Li Qiao: author who turned misery into energy for the advancement of life

Chinese Name: 李喬
Born: June 15, 1934
: Miaoli County (Northern Taiwan)

Li Qiao is a representative writer of Hakka literature. Since his first novel, “The Wine Drinker’s Self Description (酒徒的自述),” was published in 1959, he has continued to create and write for more than half a century. His writings are centered around the fate, history, and culture of the Hakka ethnic group and is of superior quality. Li also presided over Hakka television programs and introduced Taiwanese literary writers and works in the Hakka language. Regardless of his writing or his actions, Li devoted himself to thinking about the value of the local community and conserving and promoting Hakka culture. He won the Taiwan Literature Awards, Wu San-lien Literary Prize, and the National Award for Arts.

Li grew up under difficult circumstances. His father Li Mu-fang was often not at home because he participated in the anti-Japanese movement. The source of his family’s income depended on his mother’s farming cultivation. When he was young, he was bullied because of his father's status, and because of his family’s financial difficulties, he also faced the death of his younger brother and sister. His childhood experience affected his writing style.

While attending university, he came into contact with both Chinese and Western philosophy. Reading such writings enabled Li to have Buddhist ideas in his works. He was also good at using psychological streamlining skills in his writing, such as consciousness flow and inner monologue.

After graduating from Hsinchu Normal School, Li taught middle school and elementary school for more than 20 years. In 1962, he published the short story "Uncle Amei (阿妹伯)" and in 1963 he won the first prize of the "Liberal Talk" essay contest with the short story "Bitter Water Pit (苦水坑).” In 1980, he published his novel "Cold Night Trilogy (寒夜三部曲)," which spans three generations of a family living through Taiwan's history of Japanese rule and war. It consists of "Cold Night (寒夜)," "Arid Village (荒村)," and "The Solitary Light (孤燈)."

Li's works often describe the fragility of people and life. He described his works as “mostly focusing on depicting the public's life and weakly speaking for the uninformed people.” Therefore, the novel exhibits a firm and realistic writing style. The writing style of his novels is very diverse, with modernist colors such as seen in his works "Person Ball (人球)" and "Lonely Double Springs (寂寞雙簧)." They depict the struggles and determination of Taiwanese people in times of suffering, such as seen in "The Story of Fan Zi-lin (蕃仔林的故事)" and "The Mountain Girl (山女)." His writings also were critical of the business community for causing people's distorted and alienated minds, such as seen in "The World of Skulls (恍惚的世界)," "Old Ho and the Mouse (老何和老鼠)." He also wrote political novels that described the ugly face of political figures, such as “The Informer (告密者).”

In the later period, he was keen on long-form writing and showed a strong sense of realism. Li believed that the most important book of his life was the “Cold Night Trilogy,” which describes Taiwan’s early development and historical events. They used the Japanese occupation as the backdrop, highlighting the suffering of the people and the dignity of humanity. The epic spirit, the radiance of a mother’s love, and the attachment of people to the land are also themes he expressed in the trilogy.

In terms of his sense of ethnicity recognition, Li first acquired a Chinese consciousness, followed by Taiwanese consciousness, and finally returned to Hakka consciousness and Hakka identity. While pursuing the revival of language, cultural rejuvenation or the ownership of rights, Li believes that it is equally important to examine and address the internal issues of Hakka culture and the existing problems in the Hakka language itself.