mixing traditional and contemporary, Eastern and
Western, local and international, Taiwan's
artists in both the visual and performing arts
are exploring different approaches and
developing their own unique styles.
Writes, similarly, are drawing on both global
and nativist cultural codes to create new modes
of literary expression, and explore issues of
rich veins in Taiwan's web of cultures are those
of its 11 indigenous groups: the Amis, Atayal,
Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat,
Thao, Tsou, and Yami.
Arts such as woodcarving, weaving ,wickerwork, and pottery, as well as
ceremonial dance and song, have always played central roles in indigenous
life, and have strong traditions of individuality, innovation, and creativity.
The Paiwan and
Rukai peoples of southern Taiwan, for example, are especially known for their
woodcarvings of stylized human figures, geometric patterns, and images of the
hundred-pacer snake. The Yami of Orchid Island are best known for their
sturdy, hand-built boats made without nails or glue; and Atayal women use
simple back-strap looms to create rectilinear patterns of squares diamonds and
Dance and music
are among the richest legacies of Taiwan's indigenous peoples. Group
dances that are performed at a wide variety of ceremonies and rituals consist
mostly of simple but harmonious walking and foot-stomping movements.
They are usually performed in unison and accompanied by melodic
choruses. Indigenous musical instruments include drums, simple stringed
instruments, woodwind instruments (such as flutes), and other percussion
instruments (rattles, wooden mortars and pestles).
In addition to
traditional buildings scattered around Taiwan, two of the best places to view
indigenous peoples' architecture are at the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural
Village near Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, and the Taiwan Aboriginal
Culture Park in Pingtung County. The Shung Ye Museum of Formosan
Aborigines in Taipei offers detailed information on native cultures and
handicrafts such as paper cutting, knotting, and dough figuring sculpture
continue to be fairly common in Taiwan. Other apprentice-oriented folk
arts are struggling to survive. Traditional performing arts such as
puppetry, dragon and lion dancing, folk opera and dance, and traditional
acrobatic have a tough time competing with TV, movies and other modern-day
Many folk arts
have benefited from a revival of interest in recent years, however. The
Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) support numerous folk art festivals
covering everything from paper umbrellas and lanterns, to Hakka "mountain
songs," drum dances, and comedy skits. The CCA also sponsors the
Folk Art Heritage Awards and the prestigious title of Folk Arts Master.
In 2002, the National Center for Traditional Arts was established in Yilan for
the promotion and research of traditional arts.
other temple crafts have also advanced in recent years; one significant
project is the extensive renovation of the 200-year-old Zushih Temple in
Sansia by some of Taiwan's craftspeople over the past four decades.
is also experiencing a renewal of interest. Used especially for New Year
hangings, woodcut prints are of a simply, rural style and commonly depict folk
deities. Other traditional and modern printmaking techniques include
lithography, silk-screening and etching.
Three styles of
puppetry are common in Taiwan: glove puppets, shadow puppets, and
marionettes. Glove puppets with finely embroidered costumes, exquisite
headdresses, and delicately carved faces perform on elaborate stages covered
with intricate gold carvings. Shadow puppets cut out of leather and
painted in bright colors are larger; lit from behind and with joint allowing
movement, the puppets throw a colorful and lively performance onto the white
screen viewed by audiences. Marionette puppets are usually about two
feet high and, manipulated by up to 14 strings, are usually presented in front
of simple backdrops. Many of the stories used in puppet shows are
adapted from classical literature or ancient legends.
A new generation
of Taiwan painters appeared during the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945)
whose subject matter, like that of the Impressionists, centered on daily life
or local landscapes. Through their Nativist Art, characterized by a
conscious desire to depict images evoking Taiwan's unique identity, these oil
painter had an important influence on Taiwan's artistic development.
As Nativist Art as
reaching its peak, relocation of the ROC government to Taipei in 1949 brought
a sudden influx of traditional ink painters. By the late 195-s and early
1960s, however, many young artists, disillusioned with traditional styles but
unable to connect with Japanese-trained Impressionism, were drawn to
contemporary Western trends, Abstract Art in particular. The late 1960s
and the 1970s saw a new nativist movement emerge, as artists once again
painted local scenery and architecture, and explored folk art traditions.
since the 1980s and 1990s have seen artists employ a much broader variety of
styles and subject matters, and use their Taiwan consciousness as an important
starting point for the expression of ideas relating to identity and filled
with symbolic or metaphorical images.
Before the 1920s,
the only forms of sculpture flourishing in Taiwan were those used in temple
and folk arts. It was not until the 1970s, however, that sculpture was
widely accepted as a fine-art genre, becoming a regular feature at galleries
and museums in the 1980s. As in the West, Taiwan's sculpture has also evolved
into avant-garde forms of installation and performance art.
contemporary ceramic art emerged in the late 1940s in Miaoli City and Yingge
Township in Taipei County. In the early 1950s, it broke out of ceramic
factories into artistic workshops, experimenting with shapes and glazes, while
remaining largely within traditional functional frameworks.
Exhibitions at the
National Museum of History in the late 1960s and at private galleries in the
1970s led to creative ceramists gaining wide recognition, with a major boost
coming with the opening of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1983. The
Chinese Ceramics Association was formed in 1992., and held its first festival
the following year. The Yingge Ceramic Museum, Taiwan's first, opened in
2000 to present the latest developments in Taiwan's ceramics and to promote
cultural exchanges with overseas artists.
Carving names or
other inscriptions onto chops was once a requisite skill for an well-rounded
literati, along with painting and calligraphy. Nowadays, chops used for
daily business transactions are generally machine carved; only a small number
of artists still specialize in the art of engraving name chops by hand.
Typically made of
wood, jade, or soft previous stones, the body of a name chop may be left plain
or be sculpted into symbolic images such as lions or dragons. In
addition to their use in business transactions, chops are imprinted onto
traditional paintings and calligraphy to identify the artist and add aesthetic
The four main
professional Chinese music groups in Taiwan are the Taipei Municipal Chinese
Classical Orchestra, National Chinese Orchestra, Kaohsiung Chinese Orchestra,
and Chinese Orchestra of the Broadcasting Corporation of China. At least
another ten smaller ensembles perform regularly around the island. These
musicians play mostly traditional Chinese instruments, but sometimes perform
Western compositions or Chinese works that incorporate Western-style rhythms
There has also
been renewed interest in preserving various types of traditional music
including bei guan (a fast-tempo music that commonly accompanies operas
and traditional puppet shows) and, especially, nan guan (a more
delicate and soothing sound). The Changhua County Cultural Center houses
the Nan Guan and Bei Guan Center.
important position of traditional Chinese music in Taiwan, Western classical
music predominates. Many young classical musicians, having succeeded in
international circles, have now returned to Taiwan as either visiting
musicians or regular members of orchestras and chamber groups. The main
Western-style orchestras are the National Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Symphony
Orchestra, and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Private orchestras
and ensembles include the Taipei Sinfonietta and Philharmonic Orchestra and Ju
features colorful makeup and costumes, stage props, and stylized
gestures. It was initially performed on outdoor stages; often in front
of temples. Best-known is the Ming Hwa Yuan Theater Troupe and the most
celebrated actress is Yang Lihua. Television performances of Taiwanese
opera have also been important to its development since the 1960s.
scene exploded in the 1960s with the so-called Little Theater Movement.
Private mini-theaters proliferated in the 1970s and directors experimented
freely with stage techniques and imaginative interpretations of both local and
Western plays. Pioneers included the Lan-ling Drama Workshop and New
Aspect Art Center. Several leading theater companies date from the
mid-1980s; these include the Performance Workshop (which introduces collective
improvisational theater) and Ping Fong Acting Troupe (which presents slapstick
comedies satirizing Taiwan society). The Godot Theater Company combines
theater, music, and dance in its performances, while the U Theater is
dedicated to creating a form of contemporary theater expressing Taiwan's
Dance in Taiwan
has become increasingly diverse since the late 1960s. Early pioneers of
modern dance including Cai Ruei-yue and Li Cai-e began performing in the 1940s
after studying European-influenced modern dance in Japan.
Other key figures
who introduced modern dance to Taiwan include Liu Feng- shueh who formed the
Neo=Classic Dance Company, and Lin Hwai-min who founded the Cloud Gate Dance
Theatre to express local identity, and which has gained a devoted local
audience and deserved international reputation.
A number of
smaller dance companies, many founded by former Cloud Gate members, have
started up since the 1980's. These include Lin Siou-wei's Taigu Tales
Dance Theater (known for its meditative dances based on Asian philosophy),
Lious Shao-lu and his Taipei Dance Circle (using innovative choreography to
create peotic displays of motion), Dance Forum Taipei founded by Ping Heng
(mixing postmodernism with an Asia frame of reference), and the Legend Lin
Dance Theater, founded and directed Lin Li-jhen (taking inspiration from
Taiwanese folk traditions).
industry was one of the healthiest in Asia in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
though syrupy romances, grade-B kung fu movies, and moralistic or
propaganda-oriented dramas predominated. The real breakthrough for
Taiwan cinema came in 1982 with In Our Time, featuring four talented
young directors, Edward Yang, Tao De-chen, Ke I-jheng, and Jhang Yi. By
replacing earlier melodrama and escapism with a realistic take on Taiwanese
life, the film won over audiences and paved the way for New Wave Cinema.
Inspired initially by nativist literature of the 1960s and 1970s, New Wave
directors, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Wang Tong, created a
cinema with a unique Taiwanese flavor focusing on realistic and sympathetic
portrayals of both rural and urban life, and examining the effects of the
political, social, and economic developments in Taiwan.
In the late 1980s
and early 1990s, a Second New Wave emerged with even greater variety of
content and style, although the strong commitment to portraying Taiwan's
unique perspective continued. Important figures include Tsai Ming-liang,
Stan Lai, Lee Ang, Wu Nien-chen, Lin Cheng-sheng.
intellectuals have been trying to recreate their cultural histories since the
1980s by re-expressing oral traditions. Stories of creation myths and
tribal heroes have been transcribed by romanizing indigenous languages, and
are published with Chinese translations. Such texts constitute a belated
effort in the struggle for cultural survival and the preservation of languages
and traditions, as even indigenous children resist using their native tongues.
In the 1950s,
Taiwanese intellectuals emulated Western cultural and liberal-humanist
traditions, favoring rationalism, scientism, and philosophical contemplation
in their exploration of new spheres of human experience. In the 1960s
and 1970s, young modernist writers broke ground with bold analyses of
nontraditional interpersonal relationships, and present challenges to the
conservative middle-class mentality that had been the backbone of Taiwan's
dominant culture until that time. Their conscious exploration of
language and voice brought fundamental changes in rhetorical conventions of
modern narrative. The early 1970s witnessed a reaction to modernism's
dominance of the literary scene. In the Modern Poetry Debate of 1972,
for example, critics advocated advocated a nativist, socially- responsible
literature. Using the Taiwanese language to depict the plight of
rural or small town dweller caught in economic difficulties, nativists
attacked the government's economic dependence on Western countries, expressed
indignation on behalf of the farmers and workers who paid a high economic
price for urban expansion, and attempted to draw public attention to the
adverse effects of economic development. Such a regionalist sentiment
touched on the "provincial heritage problem," that is, tensions
between native Taiwanese and mainlanders. Excessive ideological concerns
are considered to have detracted from their literary achievement. In any
case, the trend declined suddenly in 1979 when several key Nativists exited
the literary scene to become directly involved in political protests.
Annual fiction contests sponsored by major newspapers from the mid-1970s to
the mid-1980s gave creative writing a solid boost, indeed, most baby-boom
generation writers rose to prominence by winning such contests.
environment became largely consumer-oriented in the 1980s, with the literary
scene dominated by baby-boomers concerned predominantly with their own
popularity, their unique cultural identities, and various problems affecting
Taiwan's middle-class urbanites. They displayed an abundance of local
color but little ideological content. However, literature of the 1980s
was increasingly pluralist.
From the mid-1980s
onwards, as indigenous began to replace foreign as the primary source of
exotic imagination, and as cultural identity began to occupy a more prominent
place in the public consciousness, postmodernism became fashionable again.
Issues about Western influence on contemporary Taiwanese literature were also
Like Taiwan, which
had undergone great changes in national identity and multicultural
diversification, Taiwan's literature of the 1990s tended to mix genres and
multilingual devices, drawing on a wide range of global and local cultural
codes, idioms, and traditions, to express a fluid, albeit disoriented,
structure of feelings. Many writers used reportage, science fiction and
biography to explore everyday political subjects and issues associated with
Taiwan's independence movement, minority discourse, political feminism, and
environmental protection. It was in the Little Theater movement that
serious political satire truly intermingled with comic relief. The
stages used for mini plays could be in real theaters, or on the street, at
city hall, or even in front of the Legislature.
trend in the 1990s was the revival of the local vernacular tradition.
Taiwanese, Hakka and even indigenous languages became alternative linguistic
mediums for literary expression. This diversity of languages and customs
is still enriching the literary expression of the people of Taiwan.
provided by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office
Diversity makes up Taiwan's culture and arts. Modern art, as well as
traditional art, aboriginal art, and folk art can be found. The
traditional Chinese fine arts are mainly comprised of calligraphy and
tradition painting. Flower arranging, sculpture, cloisonne, jade carving
and ceramics are other art forms in Taiwan.
The film industry in Taiwan thrives and produces over 100 movies each year,
some with international acclaim. Other performing arts include drama,
Taiwanese and Chinese opera.
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