Location Home > Project on the History of R.O.C.> Literature and Artistic Development> Articles> Kaleidoscope of Story──Hundred-Year History of Novels (Tsui Yang)
Table of ContentsArticles
  Literature and Artistic Development

Kaleidoscope of Story──Hundred-Year History of Novels (Tsui Yang)


          The hundred-year development of novels in the Republic of China progressed with the dramatic and constant political unrest of the times – the downfall of imperial China, the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC), the fighting between warlords, the eight years of war against Japan, the civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT, or the Nationalist Government) and the Communist Party of China(CPC), cross-strait tension and the dispute over independence and unity. In addition to historical incidents, western influence entered directly into the land by way of militarism, economics, religion, and culture. Consequently, novels in the past century grew in a dark, muddy and heavy soil, which was at the same time full of excitement, freedom, and hopes. Novelists searched for stories in the gaps created by and the transition between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the east and the west; and in such gaps and spaces various ways of telling stories were formed.      

The most influential forces on the development of novels in the past hundred years are the cultural impact from the west, the political intervention in the writing of novels, the spreading of the literacy and the rise of the consumption system. In such context, the Vernacular Chinese Movement plays a key role in directing the changes in fundamental concepts in literature, in leading the literature revolution and in shaping the full picture of the novel development.

In this article, the development of the writing of novels is illustrated within six time periods or historical context as follows, each with distinctive features of its own.

1. The period of 1911-1949, ‘prosperous and bustling’ – The revolution in the novel in the late Ching Dynasty, the impact of the May Fourth Movement, the establishment of a sense of place in novels, and the flourishing of the popular fiction are the focus in this period. Chang Ai-ling and Chang Hen-shui are two of the most notable writers during this time, as, without a loss of literature aesthetics, their works such as romance novels and family drama successfully interwined social concerns and popular themes.

2. New Taiwanese novels during the Japanese occupation, ‘global, local and modern’ – In general, the core essence of novels written in this period is to protest against the feudal system, colonization and class exploitation. In addition, there is intention to explore the issues of modernity (vernacular Chinese), globalization (trends of literary thoughts) and local attribute (language and cultural uniqueness).

3. The move of the Republic of China’s to Taiwan, ‘relocating and restructuring’ – 97.3% of active writers in the period were from China, and 80.4% worked for the government, military, or Kuomintang. The facts of these statistics demonstrate the influence which authority imposed on literature. In addition to policy-driven novels, such as anti-communist novels, this period is also notable for novels with nostalgic themes and novels written by and women writers.

4. The period of 1960-1978, ‘settling and translating’ – Subsequent to the first wave in the translation of western literature, the writing of novels rose again, though carrying a more complex culture imagination this time. It is believed by some scholars that the development of Taiwanese has been significantly affected by the second wave of translation. The period is marked with novels in the style of modernism, the interaction between modernity and locality, and the mix of the picture of China in memory and the reality of settling in Taiwan.

5. The changes in 1978-1987, ‘rewarding and searching’  – The dispute over nativist literature shows the tension between the demand to give more concerns to Taiwan and the deep yearning for the far-away homeland and the government’s anti-communist policy. At the same time, it was also the most rewarding period for novels after the Second World War as more writers of different communities and groups joined in the writing of novels, more writing styles and skills were introduced, and diverse subjects and themes are brought into the scene.

6. A new portrait in 1987-2010, ‘deconstructing, restructuring, and diversifying’ – The lifting of martial law in 1987 weakened influence of political power over literature, and encouraged the use of deconstruction. Deconstructing thinking in novels includes analysis and criticism of authoritarian control, mainstream literature, majority population, patriarchy, heterosexual hegemony, and so on. Concerns expressed in novels during the period mostly referred to two concepts, the post-colonial and the post-modern. The former refers to the memories and history, social status, and cultural identity of specific ethnic communities; the latter are concerned with individual’s body, memories, identity, and recognition.

     Novelists are sensitive to vibrations and changes in society and history. Being cultural revolutionaries as well as aesthetic practitioners, they fulfill this dual role in the writing of novels by criticizing the political authority in power, being concerned about and revealing the social reality, searching and interpreting history, constructing memories, and encouraging self-discovering in individuals. By means of the telling of stories, a “place” is found for communities and individuals to settle down and live with peace of mind.  


‧TEL: (02)2939-3091#80611 ‧FAX: (02)2938-7803 E-Mail:sthv@nccu.edu.tw 地址:11605台北市指南路2段64號政治大學社資中心二樓
NO.64,Sec.2,ZhiNan Rd.,Wenshan District,Taipei City 11605,Taiwan (R.O.C)