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Propagating Political Views to the Public –  From New People’s Society to The Taiwan Shinminpo

Yang Zhao-jia, one of the leading figures of the New Cultural Movement in Taiwan under Japanese rule, once said, “Newspaper and parliament are the two major driving forces for the promotion of civilization and social development.” Hence, the two core missions of the Taiwanese Cultural Association were running a newspaper and petitioning for the establishment of a Taiwanese parliament, which embodied their stand of unarmed resistance against colonial racism and had far-reaching impact on the enlightenment of Taiwan’s national consciousness.
2021 marked the centenary of the founding of the Taiwanese Cultural Association. In commemoration, the Archives organized a feature exhibition on The Taiwan Shinminpo, the only private Taiwanese-run newspaper during the Japanese colonial era. Selected collections of historical materials including personal documents, image data, diaries and passports were displayed and reviewed to illustrate that The Taiwan Shinminpo served to awaken and enlighten the people, boost national morale and propagate their political views to the public. Echoing the founding goal of the Taiwanese Cultural Association, The Taiwan Shinminpo opened a new page for Taiwanese to strive for democracy and freedom with a foothold in Taiwan and eyes looking at the world!

III. The Birth of the Tai-Yang Art Association: Let’s Make the Spring Up!

The youthful dynamism did not remain constrained for long after the Chidao (Red Island) Group came to an end. In order to continue to popularize a culture of art and to provide an alternative platform to the autumn-held Taiten - for what Liao Chi-Chun described as an effort to “adorn Taiwan’s spring” - Yang San-Lang and Lee Mei-Shu mediated the establishment in 1934 of the Tai-Yang Art Association with Chen Cheng-Po, Yang San-Lang, Liao Chi-Chun, Chen Ching-Fen, Li Shih-Chiao and Tateishi Tetsuomi as joint founders. In November that year, the group gathered in the Taipei Railway Hotel to listen to the recital by Tateishi Tetsuomi of the statement and articles of association that Lee Mei-Shu drafted, announcing the birth of what would become the longest-lived artist group in Taiwan dating from Japanese colonial rule.

 Figure 11: The Evolution of Taiwanese Art: A Speech by Lee Mei-Shu
Source: GAN_03_03_019, Yen Hsuei-Long Paintings and Papers
Included in the collection of Yen Hsuei-Long is a speech entitled “The Evolution of Taiwanese Art” which was delivered by his painter friend Lee Mei-Shu for the Lim Pen-Yuan Cultural and Educational Foundation where Lee was invited to speak in 1979. Quite a large part of the speech retraced the founding of the Tai-Yang Art Association during Japanese colonial rule. It covered the facts that it was Yang San-Lang and Lee Mei-Shu who first began the talks to launch such an association; that Chen Ching-Fen, Chen Cheng-Po and Yen Hsuei-Long were consulted and several preparatory meetings were held; and that Lee Mei-Shu drafted the statement and articles of association before the Tai-Yang Art Association was officially named and founded. With its members frequently separated and busy with their work, the association’s affairs had to be managed jointly by Yang San-Lang and Lee Mei-Shu in the early stages of the association.

For the most part being trained in Japan or France and with a prominent place in official or unofficial art exhibitions, contemporary painters who played a role in the formation of the Tai-Yang Art Association were already widely recognized as outstanding professionals in contemporary painting circles. Compared with the students and amateur painters that made up the Chidao (Red Island) Group, these were painters of some renown and were more dynamic. Yen Hsuei-Long once recollected that he came up with the name of Tai-Yang by combining the observation by the Impressionists of western paintings that objects undergo a change in color under sunlight, and the fact that the association was based in Taiwan.

 Figure 12: The Origins of “Tai-Yang”
Source: GAN_01_03_067, Yen Hsuei-Long Paintings and Papers
Yen Hsuei-Long, who had trained in Tokyo and Paris in his early years, was in 1934 hired as a selection committee member of the Western Painting Division of Taiten and took part in the establishment of the Tai-Yang Art Association in the same year. He later recalled that it was in fact his idea that the association was so named: “The Impressionists back then analyzed colors based on the seven colors in the sunlight. And because we worked in Taiwan, I recommended the name Tai-Yang.”

The Exhibition of Tai-Yang Art Association (to be referred to as the Tai-Yang Exhibition in the following) not only held its members’ works but also were open to works outside the association. The Tai-Yang Prize was awarded to the stand-outs of the exhibits in an effort to provide opportunities for nourishing young talents, expanding the scope of the exhibitions, setting trends for artistic movements and enriching public life.

 Figure 13: The 2nd Tai-Yang Exhibition Poster Design
Source: CCP_02_06002_D02, Chen Cheng-Po Paintings and Papers
Surviving colored designs reveal that Chen Cheng-Po had made at least two versions of posters for the 2nd Tai-Yang Exhibition (1936). One of these shows the image of four frogs waving at a sailing boat moving far and away while the other has its theme palm trees on the beach coupled with a sailing boat. The piece with frogs was also adopted by the cover of Ruisui, an alumni publication of Kaginorin Gakko (Chiayi Agriculture and Forestry Public School), though the river water was replaced with golden waves and mountains stretching across the background.

 Figure 14: Photo and Postcard Painting from the 4th Tai-Yang Exhibition
Source:  Chen Cheng-Po Paintings and Papers
T1076_05_0012, Chen Chih-Chi Paintings and Papers
In May 1938, the 4th Tai-Yang Exhibition held works of late sculptor Huang Tu-Shui and painter Chen Chih-Chi to commemorate two forerunners in the artistic circles who prematurely passed away. During the exhibition, a group photo was taken of Tai-Yang members and mutual friends Chen Cheng-Po, Lee Mei-Shu, Chen Chun-De, Yang San-Lang and his wife, Li Shih-Chiao, Lu Chi-Cheng and others along with Pan Jian-Jia, the widow of Chen Chih-Chi, and their children in the Building of Taiwan Education Association. One of the works on display was a half-portrait that Chen Chih-Chi in 1931 rendered for his grand-father Chen Bin-Lin and was made into a postcard to be held by the family.

Nevertheless, the Tai-Yang Art Association at its founding was mainly composed of the original members of the Chidao (Red Island) Group, with only the Western Painting Division. It was not until 1940 when the Japanese Painting Division was formally acquired with the influx of the original members of the Sendan Group such as Kuo Hsueh-Hu, Chen Chin, Lin Yu-Shan, Chen Jing-Hui and others. The Sculpture Division was added in the next year (1941) and three sculptors - Pu Tian-Sheng, Chen Hsia-Yu and Samejima Taiki - were invited to join the association. By that point, the Tai-Yang Art Association had been transformed into a comprehensive artist group with more rounded structures. It was with this solid foundation that its work to promote Taiwanese artist groups and cultural activities in the later stages of Japanese colonial rule was carried out.


 Figure 15: Taiwan Art: the Issue of the Tai-Yang Exhibition
Source: CCP_09_09043_BC3_24, Chen Cheng-Po Paintings and Papers
In 1940, Taiwan Art, published by the Taiwanese Art Society, in its June issue carried a special report on the Tai-Yang Exhibitions, a copy of which was found in the collection of Chen Cheng-Po. In that year, the Tai-Yang Art Association began its Japanese Painting Division. The issue’s cover was the design of Kuo Hsueh-Hu, which portrays a red fuso and a white lily with a snapped branch fastened together with a rope - perhaps symbolizing the harmonious relationship between the Western and Japanese Paintings as embodied by the Tai-Yang Art Association. Contained within the pages are the printed images of the exhibits by painters of Japanese style like Kuo Hsueh-Hu’s Spring Dawn, Murakami Hideo (Wura)’s Plum, Lu Tieh-Chou’s Spring’s Xiao-yun-xuan, Lin Yu-Shan’s Tropical Spring and others. Commentaries on the exhibition, the attendees’ experiences and the exhibition’s catalog were also included.

 Figure 16: Pu Tian-Sheng, Wife, 1941, Bronze, 24x11x10cm
Source: T1067_02_01_0001, Pu Tian-Sheng Sculptures and Papers
In 1941, the year following his marriage with Chen Tzu-Wei, Pu Tian-Sheng cast a bust in bronze in Japan modeled after his wife. Shortly after the bust was brought back to Taiwan by his father-in-law Chen Cheng-Po to be showcased in the 1st Sculpture Division of the Tai-Yang Exhibition. During Japanese colonial rule, Pu Tian-Sheng’s works were mostly done in plaster. But plaster is brittle and easy to weather. The difficulty with preservation makes the bust a precious rarity from Put Tian-Sheng’s early career that survives to this day.

 Figure 17: Liu Chi-Hsiang, Yellow Dress, 1938, Oil on canvas, 116.5x91cm
Source: T1060_02_03_0001, Liu Chi-Hsiang Paintings and Papers
In 1941, Liu Chi-Hsiang briefly returned to Taiwan from his sojourn in Tokyo and joined the Tai-Yang Art Association answering its calls for expanding operation. In the 7th Tai-Yang Exhibition that year, he presented five works: Studio, Butcher, Fish Shop, Yellow Dress and Fish. Yellow Dress, originally named Sitting Woman, has its subject Liu Chi-Hsiang’s newly wedded Japanese wife Yukiko in a loose, light yellow dress, demure and elegant in appearance with a slightly tilting head of a relaxed and languid temperament - a work perhaps inspired by the bliss in which the couple were held in expecting their first son! The location depicted appears to be a corner of a house where the walls and floors are rich in texture and sleek in color while the marginally slanted window and chair present an image that gives the impression of a floating space. Signed in lower right corner is “K. Ryu-38”. 

By 1944, in the course of the ten years of its development the Tai-Yang Art Association had witnessed both a constant stream of new members and members quitting out of artistic differences among other reasons. In that year, with members busy with their careers, Lee Mei-Shu as one of the mainstays of the association still managed, with the assistance of the wife of Yang San-Lang and painters Chen Cheng-Po, Chen Chun-De and others, to organize a Ten-Year Retrospective at the public hall to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the Tai-Yang Art Association and the tenth anniversary of the Tai-Yang Exhibition where they limited the exhibits to those of members and only members, friends and invited painters attended. After the retrospective, the military situation intensified and the members of the association were evacuated to the countryside in a tense atmosphere. The association was suspended by necessity and would not resume until 1948 - in a new era.

 Figure 18: Yang San-Lang, Step-by-step – On the Occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Tai-Yang Exhibition. Portion of The Hsing-nan News (No. 4723)
Source: LJK_09_11_0081822, Yang Zhao-Jia Collection
In celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Tai-Yang Art Association, Yang San-Lang, a founding member, Chen Chun-De and others had their commemorative articles published in newspapers. Between them, Yang San-Lang described how with conviction and passion the spring-held Tai-Yang Exhibitions were established for painters as a vitally important alternative platform to the Taiten despite the shortage of manpower and financial resources over the ten years of its existence. While the nature of the Tai-Yang Exhibitions remains to be defined to this day, with continued turnover of membership and the addition of the Japanese Paintings and Sculptures Departments, the exhibitions have kept alive the aspiration of furthering Taiwan’s cultural development.

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