Liu Yuning, MA, School of Theater, Taipei National University of the Arts
“Glory’s by Blossom Bridge” occupies a special place in Bai Xianyong’s (Pai Hsien-yung) short-story collection Taipei People (1971). While “Jade Love” and “Madame Jin’s Last Night” each focus on one woman, “Glory” looks at a group of people of that era. The story begins in Glory’s Rice Noodle Shop, an eatery located near Blossom Bridge. The establishment had originally been a famous restaurant operated by female protagonist Rongrong’s grandfather in Guilin in China’s Jiangxi province. In the wake of the Chinese Civil War, however, Rongrong came to Taiwan and reopened the business on Taipei’s Changchun Road. Rather than calling Rongrong a “female protagonist,” she might be more aptly characterized as a focal point, and the restaurant a gathering place for a host of characters and supporting characters: Mr. Lu, Qin Dianzi, Li Bancheng and others are regular customers, and their stories are no less colorful than Rongrong’s.
In the film version, My Rice Noodle Shop (1998), director Xie Yan also focuses on the development of a group dynamic, picking up where the short story left off, supplementing the narrative and filling in characters’ pasts. But the screen adaptation loses the short story’s intentional “gaps,” such as Bai’s stream-of-consciousness techniques that allowed the characters to relate details of their pasts in the present. Readers’ understanding of these glorious histories also follow the characters’ memories, which leave much to the imagination, allowing for speculation on what is actually true and what is exaggeration. The film adopts an omniscient point of view to depict the past, which helps viewers understand the characters’ earlier lives but eliminates the short stories’ intentionally blank spaces.
Homesickness is the main theme of both the short story and the film. For the characters, the contrast between yesterday’s grandeur and today’s dreariness is what brings thoughts of woe. For example, Qin Dianzi, who once served as a county magistrate, is obsessed with the power he held in the past; Li Bancheng, formerly a wealthy landowner, wallows in dreams of the wealth he once possessed; Mr. Lu, an educated man, is deeply attached to memories of a childhood sweetheart, his true love, so much so that he falls ill. “Glory’s by Blossom Bridge” doesn’t only depict temporal subjects – the space of the restaurant itself but also bears witness to past and present. With time, splendor passes – some people live in the past, while other choose the present, becoming genuine “Taipei people.”
|Related Literary Themes：||Modernist Literature|