Huang Juan: novelist who helps unite Hakka in Taiwan and overseas

Birth name
: Huang Rui-juan (黃瑞娟)

Born: January 18, 1934

Birthplace: Taoyuan City (Northern Taiwan)

Huang Rui-juan, usually known as Huang Juan, is an expat writer best famous for her novels about lives of the Hakkas in Taiwan and overseas. As a Hakka, she promotes Hakka affairs and the language through literary creations and helps unite Hakka people through different approaches. She has earned several awards, including the Wu Zhuo-liu Literary Award and Wu San-lien Literary Prize.

Inspired by the Hakka guru-writer Chung Chao-cheng (鍾肇政), Huang started her literary journey in Taiwan in 1961. Her early works are mostly novellas that tell stories about family, love, and marriage based on her life experience and people she encountered. That also becomes one of the important elements in her writing later on. Her writing skill was also recognized by the prominent Hakka novelist and poet Wu Zhuo-liu (吳濁流).

In 1968, Huang moved to the U.S. with her husband. Living in the U.S. opened her eyes to human rights, democracy, and multiculturalism, and the political situation of Taiwan really worried her.

Under the authoritarian rule from 1949 to 1987, the minority Hakka, who had settled in Taiwan during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were oppressed and banned from speaking the Hakka language in public. To help promote rights of the Hakkas, Huang followed the path of Hakka literary giants Chung and Li Chiao (李喬) to start engaging in the Hakka movement overseas and wrote novels for Hakka people.

Over the past decades, Huang has published seventeen books with Avanguard Publishing House. Among all, “Yangmei Trilogy (楊梅三部曲)” is her most celebrated work. Taking its name from her hometown of Yangmei, the trilogy is a roman-fleuve documenting the history of Taiwan spanning the Japanese colonial era, political transition, and the development of democracy in Taiwan.

Consisting of “Footprints from History (歷史的腳印),” “Winter Cicada (寒蟬),” and “Formosan Landed (落土番薯)," the trilogy illustrates Taiwan’s history from a Hakka’s perspective, detailing lives of Taiwanese people in Taiwan and abroad. Moreover, she incorporates the history of Hakka movement and Taiwanese people’s pursuit of democracy into the stories, offering comprehensive insights into social and political development in Taiwan.

In addition to writing, Huang has been actively engaging in Hakka-related activities in the U.S. to help promote Hakka affairs. She had delivered speeches on a wide range of topics, encompassing Hakka history, culture, language, and politics, to enlighten Hakka expats.

In addition, Huang prompted the establishment of the Taiwan Hakka Association For Public Affairs In North America, and served as the chairperson for two consecutive years. Aiming to pass down the Hakka language and culture and advocate Hakka rights, Huang spared no efforts in preserving Hakka culture and connecting the Hakka communities overseas with those in Taiwan.

Following in the footsteps of Chung and Li, who are the masters of roman-fleuve, Huang continued documenting the history in her novels. Her contribution to the literary scene and the Hakka society has made her a great role model for all Hakka people.