SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Bodies in Tayupian (Taiwanese-Language Cinema)

Dr. Chi Ta-Wei

Date: 10 July 2020Time: 1:30 PM

Finishes: 10 July 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Summer School

As part of the 2020 SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies Summer School, we kindly ask that you register to attend.

This event will be held online through Blackboard Collaborate.

*Please be aware that all Summer School event times follow British Summer Time (BST)

Chi Ta-Wei Summer School Image
Picture from the Film, "Brother Liu and Brother Wang Tour Taiwan" (1958)
Image Credit: Taiwan Film Institute
Image Source: (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 TW)


The SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies, collaborating with other British universities, hosted informative and inspiring events on Taiyupian (Taiwanese-Language Cinema) in 2017 and 2020. As a grateful response to these events, this lecture will revisit Taiyupian by exploring its entertaining but little-discussed variety of bodies. A legendary example of the films capitalizing on unusual corporeality is the blockbuster Brother Wang and Brother Liu Tour Taiwan (dir. Lo Hsing, 1959), a comedy featuring a Laurel and Hardy-style, fat-and-thin duo. The film’s major attraction as a screwball comedy is the performance of what I call the ‘comic bodies’ of the hyperbolically big Brother Wang and small Brother Liu. However, in Taiyupian, clownish characters with comic bodies are commonly found not only in comedies but also in tragedies. In melodrama, arguably the most popular genre of Taiyupian, the comic bodies of supporting characters provide indispensable comic relief in the tear-jerking tragedies happening to what I call the ‘tragic bodies’ of the leading characters. For example, the classic melodrama Encounter at the Station (dir. Hsin Chi, 1965) contrasts two types of domestic violence: the leading actress is violently battered by her fiancé, while a supporting actor is hilariously beaten up by his wife. The bruised female body in the former scene is tragic, whereas the supposedly abused male body in the latter offers comic relief. Scholars commonly refer to ‘tragic Taiyupian’, usually attributing the tragic nature to the suffering gender (the suffering female characters). I contend, however, that the tragic can also be attributed to the tragic bodies, which are wounded, mistreated, or disabled. In addition to considering gender topics, an approach firmly established in Taiyupian studies, we can also analyse bodies, which remain underdiscussed.


Chi Ta-Wei 2020 Profile

Ta-wei Chi holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA and is Associate Professor of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University. There he teaches gender studies, LGBT literature, disability studies and Sinophone literature. His Chinese-language monograph on the history of Taiwanese LGBT literature, A Queer Invention in Taiwan: A History of Tongzhi Literature (2017), discusses the rich legacy of non-heteronormative texts from the 1950s to the twenty-first century. The monograph argues that, thanks to the intervention of American Cold-War culture, local LGBT literature actually flourished prior to, rather than after, the lifting of the Martial Law in 1987. A frequent visitor at SOAS, Chi has previously given three lectures on sexual dissidence in Taiwanese literature and cinema at the SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies before the 2020 Summer School. Chi is also an award-winning science fiction writer, whose queer novella Membrane, in which a lesbian cyborg materialises in a post-pandemic future, is already available in French and in Japanese. An English translation of Membrane is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. He is currently writing a monograph on the politics of representations of disabilities in Sinophone cultures.

The SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies would like to express our thanks for the liaison of Professor Chiu Kuei-fen (National Chung Hsing University) and collaboration with the International Consortium of Global Taiwan Studies for this event.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies & The International Consortium of Global Taiwan Studies

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