Yang Shengbo, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Though fruit and flowers must fall, scattered by the wind, Sunlon City will be reborn! Five Jade Disks, p. 110 1
Love and war form the main axes of Chang Shi-Kuo’s (Chang Shi-Kuo) City Trilogy (1983). After the Bronze Statue Cult initiates an interstellar war in Five Jade Disks (1983), the Shan – an alien race – invade and capture Sunlon City, vaporizing the giant bronze statue that towered over the metropolis and ruling with an iron fist; thus former enemies – the People’s Party, the Imperial Party, and the Bronze Statue Cult – unite to take back the city. In the second volume, Defenders of the Dragon City (1983), the citizens of the planet Huhui retake the capital city, and the Shan invaders form an alliance with the Serpent People to recapture it. Tale of a Feather (1991) depicts how Sunlon City and Huhui civilization march toward inevitable destruction. The story’s basic framework is an extension of Chang’s short stories “The Statue” (1980) and “Love in a Fallen City” (1977). “The Statue” serves as the trilogy’s prologue, describing Sunlon City’s political history and city residents’ complex relationship with the bronze statue; in “Love in a Fallen City” the Huhui invent a space-time corridor linking the past, present, and future, giving rise to the concept of “complete history,” mapping out the entirety of the Huhui’s tragic history, from the destruction of the bronze stature to fall of Huhui civilization.
Chang Shi-Kuo spent ten years completing the City trilogy, the work revealing his conception of what Chinese science fiction should be. The writer believes Chinese sci-fi should focus on “opening up the elements of fantasy in the Chinese consciousness” and “developing a Chinese-style science-fiction language.” For example, his short story “May My Son Become a Dragon” (1978) satirizes the traditional view that favored sons over daughters; the interpretation of classical Chinese literature’s sci-fi elements in “Shangri-La” (1981) and “Scholar Yangxian” (1983), and even the neologisms and Huhui civilization’s “du-wu” philosophy in the City trilogy are all concrete manifestations of Chang’s principles. Nevertheless, City trilogy’s elements of historical romance far outweigh its science-fiction content, the novels emphasizing the former genre’s moral implications, traditional boy-meets-girl romance, and stereotypic imagery, while lacking somewhat science fiction’s critical nature. All in all, the trilogy is structurally complete and filled with ingenuity and fun – for example, the rebus that’s related to the message exchange theory in Five Jade Disks, and the descriptions of each ethnicity’s civilization. In spite of above-mentioned problems, which might make for challenging reading, the works as a whole are highly enjoyable.
From 1975 onward, Chang Shi-Kuo has not only written sci-fi but also published translations of science fiction in local newspaper supplements, allowing Taiwanese authors to take note of the genre’s artistic, social, and localizing possibilities. Moreover, by harmoniously combining Chinese and Western elements, Chang has constructed a basic model for Taiwanese sci-fi, his most important contribution to the genre’s development in Taiwan. Later writers gradually took a different, nativist route, concerning themselves with Taiwanese history and social issues; thus, if we are to understand the difference between Chang and writers who came after him, “The City Trilogy” is a must read.
1Translated by John Balcom
Chang Shi-Kuo (1944- ) has written under a number of pennames. Born in China’s Sichuan province, he came to Taiwan with his parents in 1949. Chang graduated from National Taiwan University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of California-Berkeley. While studying abroad he actively participated in the Baodiao 1 movement, later teaching at Cornell University, the University of Illinois’ Institute of Technology, the University of Pittsburgh, Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University; he also served as a research fellow with the IBM Watson Research Team, a research fellow at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Mathematics, and is the founder of Knowledge Systems Institute (KSI).
A prolific fiction writer, Chang has played an important role at every turning point in Taiwanese literature. Representative works include Earth (1970), Chess King (1975), Yesterday’s Anger (1978), Nebula Suite (1980), Traveling Spirit Suite (1989), Legend of a Chauvinist Pig (1989), and the “City” Trilogy: Five Jade Disks (1983), Defenders of the City (1986), and Tale of a Feather (1991). Writing as “A Man from Outside the City” he has also published a volume of literary criticism, Forest of Fun(1976).
Chang’s early works show the obvious influence of the existentialist philosophy prevalent in Taiwanese literary circles in the 1960s. After traveling to the U.S. to study in 1966 his works exhibited a strong attachment to realism. Earth is representative of the “exchange-student literature” in vogue at the time, bringing a strongly critical flavor to the writing of the period. This critical spirit is also reflected in Yesterday’s Anger, a novel based on the Baodiao movement.
In the mid-1970s Chang turned to science fiction, writing sci-fi short stories and a column newspaper column introducing classic detective fiction from abroad. After founding the Knowledge Systems Institute (KSI) in the U.S. in 1981 he devoted himself to publishing, setting up the KSI Publishing Company (1982) and releasing a series of science fiction novels. In 1984 he established a science-fiction literary prize in conjunction with China Times, and in January 1990 founded Taiwan’s first science-fiction magazine, Illusion (1990-1998). He is a recipient of Booklover magazine’s Cangjie award.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=2297
|Work(English)：||The City Trilogy: Five Jade Disks, Defenders of the Dragon City, Tale of a Feather|
|Anthology：||The City Trilogy: Five Jade Disks, Defenders of the Dragon City, Tale of a Feather|
|Author：||Zhang Xiguo (Chang Hsi-Kuo)|
|Publisher：||New York: Columbia University Press|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010076883|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
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|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.amazon.com/City-Trilogy-Defenders-Feather-Literature-ebook/dp/B0092WRBZO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425288324&sr=1-1&keywords=Five+jade+disks%2C+defenders+of+the+Dragon+City%2C+Tale+of|
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