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Date 2021-03-19


From Soy Garden Lane to Lugang: The Transnational Narration of the Butcher’s Wife


Nicole Huang

Associate Professor, Chinese Literature and Visual CultureDepartment of East Asian Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison


In 1945 Shanghai, a sensational murder case—a woman murdering her husband in deep vengeance—generated much public debate in the wartime occupied city. For a generation of young women writers and intellectuals who rose to fame during the war, the murder case was an opportunity to reinstate their leading roles in influencing and reshaping public opinions. Narratives of this murder case traveled in the next few decades, first appearing in a collection about Shanghai memories penned by Chen Dingshan, a popular writer from the Shanghai era, who, like many Chinese of his generation, found himself belonging to a transplanted community in the city of Taipei following the 1949 divide. The narrative was to resurface again in 1980s Taiwan, in Li Ang’s feminist / modernist novel The Butcher’s Wife. Without having possibly known of the social context surrounding the original murder case, and with only Chen Dingshan’s much fictionalized account as the main source of inspiration, Li Ang localizes the motif and paints vivid pictures of the faces and voices surrounding the event and the eyes peeping into the private lives of the individuals in question. This Taiwan narrative thus presents the most eloquent commentary on an episode in Shanghai history of the Republican era.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature