The Sunken and Forbidden Islands – Huang Yuqian 沉沒與禁閉之島——黃郁茜

There are many islands strewn across the Pacific, they withdrew from the world, and hoped never to be found. The footsteps of the Han quietly snuck up upon them however, their persuasive words laced with the rhetoric of modernity and development. From Orchid Island to Yap, what does the trajectory of these footprints tell us?

 Islands Spirited Away

Rumung, a name that doesn’t appear on any Chinese maps.

The islanders don’t like outsiders, so Rumung is also nicknamed the Forbidden Island – because outsiders are forbidden to set foot there.

Northwards from the Forbidden Island is Sippin, the Sunken Island. Rumour has it that the islanders were so reluctant to being discovered by foreigners that one hundred years ago, at the beginning of the modern era of world history, they decided to disappear into the watery depths together. To this day, Yap islanders who fish in that area can still hear roosters crowing, dogs barking and human voices. Looking northwards from the Forbidden Island, one can even see smoke from cooking fires rising underneath the low lying clouds.1

They hid themselves for fear of being discovered. Several hundred years ago, the Yap islanders were already proficient enough in the art of illusion, that they were able to conceal the entire island from the Spanish as they explored the Pacific. Compared with Palau, which from the 19th Century onward was to become the headquarters of the German and Japanese Empires for the Pacific region, Yap, “discovered” by the Portuguese as early as the 16th Century, seems, like a pebble, to have skimmed along the surface of world history, watching impassively as the fleets of ships passed by, quietly praying that the outsiders never discovered their island, that they never docked there.

“Field Research” or something like it

After the defence of my thesis proposal, I set out for Yap in Micronesia to carry out my doctoral field research.

Wading through the mud of taro fields there, I often wondered how my classmates carried out their field research? “Observation” seems to be a synonym of “”skiving off”. Apparently French structural anthropologists in the 1970s always carried out field research in small work teams: the botanists would focus on collecting samples, psychologists would employ their erudite techniques to divine the psychology of the native peoples, and the economic anthropologists went about measuring the surface area of the fields and the daily food consumption of the residents and so on. They would stay for no more than three months. After collecting enough samples, they would up sticks and leave.

Of course there was also Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), who anglophone anthropologists look up to as creating a bench mark for field work; if his return journey hadn’t been delayed by the First World War, a paradigmatic approach involving long term individual field work might not have been created, the indigenous people, I fear, would not have been endlessly pestered by the solitary Pole in his gold-rimmed spectacles and the tribal mountain villages of Taiwan would not be brimming with graduate students, naïve or seasoned, dull-witted or passionate, thinking back to the great anthropologists that preceded them over the last hundred years, while struggling to survive in the field.

Nor would the leader of the anti-nuclear campaign, many years later, on an island named Orchid Island by the Han, called the Island of Men by the islanders, have asked me with gravity, ‘As the ethnic group you are researching and that have treated you as one of their own, reach a critical juncture between survival and extinction; how do you deal with the fact that, whether you’re aware of it or not, your research shall be used as a reference for development projects by government agencies or entrepreneurs?’

(The friendly nature of the islanders prevented them from saying ‘Actually we hate you anthropologists above all, above everyone.)

Why here?

Eight years ago, I was weeding the fields of a little island that locals call the ‘Island of Men’ and that the Han call ‘Orchid Island’. It was for a period of just under six weeks. Every day I would put on sun cream and follow an old couple into the fields, listening to an Mp3 of ‘Country Road’ whilst I weeded. After listening to the melody around forty times on loop I could make my way back home. Or perhaps it was even longer than that? Memory tends to fail me.

One day my father asked me what I was actually getting up to on the Island of Men? I replied truthfully that I was weeding, moving taro, and carrying out interviews.

Due to my father’s swarthy skin, I was never able to read his emotions on his face, but I knew at that instant that his expression had darkened just then.


“If you like working in the fields, I have a one hundred square yard patch of land near our ancestral home in the south, I can give it to you to plant vegetables on.”
“If you like taro so much, you can even plant taro there.”
“Actually, I really quite like taro.” my father would say.

I knew what my father had prevented himself from saying.

I’d already complained to my friend on the island. “My high school classmate is studying English Literature at Cambridge. Why am I here weeding the fields?”

My friend gave a chuckle, probably wondering where Cambridge was. Although he was only three years older than me, my friend still perhaps found it hard to understand the mindset of islanders from mainland Taiwan, just as I, even though I followed in their footsteps everyday as they came back and forth from the fields, found it hard to understand why the old people went to inspect and weed the taro fields and to make sure they were well irrigated, day in, day out – or rather, I only understood it rationally, just as I “knew” that their kinship system was bilineal with patrilineal tendencies. As the old people looked anxiously at the stalks and leaves of the taro plants and the rotten bodies of the taros themselves, inside I was just desperate to clarify the principle on which the social hierarchy was based.

“The taros have gone bad,” one old man said.
“The taro haven’t been good since the nuclear station came.”

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布藍登·畢漢的《人質》的一小段—— Brendan Behan, An Excerpt from The Hostage








Pat: He was an Anglo-Irishman. (他是英裔愛爾蘭人)

Meg: In the name of God, what’s that? (啥小?)

Pat: A Protestant with a horse. (具有一匹馬的基督教徒。)

Ropeen: Leadbetter. (像Leadbetter.)

Pat: No, no, an ordinary Protestant like Leadbetter, the plumber in the back parlour next door, won’t do, nor a Belfast orangeman, not if he was as black as your boot. (不算,像Leadbetter這種一般的基督敎徒不算——隔壁院子的水電工也不算,北爾法斯特的奧倫治黨員也不算,就算他們因為很積極地參加皇家黑統一組織而比你的靴子還黑也不算。)

Meg: Why not? (為什麼不算呢?)

Pat: Because they work. An Anglo-Irishman only works at riding horses, drinking whiskey, and reading double-meaning books in Irish at Trinity College. (因為他們工作,所以才不算。典型的英裔愛爾蘭人只從事騎馬、喝威士忌酒以及在都柏林聖三一學院讀愛爾蘭文的書籍的時候讀到文本雙層的意義才算。)

—Brendan Behan, The Hostage, 1958 – 布藍登·畢漢的《人質》

翻譯者蕭辰宇/Translated by Conor Stuart,照片/Photo:Fergal of Claddagh

‘The Blue Child’ by Egoyan Zheng 〈藍孩子的故事〉伊格言著

ImageZheng Qianci (鄭千慈), whose pen name is Egoyan Zheng (伊格言)is a prominent science fiction writer and poet from Taiwan born in 1977. After dropping out of medical school, he completed his masters in Chinese Literature at Tamkang University. He’s won and been nominated for several literary prizes, including nominations for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. This is an extract from his science fiction novel The Dream Devourer (《噬夢人》), which was published in 2010. This extract was first translated for eRenlai magazine in January 2011 by Conor Stuart (蕭辰宇`).

The Western limits of the Pacific Ocean. The island nation of Taiwan.

The North coast. The beach at sunset. Although one might call it sunset, given the low latitude, even in the midst of late Autumn, night never fell early. Although the sunlight had actually already long vanished beyond the horizon; there remained the sapphire curtain of night permeated with a milky glean hanging down from the edge of the heavens.

K walked alone away from the bright lights of the fish market beside the quay and wandered along the deserted beach, enjoying the stirring chill of the sea breeze after nightfall. In the distance, above the dark coastal highway, several blimps passed by from time to time at irregular intervals, more intermittent than frequent; one had to wait quite a while to catch sight of the circular beam of the searchlights passing by.

When there were no blimps passing, the vast space in the distance on the margins of his vision was a pitch black. Nearby the neon lights of a seaside amusement park glistened, the carousel with its colorful vaulted arches shone with an orange light in the midst of the pitch black surroundings. It was on appearance a popular scenic spot, in the day time it would most likely be teeming with tourists. Now though, even the majority of those that had loitered had already dispersed. The part of the beach K was standing on was a long way off from the fairground. He couldn’t hear any of the voices or the music. Or perhaps it was because the sea wind rose up to carry away the noise. However, in his line of sight, the fine strokes of sketched light stood out amongst the vast dark background, and the flowing multitude of people and things as they followed the revolutions of the vaulted axis, appeared at that instant to be so beautiful and unreal, like a ghostly gathering of the after images of light…

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A great post on Muslim history in China by ShiDadao


Emperor Hong Wu

(I have translated the relatively short Chinese text entitled the ‘Hundred Character Eulogy’ to Islam, retaining the beautiful Chinese characters next to the English rendering.  When the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over-threw the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and chased the Mongolians out of China, the first emperor Hong Wu (1328-1396), instead of attacking the Islamic faith ordered that mosques be constructed so that Chinese Muslims could continue to pray and worship Allah.  He also wrote a hundred character poem in praise of Islam – portraying the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as an enlightened sage of the highest order.  This is significant as many descendents of Arab tradesmen practice (and preserve) Northern Chinese martial arts that are often linked to Long Fist.  Both Muslims (and Jews) have lived in China for many centuries.)

The Hundred Word Eulogy


The Hundred Character Eulogy States:


At the creation of the divine sky…

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About to Awaken / 將醒 by MuXin (木心)


Mu Xin is the pen name for author, painter and poet, Sun Pu (孙璞). He came from a wealthy family in Zhejiang and was the nephew of the famous Chinese author Mao Dun (茅盾). After graduating from art school he became a teacher and later a professor. During the cultural revolution he was arrested and imprisoned. After being released from prison, he continued to work in fine art. In 1982 he migrated to the United States, where he continued to write and paint. He was the first 20th Century Chinese artist to be housed in the British Museum. In 2006 he returned to his hometown in China. He died in December of 2011 after having been admitted to hospital for a lung infection in October.

About to Awaken

Man just awoken from his dreams, is man at his most basic.

In that instant, man’s nature is neither good nor evil, it’s empty, weak, vaguely disconnected .

A hero’s failure, the deflowering of a beauty, all occur at such a moment. An instant on the blurry line between the conscious and the subconscious, an involuntary moment.

Man’s effusiveness, his distance, his magnanimity, his miserliness, are all deliberately acquired behaviour. Rudely awakened from one’s dreams, the pious or the villainous, the gentleman or the pleb, the loyal lover or the cad, they’re all more or less the same, after a little time passes, the differences become clear as day.

However, why is it that the masterful battle strategies, that strangely beautiful inspiration, often comes out of these instants at which one is neither awake nor asleep?

It’s the persisting presence of the dream, when the routine logic of the mind has yet to kick in; instinct, intuition take advantage of the opportunity, and man is able to exceed the limits imposed by habit – instinct, intuition, are the fundamental intelligence formed by tens of thousands of years of experience, lying dormant in the deepest recesses of our intellect, they surface only occasionally, making up for lost time with their brilliance.

That which is brilliant and majestic can be found to have been achieved by way of man’s instinct.

As if the gods had intervened to help, man actually helps himself – this without doubt is something to rejoice in. However, one mustn’t be too happy.










(Translation by Conor Stuart/翻譯:蕭辰宇)

Translating Taiwan

I’ve been inTaiwan for a few years now and have been translating a variety of short stories and essays on an amateur basis. I hope to use this blog to post some of the translated work and some translations that I’ve done for fun. Would be happy to take submissions from other amateur translators with an interest in China or Taiwan.

我已經在台灣侍(呆) 了六年,對翻譯文學一直有興趣,也翻過幾篇短片小說、文章等等,因此創造這個部落格的目的便是po一些最近翻譯的或我覺得有趣的譯作給大家參考。我也歡迎對台灣或中國有興趣的讀者寄給我你們的翻譯作品,或在這邊合作。