Tales From The Martial Law Era

(China Times, Liberty Times, United Daily News)  On the twentieth anniversary of the end of martial law in Taiwan, there is an exhibition of almost 200 books that were banned previously.  It is one thing for the Little Red Book (=The Sayings of Chairman Mao) to be banned in Taiwan (note: it is sold openly today), but the list of books involves some wildly hilarious selections.  The problem is the same one with the Chengdu newspaper ad taken out for the mothers of the June 4th victims in China -- the censors or gatekeepers are uninformed because they were not taught about what to look for.  In retrospect, it also seemed obvious that demand for a book is stimulated when it is known to be banned, which is what is happening in mainland China today as well.

Here are some examples of the banned books:

- When writer Chen Ying-chen (陳映真) was arrested, the interrogator asked him: "Why do you have the books of Mark Twain (馬克吐溫)?" and "Isn't Mark Twain the brother of Marx (馬克思)?"
- A traveler brought back books by the famous sociologist Max Weber, who was well-known for his critical essays about Marxism.  But the censor confiscated all those books at the airport because the author's name was Max (
馬克思), which is translated as in the same sound as Marx.
- Chen Ying-chen's collection of short stories <A Race of Generals (
將軍族)> was banned upon publication, but there is still no consensus today about the exact reason.  Someone said that there was a description of the sunflower, which is the state flower of Communist China; others believed that there was a young man who waved a red flag in order to chase pigeons away.
- The French writer Zola (
左拉) was banned because the Chinese translation of his name begins with "Left ()" and all 'leftie" books are banned.  An alternate explanation was that Zola's <Nana> was banned because its translator was a Communist writer.

- The English writer Somerset Maugham (毛姆) was banned because his name looked like "Mao's mother" ().
- The Chinese translator Fu Lei (
傅雷) translated Romain Rolland's <Jean Christophe> from French in Chinese, but that was banned in Taiwan because Fu resided in "bandit-occupied territory" at the time.  Basically any writer who still lived in mainland China was automatically banned under his/her own name.  But many of their works were published under pseudonyms.  After all, some university courses in Taiwan on Chinese literature and philosophy would not have any text books otherwise.  For example, the Chinese author Ba Jin (巴金) translated anarchist Kropotkin's books such as <Bread and Freedom> and <My Autobiography>.  However, the Taiwan publisher changed the translator's name to Bach (巴克) and the books were published.

- Translations of English-language movie scripts such as <The Graduate> (because it involved an affair between a student and an older woman), <Midnight Cowboy> (because it involved male prostitutes) and <The Godfather> (because it involved organized crime figures> were banned.
- The great martial arts novelist Louis Cha wrote under the name Jin Rong (
金庸), but he had to use a bunch of aliases in order to get published in Taiwan.  His most famous novel is <The Condor Hero (射鵰英雄傳)>, but unfortunately Mao Zedong once wrote that Genghis Khan only knew "how to use his big bow to shoot condors."  That turned Louis Cha into a "communist intellectual."  In Taiwan, the publisher used the alternate book title <The Desert Hero (大漠英雄傳)> under a pseudonym for the author instead.  But everybody knew who the real author was because the style was inimical.
- Wang Dulu (
王度廬)'s martial arts novel <Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon> (which was later turned into a hit movie by Ang Lee) was banned because its author was a Communist writer and the book was detrimental to good social customs (for example, a noble girl consorted with a bandit).
- Sun Ling (
孫陵)'s novel <The Big Snow Storm 大風雪> was banned because while it was an anti-Communist story set in Harbin after the 9-18 incident, it employed Communist terminlogy in its depiction.  But then it would not have much realism otherwise.  The author protested and the ban was rescinded three years later.  This was one of the very few instances in which a decision was reversed.
- Kuo Liang-hui (
郭良蕙)'s sentimental novel <The Lock of the Heart 心鎖> was banned along with D.H. Lawrence's <Lady Chatterley's Lover> for teaching licentiousness.  Li Tzong-wu (李宗吾)'s <The Art of Being Thick and Black 厚黑學> was banned for teaching people to become evil-hearted and shameless.
- Zhang Henshui (
張恨水)'s novel <Illustrious Family 金粉世家> was banned on the grounds that the <Birds and Butterflies> school of writing was of no benefit to society.
- President Chen Shui-bian's <The Path of the Opposition
黨外之路> was banned on the grounds that is misled people and sowed discord between the government and the people.
- Li Ao (
李敖) leads the hit parade with 96 banned titles out of just over 100 authored books.  Among these are a series of critical commentaries usually published with females on the front page.

(China Times)  Apart from the banned publications, there were almost almost 1,000 banned songs.  There were basically three different stages.  The first song to be banned was the Chinese-language popular song <The Birds Coo While The Moon Sets 月落烏啼>.  That occurred on August 3, 1960.  Through May 31, 1961, a total of 257 Chinese-language popular songs such as <The Bitterness of the Hoodlum 光棍苦> and <Three Years 三年>.

The second stage began in June 1964 when the Taipei city government published a booklet of banned songs following the orders of the Military Police.  The list contained 126 "banned songs."  These included Chou Hsuan (周璇)'s <Shanghai at Night 夜上海> and <When will the gentleman be back? 何日君再來>, Lee Hsiang-lan (李香蘭)'s <I'm so sorry that we didn't meet before I got married 恨不相逢未嫁時>, Bai Yun's <The good night cannot stay 良夜不能留>, Bai Guang's <Gimme a kiss 給我一個吻> and so on.

The third stage became in 1974 when the Military Police turned over the relevant work to the Government Information Office's "Song publishing review working group."  Bans were issued against songs that contained "pessimistic lyrics that may impact public morale and resolution."  In December 1976, the Government Information Office published a "catalogue of banned songs" with 438 entries.

The reasons for the bans are many and some of them are quite bizarre in retrospect.  Here are some examples:

In that socially conservative era, certain songs were banned on the basis of the titles alone (as in being licentious and lewd).  Examples are <Can you please give me a kiss? 給我一個吻,可以不可以> and <Not coming home tonight.  Why won't you come home? 今天不回家,為什麼你不回家>.  The first song is explicit in its request while the second song is suggestive (that is, if you are not coming home tonight, then where are you staying and with whom?).

Ouyang Fefei's <Passionate desert 熱情的沙漠> was banned because even though the lyric <My passion is like a flaming torch, oh! 我的熱情,好像一把火,啊!> was not particularly striking relative to other songs, she sang the "Oh!" with such abandon that it could be construed as sexually provocative.

<Olive Tree 橄欖樹> had lyrics such as "Do not ask me where I come from; my hometown lies faraway; why am I a drifter ...? 不要問我從哪裡來,我的故鄉在遠方,為什麼流浪".  These words inspired young people to become drifters with no goals, aspirations or work ethic.

In <When will the gentleman be back? 何日君再來> which has been sung by any number of people from Chou Hsuan to Teresa Teng, the problem was that 何日君再來 sounds exactly the same as 何日再來 with "Gentleman" () being replaced by "Army" ().  Thus, this song could represent the longing for the "People's Liberation Army" to come!

President Chen Shui-bian recently sang <Mama, please take care of yourself too 媽媽請妳也保重> during a television interview.  This old Taiwanese song was banned because the military conscripts may get homesick and become deserters.

The song <Mending the Broken Net 補破網> was banned because the "Net" () sounds exactly the same as "Dream" () in Taiwanese dialect and the people in the opposition were using this to refer to their broken dreams.

<Cooked meat dumplings 燒肉粽> spoke about "I pity myself for my poor fate" and "I have no future at my job."  <Drinking song 收酒矸> spoke about "growing up in a broken family and having to work hard to live."  These songs were banned because the Chinese Communists might use them as propaganda to show the harsh misery of life in Taiwan.  <The black dog on the hill top 山頂一個黑狗兄> was banned because the soldiers and the people should not indulge in happiness like a dog during the abnormal period of imminent threats from the Chinese/Russian Communists.  Hmmm, the people of Taiwanese was in a strange situation in which they were not allowed to be either sad or happy ...

The song <The Sunshine Boulevard 一條日光大道> was banned because everybody knows that Mao Zedong was "The Red Sun" and this song must surely be a reference to the Communist road.  The song <The sky is dark 天黑黑> spoke about "The sky is dark and it is going to rain ... 天黑黑,要下雨 "  This was taken to be a critique of the government and therefore banned.  Hmmm, Taiwan had very strange weather -- there was no sunshine and there was no rain ...