Taipei Jen (Taipei Characters) by Pai Hsien-Yung

The author, Mr. Pai, was born on July 11, 1937 in Guilin, Guangxi.  Guilin has always been known to have the most beautiful scenic mountains and rivers in China.  His father, General Pai Chongxi, was a very influential figure in Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang Army.   The Pai family moved from Hong Kong to Taipei when he was fifteen years old.  Mr. Pai transferred to the National Taiwan University in Taipei and switched majors from Hydraulic Engineering to Foreign Literature after he finished his freshman year at Chenggong University in Tainan.  Before he came to USA for his advanced study in literature, his short story “Madam Jin” was published in 1958 and received much acclaim from critics.

Mr. Pai studied Creative Writing at the University of Iowa and later received his MA degree, then became a professor of Chinese at UC Santa Barbara.  In some of his works, he wrote about homosexuality and the dark corners of Taipei parks, which was later made into movies; however, they were unacceptable in Taipei’s society at that time and was banned by PRC in the 80s. 

I read Taipei Jen many, many times.  Whenever I saw this book on the shelf, I could not resist picking it back up and re-reading it again.  This book is a collection of fourteen short stories and all of the characters had an unforgettable past when they moved from Communist Mainland China to Taiwan.  His descriptions of the Chinese old agricultural society – respecting traditional values of honor and chivalry resembles Faulkner’s writing of Southern culture of the old southern society and ways.  His keen observations, and exquisite, delicate writing skills with narrative perspectives certainly is second to none in contemporary Chinese literature.  You can find this book on the Foreign Language materials shelf at our Glenwood Library, call number Ch895.13 P14.  (editor’s note – we also have an English translation of this book under the title Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream:  Tales of Taipei Characters at the Central Library)

(Belinda Lam, Information Services)

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