MRT Poetry: ‘Planting Rice Seedlings’ by Chan Ping 捷運詩句:詹冰的〈插秧〉

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Planting Rice Seedlings

The paddy field is a mirror
Reflecting the blue sky
Reflecting the white clouds
Reflecting the black mountains
Reflecting the green trees

The farmer plants seedlings
Plants them on the green trees
Plants them on the black mountains
Plants them on the white clouds
Plants them on the blue sky

I liked the simplicity of this poem’s words and the reliance on the concept to get its message across. The childlike tone of the poem suggested something like a nursery rhyme, but I also liked the idea of the unreality of the world as seen through an agricultural viewpoint (through the reflection on the paddy field’s surface) and that though humanity might think they exert control over the natural world, this is illusory as a reflection in a mirror. One could read this another way also, as an admiration for the unending toil of a peasant-farmer’s work and the single-minded urge to survive. 

 

Chan Ping (詹冰) was a Hakka poet born in the township of Zhuolan in Miaoli, Taiwan, in 1921 and was a student of Taichung County Taichung Middle School, set up by local elites such as Lin Hsien-tang and Koo Hsien-jung – the only middle school reserved for Taiwanese students during the period of Japanese colonial rule. He went to study pharmacology in Japan in 1942 at the Meiji Pharmaceutical School in Tokyo. He returned to Taiwan after qualifying as a pharmacist. He opened a pharmacy in Zhuolan before being invited to become a science teacher. He wrote poetry in Japanese during his years as a student at the Taichung Middle School and formed a poetry society called the Silver Bell (銀鈴會) with other students, including poet Lin Heng-tai. The society issued a poetry magazine called Green Grass (綠草). After Taiwan was ceded to the Republic of China in 1945 and the Nationalist Retreat to Taiwan in 1949 use of the Japanese language was heavily suppressed and the Silver Bell was forced to dissolve. After a transitional period of around 10 years, Chan started to write in Chinese and in 1964 he formed the Bamboo Rain Hat Poetry Society (笠詩社) along with Lin Heng-tai and other poets and they published a poetry collection called Green Blood Cells in 1965. As well as being a poet, Chan was a novelist, an essayist, a lyricist and a playwright. He died in 2004. 

 

Comfort Women and Post Election Thoughts

Spotted this sign recently just beside the Zhongzheng Bridge between Yonghe and Taipei:

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It reads:

The Japanese government should apologize and provide reparations for coercing comfort women during World War II

Created by Wei-Shyue Chang

The subtext of this sign is the recent Taiwanese history textbook controversy over proposed changes to the high school curriculum which pushed for a (slightly) less rosy view of the period of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, including using the term coercion when it came to the comfort women issue, Continue reading

Commemorative $NT10 pieces – the 50th anniversary of Taiwan being ceded to the ROC

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Geeking out again after discovering another commemorative coin. The front reads 「共同經營大台灣」 (Running Greater Taiwan together) and below that “搏聚休戚與共的生命共同體” (United together through thick and thin as a community of fate). It’s written in seal script, which explains why it’s quite hard to read. I thought 「共」 looked particularly unlike it’s seal script version:

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However, you can see the pattern when you compare it with 與, as the bottom of both characters is the same. You can download the seal script font for programs on your computer, including Word, here, although unfortunately you have to type in simplified for it to work (after unzipping drag the TTF file into your Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Fonts folder).

This coin was issued in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Taiwan being ceded to the Republic of China by Japan after World War II. This is commonly referred to as 「光復」(guang1fu4) in Chinese, which literally means “to restore the light”.

This term has sparked a certain amount of controversy given its implication that those living in Taiwan under Japanese rule were living in “darkness” until Chiang Kai-shek came to bring them to the light. The government of Taiwan launched a series of campaigns to attempt to “re-sinicize” and the populace of Taiwan, which the Republic of China government felt had been brain-washed or “enslaved” (奴化) by the Japanese in during the 50 years of colonial rule. The local population had been introduced to modernity under Japanese rule, but many artists and writers faced persecution or marginalization under the new Kuomintang government, as they were seen as collaborators by the new regime or never properly got to grips with writing in Chinese. Those who had been formally educated in the Japanese language had to learn Mandarin and this led to much of their work being overlooked until more recently, when it was translated from Japanese.

There is an excellent book on this period by historian Huang Ying-che (黃英哲) called Uprooting Japan; Implanting China: Cultural Reconstruction in Post-War Taiwan 1945-1947 (《「去日本化」「再中國化」戰後台灣文化重建(1945-1947)》): Continue reading

Mona Rudao (莫那魯道) Commemorated on NT$20 pieces

coinsMona Rudao, the chief of Seediq tribe during the Wushe incident – a rebellion against Japanese rule which ended in a violent crackdown and Rudao’s suicide, has been commemorated on a NT$20 piece that I was handed at a restaurant yesterday. Continue reading