On October 27, 1930, members of six Taiwanese indigenous groups ambushed the Japanese attendees of an athletic competition at the Musha Elementary School, killing 134. The uprising came as a shock to Japanese colonial authorities, whose response was swift and brutal. Heavy artillery and battalions of troops assaulted the region, spraying a wide area with banned poison gas. The Seediq from Mhebu, who led the uprising, were brought to the brink of genocide.
As the Japanese advance through China in 1938, a young widowed mother aims to flee her Changsha home in 1938 for the relative safety of the newly-established capital of Chongqing. But first Meilin and her four-year-old son Renshu must escape in one piece.
Kai and Ami are dancing butterflies from Taiwan! They have a performance coming up at the Winter Festival dance show in the southern part of the island. They are currently in northern Taiwan, so they need to hurry and start flying south. That’s far for a butterfly! Kai is worried about the long journey, and about the big show too. Can Kai step up to the challenge?
Wu Shih-sheng is a taxi driver, sinking in debt and living in a cockroach-infested metal shack in the outskirts of Taipei with his wife, Hsiang-ying. When she dies in a mental hospital, after claiming to have been hearing the voice of a ghost threatening her life and that of their daughter, Shih-sheng decides to dig deeper. His journey will lead him to consult with a deranged Taoist priestess, and eventually to embark on a dangerous hike on the top of Mount Jade, in central Taiwan, with the purpose of destroying the evil creature.
“Violence composes a fundament of modern Taiwan history,” opens Ian Rowen’s introduction to Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror. In the almost forty years during which Taiwan’s authoritarian ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), kept the country under martial law and suppressed any form of political dissent, thousands of citizens—including alleged proponents of Taiwan’s independence from China or presumed communist collaborators—were abducted, imprisoned, or executed. This violence has undoubtedly left a scar on a generation of Taiwanese, and the stories that make up this volume, penned by some of Taiwan’s most notable writers, explore the mechanisms of power during that painful—and indeed violent—time. There isn’t however much gore or literal brutality in these stories, which rather reconfigure the violent trauma of history in its most subtle, almost mundane, aspects, displaying how authoritarian power effectively manages to infiltrate every aspect of people’s lives.
People worried about the end of the world during the 1990s. The end of the millennium provided the perfect milestone for the superstitiously-minded, with some becoming convinced that midnight on 31st December, 1999 would not ring in the changes, but rather the apocalypse.
In many ways, Taiwan presents a compelling example of how autocratic regimes impose their will on a population, often as colonial overlords. A peaceful island peopled by Austronesians and ethnic Chinese, rich in agricultural output, has been a geopolitical pawn in recent history, first by the Japanese and then the defeated regime of Chiang Kai-shek in China. Parallels throughout the world are not difficult to find.