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Date 2021-04-27


Burning and Flying: Surrealists in Taiwan in the 1930s


Michelle Yeh

Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Davis


The paper offers an in-depth study of two surrealist poets in Taiwan: Yang Chi-Chang (1909-1994) and Lin Xiu-Er (1914-1944). With five other poets, they co-founded the Windmill Poetry Society in Tainan in 1933 and published a journal under the same name. Although the Poetry Society only lasted two years and the journal only published four issues, the Windmill represents the earliest conscious appropriation and promotion of Surrealism not only in Taiwan but also in the Chinese-speaking world. Both Yang and Lin studied in Japan, where they were first exposed to French Surrealism. Yang was not only a talented poet but also an important literary critic who introduced French and Japanese Surrealism to Taiwan. Lin died young, but he left behind an oeuvre of great originality and beauty. This essay examines the historical and transcultural context in which Yang and Lin wrote, provides detailed analyses of their literary positions and artistic expressions, and addresses the characterization, by some critics, of Yang’s work as “postcolonial.” Finally, the essay compares Yang and Lin with mainland Chinese poets who were also influenced by Surrealism in the 1930s-1940s, thus affirming the historical and literary significance of the Taiwanese Surrealists.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature