Imagining the ‘folk’ : post-martial law Taiwan and the invention of national heritage

Williams, Caleb Joshua
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The 1980s was a transitional decade for both sides of the Taiwan Strait. As China began its policy of re-opening, it found itself at a crossroads of identity and progress. Similarly, Taiwan was growing steadily out of its prolonged state of sleepy soft-Authoritarianism (軟威權主義 ruan weiquan zhuyi) that followed violent transitional tremors such as the 228 incident in 1947 and the Luku incident in 1952. The small island too began moving away from its former identity as an exiled army in conflict with the PRC and towards a new selfhood informed by democracy and independence. As both nations took their place on the global stage, it became necessary to root their national origins in something undiluted by recent trauma. Where historical and ideological narratives hinted too directly at the immediate and bloody past, a different solution–unsullied by the terrors of reality–was found. That solution was a revitalization of the Chinese folk, re-imagined and represented in museum exhibitions, folklore festivals, and multi-volume, hardcover folktale collections.