Taiwanese writer Chung Chao-Cheng, who sadly passed away in May, was born and raised during the expansive period of Japanese Colonialism. Although his first language was Japanese, his mother tongue was that of Hakka, spoken natively by the Hakka people throughout southern China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and in overseas Chinese communities around the world.
Following the takeover of Taiwan by Chiang Kei-Shek’s Nationalist Party (KMT) in 1949, Chung began to learn Mandarin, which was to become the official language of Taiwan. As a result, the native dialects of the Hakka people and those of Taiwan suffered repression, forbidden to be taught in schools or spoken on public occasions in favour of Mandarin. Having been supressed during Taiwan’s period of Martial Law, local Taiwanese writers were subjected to severe censorship, with literary works widely utilised for propaganda purposes.
Despite the restrictive environment that Chung found himself in, he nevertheless continued to produce illustrative stories of the everyday Taiwanese person, as well as assisting other Taiwanese writers in having their works published.
Throughout his decorated life, Chung managed to publish countless novels, novellas, short stories, and memories. In addition, he translated dozens of Japanese literary works in to Mandarin. His persistent efforts to express his thoughts and ideas, together with those of his Taiwanese peers, have truly left an indelible mark on Taiwanese literature.
In memory of Chung Chao-Cheng, Irish writer Maurice Manning, author of “The Kilderry Files”, recorded a reading of Chung’s “Field Hospital”, a short story which tells of young soldiers at the end of the Second World War.
As Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Maurice Manning has also formerly served as a member of the Irish parliament. Maurice Manning currently serves as the President of the Irish Human Rights Commission, and was the former Chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions. His latest work, “The Kilderry Files”(2017), is a novel centred around Ireland’s Emergency period (1939-1976), a time when the politics of the Catholic Church was rampant throughout the island.