Chen Baiqing, MA , Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Home in Two Cities（2012）, directed by Yang Lizhou, is a documentary on the life of Lin Haiyin. The “two” in the title is key to the film’s theme – Lin lived and worked in both Beijing and Taipei, was both writer and editor, mother to her children and mother figure to a generation of Taiwanese writers. Thus, the film’s subject matter is presented in pairs, contrasting texts Lin wrote or edited with actual events in her life, juxtaposing archival footage with still photography, allowing past and present to echo each other. The juxtapositions are complementary rather than contradictory, reconstructing Lin Haiyin’s life as a series of corresponding dualities.
Two Cities clearly demarks the spatial orientation of Lin’s life. Taiwan was her ancestral home but she grew up in Beijing; for half her life she worked as an editor in Taipei, yet her best-known work is the autobiographical My Memories of Old Beijing. Lin carried out her literary mission as writer and editor in two cities, Beijing and Taipei; what marked the division between them was time.
In the 1950s the Chinese Nationalist government strengthened its grip on Taiwan, banning the Japanese language and establishing a Chinese-only policy. Culturally, anti-communist literature and “war arts” were the mainstream. The new language policy effectively silenced Taiwanese intellectuals who had been educated by the Japanese, and literature in Taiwan became formulaic and lifeless, a tool serving a specific ideology. Two Cities captures the spirit of that era, placing Lin in the context of her times.
Born in Osaka, Japan, as a child Lin relocated with her family to Beijing. At age thirty, at a time when China was torn by war, she came to Taipei, where she worked as assistant-chief editor at the United Daily News. In an era when literary arts were officially subservient to political ideology, Lin boldly published all manner of works, including non-Chinese texts, introducing new writers and providing a platform for the older intelligentsia of the Japanese-era. Many writers who would go on to become major literary forces in Taiwan were first published in the United Daily News supplement. When political pressure led to Lin’s ouster, she founded a publishing house named “Pure Literature,” reflecting her dedication to literature. Resisting government pressure at every turn, Lin took a lonely stand for literature in Taiwan. In the words of the poet Yu Guangzhong, “Half of Taiwan’s literary world was in Lin Haiyin’s living room.” Author Huang Chunming said, “Lin Haiyin is the mother of Taiwanese authors of that period.”
Lin’s influence on Taiwanese literature is evident. For her, literature was a way of connecting with the world; and for the authors of her time, she was a bridge, connecting them to each other and to the world.
Home In Two Cities, a story by Lin Haiyin (Source: Fisfisa Media Co., Ltd)