Po-jie Tsai, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
“Clinical Notes” was originally a lecture presented by Chiang Wei-shui at the inauguration of the Taiwanese Culture Association in 1921. A revised version in Japanese later appeared in the first issue of the Taiwan Culture Association’s Association Newsletter. Renowned for its stylistic innovation and deep insights into cultural and political issues of the day, the essay occupies an important place in Taiwan’s literary history.
A physician by training, Chiang diagnoses the problems facing Taiwanese society from the perspective of a doctor treating a sick person. The patient’s medical history and symptoms are listed and medicine is prescribed to restore the sufferer to health. In creative concept and artistic execution the work is milestone in essay writing in Taiwan.
The doctor informs us that the male patient is ethnically Chinese but has been a naturalized resident of the “Empire of Japan” for 27 years. China surrendered Taiwan to Japan in 1895, 27 years prior to the publication of Chiang’s essay, hence there is no doubt that the sufferer is colonial Taiwan personified. The good doctor then goes on to diagnose the illness – its causes and symptoms – and prescribes an appropriate cure.
A descendant of Chinese culture heroes – the Yellow Emperor, the Duke of Chou, and Confucius – the “patient” is genetically sound but has unfortunately contracted the chronic “diseases” of the late Qing period – opium addiction and allegiance to a host of outworn feudal ideas. Although he has made some progress under the ministrations of Japanese “physicians” – Taiwan’s infrastructure and the people’s material lives have seen improvements – his chief disorders are spiritual and intellectual: an insatiable craving for immediate financial gain, an inability to stay apace of world trends, and a failure to assimilate modern advances in knowledge. Thus, the physician diagnoses the patient a victim of “arrested cultural development,” a malady brought on by “exhaustion” and “intellectual malnutrition.” The prescription? Only by following a regimen of “cultural enlightenment” – that is, education – can one so afflicted be returned to health.
Combining medical training with his background as a social reformer, Chiang Wei-shui diagnosed the cultural ills plaguing early twentieth-century Taiwanese society and prescribed a cure – and in doing so took a fresh approach to the art of the essay.
Chiang Weishui (1891-1931),was born in Yilan. Originally a doctor, he established Da’an Hospital in the Dadaocheng district of Taipei, but devoted most of his time to opposing Japanese colonial rule. In October 1921 he founded the Taiwanese Cultural Association and in December 1923 he was taken into custody for taking part in the Formosa Political Incident. On February 20, 1925, he was again sentenced and imprisoned, but was released on May 10 of the same year. In 1927, a rift formed in the anti-Japanese camp and Jiang left the Taiwanese Cultural Association to found the Taiwanese People’s Party. In February 1931, the Taiwanese People’s Party was banned by the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office and in August of that year, Jiang died from an illness at the age of 40.
Chiang Weishui was not originally well known for his writings, but after the Formosa Political Incident, he published many articles in Taiwan People’s Newspaper, including “Imprisonment,” part of a series imitating classical Chinese literary genres, and “A Prisoner’s Diary,” which displayed his command of modern Chinese vernacular. Imprisoned many times, he wrote “A Tour of the Northern Detention Centers” These works are important prison writings, an offshoot of Taiwanese political literature.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit:
|Anthology：||Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series（《臺灣文學英譯叢刊》）|
|Language：||Traditional Chinese (originally written in Japanese)|
|Translator：||Steven L. Riep（饒博榮）|
|Publisher：||Forum for the Study of World Literatures in Chinese, University of California, Santa Barbara|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Strait Academic Publication|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://paper-republic.org/publishers/taiwan-literature-english-translation-series/|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：|