (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 9) 我們生活在海上 / 夕陽已撒好一峽密接的金花, 像長橋 / 搭向西方, 搭向希望。

homelands as shifting ground


The ‘west’ here refers to the Mainland because, geographically speaking, China is to the west of Taiwan. According to Zheng, his nostalgia for the Mainland intensified over time. In the 1960s, the poet stated that he would write more poems on his nostalgia for the Mainland (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 333). However, Zheng decided to study in the United States in 1967, and he has remained there for decades. Thus, Zheng Chouyu has chosen to live even further away from his homeland. After Zheng Chouyu left Taiwan for the United States, the meanings of home in his poems are further complicated. In “San Ge Meiguo” [Three United States], the United States as a signifier embodies three meanings. The first United States refers to the one where daily activities are carried out: We compete, travel, smile and use our brain to Participate in legal activities We send our children to [school] and get them back We carefully make money and cautiously pay it out (Zheng Chouyu, 1997, 189) 我們去競爭 旅行 微笑 用頭腦從事 / 法律的活動 / 我們把孩子送去 又接回來 / 小心賺了錢 又仔細地繳出去

The first idea of the United States is actually the living place of the poet, where he works and raises his children. Most Americans consider this place their home. However, Zheng perceives something different or unusual in the territory. The poet tells us that there is an undercurrent of opposition in the second United States: The color of the domain is excellent on the same level of temperature we are careful about changes of it inside the safety zone We roll up in the flag of cold wind and bear the earthquake of fire (Zheng Chouyu, 1997, 189) 那版圖的色彩則是特異的 在同一層 / 氣溫中 在寒暑自知的平安裡 / 卻捲著寒風的旗 / 忍著火的地震

In the second United States, the seemingly safe place turns out to be unsafe. The poet uses natural images such as ‘cold wind’ and ‘earthquake’ to signify danger. Zheng Chouyu again disavows the peaceful United States he depicted before. Nevertheless, the poet does not rest with this United States, but develops a third one. Zheng chooses to live in the third United States: We live in the third United States on the same continent the contents of our lives are a bit too old-fashioned


chapter four We spend half of our time longing for the distant place spending half the time, we continuously revise the essence of our culture When we are having dinners when we are gathering with our friends and relatives we miss and revise this kind of reality (Zheng Chouyu, 1997, 188) 我們住在第三個美國 在同一塊 / 大陸上 我們生活的內容要老式的 多 / 我們用一半的時間思念遠方 / 用一半的時間不斷地溫習 / 那髮膚 文化的精義 / 在飲食中 在親朋頻頻的暖聚時 / 我們所思念和溫習的 是這種的真實

The poet tells us in this part that he and his relatives spend most of their time remembering the past and longing for a distant place. Zheng does not tell us what ‘the distant place’ refers to; perhaps he means Mainland China, Taiwan, both of them or somewhere we will never know. In addition to place, the poet feels nostalgic for Chinese culture as well. He not only assigns multiple meanings to the place he feels nostalgic for, but also allocates paradoxical meanings to the definition of ‘diaspora’ and ‘reality.’ The word ‘diaspora’ is associated with scattering. Chinese people who are sent into exile scatter around the world, and Zheng Chouyu is one such person. The poet, however, associates ‘diaspora’ with gathering. ‘Diaspora’ brings the scattered people together. According to Zheng, he and his family always gather with friends. Likewise, the word ‘reality’ reminds us of something real, the true situation that actually exists in life. Nonetheless, Zheng tells us that the ‘reality’ he refers to is associated with Chinese culture that exists only in one’s mind. Although the poet lives in the third United States, he considers the distant place and Chinese culture his home. Zheng again develops and denies his home within the same poem. When Zheng Chouyu had a chance to return to the place and the culture he felt nostalgic for, he disavowed them by injecting otherness into them. In “Zai Changan Guo Baise Shengdan” [Spending a White Christmas in Changan], the poet imagines the Da Yan Pagoda and the Xiao Yan Pagoda as Christmas trees for a father and his children: Da Yan Pagoda is father’s Christmas tree Xiao Yan Pagoda is Xiao Ming’s and Xiao Hua’s [. . .] Under the Pagoda The house-shaped presents are wrapped up By white wrapping papers Mother opens her box, which is Han Jade The girl opens hers, which is a Tangsancai

homelands as shifting ground


[. . .] Tonight every city in the world is Bethlehem And Changan becomes more peaceful and saintly (Zheng Chouyu, 1997, 48–49) 大雁塔是爸爸的聖誕樹 / 小雁塔是小明和小華的 . . . . . . / 在塔下 / 房 屋形狀的禮物都裹著 / 白色的包裝紙 / 媽媽打開是一盒漢玉 / 妹妹打 開的則是唐三彩 / 今夜 世界上每個城都是伯利恆 / 長安就更是平安 與聖善了

It is noteworthy that the poet looks at Changan from a Westerner’s point of view. He not only refers to the ancient Chinese architectural artifacts of Da Yan Pagoda and Xiao Yan Pagoda as Christmas trees, but also considers Changan a kind of Bethlehem. All houses have become Christmas presents. Although Zheng returns to his homeland, we cannot see his Chinese identity in this poem. Nor does the poet pay attention to ancient Chinese culture. Instead, he distorts and deconstructs Chinese culture by Westernizing it. However, Zheng also distorts Western culture by injecting Chinese elements into it. For instance, the Christmas trees turn into ancient Chinese architecture. On the one hand, Zheng denounces all his possible homelands—Chinese culture and Western culture—in this poem. On the other hand, the poet chooses to rest in between these two cultures. Zheng Chouyu’s idea of origin as a shifting ground resembles poststructuralist theories to a great extent. Although Zheng tries to deny a fixed origin in all his poems, the refined Chinese language he uses to compose his poems suggests that his spiritual home is always Chinese culture. I will discuss the issue of ‘Language as Home’ in detail in Chapter Five.

Finding Stability in Instability The above analyses suggest that these poets’ ideas of homelands are freefloating. Although the dwelling places of these Taiwanese poets changed from time to time, they never considered their identity a fragmentary one. For example, as I mentioned before, Luo Fu writes in “Talking with a Cricket at Hengyang Guest House” that he was once a fish, then transforms into a silkworm and at last becomes an old spider. It is clear that the fish, the silkworm and the spider are Luo’s metaphorical identities. However, Luo does not claim himself a hybrid of them; a fi sh is a fish, a silkworm is a silkworm. The poet always has an unmixed identity


chapter four

even though he is transformed, and these Taiwanese modernist poets undoubtedly consider themselves Chinese. The reason why the Taiwanese poets are able to keep an unmixed identity is that they always consider China their homeland, even though the time period and the mapping of China have changed over time. Th is phenomenon contradicts the poststructuralist theories of origin. For example, the changes of Yu Guangzhong’s homeland are mainly due to temporality. Yu has claimed both contemporary China and the China of his childhood as his homeland. Eventually, the poet came to consider ancient China his homeland. Although Zheng Chouyu has lived in the United States for decades, he tells us that he lives in the ‘third America.’ The poet is always thinking of China and Chinese culture. In short, these poets cannot find a fixed and stable origin in the real world. As a result, they try to conjure up an imaginative space in their poetry. It seems that stability can only be found in instability. All in all, a process of cultural mediation seems to be helpful when cross-cultural activities, such as the application of poststructuralist theories to the understanding of Chinese modernist poetry, are involved. After having discussed how the places—houses, the city and homeland—become placeless in this and the previous two chapters, I will next examine how the Taiwanese modernist poets try to accommodate placelessness by creating an imagined literary community. These poets attempt to return to the ancient Chinese tradition through three major elements: language, memory and nature. I will discuss how these three elements contribute to the Taiwanese modernist poets’ reconnection with Chinese culture. As I pointed out in this chapter, the concept of origin is a shifting ground. There is no such thing as a fixed origin. In this case, can the exiled Taiwanese modernist poets ever return to their cultural roots? Or do they lose their cultural origins as well? I will try to answer all these questions in Chapter Five.



My analyses in the previous chapters suggest that the Taiwanese modernist poets do not consider their living spaces, such as their houses and the city of Taipei, homely. Worse still, the experience of exile contributes to the dissolution of the boundary of their homelands. It is true that these ideas are significant in the works of the exiled poets; however, we can also see that these poets try to return to Chinese tradition in their poetry and to conjure up an imagined literary community to replace the lost homeland. In other words, when these poets realize that all places become placeless in the real world, they try to do without physical place. The concept of imagined communities has been discussed by several critics. For example, Benedict Anderson points out that a nation is “an imagined political community.” Anderson elaborates that “it is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson, 1991, 6). In addition, “it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship” (Anderson, 1991, 7). According to Anderson, three factors contribute to the development of imagined communities as nations, namely, the decline of sacred languages, the loss of the dynastic realm, and the fundamental change in the apprehension of time (Anderson, 1991, 36). However, “print-capitalism . . . made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and to relate themselves to others, in profoundly new ways” (Anderson, 1991, 36). Anderson remarks that “the novel and the newspapers . . . provided the technical means for ‘re-presenting’ the kind of imagined community that is the nation” (Anderson, 1991, 25). In the case of the novel, the plot is compared to the modern concept of time. All the characters of a particular novel may not know each other, and one character may not know what the other characters are up to at any one time. However, as omniscient readers, we know exactly what


chapter five

each character is doing at any given moment. In other words, an imagined community is conjured up in readers’ minds, with the author’s help, and this imagined community is guided by the story’s godlike vision of time. In reality, we never know every member in our community, nor are we able to surmise what other people are thinking or doing at any one time. What makes the formation of a nation possible is confidence and imagination. Although we do not know exactly the actions of others, we have “complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity” (Anderson, 1991, 26). Likewise, newspapers create an imagined linkage, and according to Anderson, two sources help to form this linkage. First, the news one reads in the newspaper is “simply calendrical coincidence. . . . The date at the top of the newspaper, the single most important emblem on it, provides the essential connection—the steady onward clocking of homogeneous, empty time” (Anderson, 1991, 33). Second, reading a newspaper in the morning is like a substitute for morning prayers, and readers imagine that many people perform the ceremony with them simultaneously (Anderson, 1991, 35). Anderson’s theory is not without limitations. For instance, the conception of changes in time that Anderson refers to is restricted to countries with Christian beliefs. The critic does not take countries with other religious beliefs into consideration. Moreover, Leo Lee points out that “Anderson does not go into much depth . . . in fleshing out the complicated process whereby [newspapers and novels] are used to imagine the nation (aside from citing two Philippine novels)” (Lee, 1999, 46). In other words, Anderson does not show clearly how print culture helps to create an imagined community. Based on Anderson’s theory of an imagined community, Lee further elaborates on the role print culture plays in inventing “the nation as an ‘imagined community’ ” in modern China. Lee points out that “the nation as an ‘imagined community’ in China was made possible not only by elite intellectuals such as Liang Qichao, who proclaimed new concepts and values, but also, more important, by the popular press” (Lee, 1999, 46). Lee discusses extensively how the journals such as Dongfang zazhi [Eastern miscellany] and Xiaoshuo yuebao [Short story monthly] contributed to the development of an imagined new China even before the establishment of the Republican nation-state in 1912 (Lee, 1999, 46–47). Du Weiming 杜維明 brought forth the idea of ‘Cultural China’ in 1987. According to Du, ‘Cultural China’ embodies three different meanings which can be represented by three kinds of people. The first kind

imagined literary community


refers to Chinese people in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. The second kind includes all ethnic Chinese living in other places, for example, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, the United States and so forth. The last kind includes nationals who come from different countries. For example, they may be Japanese, American, German, French, Russian and so forth. As long as these people are connected to China, no matter if they are academics, politicians, entrepreneurs or journalists, they are considered members of ‘Cultural China’ (Du, 1999, 8–13).1 In fact, no clear-cut definition of ‘Cultural China’ has been found so far. In his paper “Four Questions in Relation to Cultural China,” Wang Gengwu 王賡武 asks what the time scale of ‘Cultural China’ is? Does it start from ancient China or contemporary China? What kinds of Chinese traditions should we take into account, since some traditions are more dominant than others? (Chen, 1994, 3–10). Wang’s questions help to demonstrate that Du’s ‘Cultural China’ is mapped synchronically. In fact, although Anderson’s, Lee’s and Du’s concerns are different, their theories share one thing: they depict the imagined communities synchronically. The imagined literary community created by the Taiwanese modernist poets is different from these ideas because it is delineated both synchronically and diachronically. While Anderson, Du and Lee describe a horizontal comradeship in their theories, the Taiwanese modernist poets outline a horizontal and a vertical comradeship. On the one hand, these poets developed a horizontal comradeship by establishing poetry societies. On the other hand, they returned to the Chinese tradition of remembering, which emphasizes vertical linkage. This tradition was practiced among the ancient Chinese intellectuals who always embodied their predecessors’ thoughts and works in their own. Stephen Owen remarks that these ancient Chinese poets and intellectuals wanted to be remembered through remembering. This tradition was first practiced by Confucius and became one of the major Chinese traditions. I will discuss the concepts of horizontal and vertical comradeship in detail in the latter parts of this chapter.

1 The concept of ‘imagined communities’ can be found in Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. The idea of ‘Cultural China’ is discussed in detail in Du Weiming’s Wenhua Zhongguo de Renzhi yu Guanhuai [Understanding Cultural China] (8–13). The idea of “the nation as an ‘imagined community’ in modern China” is examined in Leo Lee’s Shanghai Modern. Chapter Two entitled “The Construction of Modernity in Print Culture” is the most important.


chapter five

Taiwanese modernist poets are always associated with Westernization. In this regard, what does the ancient Chinese element embodied in these modernist poets’ works imply? As a matter of fact, their alliance with ancient Chinese culture does not distance them from Western modernism, but rather unites them with their Western counterparts. As I mentioned in Chapter One, the modernist writers in the West juxtapose the past and the present together in their work. In other words, Western modernist writers embody tradition. When the Taiwanese modernist poets returned to the Chinese tradition, they shared similar modernist aesthetic concerns with their Western counterparts. However, this similarity between the Western and the Taiwanese modernist poets does not suggest that the former influenced the latter. When Western modernism was received in Taiwan in the 1950s, the Taiwanese modernist poets put stress on the superficial resemblances, such as technique and content of the writings of the West, rather than on Western modernist aesthetics. Taiwanese modernist poetry was often considered an inferior imitation of its Western counterpart. In fact, the reception of Western modernism in Taiwan underwent a process of cultural mediation. The subtle relationship between the Western modernist writers and their tradition was undermined in the reception of Western modernism in Taiwan. Therefore, when Taiwanese modernist writers returned to the Chinese tradition, they thought that they had discarded modernist poetics. For example, Yu Guangzhong considers modernist poetics and Chinese tradition a binary opposition. Yu points out that his long poem “Tianlangxing” [Sirius] is not a successful modernist work. The reasons are many, including the fact that the poem embodies Chinese elements (Yu Guangzhong, 1998a, 153–54). Since Taiwanese modernist poets were not aware of the subtle relationship between modernist poetics and the Western tradition, we cannot say that they were influenced by Western modernism when they returned to the Chinese tradition. Ironically, their return to Chinese tradition accidentally helped the Taiwanese modernist poets parallel Western modernist aesthetics. In the rest of the chapter, I will discuss how both horizontal and vertical comradeships are established among Taiwanese modernist poets. Emphasis will be on the formation of the vertical comradeship as an imagined literary community. While the poetry societies established in the 1950s helped to develop the horizontal comradeship, the main factors that contribute to the development of the vertical comradeship include language, memory and nature.

imagined literary community


First, I will use Zheng Chouyu’s poetry to explain how language helps the poet return to Chinese tradition. Then, the questions of how and why memories are fabricated will be discussed with reference to Luo Fu and Yu Guangzhong’s work. I will also examine how the imagined literary community is formed through the fabrication of memories. Lastly, nature, as embodied in Lomen and Rong Zi’s works, implies that they are trying to return to Chinese tradition through the Taoist school. In fact, these factors act as a means to an end: to help these Taiwanese modernist poets reunite with their Chinese cultural roots such as Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.2 Can the Taiwanese modernist poets ever return to their tradition? What are the implications behind these observations? I will discuss these issues in detail at the end of the chapter.

Horizontal Comradeship Although the Taiwanese modernist poets are more interested in establishing a vertical linkage with ancient poets, the poetry societies they formed in the 1950s helped them develop a horizontal comradeship as well. As I pointed out in Chapter One, the five poets I have chosen for my study come from three different poetry societies—Xiandai Pai, Lan Xing and Chuang Shiji. There are many reasons why the poets organized these poetry societies. When Ji Xian 紀弦 organized Xiandai Pai, he advocated adopting Western works, from Baudelaire onwards. Th e Chuang Shiji promoted surrealist poetry. A revolt against Westernized poetics, Lan Xing advocated the Chinese lyric. Since these poets’ beliefs were different, they often quarreled with one another. For instance, the written polemics between Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu concerned Yu’s long poem “Sirius.” While Luo criticized the work for not meeting the

2 As Lao Siguang points out, Confucianism is the mainstream of Chinese philosophy. Pragmatism is represented by the Mohist School and the Legalists. Liberalism is manifested by the Taoist School and Buddhism. However, according to Li Zehou, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen and Li Sao influence traditional Chinese aesthetics. The cultural roots I refer to in this chapter are based on Li’s classification. There are two reasons. First, my analysis puts emphasis on Chinese cultural roots as the traditional Chinese aesthetics. Second, the traditional Chinese aesthetics suggested by Li can be found in the Taiwanese modernist poets’ works. A detailed account of Chinese cultural roots can be found in Chapter Two of Lao Siguang’s Zhongguo Wenhua Yao Yi [The Essence of Chinese Culture], in Chapter One of Xiao Huarong’s Zhongguo Shixue Sixiangshi [The History of Chinese Poetics], and in Le Zehou’s Huaxia Meixue [Chinese Aesthetics].


chapter five

basic criteria of modernism, Yu retorted that he wanted to disassociate himself from modernism (Yu Guangzhong, 1998a, 149–65). According to Yu Guangzhong, the establishment of Lan Xing was a revolt against Ji Xian’s Xiandai Pai. Tan Zihao 覃子豪, one of the initiators of Lan Xing, asked: If modern Chinese poetry is merely a horizontal transplantation from the West, where will our roots be? (Liu, 1996, 61) In spite of the discrepancies among the poetry societies, I suggest that these societies formed a horizontal comradeship. These three poetry societies share one thing: they challenged “the anticommunist ethos of the time” (Yeh, 1992, xxxviii). As Yeh points out: Many poets in postwar Taiwan sought to create an alternative discourse. Granted, their poetry displayed a wide array of styles and themes. When collectively viewed, however, their works contrast sharply with the mainstream discourse promoted by the Nationalist government. . . . (Yeh, 1992, xxxviii)

In other words, these poetry societies used different means to achieve a similar end. It is noteworthy that in the manifesto of Xiandai Pai’s journal, Xiandai Shi [Modern Poetry], Ji Xian points out that one of the missions of the journal is anti-communism (Ji Xian, 1982, 185).3 Nevertheless, Ji and other members of Xiandai Pai seldom wrote anticommunist poetry. On the contrary, most poets saw Modern Poetry as a way of providing them a free space in which to create works that did not have an anti-communist theme. (Liu, 1996, 40). In the first manifesto of Chuang Shiji, Luo Fu wrote that anti-communism was one of the main aims of the journal and the poetry society. This focus was changed three years later in the second manifesto, written in 1959, to instead embrace surrealism (Liu, 1996, 47). According to Luo, the rules advocated in the first manifesto were just rough ideas. The poets only had some basic concepts in their minds, but they failed to materialize the ideas (Luo Fu, 1982, 16–17). The poets of Chuang Shiji never realized the rules advocated in the first manifesto. As Luo points out, their mentality was similar to those of Western modernist writers. This is because most of the poets of Chuang Shiji were soldiers and were forced into exile. The state of homelessness is one factor which contributed to the Taiwanese modernist poets’ receptiveness of Western modernist works (Luo Fu, 1982, 19). Luo and the poets of Chuang Shiji were

3 This piece of information is quoted from the manifesto of Xiandai Pai’s journal. Although the author’s name was not mentioned, I assume the founder, Ji Xian, wrote it.

imagined literary community


more interested in expressing their own feelings in their works rather than in government policy. Lan Xing is different from Xiandai Pai and Chuang Shiji in that from the beginning it did not advocate any political ideology. The Lan Xing poets searched for a new style, a new form for modern poetry. The poetry society’s focus was on daily life (Tan Zihao, 1982, 186).4 In short, although Xiandai Pai and Chuang Shiji advocated anticommunism in their manifestos, the main focus of their members’ works concerned their personal feelings. As such, these two poetry societies, as well as Lan Xing, form an invisible horizontal comradeship, which is in contrast to the anti-communist policy advocated by the KMT government.

Vertical Comradeship The Taiwanese modernist poets in this study established a vertical comradeship among themselves by returning to the tradition of remembering. Stephen Owen states: “Classical Chinese literature made a promise, early in its history, that it would be a means to perpetuate the self of the good writer” (Owen, 1986, 1). Owen elaborates: There are chains of remembrance, linking one past to pasts still more remote, and sometimes also reaching into a speculative future that will remember our remembering. And as we discover and commemorate the rememberers of the past, it is easy to conclude that in remembering we ourselves will be remembered and will be worthy of memory. Such contracts of remembrance bind a civilization through time. (Owen, 1986, 17)

Ancient Chinese intellectuals were passionately fond of the past. This tradition can be traced back as early as Confucius. According to the master, “I transmit; I do not make” (Owen, 1986, 17).5 Owen remarks: Transmission is no mere duty, reluctantly performed: it is a central piece of the machinery of civilization, whose imperfect functioning is watched with anxiety and passion. (Owen, 1986, 18)

Thus, instead of being anxious about their own influence, ancient Chinese intellectuals’ were anxious about not transmitting accurately. 4 I assume the founder of Lan Xing, Tan Zihao, was the author of the manifesto, though author’s name is not mentioned in the manifesto. 5 In Confucius’ words: shu erh pu tso [述而不作].


chapter five

Similarly, Yeh points out that Chinese culture, in contrast to English tradition, does not put stress on originality. According to Yeh: Although the sense of belatedness has haunted many Chinese poets since the Golden Age of Tang (618–907), it has not proved as great an obstacle as has the influence of tradition in English poetry. Chinese poets working within the Classical genre usually resolve the problem of overdue change by reintegrating themselves into the tradition through emulation. In a culture that does not place great value on originality and individuality, emulation is by no means an admission of failure but a perfectly viable means of establishing oneself as a member of a long, homogeneous tradition. (Yeh, 1991, 2)

This early tradition, however, was abolished during the May Fourth literary movement. Yeh states that “modern Chinese poets rejected all aspects of the classical canon: language, form, and prosody” (Yeh, 1991, 21). Although a few poets such as Fei Ming and Bian Zhilin returned to traditional Chinese poetics, their return did not last long. While Fei ceased to write, Bian began to support progressive revolutionary literature. After 1949, the Taiwanese modernist poet Ji Xian advocated a direct or horizontal transplantation of Western poetics since Baudelaire. If we examine the poetry of Lomen, Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu closely, we will find that they developed an imagined literary community in their later poetry by returning to ancient Chinese tradition. To a certain extent, these poets resemble the ancient Chinese poets who believed in being remembered through remembering. Owen does not tell us how the poets can be remembered. However, the works of these Taiwanese modernist poets show us that they are trying to develop a vertical comradeship by writing refined Chinese language, fabricating memory and developing a pastoral dream. Th is comradeship helps the modernist poets return to their cultural homeland.

Language as Home Among the poets I have chosen for study, the experiences of displacement for Zheng Chouyu and Luo Fu are more complicated than the others. Zheng and Luo emigrated to the United States and Canada, respectively. As a result, they had to learn a new language: English. I believe that Zheng faced greater language challenges than Luo did; Zheng taught at a university in the U.S., and Luo is retired and lives in Richmond near Vancouver. Luo suffers less from the language problem,

imagined literary community


since he lives in a community with large numbers of Chinese Canadian immigrants. In spite of the fact that Luo and Zheng emigrated to English speaking countries, both poets continue to write poetry in Chinese. In this case, what does the poets’ choice of language imply? According to Alice Yaeger Kaplan: Language equals home . . . there is no language change without emotional consequences. Principally: loss. . . . That language is a home, as surely as a roof over one’s head is a home, and that to be without a language, or to be between languages, is as miserable in its way as to be without bread. (Kaplan, 1994, 63)

It is obvious that the home Kaplan refers to is a spiritual rather than a physical one. Kaplan further explains that different kinds of languages remind us of different kinds of homes. For example, “there are languages in which we feel our mother’s heart beating; other languages in which we feel distant and safe; other languages—jargon languages in particular—are the language of professional ambition and achievement; others the language of pain” (Kaplan, 1994, 63). In this case, what does the Chinese language mean to Zheng and Luo? Karla Schultz points out that “language can be a ‘home’ for people who have lost their cultural home physically” (Bammer, 1994, 96). When Zheng and Luo decided to immigrate to North America, they not only lost their physical home, but their language or cultural home as well. Likewise, when the poets returned to the Chinese language, they spriritually returned to their cultural home. In other words, the Chinese language helps the Taiwanese modernist poets reunite with their homeland. Since Zheng has been living in the U.S. since 1967 and his work is famous for its Chinese flavor, I will concentrate on the relationship between language and home by examining his poetry. I believe that Zheng was aware of the subtle relationship between language and home even before he left Taiwan for the U.S. In fact, when other Taiwanese modernist poets used experimental or Westernized Chinese language to write poetry, Zheng used refined Chinese to write his works. According to Yang Mu 楊牧, “Zheng Chouyu is a Chinese poet in China.” Yang explains: “There are many foreign poets in modern China. These so-called foreign poets use rusty Chinese to express their ‘modern feelings.’ However, Zheng is a Chinese poet in China. This is because he uses refined Chinese to write poetry. The images he uses are accurate and the rhythms of his poems are beautiful. Besides, they are absolutely modern” (Yang, 1974, 157).


chapter five

Yang further demonstrates Zheng’s refined modern Chinese language through the poet’s most famous poem “Cuowu” [Mistake]: I pass by Jiangnan The face waiting in and out of seasons blooms and fades as the lotus The east wind does not come, the willow would not fly Your heart resembles a lonely town which is like a green pebbly street facing the dusk Footsteps are not heard, the spring curtain would not unveil Your heart is a tightly closed small window The noises made by my horse are a beautiful mistake I am not a returnee, but a passer-by . . . (Zheng Chouyu, 1979, 123) 我打江南走過 / 那等在季節裡的容顏如蓮花的開落 / 東風不來, 三月 的柳絮不飛 / 你底心如小小的寂寞的城 / 恰若青石的街道向晚 / 跫音 不響, 三月的春帷不揭 / 你底心是小小的窗扉緊掩 / 我達達的馬蹄是 美麗的錯誤 / 我不是歸人, 是個過客 . . . . . .

According to Yang, Zheng’s poetic language is a modern one. He uses the second line as an example and points out that the form “manifests” the content (Yang, 1974, 158). It is noteworthy that the form of Classical poetry is determined by certain rules in which the form does not have an organic relationship with the content. Since modern Chinese poetry is free from formal regulations, poets can create an organic relationship between the form and content. In fact, it is difficult to find a line such as the second line of this poem, which has fifteen Chinese characters, in Classical Chinese poetry: “The face waiting in and out of seasons blooms and fades as the lotus.” Regulated Classical Chinese poems usually have five or seven characters per line. Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, Li Bai’s “Jiang Jin Jiu” [Invitation to Wine] has seventeen characters in one line. Do you not see the Yellow River come from the sky, Rushing into the sea and never come back? (Xu, 1995, 113) 君不見黃河之水天上來, 奔流到海不復回!

However, as Yang remarks, such a long line is quite unusual in Classical Chinese poetry. This characteristic—form manifests content—can only be found in modern Chinese poetry. The second line of Zheng’s “Mistake” tells us that a woman has been waiting for her lover’s return for years. The length of the line helps to create a feeling that the duration of the wait is very long. Yang stresses that this technique—form expressing content—is a modern one.

imagined literary community


Zheng’s works embody a sense of ‘Chineseness,’ though he uses modern techniques to write poetry. As Yang points out, the terms or images Zheng uses always remind us of Classical Chinese poetry, though we cannot tell where the term or the line comes from. Although Zheng neither writes poems on ancient Chinese poets, nor embeds these poets’ works in his own, the terms Zheng uses are the terms used by ancient poets, and thus are full of meaning. Zheng does not merely repeat these old terms or images; otherwise his poems would become clichéd. The poet rejuvenates these traditional images or old terms through modern ideas, and as a result, when we read Zheng’s poems we find ourselves reading something familiar at the beginning, but something new at the end. In “Mistake,” terms such as ‘east wind,’ ‘willows,’ ‘spring curtain,’ ‘returnee,’ and ‘passer-by’ are heavily loaded. A ‘lonely woman missing her husband’ is an archetype in Classical Chinese poetry.6 Zheng rejuvenates this old theme with a novel point of view. In Classical Chinese poetry, poets depict the loneliness either from the husband’s or the wife’s point of view. Zheng, however, outlines the story from a third party’s—a stranger’s, or a passer-by’s—point of view. This intrusion of the passer-by deepens the woman’s loneliness for she mistakes the noise of the stranger’s horse to be that of her husband’s. She is momentarily overjoyed, but when the woman finds out she has made a mistake, her disappointment is doubled. The shifting point of view not only helps to depict the psychological aspect of the woman, but also implies that the woman’s desires are restrained. The woman has been waiting for her lover for a long time. In the second line of the poem, Zheng compares the woman with the lotus which ‘blooms and fades’ every year. We do not know how long this woman has been waiting, but during all these years the woman seems to turn inward. Zheng likens the woman’s heart to ‘a lonely town’ and to ‘a tightly closed small window.’ Since the woman restrains her desires, she feels very lonely. The image of the horseman is in opposition to that of the woman. While the woman is associated with immutability, the horseman reminds us of mutability. For instance, the woman is always there waiting for


A lonely woman missing her traveling husband is one of the major themes in Classical Chinese poetry. For instance, in Zhongguo Lidai Mingshi Fenlei Da Dian [An Anthology of the Major Themes in Classical Chinese Poetry] ‘a lonely woman missing her husband’ is classified as one significant theme.


chapter five

her lover, but the horseman is on a journey. Moreover, the woman tries to suppress her desire, while the appearance of the horseman helps to arouse it. These characteristics of the woman and of the horseman again remind us of some Classical Chinese elements. In ancient times, Chinese women were supposed to stay at home, and be loyal to their husbands or their male elders. In contrast, men always left their women behind in favor of wars and Imperial examinations. This poem, however, cannot be categorized as Classical Chinese poetry. The woman depicted in Zheng’s poem is on the verge of transgression. The appearance of the stranger or the horseman helps to trigger her desire. The sentiment of the woman expressed in this poem is a modern one, for she exhibits her desire in front of a stranger. Similarly, in “Can Bao” [A Fortress in Ruins], Zheng again endows some heavily loaded terms with new meanings: The guards have gone home, leaving behind A border fortress in ruins. A prairie of the nineteenth century is Nothing now but a stretch of sand dunes. The tip of an arrow, The nail where once a bugle hung, Cobblestones on the tower Smoothed by nightfalls and homeward-gazing boots— All is old, All rusty with wind and sand. Where a century ago heroes tied their horses, Where a century ago warriors honed their swords, I unload my saddle with a heavy heart. There is no key to history’s lock, No sword in my pack. Let me ask for a clangorous dream— In the moonlight, I issue that mournful “General’s Order” From the strings of my lute. (Yeh, 1992, 123) 戍守的人已經歸了, 留下 / 邊地的殘堡 / 看得出, 十九世紀的草原啊 / 如今, 是沙丘一片 . . . . . . / 怔忡而空曠的箭眼 / 掛過號角的鐵釘 / 被黃 昏和望歸的靴子磨平的 / 戍樓的石垛啊 / 一切都老了 / 一切都抹上風 沙的鏽 / 百年前英雄繫馬的地方 / 百年前壯士磨劍的地方 / 這兒我黯 然地卸了鞍 / 歷史的鎖啊沒有鑰匙 / 我的行囊也沒有劍 / 要一個鏗鏘 的夢吧 / 趁月色, 我傳下悲戚的 “將軍令” / 自琴弦 . . . . . .

The terms such as ‘a border fortress in ruins,’ ‘a bugle hung,’ ‘saddle,’ ‘swords,’ “General’s Order” and ‘lute’ immediately remind us of Classical Chinese war poetry. But, we cannot locate exactly where all these terms

imagined literary community


come from, because they are so common in Classical Chinese poetry. Although Zheng tries to imagine himself as an ancient general in this poem, the poet tells us that he is not; he does not have a sword, but only a dream. At the end, all Zheng can do is to play “General’s Order,” a Classical piece of music. It is noteworthy that “General’s Order” embodies at least two meanings. First, it refers to the order issued by a general, and second, it is the title of a Classical musical piece. It is obvious that the atmosphere created by Zheng in this poem was meant to lead the reader to think of the first meaning of the term. Nevertheless, in the last line the poet reveals that the entire description of the poem is only an illusion. The past is gone. All he can do now is play his music. Zheng Chouyu depicts a similar image in both “A Fortress in Ruins” and “Mistake.” Although we do not know the identity or occupation of the horseman in “Mistake,” we are reminded of a military man since he rides on a horse. The image of the military man is obvious in “A Fortress in Ruins.” However, the general depicted in the poem feels very sad because he is too old to return to the battlefield. Is it merely a coincidence that Zheng often depicts military men in his poetry? Or is the poet making an association with something else? These poems do not directly provide an answer to us; however, they remind us of Zheng’s background. The poet’s father was a general of the KMT government who fought on many fronts during the national war. As a result, Zheng, as a child, kept traveling from place to place with no permanent home (Wang Weiming, 1999, 281). This leads us to believe that he is perhaps depicting his father in his poems, or that Zheng places himself in his father’s position and imagines himself as a military man. Although we are not certain what the image of the military man refers to, this image reminds us of the policy of the period: The KMT government planned to launch a counter-attack against Mainland China. I will discuss the image of the military man later in this chapter. In addition to the image of a military man, “A Fortress in Ruins” resembles “Mistake” in that Zheng expresses new ideas by using an old theme. It was not unusual for ancient poets to mourn for the ruins of a battlefield. Since this poem was written three years earlier than “Mistake,” I believe that Zheng created a ‘beautiful mistake’ formula in this poem. In this case, it is the reader who makes a mistake. When we assume the poet issues a general’s order, Zheng indicates to us that we made a mistake. The “General’s Order” is only a piece of music. In short, the contrast between the reader’s expectations and the poetic truth contributes to the enrichment of the old theme.


chapter five

“A Fortress in Ruins” and “Mistake” were written in 1951 and 1954, respectively. Zheng Chouyu lost his physical home in Mainland China. Although Taiwan is part of China, the ‘Chineseness’ embodied in Zheng’s poems implies that he was trying to develop a cultural home. As was mentioned earlier, Taiwan seemed like a foreign place to the Mainlanders after having been colonized by Japan for almost fifty years. Many Taiwanese people only spoke Japanese.7As such, migration to Taiwan was an experience of exile, and this helped to consolidate Zheng’s cultural roots. He intended to secure his cultural home by writing refined Chinese. Zheng Chouyu’s passion for Chinese tradition did not change after his emigration. The poet kept on writing poetry in Chinese. In addition, Zheng again returns to Chinese tradition by utilizing the image of Jing Ke 荊軻 in his poetry. I will discuss this issue later on. All in all, Zheng considers language the most important tool in conjuring up his cultural home. His belief becomes explicit in his later poems. According to the poet, a slight change of the language can cause nostalgia. In his poem “Qing Kong” [Blue Sky], Zheng says: Somewhat removed from the dialects, the listener, simply because of this, has his nostalgia rekindled (Zheng Chouyu, 1987, 54) 一點點方言的距離, 聽者, 就因此而有些 / 鄉愁了

Zheng was in Canada when he wrote this poem. He noticed that people in Quebec spoke French with a Canadian accent. If a French person were to hear this dialect, they would immediately realize that they were not at home. Since Zheng’s first language is Chinese, he undoubtedly felt nostalgic for his cultural home when he heard French or English being spoken around him. By contrast, although the language Luo Fu used is not refined Chinese, the poet explicitly shows that he wants to be part of the imagined literary community. As a matter of fact, the language Luo Fu uses in “Du Bao” [Reading the Newspaper] exhibits a sense of playfulness. Luo’s poem is divided into five parts: ‘Editorial,’ ‘International Page,’ ‘Social Affairs Page,’ ‘Supplement’ and ‘Advertisements.’ In the second part of the poem, the poet juxtaposes all countries together and repeats ‘has fever’ four times:

7 A detailed account of the Mainlanders’ impressions of postwar Taiwan can be found in Li Xiaofeng’s article “Zhan Hou Chuqi Taiwan Shehui de Wenhui Chongtu” [The Cultural Conflicts in Postwar Taiwan] (Li, 1996, 284–87).

imagined literary community


The Philippines has fever Korea has fever The Persian Gulf has fever The moon which is on the roof of the United Nation’s building has fever (Luo Fu, 1990b, 204) 菲律賓在發燒 / 韓國在發燒 / 波斯灣在發燒 / 聯合國大廈屋頂的月亮 在發燒

These few lines are quoted from the ‘International Page’ part of the poem. The reason why Luo Fu puts these countries or places together is that, at the time of writing in 1988, they all had problems. Luo juxtaposes all the events of that time on the page. This part of the poem suggests that the date at the top of the newspaper provides an imagined link between these incidents. The language used in this part is neither refined Chinese nor poetic. In fact, as Yeh points out, repeating a single word five times in a short poem is not a practice of traditional Chinese poetry (Yeh, 1991, 6). In short, we cannot see any significant relationship between this poem and the Classical Chinese tradition. However, the continuity becomes explicit in the ‘Supplement’ section of the poem: Li Bai Yes Su Dongpo Yes Li Qingzhao Yes Cao Xueqin Yes No matter who wants to go out or go into history one must line up and be patient to wait for his turn (Luo Fu, 1990b, 208–09) 李白 有 / 蘇東坡 有 / 李清照 有 / 曹雪芹 有 / 不論誰要走出歷史或 走進歷史 / 都請耐心排隊 / 輪番上陣

The language and content in this part are also playful. Luo repeats the word ‘yes’ four times. The first four lines of the poem remind us of someone who is taking attendance. However, the names called are great poets and writers from the past. Although Luo uses playful language, he does not discontinue his relationship with his precursors. It is noteworthy that the conception of time mentioned in the fifth line is similar to that of ancient Chinese intellectuals who believed that they had a close relationship with the past and their remote ancestors. Th ese people can break through the barrier between past and present. In Luo Fu’s words, these ancient Chinese intellectuals could ‘go out or go into history.’ I will discuss this issue in detail in the next section.


chapter five

In addition to its association with Chinese tradition, “Reading the Newspaper” also reminds us of Baudelaire’s idea of the democratization of poets in the modern world. In fact, Li Bai, Su Dongpo, Li Qingzhao and Cao Xueqin were all highly respected in Chinese literary history. In this poem, however, they resemble kindergarten students waiting to be called upon, and as such, these once sacred poets and writers become ordinary people. These ancient poets are similar to the modern poet depicted by Baudelaire. In “Loss of a Halo,” Baudelaire describes a poet who loses his halo in the street. The poet is recognized by someone in an apparently indecent place, perhaps a brothel. The poet does not feel sad about his loss. On the contrary, he enjoys living incognito. I like it here. You are the only person who has recognized me. Besides I am bored with dignity, and what’s more, it is perfectly delightful to think of some bad poet picking it up and brazenly putting it on. To make some one happy, ah, what a pleasure! Especially some one you can laugh at. Think of X! Think of Z! Don’t you see how amusing it will be? (Baudelaire, 1970, 94)

It is interesting to note that there is a sense of happiness embodied in Baudelaire’s passage. The poet depicted in the passage is excited about his loss, and he laughs at someone who still clings to the so-called poetic halo. Luo Fu is different from Baudelaire in that he seems to be neutral about the loss of the poetic halo. Luo reports this fact to his readers with a matter-of-fact tone though the language he uses is playful. We cannot tell whether Luo enjoys the new status of poets in the modern world or not. In fact, Luo also notices the commodification of poetry; the ancient Chinese poetry, which once belonged to exclusive readers such as aristocrats and intellectuals, has turned into a kind of commodity in the modern world. As long as you have the money to buy a newspaper, you can read the poetry. Your social status is irrelevant. Thus, poetry loses its halo in the modern world. Although Luo Fu keeps silent about the democratization and commodification of poetry in the modern world, I believe that he does not particularly share Baudelaire's view of approval. Perhaps this is because Luo tries, in some of his poetry, to reconnect with pre-modern China, when poetry was still highly respected. I will discuss this issue in the next section. In short, language is only one of the factors which help to develop an imagined literary community. In addition to language is the fabricating of memories.

imagined literary community


Fabricating Memories Fifteen years after his emigration, Zheng Chouyu published his poetry anthology entitled Yan Ren Xing [The Travels of Someone from Yan]. ‘Yan’ is the old name for Hebei Province, which dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (approx. 770 B.C.). Zheng was born in Hebei in 1933 though his birthplace was no longer called ‘Yan’ by that time. The reasons why the poet calls himself a ‘Yan’ person are many. I believe that Zheng wanted to show us that Chinese culture is his cultural homeland. In the first poem of the collection, which bears the same title as the anthology itself, Zheng imagines himself as an ancient Chinese wanderer: Haven’t yet sung a song How can I be the generous and promise-keeping Yan person? Looking out from this bank; how wide is the Yi River? [. . .] However, the wanderer is already in disguise, a map is hidden inside his loose-fitting gown There is a sword inside the map. How can his sleeves dance in the air? And how can the Rocky Mountains be his temporary lodging? [. . .] (Zheng Chouyu, 1987, 3–4) 未酬一歌 豈是 / 慷慨重諾的 / 燕人, 從這岸張望, 易水多寬 ? . . . . . . / 而 浪子已喬裝, 寬袍懷圖 / 圖中有劍, 兩袖豈能飛舞 ? / 而落磯山 / 豈能 落足 ? . . . . . .

The story of the ancient Chinese assassin Jing Ke is embedded in Zheng’s poem. The lines quoted above remind us of Jing Ke’s poem “Yi Shui Ge” [The Song of the Yi River]: The wind soughs and sighs, alas, the Yi River is chilly The hero leaves, alas, and will not return (Lin Geng, 1989, 97) 風蕭蕭兮易水寒, 壯士一去兮不復還!

This poem was written by Jing Ke before he set out to assassinate the First Emperor Qin around 227 B.C. Prince Yan and Jing’s friends saw him off by Yi River. Jing Ke recited this poem to bid his friends farewell. According to the poem, Jing seemed to know that he would die during the assassination. Armed with a hidden sword wrapped in a map of Yan, Jing attempted to kill the emperor when he ‘presented’ the map to him. Jing failed and was killed. Terms and phrases such as ‘the song,’ ‘the Yi


chapter five

River,’ ‘a sword inside the map,’ and ‘the Yan person’ in Zheng’s poem clearly remind us of Jing Ke’s story. The ‘sword’ and the ‘loose-fitting gown’ help to depict an image, i.e. an ancient Chinese youxia. In olden times, a youxia referred to someone who was adept in martial arts, had a strong sense of justice and was ready to help the weak. It is noteworthy that Zheng Chouyu again depicted a militant fi gure in “The Travels of Someone from Yan.” The militant figure becomes more specific in this poem. He is no longer a horseman or an old general. Zheng compares himself with a youxia in this poem. Jing Ke was a youxia of the Warring States. He traveled from court to court in an attempt to give full play to his martial arts and talents. Consequently, Jing was accepted by the prince of Yan. If the image of the horseman in “Mistake” reminds us of a wanderer, Zheng indicates to us in “The Travels of Someone from Yan” that the wanderer masquerades as an ancient assassin. Why does Zheng embody the image of Jing Ke in his poem? I believe the poet identifies with Jing Ke. Jing was both a poet and a youxia, and as such he traveled from state to state during the Warring States Period. At last, Jing settled in Yan though it was not the youxia’s native land. (Jing Ke’s birthplace was Qi.) Zheng Chouyu resembles Jing Ke. For example, as I pointed out before, Zheng followed his father and traveled from province to province when he was a child. The poet was exiled to Taiwan and eventually settled in the United States. Both Jing and Zheng accepted the fact that life was a process of wanderings. The concept of ‘native land’ seems to be insignificant to them. Since he was very young, Zheng has always considered himself a wanderer in the universe (Wang, 1999, 281). Zheng accepts that exile or wandering is life. However, when critics label Zheng as a wandering poet, he refutes the label. He points out that wandering, or being in exile, is his living experience, and that the topics in his poetry in relation to this kind of experience have their roots in ancient Chinese literature (Wang, 1999, 281). Although Zheng Chouyu does not further elaborate on his ancient Chinese references, I believe the poet refers to the youxia tradition, which can be traced back to the Warring States Period (474–221 B.C.). Before the unification of China under the Qin in 221 B.C., the so-called Hundred Schools of Thought were fostered, and Legalism was one of them. The concept of the youxia was first mentioned in Han Fei’s 韓非 works Han Fei Zi. Han Fei was the Legalist philosopher; however, he did not affirm the youxia’s behavior. It is interesting to note that the youxia was affirmed by Sima Qian 司馬遷 in his Shiji [Historical

imagined literary community


Records]. Since Sima was a Confucian scholar, he selectively confirmed the youxia’s conduct. Although the youxia deviates from the Confucian doctrines, the concept of the youxia is accepted to some extent.8 In short, the tradition Zheng tries to recapture is the youxia tradition. However, Zheng’s youxia image is different from those in the past. In the postscript of the poem, the poet tells us that he wrote this poem when he was in the U.S. Zheng Chouyu and poets Ao Ao 翱翱, Wong Tak-wai 黃德偉, Wang Runhua 王潤華 and others discussed resuming publication of the poetry magazine Xingzuo [Constellation] in Wisconsin. The title of the magazine—Constellation—reminds Zheng of his poem “Gui Hang Qu” [The Song of Sailing Back]. Zheng Chouyu writes in the poem that when poets die, they will become stars in the sky. Zheng uses poets such as Qu Yuan and Shelley as examples and imagines that they formed a constellation after they died (Zheng Chouyu, 2000, 5). Since Zheng Chouyu was invited to write for the magazine Constellation, he likened his participation in it to dying (Zheng Chouyu, 1987, 7). In other words, Zheng Chouyu compares his participation in a poetry club to an assassination. In this way, Zheng again applies the ‘beautiful mistake’ formula in this poem. When the readers expect the youxiapoet to do something serious, such as attempt an assassination, the poet tells us that he is going to meet his friends to talk about poetry writing. Zheng Chouyu again rejuvenates the meaning of the youxia. Zheng is not the only Taiwanese modernist poet who embeds ancient Chinese legends in his works. If we compare Zheng with Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu, we will find that the relationship between the ancient Chinese poets and Yu, as well as Luo, is closer than that of Zheng. For example, Zheng Chouyu does not develop an intimate relationship with Jing Ke. Zheng tells us that he masquerades as Jing. The poet implies that Jing is a historical figure who cannot be duplicated in the here and now. Nevertheless, Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu believe that poets, whether they belong to the past or present, can travel freely in time. Yu and Luo’s conception of time was also popular among ancient Chinese intellectuals, and this conception of time helps the Taiwanese modernist poets to fabricate memories in order to conjure up an imagined literary community.

8 Li Baochun’s “Cong Youxia, Shaoxia, Jianxia dao Yixia” [From Youxia, Shaoxia, Jianxia to Yixia] (Li, 1993, 91–130) provides a detailed account of the development of the concept of xia.


chapter five

In his Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture, David Gross divides memories into two different types—individual and collective. Individual memory refers to the recollection of “the events, feelings, or experiences of one’s personal past.” Nevertheless, collective memory exists to make sure “each of its members . . . recall certain supra-individual things, and it often goes to great lengths not only to encourage but to compel such memories for the sake of social or cultural cohesion” (Gross, 2000, 77).9 In other words, collective memory is actually a kind of cultural memory. Generally speaking, we acquire cultural memories through formal and informal education. I will suggest that the kind of memory the Taiwanese modernist poets try to fabricate in their poems is a combination of individual and collective memories. The reasons why the Taiwanese modernist poets fabricate memories are many. I think one reason is that they suffer from what Richard Terdiman calls ‘memory crisis.’ According to Terdiman: In a world of change, memory becomes complicated. Any revolution, any rapid alteration of the givens of the present places a society’s connection with its history under pressure. . . . People experienced the insecurity of their culture’s involvement with its past, the perturbation of the link to their own inheritance, as what I want to term a ‘memory crisis’: a sense that their past had somehow evaded memory, that recollection had ceased to integrate with consciousness. In this memory crisis the very coherence of time and of subjectivity seemed disarticulated. (Terdiman, 1993, 3–4)

Although Terdiman’s discussion refers to Europe, I think his idea can help us to understand the Taiwanese modernist poets’ attitudes toward memory. Yu and his contemporaries were born after the May Fourth literary movement. This movement advocated a disassociation with the ancient Chinese traditions, such as Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. After Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan, he tried to understand why the KMT government was defeated by the CCP. Chiang concluded that the KMT government did not propagate its ideology through literature as the CCP did. As a result, Chiang strictly controlled publications in Taiwan, and most literary works written before 1949 were banned in

9 A detailed account of individual and collective memories can be found in David Gross’s Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture. The chapters on the “Varieties of Memory” and “The Social Frames of Memory” are the most important.

imagined literary community


Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek advocated anti-communist literary works and Classical Chinese literature (Lu, 1995, 3–22). Since the May Fourth tradition had already become the Taiwanese modernist poets’ tradition, these poets suffered a ‘memory crisis’ when they were forced to disassociate themselves from it. In this regard, when these poets tried to return to ancient Chinese tradition, they faced many difficulties. This is because these poets suffered from the threat of amnesia or loss of memory. As such, the ancient Chinese poets’ literary tradition, which is to be remembered through remembering, did not satisfy these poets’ needs. The Taiwanese modernist poets tried to create an intimate and personal relationship with preceding poets. To do this, however, they had to fabricate their memories. Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu fancied that they could go back and forth in time to talk to these poets in person. They tried to fabricate memory based on the ancient Chinese intellectuals’ conception of time. How the ancient Chinese perceived time is not an easy question to answer, and it is not the purpose of this project to study this issue in detail. However, critics seem to have different ideas concerning this subject. According to Michael Loewe, ancient Chinese writings show that there are two concepts of time: cyclical and linear. Loewe further elaborates: Time was seen as a thread or line (ji) that linked past and present. It provided a starting point towards which men and women could trace their ancestry and the permanent existence of their kin, stretching from one generation to another. . . . But time was also seen as a scale or track (li), along which there ran remorselessly the ever repetitive cycles of birth, death and rebirth. . . . Recognition of the stage that had been reached in the cycle led to a life of contentment and harmony. (Loewe, 1999, 76)

Loewe remarks that the motives behind these concepts of time are to “search for permanence and for reconciliation with the changes of nature that disrupt human continuity” (Loewe, 1999, 76). On the other hand, other critics such as Wu Kuang-ming and Huang Chun-chieh tend to believe that the ancient Chinese apprehend time neither as a straight line nor a cycle. Instead, they claim that the ancient Chinese perceived time as reciprocal. According to Wu: Chinese thinking concretely moves from the familiar here to the strange there, moving in space that takes time. This sort of thinking is as space-timed as it is ‘metaphorical.’ . . . Since such a spatiotemporal interpenetration is usually called ‘history,’ Chinese thinking is historical.


chapter five Thinking in China moves in the context of history, moving between past and future, back and forth, and so history which typifi es Chinese thinking is time-spaced. Thus spatiotemporal interpenetration in metaphor and history, as its predominant trend, typifies Chinese thinking. (Huang, 1995, 4–5)

Similarly, Huang Chun-chieh notices that “Chinese thinking is interpenetrative and intersubjective, and their ‘time’ is reciprocal—the past giving factuality to the present, the present giving meaning to the past, mutually corresponding, going back and forth in time. Such a ‘time’ is justifiably called ‘historical’ ” (Huang, 1995, 77). I think Loewe’s, Wu’s and Huang’s remarks represent two different perceptions of time. While Chinese people in general believe in both cyclical and linear concepts of time, Chinese intellectuals tend to believe in reciprocal time. Ancient Chinese intellectuals always used the past to explain the present and vice versa. Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu embody the latter conception of time in their works and try to create the imagined literary community through it. In “Wu Ling Shaonian” [The Youth of Tang], Yu Guangzhong reconstructs his cultural roots which are found in Confucianism: My anger embodies Sui Ren Shi, my tears have Da Yu My ears can hear the drumbeats at Zhuo Luk My grandfather shoots down nine suns in legend My uncle’s name can scare away the Chan Yu Do you hear me? Give me another bottle of Gaoliang An expensive fur coat is displayed at the show-window of the auction I pawn my Wuhua horse and what remains is my arthritis (Yu Guangzhong, 1969, 25–26) 我的怒中有燧人氏, 淚中有大禹 / 我的耳中有涿鹿的鼓聲 / 傳說祖父 射落了九隻太陽 / 有一位叔叔的名字能嚇退單于 / 聽見沒有? 來一瓶 高梁! / 千金裘在拍賣行的櫥窗裡掛著 / 當掉五花馬只剩下關節炎

In the passage quoted above, many terms refer to Chinese legendary characters and Classical Chinese poems. For instance, ‘Sui Ren Shi’ was a legendary king who discovered fire and cooked food with it. ‘Da Yu’ was a reputed founder of the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 B.C.–1600 B.C.). He was famous for regulating rivers and watercourses. ‘Zhuo Luk’ was where legendary figures ‘Huang Di’ 黃帝 vigorously fought with ‘Chi You’ 蚩尤. The ‘grandfather’ the poet refers to is another legendary figure: ‘Hou Yi’ 后羿. According to the legend, ‘Hou Yi’ shot down nine suns. In line four, Yu tells us his uncle’s name can scare the ‘Chan Yu’ away. ‘Chan Yu’ refers to the king of Xiongnu 匈奴. The poet’s uncle

imagined literary community


refers to Li Guang 李廣 who was a famous general in the Han Dynasty. It is noteworthy that all these famous people are mythical figures except Li Guang and ‘Chan Yu.’ The ancient Chinese always looked backward to a past which was not necessarily a historical past. For instance, Confucius considered the legendary monarchs or sages—Yao 堯 and Shun 舜—the model rulers in ancient China and the period under these legendary fi gures’ reign the best years. In Owen’s words, there is always ‘the lost totality’ out there waiting to be reconstructed (Owen, 1986, 2). Yu’s poem does not casually juxtapose these famous figures. These people represent, or map, an imaginary world to which ancient Chinese intellectuals such as Confucius wanted to return. As such, Yu identifies with Confucius and shares a similar kind of dream with the master. In addition to the depiction of ‘a lost fullness,’ Yu also implies that the golden age of poetry—the Tang dynasty—is gone. The last two lines of the poem remind us of Li Bai’s poem “Invitation to Wine”: A host should not complain of money he is short, To drink with you I will sell things of any sort. My fur coat worth a thousand coins of gold And my flower-dappled horse may be sold To buy good wine that we may drown the woes age-old. (Xu, 1995, 112) 主人何為言少錢, 逕須沽取對君酌! 五花馬, 千金裘, 呼兒將出換美酒, 與爾同銷萬古愁!

In the Tang dynasty, Li Bai sold his ‘fur coat’ and ‘flower-dappled horse’ to buy drink. Li’s behavior was both heroic and romantic. Yu Guangzhong is also a poet, and he also has a fur coat and a flower-dappled horse to sell. However, what Yu gets in return is only arthritis. Yu once again identifies with a famous figure. This time it is Li Bai. Although Li Bai is always depicted as a romantic poet, he was also a disciple of Confucius. In fact, ancient Chinese poets tended to believe in more than one philosophy. In general, when the poets won the imperial favor, they were guided by Confucian doctrines. Nevertheless, the ancient poets would turn to Taoism or Buddhism when they lost court favor, and Li Bai was no exception. When he was in favor with the court, he was a follower of Confucianism; after he lost imperial favor, Li turned to Taoism. Yu tries to show us that he remembers both Confucius and Li Bai, and he wants to be remembered through remembering. Yu Guangzhong implies, however, that his dream does not come true. In the first line of the poem, Yu tells us that he is angry and sad.


chapter five

The poet does not tell us the reason why he feels this way. Yu then juxtaposes famous figures from Chinese tradition and claims that they are his ancestors. Although the poet fabricates an intimate relationship with these famous figures (for example Hou Yi becomes his grandfather, Li Guang his uncle) they exist only in Yu’s ‘memory.’ We do not discern any interaction between the poet and these famous people. Yu understands that those ‘good old days’ cannot come back. I believe this is one of the reasons why Yu feels sad and angry. In “Yu Li Bai Tong You Gaosu Gonglu” [Traveling With Li Bai on the Highway], “Xi Li Bai” [Teasing Li Bai] and “Shiren—He Chen Ziang Tai Tai Gang” [The Poet—Arguing With Chen Ziang], Yu tells us that returning to Chinese cultural roots is no longer a dream. The poet embodies a reciprocal conception of time in his works in order to fabricate his personal memories. As a result, Yu directly interacts with famous Chinese poets in history and thus becomes a member of the imagined literary community. In “Teasing Li Bai,” Yu imagines that he is a close friend of Li Bai’s, and can even tease him: You were once the Yellow River pouring from heaven, That shook the Ying Mountains And flung open the Dragon Gate, But now Yellow River comes flooding from your lines, Surging and foaming in laughter All the way into the sea. [. . .] The Yellow River is pomp enough for you, Leave the Yangtze to youngster Su. (Yu Guangzhong, 1992, 96) 你曾是黃河之水天上來 / 陰山動 / 龍門開 / 而今黃河反從你的句中來 / 驚濤與豪笑 / 萬里滔滔入海 . . . . . . / 有一條黃河, 你已夠熱鬧的了 / 大 江, 就讓給蘇家那鄉弟吧

Yu Guangzhong talks directly to Li Bai in this poem. Th e pronoun ‘you’ in the poem refers to Li Bai. In the first line of the poem Yu again reminds us of Li’s poem “Invitation to Wine”: “Do you not see the Yellow River come from the sky . . .?” Yu tells Li Bai that since Li is so good at depicting the Yellow River, whenever we think of the Yellow River we will recall Li Bai’s lines. In other words, according to Yu, the Yellow River becomes Li’s river. In the rest of the poem, Yu tries to make a bargain with Li Bai. The poet thinks that Li should be satisfied to have the Yellow River. He suggests that Li Bai should leave the Yangtze River to another poet (Su Shi). Su wrote a very famous poem on the Yangtze River which is “Chi Bi

imagined literary community


Fu” [To The Charms of Nian-nu: Meditation on the Past at Red Cliff ]. As Owen points out in An Anthology of Chinese Literature, “ ‘To The Charms of Nian-nu’ is probably Su Shi’s most famous lyric, written on a visit to what he thought was the site of the great battle at Red Cliff during the Three Kingdoms. Cao Cao had brought his army to the northern shore of the Yangzi River and was preparing a fleet to cross over and invade the southern kingdom of Wu” (Owen, 1996, 579). Eastward goes the great river, its waves have swept away a thousand years of gallant men. And they say that west of the ancient castle here is that Red Cliff of Zhou Yu and the Three Kingdoms. (Owen, 1996, 579) 大江東去, / 浪淘盡千古風流人物。 / 古裡西邊, / 人道是三國周郎赤壁

Yu seems to be a negotiator who tries to solve the dispute between Li Bai and Su Shi. This poem brings forth one important fact in relation to the imagined literary community. These poets become friends despite the temporal barrier. Li was a poet of the Tang Dynasty and Su a poet of the Song Dynasty, not to mention Yu who is a modern poet. How can these poets get to know each other and become friends? How can Yu ‘talk’ to these ancient poets? I believe that the conception of reciprocal time helps Yu to fabricate his personal memory. The poet ‘remembers’ when he returned to the Tang and Song dynasties to talk to these great poets in person. In the poem “The Poet—Arguing With Chen Ziang,” Yu again talks directly to a famous poet of the Tang period. In addition, the Taiwanese poet also shows us that he is a successor to this well-known poet. There are our forefathers preceding you, and will be some latecomers succeeding you You are in the middle to hand on the torch Handed on one by one from preceding generations Handing on one by one to the succeeding generations The burning light struggles to get free, but it is captured in your fist Stormy wind and rain beat your hair and stare at your tangled hair All of a sudden, the world gets an electric shock and burning Your face radiates the legendary lights It cannot be perceived when you are too close, but the lights will become obvious when you are far away (Yu Guangzhong, 1974b, 135–36)


chapter five 前有古人, 後有來者 / 中間的一炬火你擎傳 / 一手手, 從前接來 / 一 手手, 向後傳去 / 燙手的光奮掙, 擒在你拳裡 / 風吹雨打你的髮看你 的亂髮 / 大地一愕間觸電而燃燒 / 你的臉發出傳說中的光芒 / 近時不 顯, 遠時才赫現

Chen Ziang was a poet of the Tang Dynasty. His famous poem “Deng Youzhou Tai Ge” [On Climbing Youzhou Tower] is about loneliness. Chen feels very sad that when he visits Youzhou, he thinks he is alone in the world. He believes that there is no one preceding nor succeeding him in history. He is a loner in the universe. This thought moves Chen to tears: Where are the sages of the past And those of future years? Sky and earth forever last, Lonely, I shed sad tears. (Xu, 1987, 8) 前不見古人, 後不見來者! 念天地之悠悠, 獨愴然而涕下!

Yu disagrees with Chen and points out that there are poets preceding and succeeding Chen. According to Yu Guangzhong, Chen resembles a bridge which connects the poets who precede and succeed him. The handing of the torch is a symbol; the poets who hand lighted torches to others, and the poets who receive the torches, all qualify to become members of an imagined literary community. After a poet becomes a member, his or her face ‘radiates the legendary lights.’ Yu again invents a memory. The poet imagines that he goes back to the Tang Dynasty and argues with Chen. In addition, Yu sees how Chen received the torch from his precursor. In “Traveling with Li Bai on the Highway,” Yu further elaborates that people can travel freely in the imagined literary community. Both temporal and spatial barriers are overcome. In this poem, Yu drinks and travels with Li Bai as a friend in Taiwan. He even lends money to Li Bai: You should not have drunk so much wine in the bar the imported whisky is different from the Shandong wine it is a strong drink. Wang Lun should be blamed, he should not treat you and have these foreign women pour wine into your glass again and again. You should listen to doctor’s advice, not Wang Lun’s [. . .] You always want to be an immortal, a knight Is it because Mt. Kun Lun is too far away, so you look for sloppy knight and muddled immortal in your wine bottles?

imagined literary community


—Oh! Be careful, watch out! overtaking this kind of container truck is not a trifling matter slow down, slow down, I beg you [. . .] —Oh! Listen, isn’t it a police siren? It is coming up; let’s stop the car at the roadside. Be quick, change your seat with me, don’t let the traffic police find out you are a drunk driver [. . .] In fact, your driver’s license has been kept by the bar since last week because of your debts [. . .] —Is it six thousand dollars? All right, I will pay for you first [. . .] If Wang Wei did not go to attend the conference on the pollution of Wangchuan we would have gone back to Pingdong in his old car (Yu Guangzhong, 1998b, 71–74) 剛才在店裡你應該少喝幾杯的 / 進口的威士忌不比魯酒 / 太烈了, 要 怪那汪倫 / 擺什麼闊呢, 儘叫胡姬 / 一遍又一遍向杯裡亂斟 / 你該聽 醫生的勸告, 別聽汪倫 . . . . . ./ 你一直說要求仙, 求俠 / 是崑崙太遠了, 就近向你的酒瓶 / 去尋找邋遢俠和糊塗仙嗎? / - 啊呀要小心, 好險 哪 / 超這種貨櫃車可不是兒戲 / 慢一點吧, 慢一點, 我求求你 . . . . . ./ - 咦, 你聽, 好像是不祥的警笛 / 追上來了, 就靠在路旁吧 / 跟我換一 個位子, 快, 千萬不能讓 / 交警抓到你醉眼駕駛 . . . . . ./ 何況你的駕駛執 照上星期 / 早因為酒債給店裡扣留了. . . . . . / - 六千塊嗎? 算了, 我先 墊 / 要不是王維一早去參加 / 輞川污染的座談會 / 我們原該 / 搭他的 老爺車回屏東去的

Yu has direct interactions with the ancient poets in this poem. The reciprocal concept of time is clearly shown, as he and the ancient poets go back and forth between past and present. First of all, ancient poets such as Li Bai, Wang Wei and Li Bai’s friend Wang Lun are no longer, ‘there-then.’ Instead, they are ‘now-here.’ If we perceive time as a straight line, these ancient poets should be always there and not here. It is obvious that these ancient poets do not belong to our time-space. Nevertheless, these poets come all the way from Tang China to modern Taiwan. They drink and travel with Yu. ‘Whisky,’ ‘driver’s license,’ ‘traffic police,’ ‘pollution’ and ‘conference’ all refer to things in modern life. On the one hand, the ancient poets come here to experience our modern life; on the other hand, Yu goes back and forth to tell us what happens to the ancient poets in both Tang China and modern Taiwan. Yu tells us that Li Bai drinks a lot at a bar and that the great poet’s driver’s


chapter five

license is being kept there. Further, we also know what happened to Li Bai in the Tang Dynasty in Yu’s poem. Wang Lun was a good friend of Li Bai, who always brought wine to Li. Li Bai led an unhappy life due to his losing court favor. As a result, he became a Daoist initiate (Owen, 1996, 400). Li’s poems always depicted his encounters with the immortals.10 In addition to Li Bai, Yu also tells us where Wang Wei lived during the Tang Dynasty; he lived in Wangchuan after he retired. In short, the concept of time Yu depicts in this poem is reciprocal. It is interesting to note that the poets such as Li Bai, Su Shi, Chen Ziang and even Wang Wei share at least one thing in common: At the beginning of their careers, they all believed in Confucianism and wanted to make contributions to the Imperial Court. However, these poets eventually turned to either Taoism or Buddhism after they lost court favor. For example, Chen and Li turned to Taoism and wanted to be immortal. Su’s philosophy is rather complicated. He was a follower of Confucianism when he was only a child. After he lost court favor and was sent into exile, he was influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. In other words, his thoughts are a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Likewise, Wang turned to Taoism and Buddhism after he retired from the court.11 Why does Yu choose to develop intimate relationships with these ancient poets? I believe Yu Guangzhong’s experience of being an exile causes him to make this choice. As I pointed out in “The Youth of Tang,” Yu is a follower of Confucianism. Yu was forced into exile for political reasons and was deprived of the right to make a contribution to his homeland. Nevertheless, Yu does not turn to Taoism and Buddhism as the ancient poets did. For instance, in “Traveling with Li Bai on the Highway,” Yu remains sober when Li gets drunk. In other words, when Yu Guangzong cannot serve the government, he chooses to conjure up the imagined literary community instead of turning to Taoism or Buddhism.

10 A detailed account of Li Bai’s ‘undying’ theme can be found in Stephen Owen’s An Anthology of Chinese Literature (Owen, 1996, 400–03). 11 Li Bai’s life and philosophy can be found in Wang Yunxi’s Li Bai Ji Qi Zuopinxuan [Li Bai and His Works]. A detailed account of Chen Ziang can be found in Han Lizhou’s Chen Zi’ang Yanjiu [A Study of Chen Ziang]. Ye Jiaying examines Su Shi in detail in her paper “Dongpo ji qi Ci” [Dongpo and His Ci Poetry] which is collected in Gudian Shici Jiangyanji [Lectures on Classical Shi and Ci Poetry] (Ye, 1997, 245–74). Th e thoughts and life of Wang Wei are described in detail in Wang Congren’s Wang Wei Meng Haoran ji qi Zuopinxuan [The Works of Wang Wei and Meng Haoran].

imagined literary community


Likewise, Luo Fu also realizes that “memory played a crucial role in giving people a consistent sense of identity” (Gross, 2000, 2). Therefore, Luo fabricates his memories, too. He chooses to develop a relationship with poets that can help him construct his own identity. Luo imagines that he is drinking with another Tang poet, Li He, in his poem “Yu Li He Gong Yin” [Drinking with Li He]: Please come and take a seat, I want to drink with you Tonight is the darkest in history We are not ordinary men and should not feel sad because our poems are not included in the Three Hundred Tang poems [. . .] Tonight’s moon will not become brighter because of our gathering through the ages Taking advantage of the darkness, I will write you an obscure poem I do not care whether they understand or not If the poem is so difficult to understand why do we look at each other with an understanding smile after reading it? (Luo Fu, 1981, 163–64) 來來請坐, 我要與你共飲 / 這歷史中最黑的一夜 / 你我顯非等閑人物 / 豈能因不入唐詩三百首而相對發愁 . . . . . . / 今晚的月, 大概不會為我 們 / 這千古一聚而亮了 / 我要趁黑為你寫一首晦澀的詩 / 不懂就讓他 們去不懂 / 不懂 / 為何我們讀後相視大笑

Li He was born in 790 and Luo Fu was born in 1928. These two poets can come together only in imagination. The passage cited above is the last part of a long poem about the poets’ meeting. In the rest of the poem, Luo tells us that Li comes through the ages to visit him. The poem is set in modern times. When Luo tries to comfort Li about not being included in the Three Hundred Tang Poems anthology, he uses the pronouns ‘you and I’ instead of ‘you.’ It is easy to understand why Li He, as a Tang poet, is sad about not being included in the anthology, whereas Luo, as a modern poet, would logically not be included. In actual fact, the anthology was compiled in the Qing Dynasty (1764); therefore, Li He would not know if he was or was not included in it.12

12 Although numerous anthologies of Tang poetry were compiled before the Qing dynasty, the first edition of An Anthology of Tang Poetry (or Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty) was compiled in 1764 by Sun Zhu. A detailed account of the history of the anthology can be found in the introductory chapter entitled “A Survey of Tang Poetry and 300 Tang Poems” of Xu Yuanzhong’s 300 Tang Poems: A New Translation.


chapter five

In addition to the reciprocal time concept, Luo also raises the issue of the literary canon. Which poet and which works should be admitted to the canon? Since Li He was not considered part of the canon, his works were not included in the anthology. There may be many reasons why Li’s works were not accepted by the anthology, but I think that Li’s use of rare and strange images was an issue. Owen points out that “Li He’s work is best known for its brilliant images, morbidity, and fascination with the supernatural, so much so that in later times he was known as the ‘demonic talent’ (gui-cai)” (Owen, 1996, 489). As I mentioned before, originality was not a weighty consideration in ancient Chinese tradition. In this regard, Li’s talent was undermined. It is interesting to note that Li is important in Luo Fu’s creation of memory. Among so many great ancient poets, why does Luo Fu choose Li He to reconstruct his memory? I believe that Luo sees himself in Li He. Luo calls himself a ‘demonic poet,’ which is reminiscent of Li’s ‘demonic talent.’ While Li was an inscrutable poet of the ancient Chinese tradition, Luo is a poet in the modern world. In fact, Luo Fu’s long poem “Death in the Stone Chamber” is famous for its obscurity. Why do Li and Luo choose to write obscure poetry? I think one reason is that both poets did not feel at home with their everyday worlds. While Li did not gain a prominent post in the Tang government, Luo was forced into exile. Both poets were forced to look beyond the immediate world. As a result, when Luo reconstructs the past, he includes Li in his memory. Besides Li He, Luo also sees another Tang Dynasty poet—Wang Wei—in himself. In his poem “Zhi Wang Wei” [To Wang Wei], Luo seems to know both Wang’s poems and daily life by heart: A flock of drowsy birds are threatened by your paper-cutting moon [. . .] The sounds of flapping scare all the foliage away The desolate mountains are quiet and not a soul is to be seen Only you, Sir are stroking the mosses on the rocks laying by a brook Oh . . . everything is getting old the spring flowers in the valley fade according to the time [. . .] Sometime ago, someone asked: Which word of your poems has the most Buddhist allegory?

imagined literary community


You answered idly: It is the egret which flies away in the third line of “Written at the Rural Retreat at Wangchuan During a Prolonged Rain.” (Luo Fu, 1990a, 133–35) 一群瞌睡的山鳥 / 被你 / 紙剪的月亮 . . . . . . / 撲翅的聲音 / 嚇得所有的 樹葉一哄而散 / 空山 / 闃無人跡 / 只有先生你 / 手撫澗邊石頭上的青 苔 / 啊 . . . . . . 都這麼老了 / 滿谷的春花 / 依時而萎 . . . . . . / 前些日子, 有 人問起: / 你哪一首最具禪機? / 你閑閑答曰: / 不就是從 “積雨輞川莊 作” 第三句中 / 飛走的 / 那只白鷺

This poem obviously is inspired by Wang Wei’s poetry. Terms such as ‘desolate mountains,’ ‘brook,’ ‘mosses,’ ‘moon’ and so forth remind us of “Lu Chai” [The Deer Enclosure], and the first stanza of “Shan Ju Qiu Ming” [My Mountain Villa in an Autumn Evening]. In “The Deer Enclosure,” Wang tells us that: I see no one in mountains deep But hear a voice in the ravine. Through the dense wood the sunbeams peep And are reflected on mosses green. (Xu, 1987, 87) 空山不見人, 但聞人語響。返影入深林, 復照青苔上。

In “The Deer Enclosure,” Wang is alone in the mountains, and this image contributes to the development of the setting in Luo’s poem. Moreover, Luo also utilizes the image of ‘mosses’ in his poem. Since moss is not a common image in Tang poetry, people naturally associate it with Wang’s poems. Likewise, the images in Luo Fu’s poem also remind us of Wang Wei’s “My Mountain Villa in an Autumn Evening”: After the rain has bathed the desolate mountain, The fresh evening air blows the breath of autumn. Into the forest of pines the moon sheds her lights; Over the glistening rocks the spring water glides. (Xu, 1987, 71) 空山新雨後, 天氣晚來秋。明月松間照, 清泉石上流。

In fact, the setting of Luo’s “To Wang Wei” is a combination of Wang’s different poems. We find again the ‘desolate mountain’ in Wang’s “My Mountain Villa in Autumn Evening.” In addition, the images of ‘the moon,’ the ‘rocks’ and ‘the spring water,’ which always appeared in Wang’s poems, are also incorporated in Luo’s poem.


chapter five

Luo also wants to show us that he understands Wang very well. Th e passage quoted above shows Wang strolling in the woods at night. It is difficult to believe that Wang is the only one in the mountains. I think Luo must be there, too; otherwise he would not know what Wang was doing. In other words, Luo goes back to the Tang Dynasty to visit Wang Wei. In his poem, Luo tells us that “sometime ago, someone asked: / Which word of your poems has the most Buddhist allegory?” What ‘sometime ago’ refers to is not easy to clarify. However, since the setting of Luo’s poem is similar to that of Wang’s poems, I will suggest that the time period of Luo’s poem is during the Tang Dynasty. Physically speaking, Luo seems to be very close to Wang Wei; he can hear the conversations between Wang and other people. Furthermore, the egret mentioned in Luo’s poem reminds us of Wang’s “Ji Yu Wang Chuan Zhuang Zuo” [Written at the Rural Retreat at Wangchuan During a Prolonged Rain]. The third line of the poem reads: “Over the broad watery fields the whitefeathered egrets fly” (Xu, 1987, 77).13 In brief, in “To Wang Wei,” Luo not only shows us that he is familiar with Wang Wei’s works, and that he can freely go back to the Tang Dynasty, but he also reminds us that he, like Wang, utilizes Buddhist allegories. As a matter of fact, Luo frequently changed his poetic style. In his fifth poetry album Mo Ge [Demonic Songs], Luo embodies a sense of Zen in his poetry (Luo Fu, 1999a, 4). In other words, Luo discovers a part of himself in Wang Wei. Luo Fu’s poems “Li Bai Chuanqi” [The Legend of Li Bai] and “Shui Ji” [The Worship of Water] are about Li Bai and Qu Yuan respectively. In these poems, Luo goes back to the Tang Dynasty and the Warring States Period. He again knows the exact activities of these poets. At the end of “The Legend of Li Bai,” Luo Fu claims that he is at the place where Li is: In the afternoon, I eventually see you jumping to grasp the flying fall at the peak You wash away by a rolling river (Luo Fu, 1981, 189) 下午, 我終於看到 / 你躍起抓住峰頂的那條飛瀑 / 盪入了 / 滾滾而去 的溪流


This line in Chinese reads “ 漠漠水田飛白鷺”.

imagined literary community


In “To Wang Wei,” Luo Fu is not explicit about being in the same place and time as Wang Wei. In the above extract of “The Legend of Li Bai,” however, it is clear that Luo Fu is ‘there’ and meets Li Bai in person. In addition to their poetic talents, Li and Qu have one more thing in common: neither of them obtained Imperial favor. As a result, Qu was sent into exile, and Li wandered through the East and Southeast (Owen, 1996, 397). That Luo remembers these poets suggests his similarity to them: Luo is also a poet in exile. In “Bian Chui Ren de Du Bai” [The Monologue of Someone from the Frontier], the theme of exile becomes explicit. Luo Fu embeds Du Fu’s poem in his work, using the lines of Du Fu’s “Chun Wang” [A Spring View] as subtitles to compose a long poem. The subtitle of the first part is “As ever are hills and rills while my country crumbles”14 (Xu, 1987, 151). When Du Fu writes ‘my country crumbles,’ he is referring to the Tang Dynasty. Owen remarks that: In 755, the northeastern frontier command under An Lu-shan rebelled against the central government and moved into the interior, fi rst taking the Eastern capital, Luoyang, and then, after crushing the imperial army sent against them, occupying Chang-an itself. Du Fu found himself behind enemy lines in the capital, commenting on the battles that loyalist troops were losing to An Lu-shan’s armies and reminiscing about the splendors of the capital during Xuan-zong’s reign—splendors that seem to have vanished so quickly. (Owen, 1996, 420)

In fact, Luo Fu’s interpretation of the poem is misleading. When Du Fu wrote “A Spring View,” he was detained in the capital. However, Luo describes in his poem a scene of sending people into exile, which only happened to Du Fu later: Is the Yangtze River still thousand li long? Wind and snow whiz past The answer may be in the rolling waves; after having a thousand sails pass by The waters of the Three Gorges flow rapidly It is not only the roars of the apes on both sides that touch people but also the dangerous shoal Exiled footprints are everywhere on the dangerous shoal They walk in solitude crying when they go out of Sichuan (Luo Fu, 1990b, 136–37)


This line in Chinese is “國破山河在”.


chapter five 長江至今還有萬里嗎? / 風雪呼嘯而過 / 答案或在 / 千帆過盡後的滾 滾濁浪中 / 三峽水流洶湧 / 兩岸動人心魄的豈只是猿嘯 / 還有險灘 / 險灘上一雙雙被放逐的腳印 / 踽踽涼涼地 / 一路哭著出川

In the first few lines of this passage, the descriptions such as ‘the roars of the apes’ reminds us of the third line of Li Bai’s “Zao Fa Bai Di Cheng” [Leaving the White Emperor Town for Jiangling]: “With the monkeys’ adieus the riverbanks are loud” (Xu, 1987, 92).15 However, ‘both sides,’ or in Xu’s translation ‘Riverbanks’ and ‘exiled footprints,’ suggest that Luo is talking about the contemporary political situation of China. ‘Both sides’ refers to Mainland China and Taiwan, and ‘exiled footprints’ to the exiled Mainlanders in Taiwan. The misreading of Du’s poem demonstrates that Luo is talking about his own exile experience rather than Du’s. The poet finds that what happened to Du Fu also happened to him one thousand years later. In short, Luo Fu embodies references to ancient Chinese poets in his works because their experiences and thoughts help to construct his own identity and memory. Luo resembles Yu in that all the poets he depicted eventually lost favor in court. Though both Luo and Yu depict Li Bai in their poems, Yu puts emphasis on Li’s carefree attitude, and Luo stresses Li’s patriotism. Du Fu is famous for his concern about his country and his people, and the poet often includes this theme in his poems. Although Luo Fu does not make this theme explicit in his “The Monologue of someone from the frontier,” the association with Du Fu clearly reminds his readers of the patriotic theme. Of course, in addition to the theme of patriotism, Luo also expresses his interest in Zen and Taoism by using the image of Wang Wei. If the thoughts and poetic styles of Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei share similarities with those of Luo Fu’s later works, Qu Yuan’s and Li He’s works remind us of Luo Fu’s early poems, particularly “Death in the Stone Chamber.” Luo is similar to Li He in that he included images such as death, blood, ghosts and so forth in his “Stone Chamber” series. In fact, Li He was influenced by Qu Yuan.16 On the one hand, Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu fabricate their individual memories based on the ancient Chinese intellectuals’ conception of time. Yu and Luo show us that they travel to and fro in time and develop intimate relationships with prominent ancient poets. The


The original of this line is “兩岸猿聲啼不住”. Li He’s poetic style and his comparison with Qu Yuan can be found in Wu Qiming’s Li He ji qi Zuopinxuan [Li He and His Works]. Du Fu’s ideals and stylistic are discussed in detail in Ye Jiaying’s Lectures on Classical Shi and Ci Poetry (Ye, 1997, 57–62). 16

imagined literary community


Taiwanese poets reconstruct their identities through these self-created memories. On the other hand, these poets’ memories can also be considered, to some extent, as a kind of cultural memory. This is because the Chinese tradition of remembering always refers to poets such as Li Bai, Du Fu, Wang Wei and Su Shi, who are depicted by the Taiwanese modernist poets in their poems. Judging from the ancient poets that Yu and Luo depicted, I will suggest that both poets returned to Confucianism, though they (especially Luo Fu) occasionally turn to Taoism and Buddhism. Since Yu and Luo create personal relationships with ancient poets, to what extent do they return to tradition?

Return to Nature Not every Taiwanese modernist poet finds that fabricating memory can help him or her develop an imagined literary community. Lomen and Rong Zi, for instance, choose to include nature in their poetry to construct their cultural roots. Among all the poets I have chosen for my study, the imagined literary community created by Rong Zi and Lomen is most implicit. In fact, it is easy to ignore the relationship between these poets’ poetry and the Chinese tradition. There are at least three reasons for this. First, both poets have their own imagined homes. While Rong Zi considers nature her home, Lomen finds his home in ‘Third Nature.’ Second, Rong Zi and Lomen have a comparatively Westernized background. For example, Rong Zi came from a Christian family and received her education in missionary schools. Similarly, when Lomen was a teenager, he studied at the Air Force Pilot’s Academy. Lomen loves Beethoven and claims that the composer is the housekeeper of his soul. Furthermore, since Lomen and Rong Zi are considered modernist poets, the sense of anti-urbanism embodied in their poetry is often considered a modernity issue. Nevertheless, the following discussion on the relationship between Lomen, Rong Zi and the ancient Chinese tradition will suggest that these poets’ critique of urbanism may also be inherited from ancient Chinese tradition. As I pointed out in Chapter Three, Rong Zi’s ‘nature’ embodies two meanings; namely nature as the countryside and as the poetess’s homeland of the past. Nature as a rural area can be subdivided into two meanings: the real countryside which can be found outside the city, and the ideal or imaginary countryside which cannot be found in reality. In fact, the anti-urbanism motif depicted in Rong Zi’s poems echoes traditional Chinese culture which “consistently emphasized the rural over


chapter five

the urban” (Zhang, 1996, 12). I believe this tradition is best manifested in the work of Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming) 陶潛 (陶淵明). Rong Zi’s imaginary world of nature resembles Tao’s ideal world. In “Huigui Tianyuan” [Going Back to Gardens and Fields], the poetess’s ideal imaginary countryside reminds us of Tao Qian’s poetry: Blue sky and white clouds rice fields and green mountains including the nearby bamboo rafter and cottage whose shadows overlap in the water An ox cart is heading out of the village slowly A small boat is sailing back with colors of sky and water Smoke from village hearths is going up like clouds The meanings of home are determined! (Rong Zi, 1995c, 263–64) 藍天白雲 / 田壟和翠嶺 / 加上近邊的竹筏茅棚 / 它們的影子都在水中 交融 / 牛車緩緩地向村外駛去 / 小舟載天光水色歸來 / 炊煙 雲一樣 升起 / 家的意義就確定了!

The title of this poem “Going Back to Gardens and Fields” clearly reminds us of Tao Qian’s “Guitian Yuan Ju” [Returning to Dwell in Gardens and Fields]. Three Chinese characters out of four in these poems’ titles are identical. Moreover, phrases such as ‘smoke from village hearths’ and ‘rice fields and green mountains’ found in Rong Zi’s poem can also be found in Tao’s work. Furthermore, the meanings of these two poems are similar. Both poems are about the poets’ ideal home, the world of nature. The only difference is that Tao lived in his ideal home, while Rong Zi is dreaming of hers. In addition to describing his ideal home, Tao also tells us how he hates life in the city in “Returning to Dwell in Gardens and Fields I”: My youth felt no comfort in common things, by my nature I clung to the mountains and hills. I erred and fell in the snares of dust and was away thirteen years in all. The caged bird yearns for its former woods, fish in a pool yearns for long-ago deeps. Clearing scrub at the edge of the southern moors, I stay plain by returning to gardens and fields. My holdings are just more than ten acres, a thatched cottage of eight or nine rooms. Elms and willows shade eaves at the back, peach and plum spread in front of the hall.

imagined literary community


The far towns of men are hidden from sight, a faint blur of smoke comes from village hearths. [. . .] For long time I was kept inside a coop, now again I return to the natural way. (Owen, 1996, 316) 少無適俗韻, 性本愛丘山。誤落塵網中, 一去三十年。羈鳥戀舊林, 池魚思故淵。開荒南野際, 守拙歸田園。方宅十餘畝, 草屋八九間。 榆柳陰後簷, 桃李羅堂前。曖曖遠人村, 依依墟裡煙。. . . . . . 久在樊籠 裡, 復得返自然。

Tao’s poem is divided into three parts. In the fi rst part, the poet tells us that he does not like life in the city at all. He wants to live in the countryside, in nature. In the second part, Tao indicates that he has already moved to the countryside. The descriptions in Rong Zi’s poem parallel this part of Tao’s poem. The depictions in Tao’s poem of ‘gardens and fields,’ ‘a thatched cottage,’ ‘elms and willows’ and ‘a faint blur of smoke comes from village hearths’ suggest Tao’s influence on Rong Zi. The last part of the poem shows us the poet’s determination to live in the countryside. Tao Qian’s decision to give up public life and return to nature set an example for other Confucian scholars. Tao was a Confucian scholar, who at first wanted to serve the Imperial Court. He decided to return to his gardens and fields, however, because of the corruption of the Eastern Jin government. After Tao Qian returned to nature, he enjoyed his life whole-heartedly. Tao was different from other Confucian scholars who waited for opportunities to serve the court once again. The reason why Tao was so determined to live a life of seclusion was the influence of Taoism. The opposition of the city and countryside presented in Tao’s poetry is reduced to ‘The-Rural-Over-The-Urban’ model. Since Taoism advocates a natural state, everything artificial (for example, the city) is considered inferior. Why does the countryside become a place for which the ancient Chinese intellectuals yearn? There are at least two reasons. First, most Confucian scholars could not fulfill their wishes of serving the Imperial Court or winning court favor. As a result, they turned to Taoism and yearned to return to the gardens and fields. Second, Zhang Yingjin’s study on modern Chinese literature points out that most modern Chinese writers were born in the countryside. They went to the city (either in China or in foreign countries) to receive higher education, and eventually settled in the major cities to pursue their careers (Zhang, 1996, 16).


chapter five

Zhang’s analysis helps us to reconsider the situation of the ancient poets. Similarly, most of the ancient poets that the Taiwanese modernist poets alluded to came from the countryside. Tao Qian’s native place was Jiangxi’s Chai Sang; Chen Ziang was from Sichuan’s She Hong; Wang Wei’s hometown was Shanxi’s Qi; Li He was from Henan’s Yi Yang; Du Fu was born in Henan’s Gong; and Li Bai’s birthplace was Anxi’s Sui Ye. In short, none of these poets came from big cities. They were born in the countryside but became famous in the cities. As such, they might feel nostalgic for their rural birthplaces. Anti-urbanism is a tradition of Classical Chinese poetry continuing from Tao Qian onwards. The similarities between the poetry of Tao Qian and Rong Zi are notable. In addition to the theme of ‘returning to the gardens and fields,’ Rong Zi also expresses her hatred of city life in many of her poems. As I mentioned before, Rong Zi tells the reader in her “July in the South” and “Nymph’s Wishes” that she is tired of city life and claims that she belongs to the world of nature. In “Chaotic Dreams,” the poetess compares her living in the city to being in ‘a stranded boat.’ This comparison echoes Tao’s images of the ‘caged bird’ and ‘fish in a pool’ in “Returning to Dwell in Gardens and Fields I.” Why does Rong Zi embody Tao Qian’s philosophy in her works? Rong Zi’s experiences contribute to the development of her passion for nature. Rong Zi was born in Jiangsu’s Yang Zhou. Although Yang Zhou is a famous city in history, it is not a modern one. For instance, in her poem “Yin de Lianxiang” [Associations With Drinking], Rong Zi tells us that an image emerges in her mind when she recalls her childhood; namely, a well (Rong Zi, 1995c, 32). This information indicates that Rong Zi did not live in a modern city, for she drank from a well. Her family moved from one big city to another in order to escape from the civil war and the Sino-Japanese war. As a result, Rong Zi received her education in different missionary schools in Shanghai, Nanjing and so forth. In other words, the pattern of Rong Zi’s early life resembles that of the ancient poets and of the other modern writers chosen for analysis. Rong Zi’s birthplace was rather rural but she was educated and pursued a career as a civil servant in modern cities. She was then sent by the KMT government to Taipei. On the one hand, the poetess is similar to the poets and writers who always felt nostalgic for their rural past. On the other hand, Rong Zi is different from her predecessors in that she does not turn to nature because of a failure in public life. In fact, the poetess had no ambition to become a senior government official. The unhappiness embodied in

imagined literary community


Rong Zi’s poetry is caused by at least three factors: namely, her exile experiences, the urbanization of Taipei and the personal identity crisis resulting from her marriage to Lomen. Following her marriage, Rong Zi felt tied to the home. The poetess was different from other women, in that she discovered her talent for writing poetry before her marriage, and thus considered herself an individual of independent working capabilities. But marriage challenged her identity as a poetess, and she ceased to write for a few years, due to the pressures of trivial housework. Rong Zi says ‘home’ is an extremely trivial but real living space to a housewife. Besides going to her offi ce everyday, she also has had to deal with the many household chores. Since she was never trained as a housewife, the household duties have become a heavy burden on her. Her time is fragmented in a way she finds impossible to transcend (Rong Zi, 1995a, 3). As Yu Guangzhong says, Rong Zi hesitated after getting married between being ‘Mrs. Lomen’ and ‘Wang Rong Zi’ (Xiao Xiao, 1995, 6). In addition, going to work intensified Rong Zi’s already busy life. All these complicated feelings can be found in Rong Zi’s poems that were written after her marriage. “Han Xia Zhi Ge” [The Song of Dry Summer] is one example: I walk across the alley every day With time’s monotonous footsteps I walk out of the alley every day To the street for my living lingering between my offi ce and dwelling place Is not a lovely musical pendulum which can remind me of The songs of morning birds the fantasies of life or The happiness of dreams (Rong Zi, 1995c, 116) 我每日走過小巷 / 流光的跫音單調 我每日裡走出小巷 / 往生活的大 街 在辦公室與住屋之間徘徊 / 卻不是一具可愛的音樂鐘擺 可以為 我喚起 / 晨鳥的清唱 生之遐想或 / 夢底歡暢

The first three lines of this passage show us the physical space or the places in which the poetess spends most of her time. Expressions such as ‘monotonous footsteps’ and ‘not a lovely musical pendulum’ reflect Rong Zi’s dislike for her life in the city. The poetess’s ideal is depicted in the last two lines; she wishes to return to nature. This poem clearly shows us that Rong Zi longs to return to the gardens and the fields because she does not like her work or her home. Rong Zi elaborates on the reason why she does not like her home in “Chaotic Dreams.” As I discussed in Chapter Two, the ‘House of Light’ is a realization of Lomen’s poetic theory of ‘Third Nature.’ Since Rong


chapter five

Zi’s imaginary homeland is nature, the ‘House of Light’ is Lomen’s ideal home, not hers. In her poem “Chaotic Dreams,” Rong Zi describes her unstable and disappointing living environment: Our yurt can be carried away by wind [. . .] Time is packing Us into a windowless small house (Rong Zi, 1995c, 40) 我們的蒙古包也會為風捲走 / . . . . . . 時間侷迫著 / 擠我們于無窗的小屋

These lines indicate that Rong Zi and Lomen do not have a permanent home. Their home is like a yurt, which is the temporary home of the Mongolians. Their apartment is small and windowless. One thing Rong Zi does not mention in this poem is that the ‘House of Light’ is located in the city. If we compare Rong Zi’s ideal home pictured in “Going Back to Gardens and Fields” with the above passage, we can see that the poetess had no choice but to turn to her imaginary world of nature. In short, Rong Zi returns to the ancient Chinese pastoral tradition for reasons different from the poets discussed previously. Lomen’s ‘Third Nature’ theory and the ‘House of Light’ are so unique that it is difficult to discern traditional Chinese elements in the poet’s work. Nevertheless, if we examine the theory and the ‘House’ carefully, we will find that Lomen based his ‘Third Nature’ on the ancient Chinese pastoral tradition. The poet used three famous ancient pastoral poets— Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元, Wang Wei and Tao Qian—to explain his poetic ideal. As I pointed out in Chapter Two, Lomen’s ‘Third Nature Spiral Structure’ consists of three elements: the circle, triangle and the pinnacle of a spiral structure. The circle symbolizes the space of the countryside or ‘First Nature,’ the triangle the space of the city or ‘Second Nature.’ The pinnacle of the spiral structure or ‘Third Nature’ is the most important space in Lomen’s theory. According to Lomen, poets or artists must transcend ‘First Nature’ and ‘Second Nature,’ because neither the country nor the city can satisfy their spiritual needs. In order to enrich their spiritual lives, poets and artists must enter ‘Third Nature;’ which is a home or a studio for all poets and artists (Lomen, 1995c, 5–6). Lomen points out that ‘Third Nature’ or the poetic space is the home for both Chinese and Western poets; however, he uses more Chinese than Western poets to demonstrate his ‘Third Nature theory.’ Although Lomen mentions T.S. Eliot, the poet does not use Eliot’s work to elaborate on his theory. On the contrary, Lomen uses Wang Wei’s and Liu Zongyuan’s poems to explain his theory in detail. Lomen highly praises

imagined literary community


the last line of Liu’s “Jiang Xue” [River Snow]: “Fishing for snow in icy river alone”.17 According to Lomen, the best part of this line is that it does not depict nature directly. When Liu writes this line, he transcends the real world (‘First Nature’ and ‘Second Nature’) and reaches the poetic space (‘Third Nature’) (Lomen, 1995c, 7). In addition to using Classical Chinese poetry to demonstrate his ‘Third Nature’ theory, Lomen also embodies ancient poets’ works in his poems. In “Da Xiagu Zoumingqu” [Grand Canyon Sonata], lines are borrowed from Liu Zongyuan’s: Millions of abysms sink from here Numberless ↓ ↓ ↓ are running downward after death Stone houses disintegrate on the cliff and their original blueprint cannot be found Millions of paths have no human in sight [. . .] Was Whitman here with his Western wagon? Was Liu Zongyuan here to fish the snow-capped river? The silent barbaric fields and loneliness never find out (Au, 2006, 93) 千萬座深淵在這裡沉落 / 無數向下的 ↓ ↓ ↓ / 追著死亡 / 所有的石屋 解體在石壁上 / 都找不到原來的建築圖 / 萬徑人蹤滅 . . . . . . / 至于 / 惠 特曼有沒有 / 駕著西部的蓬車來過 / 柳宗元有沒有 / 把寒江釣到這裡 來 / 從不說話的蠻荒與孤寂 / 都不知道

The sixth line of this quotation actually comes from Liu Zongyuan’s “River Snow.” The second line of this poem reads: “Millions of paths have no human in sight.” Although the lines “Was Liu Zongyuan here / to fish the snow-capped river?” are not exact quotations of Liu’s poem, they are, nevertheless, reminiscent of Liu’s “River Snow.” In the last two lines of “River Snow,” a lone man is fishing for snow in an icy river. Lomen asks in his poem if Liu went to the Grand Canyon to go fishing in the ‘snow-capped river’? The similarities between Liu’s and Lomen’s lines immediately indicate Liu’s influence on Lomen’s poetry. Although Lomen also mentions Whitman in his poem, his poetry is not embedded in Lomen’s works. It is interesting to note that Lomen seldom mentions ancient Chinese poets in his poetry. Nevertheless, the poet


The original of this line is “獨釣寒江雪”.


chapter five

not only mentions Liu’s name in this poem, but also uses Liu’s poems to explain his ‘Third Nature’ Theory. Like all Confucian scholars who wished to serve the government and did not win the favor of the court, Liu turned to Taoism and Buddhism. In addition to Liu Zongyuan, Lomen also uses two lines of Wang Wei’s “Han Jiang Lin Tiao” [Gazing Afar by the Han River] to demonstrate the importance of ‘Third Nature’: The grand river flows beyond heaven and earth, Distant hills float and fade out by turns, it seems. (Xu, 1987, 76) 江流天地外, 山色有無中

According to Lomen, when Wang Wei wrote these lines he tried to bring the inner world into harmony with ‘First Nature.’ As a result, both ‘First Nature’ and the inner world transcend and enter ‘Third Nature,’ which is an infinite space (Lomen, 1995c, 5–6). In fact, Wang’s lines indicate that ‘First Nature,’ or the world of nature, ‘fades out’ or dissolves. This only happens in a poem or in ‘Third Nature.’ As was mentioned earlier, Wang Wei was a Confucian scholar, and the poet turned to Taoism and Buddhism after he lost court favor. Why does Lomen choose Liu Zongyuan and Wang Wei to explain his poetic ideals? Does Lomen share similar sentiments with Liu and Wang? I believe that Lomen does, indeed, share some poetic ideals with Liu and Wang. The reason why Lomen turns to ‘Third Nature,’ however, is different from those of the ancient poets. Lomen was also a civil servant; after he went to Taiwan, he served in the Civil Aviation Bureau. Eventually, at forty-nine, the poet quit his job. According to Lomen, life is too short, and he wanted to concentrate on his writing (Zhou, 1995, 6). Lomen, then, is different from Liu Zongyuan and Wang Wei who both wished to serve the government. Lomen is also dissimilar from Tao Qian who decided to leave public life due to corruption in the government. Lomen’s interest is in creative writing; he devotes his life to poetry. His works written in the past thirty years exemplify his devotion to poetry. Changes in the political situation did not shake the poet’s mind. In other words, Lomen’s decision to leave public life had nothing to do with the government. I would like to suggest here that Lomen’s attitude toward poetry and art is reminiscent of Taoism. Lao Siguang 勞思光 points out that Taoism, among all traditional Chinese philosophies, best exemplifies the spirit of art. For example, the Taoist poets in the Weiji period were thorough artists (Lao, 1998, 233). As a matter of fact, among all the poets of the Weiji period, Lomen identifies himself with Tao Qian.

imagined literary community


In “Youran Jian Nanshan” [Gazing on South Mountain off in the Distance], Lomen uses a line from Tao Qian’s “Yin Jiu—Qi Wu” [Drinking Wine V] as the title of his poem. Although Tao’s lines are not embedded in Lomen’s poem, Lomen adopts the atmosphere or the mood of Tao’s poem. In “Drinking Wine V,” Tao tells us of his life after he retired to the countryside: I built a cottage right in the realm of men, yet there was no noise from wagon and horse. I ask you, how can that be so?— when mind is far, its place becomes remote. I picked a chrysanthemum by the eastern hedge, off in the distance gazed on south mountain. Mountain vapors glow lovely in twilight sun, where birds in flight join in return. There is some true significance here: I want to expound it but have lost the words. (Owen, 1996, 316) 結廬在人境, 而無車馬喧。問君何能爾, 心遠地自偏。採菊東籬下, 悠然見南山。山氣日夕佳, 飛鳥相與還。此中有真意, 欲辯已忘言。

Tao tells us in the poem that a person’s unsatisfactory living environment need not be a hindrance. As long as one's mind is in a far away place, one is free and unrestrained to enjoy oneself. The kind of freedom that Tao is referring to is a philosophical one. According to Tao, to have leisure of mind is similar to having an empty mind. In other words, ideally we have nothing in our minds, neither negative such as noises, nor positive such as mountains. The lines “I picked a chrysanthemum by the eastern hedge, / off in the distance gazed on south mountain” best exemplify this state of mind. In fact, the south mountain is always there. Tao implies, however, that he is not aware of the existence of the south mountain. He seems to see the south mountain only by chance. After he picks the chrysanthemum and looks up leisurely into the distance, the mountain comes into his sight. Tao’s mind seems to be empty since the mountain is not in his mind. In “Gazing on South Mountain off in the Distance,” Lomen is probably comparing Tao’s carefree state of mind demonstrated in “Drinking Wine V” to the state of mind achieved in ‘Third Nature’: Morning is built of glass lying on the visible transparent space


chapter five I am also the bottomless transparent space which receives light’s visit Only windows are looking at me Sky is looking at me My eyes are looking at me My eyes are a road which come from far away They come from the paper boats which transport fairy tales from the warships which transport gunfire from the clouds which transport the sky Is there anything not changed into tasteless tobacco in my mouth? I discharged urine everywhere when I was a child When I grew up I shot legally Until my eyes and windows and sky look into morning Is there anything not changed into the weak tea in my mouth? When a bird hurls vastness and freedom onto my roof I pick it up with both hands What I embrace tightly is myself When I release the distant place replaces myself everyone can go to south mountain (Lomen, 1995c, 108–09) 清晨是玻璃蓋的 / 躺在那可見的透明裡 / 我也是那無底的透明 / 接受 光的訪問 / 只有窗在看我 / 天空在看我 / 我的眼睛在看我 / 我的眼 睛是從很遠走來的一條路 / 從運童話的紙船 / 到運炮火的艦艇 / 到運 天空的雲 / 還有什麼不成為那口煙中的淡遠 / 從小時隨便屙尿 / 到大 了依法放槍 / 到雙目與窗與天空 / 都望入了清晨 / 還有什麼不成為那 口茶中的淡泊 / 當一只鳥把空闊與自由 / 拋在我的樓頂上 / 我雙手撿 起 緊緊抱住的 / 竟是我自己 / 一放開 遠方便換了進來 / 任誰都去 成南山

This poem is divided into three parts. In the first stanza, Lomen implies that he is in ‘Third Nature’ because transparent space and light are the characteristics of the ‘Third Nature.’ The ‘warships’ and ‘gunfire’ of the second stanza obviously remind us of ‘Second Nature.’ Lomen also depicts different stages of his life: being a child, an adult and an old man. The poet uses ‘paper boats,’ ‘warships’ and ‘clouds’ to represent these various stages. ‘Paper boats’ refers to his childhood, ‘warships’ his adulthood, and ‘clouds’ his old age. When the poet was a child, he played with paper boats. He became a soldier when he grew up. After he retired, Lomen concentrated on his creative writing, sky and clouds being important images in his poems. In fact, this life cycle implies one more stage: death. War and death are two major threats in Lomen’s ‘Sec-

imagined literary community


ond Nature.’ It seems that we can never escape at least one of them— death—unless we enter ‘Third Nature.’ In the last stanza, Lomen tells us how to reach ‘Third Nature.’ If we want to be as free as a bird, we must release or empty our minds. When our minds are emptied, we will reach the carefree state Tao Qian depicted. Lomen’s ‘Third Nature,’ then resembles Tao Qian’s ‘south mountain’ in his “Gazing on South Mountain off in the Distance.” Why does Lomen consider his ‘Third Nature’ as Tao’s ‘south mountain’? I think one reason is that both poets share similar poetic ideals. As Ye Jiaying 葉嘉瑩 points out, the images depicted in Tao Qian’s poems do not refer to actual things. These images undergo transformations, reflecting Tao’s subjective ideas or mentality (Ye, 1997, 56). Likewise, Lomen stresses that a poet should not directly depict what he sees. He should transform the images with his mind’s eye. The ‘nature’ the poet depicts is no longer the ‘nature’ of the real world. It is the poet’s subjective ‘nature.’ Tao Qian and Lomen not only share similar poetic ideals but also similar imagery. For example, one of Tao’s favorite images is the bird. Ye remarks that the birds Tao portrayed in his poems are not birds of the real world but birds of Tao’s imagination. These birds combine various characteristics of birds in the real world (Ye, 1997, 52). For instance, ‘the caged bird’ in “Returning to Dwell in Gardens and Fields I” symbolizes the condition of Tao’s early period of life. When Tao worked for the government, he was like ‘the caged bird’ who lost his freedom (Ye, 1997, 52). In “Drinking Wine V,” Tao Qian writes that the ‘birds in fl ight join in return.’ When Tao wrote this poem he had already returned to nature. As such, the poet was free and the birds he depicted were free as well. It is noteworthy that the birds return to their home. I think Tao’s description of the birds parallels his own experience. When the poet returned to his home—nature—the birds in his poem returned to their homes, too. In short, the birds in Tao’s poetry represent different states of the poet's mind, rather than birds of the real world. Similarly, the bird is Lomen’s favorite image, and the birds depicted in his poems also have symbolic meanings. However, Lomen’s handling of the image of the bird is rather different from Tao Qian’s treatment. Tao used the characteristics, or the concept, of the birds to delineate a state of mind which was always associated with his experience. Lomen uses the birds’ characteristics to represent abstract ideas which are often associated with his theory of ‘Third Nature.’ For example, the fact that


chapter five

birds can fly is a significant characteristic to Lomen. The poet associates the flight of birds with windows. Lomen writes in “Chaung de Shijie” [The World of Windows]: A window is the frame of nature It is also the bird flying amid the scenery. (Au, 2006, 140) 窗是大自然的畫框 / 也是飛在風景中的鳥

Lomen describes a paradoxical relationship between bird and nature in this poem. The first line reminds us that nature is restrained by the window. In the second line, the bird is flying amid the scenery, which means the bird, or the window, seems to be free in nature. Th e word ‘amid’ implies that the bird is not totally free because it is restrained, or framed by, the landscape, or ‘First Nature.’ Tao Qian also portrays ‘the caged bird’ in his poem. This is because Tao was trapped by the corrupted world. After Tao returned to nature, the birds he depicted were flying in the sky. It is noteworthy that when Lomen wrote “The World of Windows,” he had long since resigned from his job. The poet quit his post in 1977 and this poem was written in 1991. For these reasons, the kind of freedom Lomen pursues is different from Tao’s. I believe that Lomen wants to be emancipated from all materialistic or physical forms or boundaries and to reach a purely spiritual state. According to Lomen, the bird is not free until it reaches this state, and this realm is in a remote place. In the last part of “Tao” [Escape], Lomen clearly shows us how to be free: Actually escape is the bird When the scenery is naked in the mountains and rivers the sky is naked above the clouds the sea is naked under the stormy waves the river is naked between the shores you are naked inside the body Eyes are naked when they look afar Smoke is naked in mist The bird when it flaps its wings will be a thousand miles away (Au, 2006, 132) 其實 逃就是那只鳥 / 當風景不穿衣服在山水中 / 天空不穿衣服在雲 上 / 海不穿衣服在風浪裡 / 河不穿衣服在兩岸間 / 你不穿衣服在身體 裡 / 眼睛不穿衣服在瞭望中 / 煙不穿衣服在飄渺裡 / 那只鳥 一振翅 / 便是千里迢遙

Here Lomen associates the bird with an abstract concept—escape. The bird is the concept itself. When everything such as the sky, the sea,

imagined literary community


the river and so forth return to their natural, simple and unadorned state, the bird will be free; it will no longer be trapped in the scenery. When the bird ‘flaps its wings,’ it travels a thousand miles. According to Lomen, people return to their natural state when they take off their clothes. Clothes are associated with material things. Lomen implies that we should emancipate ourselves from material things in order to obtain freedom. In “Chen Qi” [Rising at Dawn], the physical form or the entity of the bird disappears and turns into an idea: I stand on the roof of dawn taking a breath flowers redden, foliage becomes verdant the sky turns blue, mountains change to green looking further my feet have already trodden on the clouds opening my arms the sky and my chest meet it turns out they are lighter than wings If I do not fly at this moment what makes a bird a bird? how can my hands touch the distance? (Au, 2006, 89) 站在清晨的樓頂上 / 一呼吸 / 花紅葉綠 / 天藍山青 / 一遠看 / 腳已踩 在雲上 / 一張開雙手 / 天空與胸便疊在一起 / 反而較翅膀輕了 / 此刻 要是不飛 / 鳥那裡來的樣子 / 遠方怎能用手去摸

Lomen compares himself to a bird in this poem. He does not, however, transform into the bird but instead shares the characteristics of the bird. For example, he can fly; his arms are lighter than wings. The poet asks ‘what makes a bird a bird?’ According to Lomen, it is their flight that makes them birds. Since the poet can fly, he is like the bird who can fly into the distance. As I pointed out in “Gazing on South Mountain off in the Distance,” the ‘distance’ refers to ‘Third Nature’ or Tao Qian’s ‘south mountain.’ In short, the birds in Lomen’s poetry refer to certain qualities. The poet implies that when we escape from materialistic things such as clothes, our arms become as light as birds’ wings. As a result, we can fly or reach far distances, which is the spiritual realm or ‘Third Nature.’ Lomen’s poetry and theory embody Chinese elements, but so does his ‘House of Light.’ In fact, two of the lights in his home are made of old rattan chairs (see Fig. 5.1) and one is made out of food steamers (see Fig. 5.2 and Fig. 5.3). Lomen uses these traditional Chinese raw materials to create his lights. These lights become the symbols of his


chapter five

Fig. 5.1. This work of installation art is made of old rattan chairs.

imagined literary community

Fig. 5.2. This lamp is made of different-sized food steamers.

Fig. 5.3. Another view of the food-steamer lamp.



chapter five

‘Third Nature,’ which means their Chinese origins cannot be traced easily. This phenomenon coincides with Lomen’s poetry and theory. When we read Lomen’s works, we cannot immediately discern the Chinese elements, because the poet uses traditional Chinese culture as raw materials to create his new and original poetry and theory.

Homeland (Re)located All the Taiwanese modernist poets I have chosen for my study tried to develop a relationship with Chinese tradition through language, memories and the pastoral tradition. The relationship helps these poets conjure up an imagined literary community. In fact, the ancient Chinese intellectuals always believed in a kind of invisible relationship. They believed that they would be remembered through remembering their predecessors. In an era in which nothing is certain, the Taiwanese modernist poets do not feel secure about their living space. As a result, these poets return to their cultural roots and try to imagine a kind of invisible relationship with the ancient Chinese poets. On the surface, their decision seems to be a return to the traditional. However, my analyses demonstrate that these poets do not directly return to the tradition. As I pointed out in Chapter Four, every return is a creation rather than a repetition. Therefore, the relationship between the Taiwanese modernist poets and Chinese tradition becomes an interactive one. For instance, Zheng Chouyu rejuvenates the major themes of Classical Chinese poetry. Yu Guangzhong and Luo Fu further develop the tradition of remembering. These poets fabricate memories and turn the process of remembering into an interactive activity. Rong Zi and Lomen turn to the pastoral tradition for reasons different from their predecessors. Lomen does not return to actual gardens and fields as other ancient pastoral poets did, but goes to his dreamland—‘Third Nature’ or a spiritual realm. In other words, the Taiwanese modernist poets have developed a paradoxical relationship with the Chinese tradition. On the one hand, these poets try to return to it, and on the other hand, they want to escape from it. This paradoxical relationship embodied in Taiwanese modernist poetry implies that it is impossible for the cultural exiles to return to their traditions. As I pointed out before, every returnee is also a traveler. Before the Taiwanese modernist poets decided to return to the Chinese tradition, they were all ‘cultural travelers.’ These poets have been under

imagined literary community


the influence of different literary and philosophical traditions. They are similar to travelers who are away from home (or their traditions) for a long time. Even when they eventually return home, these returnees can never return to their tradition or origin. All they can attain is an amalgamation of their cultural experiences. This phenomenon is not unique among the Taiwanese modernist poets; modernist poets and writers from all over the world also face this problem. In addition to the vertical comradeship that was discussed earlier, an imagined literary community can also be found among the modernist writers and poets from around the world. I believe this imagined space is the most secure, for it is developed out of insecurity. In the age in which ‘all that is solid melts into air,’ nothing seems to be secure except insecurity itself.



At the beginning of the twenty-first century, when postmodern aesthetics is in its heyday, what could be the significance of studying modernist aesthetics in Taiwanese poetry of the last century? My study demonstrates that concern with space in postmodern aesthetics helps us to understand the paradoxical characteristics of modern aesthetics more thoroughly. Moreover, examining the idea of space embodied in Taiwanese modernist poetry helps to differentiate its aesthetics from that of modernist poetry in Mainland China. Finally, modern people have been driven to dwell in a condition of placelessness due to wars, exile, urbanization and so forth. Taiwanese modernist poetry shows us how people responded to their new living spaces. A study of Taiwanese modernist poetry helps to supplement Baudelaire’s dual formulation. Baudelaire does not say clearly what ‘the eternal and the immovable’ refers to in his writings. I have suggested that apparently immutable spaces such as the house, the city and the homeland embody mutability. This does not mean that the house is one half homely and one half unhomely. Likewise, we cannot tell the percentage of uncanniness the city has. Nor can we tell to what extent a homeland is stable. On the contrary, imagination always reminds us of something insubstantial and changeable. However, the home, represented by the imagined literary community, turns out to be a comparatively stable one. In other words, the concepts of stability and instability become ambivalent. Every concept embodies its opposite to some extent. This conclusion echoes Marx’s and Nietzsche’s understanding of the contradictory forces in which each change embodies both constructive and destructive factors. Although Baudelaire’s formulation suggests a similar idea, this study shows that it is no longer a dual formulation of the mutable and the immutable. This is because we cannot distinguish the ephemeral from the eternal or vice versa. The aesthetics embodied in Taiwanese modernist poetry not only distinguishes it from its Western counterparts but also differentiates it from the aesthetics of Mainland China. Although Taiwanese modernist poets


chapter six

read Western modernist literature, my study demonstrates that their poetry is neither an inferior translation of Western modernist poetry nor a continuation of Chinese modernist poetry from the Mainland. It is true that Lomen’s city poetry is a kind of fable of Taipei, because the city was yet to be developed in the 1950s. However, as I pointed out before, the unreal city that Lomen created in his early poetry represents his indifference toward the real Taipei at that time. Likewise, Luo Fu’s surrealist poems collected in Death in the Stone Chamber were inspired by his dwelling place—the stone chamber during wartime. Although Luo points out that he was influenced by Western surrealist poetry when he wrote the poems, the poet wrote about his own feelings in his works. In short, Taiwanese modernist poetry is not an inferior translation, as Lu Zhengwei claims, and it is not a continuation of Chinese modernist poetry before 1949, as assumed by Tang Zhengxu and other critics. As I have shown, Chinese modernist poets embrace changes; by contrast, Taiwanese modernist poets search for eternity or an imagined literary community. Taiwanese modernist poetry also shows us the ways in which modern Chinese people tackle the condition of placelessness. It is noteworthy that Taiwanese modernist poets did not return to the tradition of remembering at once. These poets’ responses to the condition of placelessness vary. Although at first they tried to escape from placelessness, these poets gradually accommodated to it. This does not mean, however, that they no longer attempted escape from placelessness. In fact, the themes of escaping from, and accommodating to, placelessness alternately appear in these poets’ works. Leonard Lutwack remarks that Western modernist writers try to escape from placelessness by being in motion and through hallucination (Lutwack, 1984, 224–30). According to Lutwack, people either throw themselves in motion by means of traveling, or distort their places in their works. Taiwanese modernist poets are no exception. Except for Lomen, the other four poets Luo Fu, Rong Zi, Yu Guangzhong and Zheng Chouyu are enthusiastic travelers. Travel not only provides an opportunity for people to escape from the living places they dislike, but also gives them a chance to look for a place where they might want to settle down. As I mentioned before, Luo and Zheng eventually choose to live in Canada and the United States, respectively. Rong Zi and Yu decide to stay in Taiwan. Lomen chooses another way to escape from placelessness; the poet distorts his house and Taipei through hallu-



cination. His house becomes the ‘House of Light;’ Taipei turns into an unreal city. On the one hand, the Taiwanese modernist poets try to escape from placelessness; on the other they reach an accommodation with the condition. First of all, these poets have drawn their inspiration from the uncanniness of their living environment. Lomen’s ‘House of Light’ and Luo Fu’s stone chamber are examples of unhomely homes. Th ese uncanny spaces and the urbanization of Taipei give rise to spatial diseases, such as claustrophobia and agoraphobia, which become the leitmotifs of the poets’ works. Images such as windows, a tunnel, an enclosed chamber, monstrous buildings and so forth are embodied in Taiwanese modernist poems. Taiwan also acted as a confining space, preventing these poets’ return to Mainland China before 1987. This fact contributes to the development of the theme of nostalgia. Second, the Taiwanese modernist poets also try to do without place. Their belief in Chinese culture is so strong that these poets return to Chinese tradition and locate, or relocate, an imagined literary community. In spite of the spatial and temporal differences, these poets believe that their poetry will help them to achieve the eternal. In brief, the condition of placelessness is also paradoxical. It deprives the poets of a physical space, while providing them with a poetic one. This study has examined modern aesthetics in Taiwanese poetry by exploring the issue of space. In fact, spatial issues have been receiving more and more attention in contemporary scholarship. Scholars interested in space come from various disciplines, including philosophy, cultural geography, anthropology, history, art, literary criticism, and others. Although my study is basically a literary one, I have incorporated certain modern philosophies (Bachelard and Heidegger), as well as theories of cultural geography (Relph, Tuan, Massey and Harvey), which are related to the concept of dwelling. My discussion is far from a comprehensive one, however. Further spatial studies of Taiwanese modernist poetry can be pursued in the areas of colonialism and post-colonialism, gender, institutional power, and so forth. My project has not exhausted this particular topic. However, perhaps this is the most appropriate conclusion for the study of modernist aesthetics, because it exemplifies the spirit of the subject itself: an ending embodies a beginning.


Primary Sources Lomen 羅門.《羅門論文集》[A Lomen Reader]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995a. ——. 《羅門創作大系: 都市詩 》[City Poetry]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995b. ——. 《羅門創作大系: 自然詩 》[Nature Poetry]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995c. ——. 《羅門創作大系: 自我 • 時空 • 死亡詩 》[Self • Time-Space. • Death Poetry]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995d. ——. 《羅門創作大系: 素描和抒情詩 》[Literary Sketch and Lyric]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995e. ——. 《羅門創作大系: 燈屋 • 生活 • 剪影 》[The House of Light • Sketch of Life]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995f. ——.《羅門長詩選》[The Selected Long Poems of Lomen]. 北京: 中國社會科學出 版社, 1995g. ——.《羅門短詩選》[The Selected Short Poems of Lomen]. 北京: 中國社會科學出 版社, 1995h. Luo Fu 洛夫.《時間之傷》[Time’s Wound]. 台北: 時報文化出版事業有限公司, 1981. ——. [Poetry in the Past Thirty Years]. Chung-Wai Literary Monthly 《中外文學》 10.12 (1982): pp. 6–30. ——.《洛夫石室之死亡及相關重要評論》[Luo Fu’s Death in the Stone Chamber and Related Criticisms]. Ed. Jiliang Hou. 台北: 漢光文化事業公司, 1988. ——.《天使的涅槃》[The Nirvana of an Angel]. 台北: 尚書文化出版社, 1990a. ——.《月光房子》[Moonlight House]. 台北: 九歌出版社, 1990b. ——.《魔歌》 [Demonic Songs]. 台北: 探索文化事業有限公司, 1999a. ——.《雪落無聲》 [Snow Falling Without Sound]. 台北:爾雅出版社, 1999b. Rong Zi 蓉子.《這一站不到神話》[This Stop Cannot Reach Myth]. 台北: 大地出版社, 1986. ——.《蓉子詩選》[The Selected Poems of Rong Zi]. 北京: 中國社會科學出版社, 1995a. ——.《蓉子散文選》[The Selected Prose of Rong Zi]. 北京: 中國社會科學出版社, 1995b. ——.《千曲之聲: 蓉子詩作精選》[The Sound of Thousand Songs: The Best of Rong Zi]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995c. Yu Guangzhong 余光中.《蓮的聯想》[Associations of the Water Lily]. Taipei: Darling Company, 1964. ——.《五陵少年》[A Youth of Tang]. 香港: 文藝書屋, 1969. ——.《在冷戰的年代》[In Time of Cold Wars]. 台北: 純文學出版社, 1970. ——.《天國的夜市》[The Night Market of Heaven]. 台北: 三民書局, 1974a. ——.《白玉苦瓜》[The White Jade Bitter Gourd]. 台北: 大地出版社, 1974b. ——.《望鄉的牧神》[The God of Shepherd Thinking of His Home]. 台北: 純文學出 版社, 1980. ——.《春來半島》[Spring Comes to the Peninsula]. 香港: 香江出版公司, 1985. ——.《敲打樂》[Music Percussive]. 台北: 九歌出版社有限公司, 1986. ——. The Night Watchman. 台北: 九歌出版社有限公司, 1992. ——.《天狼星》[Sirius]. 台北: 洪範書店有限公司, 1998a. ——.《余光中詩選 II》 [The Selected Poems of Yu Guangzhong Vol. II]. 台北: 洪範 書店有限公司, 1998b.



——. 《余光中集: 第一卷》[The Collection of Yu Guangzhong Vol. I]. 天津:百花 文藝出版社, 2004. Zheng Chouyu 鄭愁予.《鄭愁予詩集》[An Anthology of Zheng Chouyu]. 台北: 洪 範書店有限公司, 1979. ——. 《燕人行》[The Travels of Someone From Yan]. 台北: 洪範書店有限公司, 1987. ——. 《寂寞的人坐著看花》[A Loner Takes a Seat and Watches Flowers]. 台北: 洪範 書店有限公司, 1997. ——.《鄭愁予詩的自選》[The Collected Poems of Zheng Chouyu]. 北京: 三聯書店, 2000. Secondary Sources Abbas, Ackbar. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1997. Adorno, Theodor W. Aesthetic Theory. Trans. C. Lenhardt. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991. Au Chung-to and Tom Rendall, eds. and trans. The Collected Poems of Lomen: A Bilingual Edition. Taipei: The Liberal Arts Press, 2006. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. Bammer, Angelika, ed. Displacements: Cultural Identities in Question. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Barthes, Roland. The Semiotic Challenge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Baudelaire, Charles. Paris Spleen. Trans. Louise Varese. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1970. ——. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Trans. and ed. Jonathan Mayne. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1995. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1970. ——. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet In The Era Of High Capitalism. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Verso, 1985. Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. New York: Verso, 1982. Bloch, Ernst. “A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel.” Literary Essays Trans. Andrew Joron and others. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1973. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1991. Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Calinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1987. Casey, Edward S. The Fate of Place. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Chen, Qinan and Zhou Yingxiong 陳其南, 周英雄.《文化中國: 理論與實踐》[Cultural China: Theory and Practice]. 台北: 允晨文化實業股份有限公司, 1994. Chen Shuiyuan 陳水源.《台灣歷史的軌跡》[Taiwan History]. 台中: 晨星出版有限 公司, 2000. Cheung, Esther M. K., et al., eds. Hong Kong Literature as/and Cultural Studies. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2002.



Chien Chengchen 簡正珍. [Poetics of Exile]. Chung-Wai Monthly 《中外 文學》12.6 (1991): pp. 4–24. Chow, Rey. “Nostalgia of the New Wave: Structure in Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together.” Camera Obscura 42 (1999): pp. 30–49. Delius, Christoph, et al., eds. The Story of Philosophy: From Antiquity to the Present. Cologne: Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000. Derrida, Jacques. “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man. Eds. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. pp. 247–72. ——. “Ellipsis.” Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985. pp. 294–300. Dias, Nelia. “Looking at objects: memory, knowledge in nineteenth-century ethnographic displays.” Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. Eds. George Robertson et al. London: Routledge, 1998. pp. 164–76. Du Weiming 杜維明.《文化中國的認知與關懷》[Understanding Cultural China]. 台北: 稻香出版社, 1999. Eagleton, Terry. Exiles and Emigrés: Studies in Modern Literature. London: Chatto & Windus Ltd., 1970. ——. The Ideology of the Aesthetics. London: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1990. Eder, Doris L. Three Writers in Exile: Pound, Eliot & Joyce. New York: The Whitston Publishing Company, 1984. Fei Yong 費勇.《洛夫與中國現代詩》[Luo Fu and Modern Chinese Poetry]. 台北: 東大圖書公司, 1994. Feld, Steven, and Keith H. Basso, eds. Senses of Place. New Mexico: School of American Research Press, 1996. Feng Wenbing 馮文炳.《談新詩》 [On Modern Poetry]. 北京: 人民文學出版社, 1984. Ferguson, Margaret, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 1996. Frampton, Kenneth. Modern Architecture: A Critical History. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1997. Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey et al. Vol. XVII. London: The Hogarth Press, 1964. pp. 219–52. Frosh, Stephen. Identity Crisis: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and the Self. London: Macmillan Education Ltd., 1991. Fu Mengli 傅孟麗.《茱萸的孩子: 余光中傳》[The Child of Dogwood: A Life of Yu Kwang-Chung]. Taipei: Commonwealth Publishing Co., Ltd., 1999. Fussell, Paul. Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Gong Pengcheng 龔鵬程.《台灣文學在台灣》[Taiwanese Literature in Taiwan]. 台北: 駱駝出版社, 1997. Gross, David. Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000. Gu Yisheng 顧易生, et al.《柳宗元及其作品》[Liu Zongyuan and His Works]. 上海: 上海古籍出版社, 1998. Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990. pp. 222–37. Han Lizhou 韓理洲.《陳子昂研究》[A Study of Chen Ziang]. 上海: 上海古籍出版社, 1988. Harrell, Stevan. “Playing in the Valley: A Metonym of Modernization in Taiwan.” Cultural Change in Postwar Taiwan. Eds. Stevan Harrell and Chun-Chieh Huang. New York: Westview Press, 1994. pp. 161–83.



Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity. Cambridge Mass.: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1997. Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1975. Hough, Graham. “The Modernist Lyric.” Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930. Eds. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1991. pp. 312–22. Hsiau A-chin. Contemporary Taiwanese Cultural Nationalism. London: Routledge, 2000. Huang Chun-chieh, et al. Time and Space in Chinese Culture. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995. Huang Weiliang 黃維樑 .《火浴的鳳凰》[The Phoenix Bathing in the Fire]. 台北: 純 文學出版社有限公司, 1979. Ji Xian 紀弦. [The Manifesto of Modern Poetry]. Chung-Wai Literary Monthly 《中外文學》 10.12 (1982): pp. 184–85. JiaoTong 焦桐. [The Obsessions with Taiwan and China: The Nostalgia in Yu Guangzhong’s poetry]. 蘇其康 [Ed. Su Qikang]《結網與詩風: 余光中先生七十壽慶論文集》[Nestling in style]. 台北: 九歌出版社有限公司, 1999. pp. 43–53. Jordan, R. Furneaux. Western Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Kaplan, Alice Yaeger. “On Language memoir.” Displacements: Cultural Identities in Question. Ed. Angelika Bammer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. pp. 59–70. Kaplan, Caren. Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space: 1880–1918. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996. Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, et al., eds. Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998. Lacan, Jacques. “Of Structure as an Inmixing of an Otherness Prerequisite to Any Subject Whatever.” The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man. Eds. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. pp. 186–200. Lao Siguang 勞思光.《中國文化要義新編》[The Essence of Chinese Culture]. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1998. Lee, Leo Ou-fan. Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China 1930–1945. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. Lehan, Richard. The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Levin, Harry. Refractions: Essays in Comparative Literature. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. Li Baochun 李保淳. [From Youxia, Shaoxia, Jianxia to Yixia.]《俠與中國文化》[Xia and Chinese Culture]. Ed. 淡江大學中文系. 台北: 台灣學生書局, 1993. pp. 91–130. Li Xiaofeng 李筱峰. [The Cultural Conflicts in Postwar Taiwan.] 《台灣史論文精選》 [Essays on Taiwan History]. Eds. Zhang Yanxian 張炎憲 et al. 台北: 玉山社出版事業股份有限公司, 1996. pp. 273–302. Li Zehou 李澤厚.《美的歷程》[The Journey of Aesthetics]. 北京: 文物出版社, 1989. ——. 《華夏美學》[Chinese Aesthetics]. 台北: 三民書局股份有限公司, 1996. Liao Zhongan 廖仲安, et al.《陶淵明及其作品》. [Tao Yuanming and His Works]. 上海: 上海古籍出版社, 1999. Lin Geng 林庚, et al., eds.《中國歷代詩歌選 上編(一)》[Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry I]. 北京: 人民文學出版社, 1989. Lin Yaode 林耀德.《羅門論》[On Lomen]. 台北: 師大書苑有限公司, 1990. Liu Denghan 劉登翰, et al.《彼岸的謬思: 台灣詩歌論》[The Muse on the Other Shore: On Taiwanese Poetry]. 南昌: 百花洲文藝出版社, 1996.



Loewe, Michael. “Cyclical and Linear Concepts of Time in China.” The Story of Time. Eds. Lippincott, Kristen, et al. London: Merrell Holberton Publishers Ltd. & National Maritime Museum, 1999. pp. 76–79. Long Bide 龍彼德.《一代詩魔洛夫》[Demon of Poetry: Luo Fu]. 台北: 小報文化有 限公司, 1998. Lowenthal, David. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Lu Zhenghui 呂正惠.《戰後台灣文學經驗》[Postwar Taiwan Literary Experiences]. 台北: 新地文學出版社, 1995. Lutwack, Leonard. The Role of Place in Literature. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1984. Macherey, Pierre. A Theory of Literary Production. Trans. Geoffrey Wall. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1978. Massey, Doreen. Space, Place and Gender. London: Polity Press, 1998. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Books, 1981. Nixon, Rob. “Refugees and Homecomings: Bessie Head and the end of exile.” Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. Eds. George Robertson et al. London: Routledge, 1998. pp. 114–28. Owen, Stephen. Remembrances: The Experience of the Past in Classical Chinese Literature. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986. ——, ed. and trans. An Anthology of Chinese Literature. New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 1996. Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past. Trans. C. K. Scott et al. Vol. I. New York: Vintage Books, 1982. Relph, Edward. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion Limited, 1976. Robertson, George, et al., eds. Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. London: Routledge, 1998. Rubinstein, A. Murray, ed. Taiwan: A New History. London: An East Gate Book, 1999. Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1993. ——. “Home and Identity.” Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. Eds. George Robertson et al. London: Routledge, 1998. pp. 93–104. Schwarz, Daniel R. Reconfiguring Modernism: Explorations in the Relationship Between Modern Art and Modern Literature. New York: St. Martins Press, 1997. Shlain, Leonard. Arts & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991. Simmel, Georg. “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities. Ed. Richard Sennett. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969. pp. 47–60. Smethurst, Paul. The Postmodern Chronotope: Reading Space and Time in Contemporary Fiction. The Netherlands: Rodopi, 2000. Tan Zihao 覃子豪. [The Manifesto of Lan Xing]. Chung-Wai Literary Monthly《中外文學》10.12 (1982): p. 186. Terdiman, Richard. Present Past: Modernity and the Memory Crisis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. Trinh T. Minh-ha. “Other than Myself/My Other Self.” Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. Eds. George Robertson et al. London: Routledge, 1998. pp. 9–26. Tuan Yi-fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. Vidler, Anthony. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992.



——. Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000. Wang Congren 王從仁, et al.《王維孟浩然及其作品選》[The Works of Wang Wei and Meng Haoran]. 上海: 上海古籍出版社, 1999. Wang Dewei 王德威.《如此繁華》[Urban Splendor]. Shanghai: Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House, 2006. Wang Weiming 王偉明.《詩人詩事》[On Poets and Poetry]. Hong Kong: Shi Bimonthly Association, 1999. Wang Yunxi 王運熙, et al.《李白及其作品選》[Li Bai and His Works]. 上海: 上海古 籍出版, 1998. Wang Zhihong 王志宏.《減速慢行》[Slow Down and Take Your Time]. 台北: 田園 城市文化事業有限公司, 1999. Weiss, Timothy F. On the Margins: The Art of Exile in V.S. Naipaul. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. ——. The Politics of Modernism. London: Verso, 1994. Wilson, Elizabeth. The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Wood, Denis. The Power of Maps. New York: The Guilford Press, 1992. Wu Qiming 吳企明, et al.《李賀及其作品選》[Li He and His Works]. 上海: 上海古 籍出版社, 1999. Xiao Huarong 蕭華榮.《中國詩學思想史》[The History of Chinese Poetics]. Shanghai: Hua Dong Shifan Daixue, 1996. Xiao Xiao 蕭蕭.《永遠的青鳥: 蓉子詩作評論集》[Blue Bird Forever: A Collection of Criticisms on Rong Zi]. 台北: 文史哲出版社, 1995. Xu Yuanzhong, trans. 100 Tang and Song Ci Poems. Hong Kong: Commercial Press Ltd., 1995. —— et al, eds. 300 Tang Poems: A New Translation. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press, Ltd., 1987. Yang Mu 楊牧.《傳統的與現代的》[Traditional and Modern]. 台北: 志文出版社, 1974. Ye Jiaying 葉嘉瑩.《古典詩詞講演集》[Lectures on Classical Shi and Ci Poetry]. 河北: 河北教育出版社, 1997. Yeh, Michelle. Modern Chinese Poetry: Theory and Practice Since 1917. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. ——, ed. and trans. Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry. New Haven: Yale University, 1992. Yip Wai-lim 葉維廉. [Yip Wai-lim’s ideas of Modernism]. Chung-Wai Literary Monthly 《中外文學》 10.12 (1982), pp. 48–56. Zhang Yingjin. The City in Modern Chinese Literature & Film: Configurations of Space, Time, and Gender. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996. Zheng Min 鄭敏. A Structural—Poststructural Approach: Language • Culture • Criticism 《結構—解構視角: 語言 • 文化 • 評論》. 北京: 清華大學出版社, 1998. Zheng Shusen and Yang Mu 鄭樹森, 楊牧, eds. 《現代中國詩選》[Collection of Modern Chinese Poetry]. 台北: 洪範書店有限公司, 1994. Zhou Weimin and Tang Lingling 周偉民, 唐玲玲.《日月的雙軌: 羅門, 蓉子創作世界 評介》[The Orbits of the Sun and the Moon: The Criticisms on Lomen and Rong Zi’s Creative World]. 北京: 中國社會科學出版社, 1995. Zhou Yingxiong, and Liu Jihui 周英雄, 劉紀惠, eds.《書寫台灣: 文學史, 後殖民與 後現代》[Writing Taiwan: Literary History, Post-colonialism and Postmodernism]. 台北: 麥田出版股份有限公司, 2000.


Abbas, Ackbar, 6n6 Adorno, Theodor, 3–5 aesthetics, 2–6, 8, 12, 14, 20, 23, 28, 30, 193 aesthetics of modernist architecture, 28 autonomy of aesthetics, 2–3 modern aesthetics, 9–11, 16, 18, 193, 195 modernist aesthetics, 2, 8, 12, 14, 23–24, 26, 144, 193, 195 postmodern aesthetics, 193 Anderson, Benedict, 141–43 anti-communist literature, 5, 146–47, 161 anti-communist propaganda, 2, 5 combat literature, 32 architecture, modernist, 31, 55 dark Space, 24, 30–31, 40, 47, 55 glass buildings, 28, 42, 45, 56, 80–81 light space, 24, 30–31, 40–42, 55, 58 modern architecture, 15, 58, 80 transparency, 30, 45–46, 81 transparent space, 24, 28, 30–31, 35, 40, 42–44, 47, 55–56, 93, 183–84 Bachelard, Gaston, 12–15, 195 Baudelaire, Charles, 9–12, 18–19, 22, 62, 71–72, 77–78, 145, 148, 156, 193 Baudrillard, Jean, 8 Benjamin, Walter, 10–11n11, 45, 71–72, 74 Berman, Marshall, 8–9, 11–12, 16, 77 Bloch, Ernst, 28 Boullee, Etienne-Louis, 30 Buddhism, 22, 145, 160, 163, 168, 175, 182 Buddhist allegories, 172 buried Alive, 24, 33–35, 38, 47 Burke, Edmund, 29 Calinescu, Matei, 20 Casey, Edward S., 14n12 Chen Ziang, 164–66, 168, 178 Chiang Kai-shek, 32, 160–61 Chow, Rey, 102–03 Chuang Shiji, 22, 145–47 city, modern, 6, 9–10, 19, 21, 24–25, 39–41, 46–47, 49–50, 54, 58–59, 61–100 passim, 140–41, 177–80, 193–94

city dwellers, 10–11, 35, 41, 58, 61, 66–69, 72, 75–77, 86, 95, 97 city fable, 61, 194 colonized cities, 63 metropolis, 4 unreal city, 25, 62, 64–66, 71, 79, 194 Confucianism, 32, 145, 160, 162–63, 168, 175 Confucius, 143, 147, 163 crowd, the, 10, 67, 69, 70–75, 77, 99 Cultural China, 142–43 Derrida, Jacques, 101–02, 122 double, the idea of the, 34 Du Fu, 134, 173–75, 178 Du Weiming, 142–43 Eagleton, Terry, 2–3, 5, 7 Eder, Doris, 16, 18 Enlightenment, the dream of, 28, 30–31 estrangement, 25, 80, 86, 89, 95–97 excessive stimulation, 65 exile(s), 4, 8, 21, 64n2, 94, 96–97, 103, 115, 122, 126, 168 cultural exile, 114, 190 exile, the state of being in, 6, 15–16, 20–24, 27, 32–33n5, 55, 59, 63–66, 94, 96, 100–01, 105–06, 109, 123, 132–34, 138, 141, 146, 154, 158, 170, 173–74, 179, 193 exiled writers (poets), 2, 6, 21, 25, 32, 64–65, 95, 101, 123, 140–41 diaspora, 4–6, 8, 23, 58, 101, 103, 114, 138 displacement, 8, 16, 23, 109, 111–12, 123, 127–129, 148 double-exile, 23 stranger, Simmel’s definition of, 53, 94–96, 134 vagabond(s), 94–96 flaneur, 62, 71–72, 74 invisible persona, 62, 71, 73 Freud, Sigmund, 14–15, 29–31, 33–34, 46, 49, 53, 58, 79, 81–84, 92, 96, 105–06 Fussell, Paul, 8, 129–30 Gross, David, 15, 160, 169



Hall, Stuart, 103, 114–15, 121 Harvey, David, 9, 12, 14–16, 40, 195 Heidegger, Martin, 12–15, 195 home(s), as a homely dwelling place, 7, 15, 24, 27–59 passim, 81–82, 86–87, 89, 100, 152–53, 176, 179, 180, 185, 187, 193, 195. See also homely space, homeland(s), as a physical location building(s), Heidegger’s definition of, 12–14 cultural home, 109, 138, 149, 154 dwelling(s), Heidegger’s definition of, 12–15, 45, 47, 72, 195 home, as woman’s body, 83–84 house(s), Bachelard’s idea of, 12–15, 17, 24, 27–28, 35, 100, 129, 140–41, 193–94 language, as home, 23, 25, 139, 140–41, 144, 148–49, 190 spiritual home (ideal and imagined home), 25, 32, 139, 149, 175–76. See also homeland, as a dreamscape, cultural home homeland(s), as a physical location, 8–9, 24–25, 53, 86, 89, 94, 97, 100–01, 103–04, 106, 108–09, 112, 115 123–26, 128–29, 133–34, 137, 139–41, 168, 193 homecoming, 25, 103–04, 112, 122–24, 126–31 homeland, as a dreamscape, 90–94, 105, 107, 132, 135–36, 148–49, 157, 175, 180, 190 Huang Chun-chieh, 161–62 identity, 23, 50, 84, 103–05, 114, 118, 129–30, 139–40, 153, 169, 174, 179 cultural identity, 103–04, 114–19, 121 imagined literary community, 21, 24–25, 140–41, 143–45, 148, 154, 156, 159, 162, 164–66, 168, 175, 190–91, 193–95 horizontal comradeship, 25, 141, 143–47 imagined communities, 141–43 vertical comradeship, 25, 143–44, 147–48, 191 inferior translation, Taiwanese modernist poetry as an, 2, 194 inward turn, 65–66, 72 James, William, 79–80 Ji Xian, 145–46, 148 Jing Ke, 154, 157–59 Kaplan, Alice Yaeger, 149

Lacan, Jacques, 101–02 Lan Xing, 22, 145–47 Lao Siguang, 145n2, 182 Le Corbusier, 15, 30, 45, 81 Lee, Leo Ou-fan, 20, 96n9, 142–43 Lehan, Richard, 21n15, 62–65, 68–72, 74, 78n6 Levin, Harry, 7 Li Bai, 119, 150, 155–56, 163–68, 172–75, 178 Li He, 169–70, 174, 178 Liu Zongyuan, 180–82 localities, 14 Loewe, Michael, 161–62 Lomen, 8–9, 21–22, 24, 27–28, 33, 35–47, 55–58, 61–62, 64–87, 89, 92–96, 98–100, 123, 145, 148, 175, 179, 180–87, 190, 194–95 Lu Xun, 131–32 Luo Fu, 8–9, 21–22, 24, 27–28, 32–33, 35, 47–58, 61, 65, 79, 100, 104, 123–29, 131–34, 139, 145–46, 148–49, 154–56, 159, 161–62, 169–75, 190, 194–95 Lutwack, Leonard, 7, 16, 194 Macherey, Pierre, 61 map, as an image, 105, 108–114, 121, 163 Marx, Karl, 9–11, 193 Marxism, 32 Massey, Doreen, 14, 195 Melville, Herman, 33–34, 38 memory, 8, 13–15, 25, 44, 103, 107, 114, 121, 126, 128, 140–41, 144–45, 147, 160–61, 164, 166, 169–70, 174–75, 190 collective memory, 160 fabrication of memories, 25, 145, 148, 156–57, 159–61, 164–66, 169–70, 174–75, 190 individual memory, 160, 174 loss of memory (amnesia), 161 memory crisis, 160–61 modernism, as a literary movement, 4–8, 12, 18, 20–21, 23, 32, 62, 65, 71, 144 Chinese modernist poetry, 1, 20, 140, 193–94 Taiwanese modernist poetry (poems), 1–2, 4–6, 18, 22–24, 27, 33, 61, 79, 99–100, 136, 144, 193–95 modernity, 7, 10–12, 15, 20–21, 27–28, 45, 58, 175 mutable, the, 8–10, 12–13, 15–16, 18–20, 22, 193 ephemeral, the, 10–11, 18, 20, 109, 193

index eternal, the, 10–13, 109, 117, 193, 195 immutability, 12, 22–23, 151. See also the immutable immutable, the, 8–10, 12–13, 15–16, 18, 22, 193 mutability, 9, 12, 22–23, 151, 193. See also the mutable Nietzsche, Friedrich, 9–11, 31, 193 Nixon, Rob, 103, 122–23 nostalgia, 6, 8, 62, 86, 97, 103–07, 110, 116, 124, 126, 129, 135, 137, 154, 195 Nostalgic feelings, 2, 8, 11, 21, 25, 73, 91–93, 107–08, 123–24, 129, 138, 178 yearning, 25, 92, 101, 104, 107, 111, 123, 177 Owen, Stephen, 143, 147–48, 163, 165, 168, 170, 173 pastoral tradition (return to nature), 25, 87, 140, 145, 148, 175, 177–79, 180, 185, 190 place(s), as a concept, 6–8, 12, 14, 18, 22–25, 43, 133, 140–41, 155, 177, 186 place, as a physical locality, 2, 8, 14, 16–17, 28, 33, 43, 46, 49, 53, 55, 57–58, 64, 66, 70–71, 81, 83–85, 87, 89, 92, 105–06, 109, 111–12, 122, 124–25, 128, 133, 135–39, 141, 153–54, 173, 178–79, 183, 194–95 placeless, 6, 25, 140–41 placelessness, 6–8, 16–18, 20–25, 140, 193–95 poststructuralist theories, 25, 100–01, 103, 134, 139–40 center, 101–02, 122, 133, 135–36 fixed origin, 100–04, 106, 122, 124, 134, 139–140 lost origin, 25, 104–08, 110 mythic origin, 104, 110, 112, 114, 134 origin, 7, 25, 101–05, 109, 111–14, 122, 124, 126–27, 134, 139–40, 191 structure, 101–02 supplement, 102 Qu Yuan, 134, 159, 172–74 Relph, Edward, 6n6–7, 195 remembering, the Chinese tradition of, 143, 147–48, 161, 163, 165, 175, 190, 194


Rong Zi, 8–9, 21–22, 35, 38, 42–43, 46–47, 55–58, 61–62, 65–66n3, 79, 85–92, 94, 97–98, 100, 104, 145, 148, 175–80, 190, 194 Sarup, Madan, 103 Schelling, F. W. J., 29, 31 shifting ground, 25, 100–102, 104, 124, 134, 139–40 Simmel, Georg, 65, 68, 89, 94–96 space, as a concept, 6n6, 12–16, 39–40, 57–58, 117, 120–121, 161, 180, 193, 195 claustrophobic space, 58 gender (space), 58, 82, 85, 195 imaginative space, 8, 16, 24–25, 43, 46, 57, 93, 140, 191 living space(s), 6, 8, 16, 41, 58–59, 62, 86, 89, 93–94, 100, 141, 179, 190, 193 poetic space(s), 16, 40–41, 46, 56–57, 62, 86, 100, 180–81, 195 space, as a geometrical locality, 13, 24, 27, 34–35, 55, 57–58, 79–81, 85–86, 88–89, 91, 93–94, 98, 100, 106, 179, 195. See also homely, space, home and house urban space, 67, 79–82, 85–86, 89, 92, 94, 96, 97, 100 Sphinx, 84–87 Su Dongbo (Su Shi), 134, 155–56, 164–65, 168, 175 sublime, 29–31, 40 Homeric sublime, 29, 31–32 Tan Zihao, 146–47n4 Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming), 176–78, 180, 182–83, 185–87 Taoism, 145, 160, 163, 168, 174–75, 177, 182 Terdiman, Richard, 160 time, Chinese conceptions of, 155, 159, 161–62, 165, 167–68, 170, 174 cyclical, 161–62 linear, 161–62 reciprocal, 161–62, 164–65, 167–68, 170, 174 time, spatialization of, 9, 12, 14–16 travel, 16, 25, 104, 112, 114, 129–31, 153, 157–59, 164, 166–68, 174, 187, 194 explorer, 130 locals, 129–30, 132 non-tourist, 130 returnees, 103, 129–30, 150–51, 190–91



tourist(s), 88, 129–32, traveler(s), 129–30, 133, 190–91, 194 Trinh T. Minh-ha, 130 Tuan Yi-fu, 6n6, 14n12, 195 uncanny (space), Freud’s definition of the, 14–15, 27–31, 33–35, 40, 46, 49, 58–59, 62, 65, 70–73, 81, 84, 96, 100, 105–06, 124, 126–29, 195 homely, space, home and house, 14–15, 24, 27–29, 31, 33, 35, 40, 47, 49, 55, 58, 72–73, 141, 193 uncanniness, 15, 24, 27–28, 31, 33–35, 45–49, 55, 58, 70, 79, 81, 84, 98, 104, 123–24, 127, 193, 195 unhomely, space, home and house, 14–15, 24, 27–29, 59, 89, 127, 193, 195 urban uncanny, 25, 46, 72, 79–82 passim, 85, 87 urban diseases, 79, 94, 97, 195 agoraphobia, 58, 79, 80, 82, 97–98, 195 claustrophobia, 57–58, 195 haptophobia, 89 neurasthenia, 94, 97 urbanization, 4, 6, 17, 20–21, 23–24, 27, 31, 39, 41, 80, 89, 92, 179, 193, 195 anti-urbanism, 9, 21, 24, 61–62, 79, 91, 99, 175, 178

rural over urban model, 175–80 passim Vidler, Anthony, 14–15, 28–29, 31n3, 33–35, 38, 45, 49, 79–81, 89, 94 Wang Gengwu, 143 Wang Wei, 124–25, 167–68, 170–75, 178, 180, 182 Weiss, Timothy F., 65–66 Williams, Raymond, 4–6, 89 Wison, Elizabeth, 84–86 Wood, Denis, 109–10 Wu Kuang-ming, 161–62 Xiandai Pai, 22, 145–47 Ye Jiaying, 174n16, 185 Yeh, Michelle, 2n2, 4–5, 19, 22n17, 146, 148, 155 youxia, 158–59 Yu Guangzhong, 8–9, 21–22, 61–62, 65, 79, 89, 91–92, 94, 100, 103–121, 123–24, 134, 140, 144–46, 148, 159–68, 174–75, 179, 190, 194 Zheng Chouyu, 8–9, 21–22, 61–62, 65, 79, 96–97, 100, 104, 134–40, 145, 148–54, 157–59, 190, 194