CULTURE
&
HERITAGE

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF TAIWAN LITERATURE

This is a five-star museum if you like literary arts and history – six if you know Chinese. Exhibits are thoughtfully curated and displayed in the airy spaces of a gorgeous historic building that once served as the Tainan District Hall. There is no mistaking the Taiwanese respect for literature.

Manuscripts, narratives (some bilingual), recordings and footage illuminate the trajectory of Taiwanese literature. This history began with the folktales of the indigenous peoples, passed down via song and word of mouth. From the 17th century, Chinese-language literature blossomed. This was triggered when Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), a Ming-dynasty loyalist, conquered Dutch-ruled Tainan and mass immigration from China began. The 20th century was marked by Japanese rule and the influx of Chinese migrants post-WWII. This saw Taiwanese writers succumbing to the competing influences of Japanese, Chinese, even American traditions. This colorful legacy produced a heterogeneous body of literature that also takes local history and folk customs for inspiration. A large hall at the museum displays ‘mother tongue literary works’ written in Hakka, Hoklo, and indigenous dialects.