TitleReflections on national imagination in the novel Yuan (The Source) of Zhang Yi
作者Chih-ching Gesse
作者說明Ph.D Candidate, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales of France
摘要The present study analyzes the national imagination in Yuan (The Source), a novel by Zhang Yi published in 1978. Yuan tells the story of three generations of a Chinese immigrant family in Taiwan by recounting how the main protagonist Wu Linfang follows his parents to Taiwan and begins his life as a settler. Yuan is also a historical novel inspired by the history of oil exploration in Taiwan. The storyline runs from the late 17th century to the eve of Japanese occupation in 1895. With its action weaved into the timeline of the most important events of Chinese modern history, Yuan describes the settlement of a Han Chinese family in Taiwan and links the personal story of Wu Lingfang’s adventures in the oil exploration to the difficult quest for modernization of Chinese people. The novel portrays Taiwan’s natural environment, its society, its residents’ everyday lives and interactions between different Taiwanese communities including the Hakkas, the Hoklo people and the aborigines.
The national imagination of the novel is worth noting because of its multiple layers of historical and meta-historical significance. The story itself, i.e., that of the Han settler family, is embedded in the grand narratives of Chinese modern history, the history of Taiwan and the history of Taiwanese oil extraction. The novel was written in the late 1970s. This was a time when the idea that the Republic of China on Taiwan was the real and only China had ceased to be defensible. The novel was adapted in 1980 into an epic film, which appeared to conform with the Chinese ideology of the time. It was again adapted to a television series in 2010 after the society had undergone thirty years of nativation and Taiwanization. Each iteration of the narrative provides a separate snapshot of Taiwanese society and historiography.
Studies on Taiwanese identity and national imagination have flourished since the abolition of the martial law in 1987. However, Taiwanese literature is often analyzed from the angles of sociology, of Taiwanese history, of interactions between cultures and politics, or of other contemporary cultural theories. Unfortunately, the focus has sometimes been shifted from the literary works themselves to their historical or social backgrounds or to cultural theories. The present article aims to analyze the national imagination of the novel itself and compare it to those of the 1980 film and 2010 series. Its reflections on the changes of the Taiwanese national imagination will hopefully enhance the understanding of such national imagination and lead to a new research direction.
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