Ye Renjie, PhD student, Department of Taiwan Culture, Language, and Literature , National Taiwan Normal University
A classic of Taiwanese literature, Wang Tuo’s “Aunt Kim-Sui” (1975) first appeared in Youth Literary magazine, garnering wide acclaim. The next year the story was included an eponymous collection, and has since been reissued many times. In 1999 Formosa TV’s “Taiwan Writers’ Playhouse” produced a single-episode adaptation of the tale.
Aunt Kim-Sui, the story’s protagonist, hails from a poor family in Badouzi, a Keelung fishing village. The narrative reflects various social problems that arise in changing times, but its main theme is eternal motherly love. Taiwan’s rapid economic development in the 1970s and 80s was uneven, creating an immense wealth gap; meanwhile a new generation of Taiwanese subscribed to social values utterly different from those of their parents. In an era when capitalism reigned supreme, money became a microscope for looking into human nature.
Aunt Kim-Sui is a peddler of miscellaneous goods. A traditional woman, she reflects the simplicity of her remote fishing village. Every day Aunt Kim-Sui goes door to door, carrying her wares on a shoulder pole, calling out to prospective buyers, thus she enjoys good relations with neighbors and customers. This neighborly trust and mutual aid is embodied in the “mutual assitance hui,” a rotating savings and credit association for ordinary people.
Mother to six sons, Auntie Kim-Sui is the envy of the neighborhood. One of her sons is a bank manager, one a tax-bureau commissioner, one a fishing-boat captain, one a merchant shipping magnate, and the two youngest are high-school and college students respectively. After introducing Aunt Kim-Sui and her family, the story takes a sudden turn – Aunt Kim-Sui borrows money from the hui on behalf of her eldest and fourth sons, but is cheated of her life savings and has no way to repay the savings and credit association.
Pressed by lenders, Aunt Kim-Sui goes Keelung to ask her sons for money, but her fourth son’s wife convinces him not to repay his mother. When Aunt Kim-Sui shows up at her eldest son’s bank, he secretly hurries her out the back door, ashamed of her rural manners and attire. Dejected, Aunt Kim-Sui returns to Badouzi just as her husband unexpectedly passes away. The sons return for the funeral but go their separate ways after arguing about their father’s debts. In the end, scorned by neighbors and hounded by creditors, husband dead and sons gone, Aunt Kim-Sui suddenly disappears.
At end of the novel Wang Tuo writers: “Like a life-giving mother, springtime comes again to Badouzi, investing the earth with fresh vitality, giving birth to countless creatures, bountiful and jubilant in the sun and breeze.” Using setting to express emotion, the passage highlights the story’s main theme. Despite the hardships she has endured, Aunt Kim-Sui has no regrets: in Taipei she finds work as a domestic helper, going to the temple to pray for her sons, ultimately repaying all her debts. Aunt Kim-Sui “seems happy now, just as she was when peddling her wares in Badouzi, joking, cheerful, full of hope for the future.” “Aunt Kim-Sui” is a portrait of a mother’s constancy, selflessness, and tolerance.
TV Serial Video“Aunt Kim-Sui Clip (Source: Formosa Television Inc.)
Ye Renjie, PhD student, Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
Wang Tuoh was born Wang Hongjiu in Badouzi, Keelung, in 1944. Wang studied Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University and earned a master’s degree in Chinese at National Chengchi University. He has worked shoveling coal on the Keelung docks, as a painter, and as a fisherman. He also taught at National Hualien Senior High School, in the Department of Chinese at National Chengchi University, and in Kuang Wu Junior College. The Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 saw Wang arrested and sent to prison for six years. When he came out, he founded the magazine Writing Season and acted as director of Renjian (In the Human Realm) magazine and the Renjian publishing house, as well as chairman of the Chun Feng Foundation. Wang also served as representative to the National Assembly (1991) and as legislator (1995–2008). Between February 1st and May 20th, 2008, he was director of the Council for Cultural Affairs, and in 2008–2009 he took on the role of secretary-general of the Democratic Progressive Party. Wang subsequently left politics.
In 1979 Wang Tuoh set up the Young Wind magazine and took part in Iowa University’s international writers’ program. His works mainly comprise fiction and children’s literature. Major collections include Aunt Kim-Sui (1976), Hoping You Will Soon Return (1977), Taipei, Taipei! (1985), and Stories from Cow Belly Harbor (1985). The most striking aspects of his works are their realistic representation of Taiwanese society and his deep compassion for those at the bottom of the social hierarchy. In 1977 Cactus magazine published a piece of Wang’s criticism entitled “Realism, Not Nativism” which sparked the momentous Taiwanese nativist literature debate with writers such as Yin Zhengxiong and Chu Hsi-ning.
Wang Tuoh’s short story “Aunt Kim-Sui” was published in August 1975 in Youth Literary and became an important work of Taiwanese nativist literature. It was reprinted in 1976’s eponymous collection Aunt Kim-Sui, which was reissued in 1987, 2001, and 2005. In 1987 it was also turned into a film by Lin Ching-Jie and in 1999 was made into an episode for the Taiwanese Authors television series by Wang Huiling. In 2002 “Aunt Kim-Sui” and “Hoping You Will Soon Return” were made into episodes of the Taiwan Mamba series. These are but a few examples of Wang Tuoh’s place in Taiwanese literature.
|Related Literary Themes：||Nativist Literature|