Chen Xiuling, MA student, Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing Hua University
“Buried with the Dead” is a short story depicting traditional and modern marriages in China at the time of the May Fourth Movement, beginning in 1919. Proponents of the movement advocated new ideas that challenged traditional Chinese values. One of their slogans was “Tear down the chastity arches”—the arches being memorials erected to honor widows who refused to remarry.
The protagonist of the story is Shuyun, or the elder Mrs. Fang, a traditional woman who remains loyal to her deceased husband. When her young husband dies after an illness, her own youth and marriage are buried with him. Her life is reflected in the author’s tone—mundane and barren. There is little in the way of emotion, not even much resentment.
Not long after she was born in Japan, author Lin Haiyin was taken by her parents to China, where she lived for nearly thirty years. She transplants upper class Beijing marital tragedy to the streets of Taipei. She also brings out the story of the Chinese people’s post-war migrations and repairs ruptured memories across the Taiwan Strait.
The story starts off in the present day. The elder Mrs. Fang is embroidering a pillowcase for her daughter Xiaoyun as part of her bridal trousseau. Since she lost her husband, Mrs. Fang has devoted most of her time and energy to embroidery. As she works on the pillowcase, she also worries about her daughter, because she is engaged to a fighter pilot. Mrs. Fang does not want her daughter to live a life of widowhood, as she has. Xiaoyun retorts, “The era when women bowed to fate has passed!” The inadvertent comment sparks Mrs. Fang’s memory; as she revisits her life, readers walk with her down memory lane.
From the moment her father agreed to marry her to the eldest son of the Fang Family, her fate was sealed. She discontinued her studies and entered the embroidery room to begin work on her bridal trousseau. To her surprise, the wedding was constantly being put off owing to her fiancé Jiaqi’s tuberculosis.
Finally, the wedding was held “to bring good luck” to the ailing Jiaqi, but he passed away within a year. Mrs. Fang put the only two photographs she had of herself in her husband’s shirt pocket so that she would symbolically accompany him into death.
For many women in those days, marriage was the only life they could ever have. Mrs. Fang never found emotional consolation with her husband. The closest thing to love that she experiences is in the gaze of her husband’s younger brother, Jialin. But when Jialin graduates from the university he goes to France to study. Seven years later, he returns to China with a wife and a child. When their second child Xiaoyun is born Mrs. Fang adopts her, the role of mother giving the woman new hope in life.
The author depicts two vastly different kinds of women: the elder Mrs. Fang, chaste, obedient and good at embroidery, is a typical traditional woman; the younger Mrs. Fang (Jialin’s wife) has studied abroad and wears fashionable outfits, and Xiaoyun is courageous in her pursuit of love. The latter represent the women of a new generation who take their lives into their own hands and whose values are vastly different from those of their parents.
Lin Haiyin (1918−2001) is the pen name of Lin Hanying. The characters hai and yin suggest the meaning of “sound of the tide.” She has also written under the pen names Eiko and A-ying. Lin was born in Osaka, Japan, where her father worked for some time as a merchant. Before Lin reached her fifth birthday, however, her parents moved first back to Taiwan and then to Beijing. There she grew up, went to school, and got married.
In 1948 she followed her husband Xia Chengying (pen name He Fan) to Taiwan. From 1954 to 1963 she was deputy editor of the literary supplement pages of the United Daily News. In her efforts to cultivate Taiwanese literature, she worked hard to popularize novels and publish works by Taiwan-born writers. She also made significant contributions to literary education by editing children’s books and primary school Chinese textbooks.
In 1967 she set up the Pure Literature Monthly magazine. Together with two rival publications, Modern Literature and Literature Quarterly, Pure Literature Monthly was recognized as one of the leading literary publications in 1960s Taiwan. In January 1968, Lin set up the Belles-Lettres Publishing House. When the publishing house closed 27 years later, copyrights on all books were restored to the original authors so that they might find new publishers. With her direct, open personality and carefree attitude towards money, Lin Haiyin helped many people during her tenure as editor and publisher.
Lin’s works span a range of genres, including fiction, essays, and children’s books. Her writing is simple, natural, and direct. Her stories evince female sensitivity, meticulousness, and discretion, chronicling the hardships of lower class life. She treats ordinary people with compassion and confronts thorny social problems.
Inheriting the thematics and stylistics of the May Fourth Movement, her novels describe the trials faced by women as they strive for independence and autonomy. Many of her characters go through a process of feminist awakening as they fight against the tragedy of predetermined gender roles. This new conception of feminism has had both a direct and indirect influence on subsequent generations of female writers in Taiwan.
Lin Haiyin’s novels include My Memories of Old Beijing (1960), Holly (1995) and Wedding Story (1970). Her essays collections include Literary Silhouettes (1985), Written in Wind (1993) and A Memoir of My Beijing (2000).
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=4611
|Work(English)：||Buried with the Dead|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen（《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》）|
|Translator：||Jane Parish Yang（白珍）|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.cite.com.tw/about.php?about=eye|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Youmuzu Culture Co., Ltd.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.taipen.org/the_chinese_pen/the_chinese_pen_03.htm|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|