Qiu Maojing, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Zheng Qingwen’s short story “Spring Rain” was first published in Youth Literary magazine in 1990, and later in an eponymous 1991 collection; it has also been included in various volumes of selected Taiwanese fiction, and is considered one of the writer’s representative works. In 1998 Formosa TV’s “Writers’ Playhouse” adapted fourteen well-known works by Taiwanese authors, including “Spring Rain,” which probes traditional family and marital relations. The TV serial was adapted by screenwriter Huang Yingxiong, directed by Zhang Zhiyong, and starred Chen Bozheng and Lin Yanru in the lead roles. From the first broadcast, Spring Rain quickly became a widely popular serial and household staple.
The short story “Spring Rain” tells the tale of An Min, who was brought up in an orphanage and has married A-Zhen, the daughter of a merchant, and lives with her family. The plot revolves around female infertility in traditional society. When An Min thinks his wife cannot conceive, he submits to the enticements of A-Ju, who works for the local barber, sleeping with her in the hope of getting an heir. When it seems that A-Ju also cannot get pregnant, the viewer understands that the reason lies with An Min himself. Meanwhile, An Min’s infidelity angers A-Zhen and she leaves him. When she returns half a year later, her belly is swollen and villagers speculate about the identity of the father of the child she carries. An Min is humiliated but does not leave; however, under the earnest guidance of Father Su (director of the orphanage) he comes to understand that true kinship is not necessarily a matter of blood ties. Then A-Zhen suffers a miscarriage and loses her baby.
Some time later, the first person narrator runs into An Min – whom he has not seen for a long time – on a bus. We learn from An Min’s own mouth that A-Zhen died soon after the miscarriage. Before dying she said to An Min, “Just because a child does not come from you, that doesn’t mean it’s not yours.” On hearing this, An Min resolved to become a father to those who, like him, have been orphaned.
An Min tells the narrator that the day they have met is, coincidentally, the anniversary of A-Zhen’s death, so he is taking his second adopted child to visit A-Zhen’s grave in the mountains. An Min understands that life flows on endlessly like a great river: the water cannot be drawn off and the flow never branches. The narrator takes up An Min’s thought and says that everybody is mixed together in the great river of life. The story ends in the drizzly mountain scenery, where the ground is sodden with rain that washes along the mountain road leading to the graves, turning into a muddy stream – just like the river of life, a tiny stream that never ends. Suddenly the title’s hidden meaning becomes clear.
The outline of the television serial is largely faithful to the original but the first-person narrator was written out and replaced with a third-person omniscient perspective; moreover, plot elements were added as well, rounding out several of the characters – Father Su, the head of the orphanage, A-Zhen’s father, and various villagers – and introducing new ones. The minor characters are used to strengthen the main ideas that Spring Rain wants to convey, but as the plot unfolds they also become important in their own right. For example, when An Min starts an affair he becomes confused and uneasy, but Father Su manages to talk sense into him and An Min realizes that blood may not be the only source of meaning and family love.
Zheng Qingwen’s original short story operates with a consistent understatement and omission that make it like a Hemingwayesque “iceberg”, but the screenplay transforms it into an exciting and gripping melodrama, accessible to people of all ages and all walks of life.
TV Serial Spring Rain video clip (Source: Formosa Television Inc.)
|Related Literary Themes：||Religious Literature|