Throughout Taiwan's long history, stories of spirits and monsters haunting the dark shadows of the island's mountains and forests have been whispered by her residents. In the past, most such folk stories were intended to teach moral lessons, but different authors have drawn upon different elements over the years to create a more diverse, more imaginative sphere of supernatural literature.
The National Museum of Taiwan Literature will launch Taiwan's first exhibition of supernatural literature from March 28, 2018 through Feb. 24, 2019. Through a thorough perusal of Taiwan's tales of spooks and specters, visitors will be able to get a fresh perspective on this isle of magic and mystery.
Literature is more than simply text. Behind ghost stories lie historical elements worthy of careful consideration. This exhibition is divided into two themed sections. The first explains how these various ghouls and ghosts became part of Taiwan's maritime culture, nature, and social environment; the second explores how literature employs these stories.
The exhibition as a whole also looks at how these myths and legends have grown, fallen away, and found new life in the modern era. By helping visitors gradually understand the characteristics of these supernatural beings, the exhibition also aims to help them understand how such tales relate to real life.
The exhibition particularly highlights two categories of paranormal entity. Ghosts, or gui in Mandarin, are often thought of as spirits of the dead that linger in the human realm. Monsters, or guai, meanwhile, encompass a broader range of the unexplained, from strange animal or plant beings to things even further beyond classification.
In addition to these, Taiwan's indigenous tribes each have their own perspectives on the spiritual and physical worlds — tales that exist beyond the majority Han Chinese worldview, and which further testify to Taiwan's diversity. Classifying things like ghosts and monsters is not a science, but rather an evolving understanding as people's perceptions change.
Ghosts, monsters, and the like are born of people's fears and their attitudes toward the unknown. They are attempts to explain the unexplained, and as they become part of a culture, they also become elements of cultural taboos. At the same time, these tales can themselves shape how different groups see the world and are closely linked with local history.
Through tales of the supernatural, readers glimpse into how cultures see themselves and their histories. The National Museum of Taiwan Literature worked with historical records and experts and scholars from various fields to create this unique literary exhibition that uncovers an intriguingly dark side of Taiwanese history.
'Island of Magic and Mystery — Supernatural Literature of Taiwan'