Long Ying-zong: pioneer of nativist literature in Japanese colonial era




Chinese Name:
龍瑛宗
Born:
August 25, 1911
Died:
September 25, 1999
Birthplace: Hsinchu County (Northern Taiwan)

Long Ying-zong was one of the most important writers of Hakka descent in the Japanese colonial Taiwan. His works, which encompassed novels, poetry, literary critic, and play, reflected the frustrated life under Japanese rule from a colonized perspective. Long established his status in the literary world of Taiwan with “A Small Town Planted with Papaya Tree (植有木瓜樹的小鎮)” after earning a Japanese literary prize with the short story in 1937.

Long Ying-zong, whose birth name was Liu Rong-zong (劉榮宗), was born and raised in the Hakka township of Beipu. When Long was in the fifth grade, he started developing interest in literature after being introduced to literary works by Japanese writers Toson Shimazaki (島崎藤村) and Hakushu Kitahara (北原隆吉). Since then, Long had cultivated a habit of reading various kinds of literature.

Long first worked in a bank after finishing school, and only became a writer following the positive feedback of his publication of “A Small Town Planted with Papaya Tree” in 1937. Afterward, Long had engaged in writing, and published literary works in Japan and Taiwan.

Growing up under the Japanese rule, Long’s experiences of frustrations and difficulties in life had shaped the style of his writing. Written in Japanese, “A Small Town Planted with Papaya Tree” reflects the impact of colonial policy on Taiwanese people through illustrating a Taiwanese intellect’s desperation, struggles, and hopeless feeling in the colonized Taiwan.

In 1941, Long quitted his job in the bank to work as an editor for the Taiwan Daily News (臺灣日日新報). During his time in the newspaper agency, Long had released a total of 23 works that portray Taiwanese people’s conflicts with the Japanese, making him one of the most important writers along with novelists Zhang Wen-huan (張文環), Yang Kui (楊逵), and Lu He-ruo (呂赫若) in that era.

Long’s use of critical realism and colonized perspective had marked a significant milestone in the development of literature in Taiwan. Instead of focusing on social movement and resistance against colonial rule like other authors, Long was the first Taiwanese writer who brought humanitarianism into nativist literature.

Long once noted: “the reason why I keep writing is to record the history, so the next generation could understand the agony and frustration under the Japanese rule through written text. I feel I have the responsibility to record such experience.”