To highlight the unique military dependents’ village culture in Taiwan and how it inspired generations of literary and artistic works, the Taiwan Cultural Center in Paris hosted a seminar on “Literature and Imagery of Military Dependents’ Villages” on Oct. 21 and 22 in Paris.
The two-day forum was led by Angel Pino, a recipient of the Taiwan-France Cultural Award, and renowned professor Isabelle Rabu, to talk about how the history and culture of military dependents’ villages took shape in Taiwan.
Shortly before and after 1949, a recorded 600,000 military personnel and their families followed the Chinese Nationalist government to Taiwan and established the first military dependents’ village in Kaohsiung’s Fongshan District. Military dependents’ villages have since become microcosms that record the post-war history of Taiwan, and their eclectic mix of buildings and residents have inspired a variety of post-war literature, film, and television works.
A number of renowned writers, including Chu Tien-wen, Chu Tien-hsin, Su Wei-chen, and Chang Da-chun, have written extensively about military dependents’ villages. “Growing Up” (小畢的故事), a novel written by Chu Tien-wen, was adapted into a movie of the same title in 1983 and was considered one of the works that initiated Taiwan’s New Wave Cinema movement.
The development of novels about military dependents’ villages has closely echoed the pulse of society, reflecting the changes and evolution of political, economic, social, and cultural situations in Taiwan over the past several decades.
Literary orientations and issues derived from life in military dependents’ villages, such as personal enlightenment, national awareness, ethnic consciousness, time and space attentiveness, gender issues, and political aspirations, have shaped the perception of subsequent writers and artists.
Co-organized by the Taiwan Cultural Center and the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) in Paris, the two seminars were accompanied by movies and documentaries themed on military dependents’ villages. Thus, the audiences were able to explore the role of military dependents’ village culture in Taiwanese literature and motion pictures.
Professor Isabelle Rabut also presented old photographs showing alleys in military dependents’ villages and their household furnishings, together with slogans commonly seen at that time, all of which remain specific imagery indelibly bound to that particular historic period.
With support from INALCO, the two-day forum played a crucial role in explaining to French audiences how military dependents’ villages actually contain a new type of community awareness and condensed sentiments from residents of diverse ethnic Chinese groups and how such villages reflected post-war consciousness and ideology.