Beijing, Nov. 11 (ZXS) -- Why is it said that Chinese culture is "used daily without being known" in Taiwan?

——Interview with Lin Gufang, the head of Taipei Academy and a cultural scholar

China News Service reporter Liu Shuling

How has cultural tradition and diversity interacted in Taiwan? Is Chinese culture marginalized in Taiwan today? Is this phenomenon difficult to reverse?

Lin Gufang, the head of Taipei Academy and a cultural scholar, was recently interviewed by China News Service's "East-West Question" at the "Yinlu" on Linyi Street, which is quiet in Taipei City, to share his observations and thoughts on the current situation of Chinese culture in Taiwan.

The transcript of the interview is summarized below:

China News Service: At present, Taiwan places a great emphasis on multiculturalism. You have repeatedly mentioned that Chinese culture has been gradually marginalized over the past 30 years, why do you say that?

Lin Gufang: I still maintain this view. The first reason is that Chinese culture has been marginalized in terms of educational content, which has reduced the opportunities for the new generation to be exposed to Chinese culture, and the rapid social changes have a huge impact on them. The second reason is that it is marginalized in cultural activities, and if you don't talk about locality and diversity, you basically don't get funding for cultural activities or publications.

The former represents the influence of institutional forces, while the latter represents the hollowing out of civil forces. In terms of education, the syllabus below high school in Taiwan involves a lot of things, and history education is the most seriously affected, because the class time is limited to Chinese history and the causal relationship of historical events is fragmented, and it is not easy for students to construct an overall concept of Chinese culture. In terms of language education, China's past "Literature, History, and Philosophy Family" was centered on "history", and in the past, there were many articles in Chinese textbooks with "history" as the core, which was a kind of value education, and this aspect was not as valued as before.

Taiwan's folk vitality is strong, but the holding of cultural activities still needs a certain amount of official subsidies. Without subsidies, the main force of the non-governmental sector in this area will be diluted, and it will be impossible to balance the trend of marginalization of Chinese culture and education in the system from a certain perspective.

In early 2010, Lin Gufang participated in the Chinese Character Culture Festival at Zhongshan Hall in Taipei, showing the "dialogue" of tea ceremony, traditional music and calligraphy. Photo courtesy of the interviewee

China News Service: In the current political climate, is it difficult to reverse the fading influence of Chinese culture?

Lin Gufang: A friend once asked me why you talk about Chinese culture everywhere. Of course, the roots are deeply related to my feelings, but they are also related to the current environment.

Overall, I'm not as pessimistic as many people who like Chinese culture. Why? Because Chinese culture is already "used every day without knowing" in the life or values of Taiwanese people, it is immersed in it, and you are just unconscious. For example, the Confucian ethics in family relationships are gentle and natural, and many people live according to Taoist values of humility and nature, and artists especially like to use Lao Zhuang's philosophy to talk about their art. The vigorous phenomenon of volunteers in Taiwan has made up for some of the shortcomings of the system in the rapid development of society, and has also enabled everyone to look at each other more with "equanimity", which is influenced by the "compassion concept" of Mahayana Buddhism. The three schools of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism are in Taiwan, and to this day, they still clearly affect everyone's life.

For another example, when encountering things, Taiwanese worship Mazu and Guan Gong, and he will not think that he is worshipping a god from Chinese mainland. There are so many temples and beliefs in Taiwan, which have a deep impact on everyone's behavior or values.

On September 2017, 9, Mazu Jin, Meizhou, Fujian Province, drove to Taiwan to patrol the border. Photo by Zhang Bin

So, where is the fading part? One is cultural interpretation, the official avoids using Chinese culture to interpret Taiwan's various aspects, and the people do not know that they are "very Chinese" because no one reminds them. On the other hand, in facing the contemporary era with Chinese culture, Taiwan has less consciously looked at the role it may play, and the effect has not been as obvious as in the past.

But as long as someone talks about it and lets young people come into contact with it, he will suddenly realize, "It turns out that these things are all Chinese culture." That's why the event is so important, and it's about whether young people have enough opportunities to get in touch with Chinese culture.

I think that when a lamp shines in a corner, a lamp in a corner is lit, so that people have a chance to come into contact, and the other lamp will be lit. The lights burn and there will be results in the end.

It's like Taiwanese opera has been performing new dramas for a while, but soon found that if you don't perform historical dramas and don't carry thickness, you can't become a big and conspicuous work. Therefore, it is still necessary to go back to the history of China to act, for example, the endless Three Kingdoms, the endless Water Margin, and then the Eastern Zhou Dynasty Chronicles, Yang Jiajiang and so on.

In short, Chinese culture in Taiwan is actually very deep-rooted. Even if the official does not talk about it now, it is only in the official "from the obvious to the hidden", and today is to make this "hidden" lifeblood not sparse, and when the environment changes, it will naturally release sparks.

In December 2021, the cross-strait intangible cultural heritage "cloud" exchange activity was held in Zhangzhou, Fujian. Photo by Zhang Jinchuan

China News Service: There is also a saying in Taiwanese society that Taiwanese culture is a complex influenced by the Netherlands, the Ming and Zheng dynasties, the Qing Dynasty and Japan. What do you think of this view?

Lin Gufang: It is true that Taiwan's history is more diverse and complex, and the process is rather tortuous. However, the extent of the impact left over from each stage is often avoided in some discussions in Taiwan, or only subjective statements are made. For example, the Dutch ruled in Taiwan for a while, but it is difficult to see traces of the Dutch in Taiwan unless you go to Hongmao City (New Taipei Tamsui). It has had little impact on Taiwanese culture and is more of a historical predator.

Outsiders rule in Taiwan, and it is Japan that has an impact. One is the vision, after the Meiji Restoration, Japan "broke away from Asia and entered Europe", and Taiwanese intellectuals at that time also looked at the West through Japan. The second is the attitude to life, the concept of rigor and cleanliness has influenced Taiwan to this day. Third, intellectuals such as Jiang Weishui have learned about the structure and operation of the Western system through the actual situation in Japan.

However, the Japanese regarded the Taiwanese as "second-class nationals" at that time, so 50 years of colonial rule did not shake the identity of the Taiwanese, who knew that they were Chinese and were "Qing slaves" despised by the Japanese.

Whether it is the Ming and Zheng dynasties, or even the present, there is no doubt that Chinese culture is the cultural foundation of the Taiwanese people, and the other parts are only the existence of color.

In August 2023, the ceremony of compatriots on both sides of the strait to pay tribute to the ancestor Yandi in Baoji, Shaanxi Province was held at the Mausoleum of Emperor Yan in Baoji, Shaanxi, and representatives of people from all walks of life in Shaanxi and Taiwan jointly paid homage to Emperor Yan, the ancestor of Chinese humanities. Photo by Dang Tianye

China News Service: In Taiwan, how do you think it is better to interact with each other in the relationship between tradition and diversity in culture?

Lin Gufang: From the 20s to the end of the 70s of the 90th century, Taiwan had a good interaction paradigm, which can be said to be a very good practice of Chinese culture in the face of the contemporary and Western culture. At that time, no matter whether they held a conservative or open view, they were all facing the world and finding their own way out on the basis of Chinese culture.

Recently, I just published a column in the "China Times" entitled "The Passing of an Era of 'Sentimental and Meteorological'", talking about the passing of Xu Boyun, the founder and composer of Taiwan's New Elephant Art. He's gone, and there's not much media coverage. But I said that in fact, he represented a certain atmosphere of the previous era, when there was no strong division between the so-called "local" and "international", and "seeking one's roots and finding one's own Chinese cultural traditions" and "facing the international" went hand in hand. For example, the famous performance groups of this period, you can see that the Youren Divine Drum and the Cloud Gate Dance Troupe are both traditional and international.

Xu Boyun established Xinxiang, introduced many international programs, introduced art masters, opened up Taiwan's horizons, and became a driving force for the development of art in the era. He held the "New Elephant International Arts Festival", and the first program at the opening must be the "Traditional Music Night", and the folk rap artist Chen Da was always arranged at the top of the program list. was originally a folk artist who sang at the Pingtung Hengchun Red and White Affair, but Xu Boyun listed him among the world's famous artists, with a desolate voice, impromptu lyrics and "passing the door" on the Yueqin, which has basically become a masterpiece. For this generation, "tradition" and "international" do not become opposing concepts, but complement each other.

The death of such a person should have more regrets, sighs and even reports and comments, but the fact is like a boat passing through the water without a trace, and the ripples caused are much smaller than imagined.

This indicates that an era of "sentimental and meteorological" is far away, and Taiwan will become more and more narrow-minded and complacent in the future, and I am afraid it will become even more inevitable.

In June 2014, Lin Gufang and more than 6 Taiwanese musicians, artists and Taiwanese tea people went to Guangzhou to participate in a series of cross-strait tea cultural exchange activities. The picture shows Lin Gufang leading the tea party of "Dialogue on Tea Zen Music". Photo courtesy of the interviewee

China News Service: Since April this year, the "Joint Supplement" of United Daily News has published your articles on Chinese culture with a page of 4,<> to <>,<> words on a monthly basis, and topics such as human nature, Chinese characters, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism have attracted attention and discussion. Why did you write this series?

Lin Gufang: Regardless of the political division, the characteristics of Chinese civilization still permeate our thoughts and actions, and to understand Chinese culture is to understand ourselves.

It's an old topic, but it's the foundation, and we are in a time of change, so someone has to keep talking about it. Therefore, there is the writing of "The Eternal Meaning of the River - Sixteen Key Words Fit into Chinese Culture". It turns out that when Chinese talk about Chinese culture, its subtleties are beyond the reach of outsiders, but they often fall into subjectivity, China is a large cultural body, it is easier to talk about it to generalize, if you can grasp these keywords, it is better to understand Chinese culture as a whole and organically. When writing, we do not forget to compare cultures with other cultural bodies through historical context and functional roles. In this way, the combination of intra-ethnic and extra-ethnic perspectives can not only highlight the characteristics of Chinese culture, but also provide a basis for dialogue with the outside world. It is also good to connect with tradition and correspond to the contemporary.

The newspaper is the abbreviation of my manuscript, and I chose to write in prose in the hope that more people can read it, but behind the tone of the prose is a certain objective and rigorous data support, as well as the emotional appreciation of it. It is my expectation that it will have both cultural feelings and discourse evidence. (ENDS)

Interviewee Profile:

Lin Gufang, the head of Taipei Academy and a cultural scholar. Photo by Liu Shuling

Lin Gufang, the head of Taipei Academy, is a well-known Zen scholar, musician, cultural critic, former director of the Institute of Art of Foguang University in Taiwan, and has many works such as "Zen/Two Blades Intersect", "Three Paths of Zen Gate", "Thousand Peaks Reflecting the Moon", "Tea Zen", "Ten Years - The Mainland in the Eyes of Taiwanese Cultural People" and so on. His masterpiece "Truth and Affection: The Humanistic World in Chinese Music" systematically interprets the essence of traditional Chinese music in an easy-to-use and accurate language. Since 600, the Taipei Academy he has presided over has become one of the cultural landmarks visited by cultural people at home and abroad, and is the winner of the title of "2010 Chinese Cultural Figure" by the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture.