Erenlai - Daniel Pagan Murphy (李大年)
Daniel Pagan Murphy (李大年)

Daniel Pagan Murphy (李大年)

Graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA Chinese-International Relations in 2009. He has been living in Taiwan ever since and has been working at eRenlai since 2011.

Friday, 30 March 2012 16:46

The Travels of Taiwanese Manga

This month we have a very special treat for you. Currently Taiwanese manga is slowly taking its place in the world stage, and this year marks the first time Taiwanese artists have been represented in their own pavillion in this international exhibition in Angoulême. We have interviewed some of these artists, the most acclaimed in Taiwan, and we will be sharing these interviews with you along with excerpts from their books. We have divided the artists into five articles: Tradition versus Modernity, in which we focus on artists who deal with the complicated relationship between traditional Chinese cultural traditions and modernity, and how they combine these interlocked idenities; Manga and Beyond, where we talk to two artists who are pushing the limits of what is considered manga by combining it with other disciplines; Creative Inspiration, in which we interview various artists about what they do to stay fresh and always have new ideas; Memories of the Local, where we learn about what growing up in Taiwan was like for two of our artists, and how it influenced their style; and finally Returning from Abroad, in which we see Taiwan in different ways, sometimes as a fable, sometimes in a realist style, but always in an original way.


 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012 14:29

Returning from Abroad

The artists in this section have all been inspired in their work by travels or study abroad. Tpcat spent several years in England, where she started to re-evaluate the role of religion in society and gained an insight into the cultural divide between 'East' and 'West'. Iron tells of his return to Taiwan after a sustained period abroad, and how some of his manga is based on the Taiwanese ex-pat community in Shanghai. LI Lung-Chieh describes how a trip to cambodia gave him a new perspective on the different problems people face, those that are more basic 'animal' problems, like feeding oneself and surviving and the more 'human' problems, like creative freedom, self-expression and the pursuit of happiness, all of which inspired his manga RoachGirl.

“For me, comic books are the best tool for telling stories”

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Tpcat is very passionate about drawing and comic books. Her specialty is depicting all sorts of small furry animals. She studied graphic design in a Taiwanese university, before getting a Masters in illustration from Kingston University in England. In order to make a living, she spent the next two years showing her work in different comic book Expos around England; she also had a stand in the Brick Lane market where she sold her comic books. Tpcat’s style is completely different from that of other members of the new generation of Taiwanese authors. She doesn’t follow the Japanese ACG (animation-comic-game) style, but rather takes her inspiration from England, with a style rich in details. Whilst her illustrations are certainly very cutesy, the content is much deeper than most of the other comic books that are popular nowadays. Tpcat is a specialized author swimming against the tide.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

“The intrinsic purpose of comics is to tell stories. I believe it is our duty to draw comics and tell stories to each other. It is a simple reciprocated duty between individuals. If I still had faith in anything in this life, it would be in this.”

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Iron, whose real name is CHO Yi-pin, was born in Taizhong, in the centre of Taiwan. He graduated from the design institute of the National Science and Technology University of Taiwan. His talent was revealed in 1995, when he won the Gold prize in a comic contest organized by China Times newspaper. In 1998 he started to publish his comic book series Nezha in the magazine Dragon Youth. Nezha has also been compiled into a book. This comic, halfway between a mysterious world and a dark style of drawing, is a perfect example of Iron’s creative style. In the last two years, Iron has participated in the publication of the TX (Taiwan Comix) compilation, which showcases a new creative style, free and independent. Iron currently lives in Shanghai.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

“ I believe that one day, thanks to comic books, even bald people will be beautiful.”

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LI Lung-Chieh is a discrete, mysterious and melancholy illustrator. He graduated from the department of interior architecture of Shih Chien University. In 1998 he won the award for the best first creation from the Ching Win comic books contest, thanks to his story The white gun. In the next few years, he won in the Ching Win contest again in addition to the Dong Li contest which he won in its third, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth editions., after which he started publishing his short comics. His first individual work, Roachgirl (the cockroach woman), was edited after he won the first prize from the GIO in 2008. In 2010, he self-published Animal Impact, which was chosen for the Golden Comc Awards in the category of youth comics, and then participated in 2011 in the International Comic Book Competition of Algeria.

Readers in Mainland China can watch here

Thursday, 01 March 2012 12:48

Tsai Ing-wen: Delusions of grandeur?

Recently, during the run-up to the Taiwanese 2012 general election, I remember talking to a Taiwanese friend of mine, a staunch supporter of the DPP. When asking him what he thought of Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT candidate, he answered: “自我感覺良好”, which could be translated as having delusions of grandeur, high views of oneself, someone with impossible targets to meet, etc. A few days later I mentioned this same conversation to my KMT supporting friend, and she responded by laughing it off and saying that Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP candidate, was the deluded one.

Aside from what this says about modern politics, which is basically a never-ending exercise in bickering and name-calling, what my second friend said about Tsai Ing-wen got me thinking; was she really deluded? Was there ever a real chance of her becoming the first female president of Taiwan? The election results were relatively close, although the victory was still clear for the ruling KMT party. The question is, how big a role did Tsai Ing-wen’s gender play in the results? And finally, was Taiwan, a country in which a large part of women are still often fairly submissive and meek towards men, really ready for its first female president?

Taiwan’s democratic history is very recent, by any standards. Since the first election after the martial law which happened in 1996, the Taiwanese have consistently and passionately campaigned and engaged in political activity. In Taiwan, however, most elections are not won based on personalities or appearances, the votes are rather cast based on family ties to either party or on the basis of one’s attitude towards China, which is the main conflicting point of policy. This allows for, barring some scandalous event such as the DPP corruption case of 2006, significantly less fluctuation in the number of votes from election to election, which made this year’s race an uphill battle for Tsai Ing-wen. It also means it is hard to estimate how many votes she might have garnered on the basis of being a woman. This is not to say that getting to the point of being a presidential candidate and coming so close isn’t remarkable in and of itself. On the contrary, many countries with more established democracies in Europe have never had a female candidate, so it is an impressive achievement indeed and says many good things of Taiwanese society.

Tsai Ing-wen is a very intelligent and intellectual woman who brought real depth to her party and forced people to take it more seriously. Departing from the extreme populism of the past, she strived to ensure that people saw that the DPP can be structured and offer a feasible alternative to the KMT. Whereas in other countries her gender would have been a massive issue remarked on constantly, to Taiwan’s credit it wasn’t a huge point in general, and she herself never made it one of the defining characteristics of her campaign.

In a particular example of just how little focus has been given on the fact that Tsai Ing-wen is a woman, both parties condemned former DPP chairman Shih Ming-the’s comments earlier in 2011 when he claimed that Tsai Ing-wen should reveal her sexual orientation, implying that she might be gay solely based on the fact that she is single. The comments also received strong criticism from gay rights and women’s groups who were outraged by the intrusion into her private life. Certain KMT members, however, insinuated that the comments might have been a subtle tactic by the DPP to get some sympathy votes. These accusations were fervently denied by the DPP, and Tsai Ing-wen herself gracefully declined to comment. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to consider the possibility that the KMT might have used her gender, if not in a direct fashion, then maybe in an implied one, as a weapon to further their belief that they are the only party fit to govern the island.

This KMT belief was strengthened by the 2006 corruption case involving DPP ex-president Chen Shui-bian mentioned above, which sadly seemed to point out that this exceptional woman’s race was doomed from the start. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with her personal campaign, and everything to do with the recent history of her party. The messy trial and corruption problems of the recent past have dynamited the people’s trust in the DPP, and made it virtually impossible to win on this occasion. Others have pointed out to me the atrocities the KMT committed during its time in command; but to the voters, the most recent event is always the most vivid, and the DPP’s betrayal of the people’s trust is still fresh in people’s minds. At the end, this has to be the biggest contributing factor to the failure of Tsai Ing-wen’s failed campaign.

To extrapolate from Tsai Ing-wen’s particular case, the status of women in Taiwanese politics is looking positive. According to a United Nation’s survey, Taiwan is the fourth country in the world, and the first in Asia, when it comes to women’s rights. For such a small country and such a recent democracy, this is a monumental achievement. Moreover, over 20% of legislators in Taiwan are female, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising to see more female politicians, such as Tsai Ing-wen, little by little taking back a part of society that is usually heavily restricted to men. Hopefully she will help open the floodgates and start a new trend in which more and more Taiwanese women actively attempt to get involved in politics.

All things considered, I believe that Tsai Ing-wen’s gender was never the issue, but she was rather a crimeless victim of her party’s past. Sadly, if she had been the candidate in 2016, she might have stood a genuine chance, for she is a likeable, smart woman who seems to have a knack for politics. Finally, though, it appears my KMT friend was right, and it seems that her dreams of being president were just illusions, never to be realized.

Photograph by David Reid

 

 

Friday, 24 February 2012 13:39

Navigating your 20's in Taiwan


In 2010, Taiwan had the lowest fertility rate of any country ever. With such a low amount of births, what are the expectations of the youth towards marriage? How has this trend affected the choice between career and family? We aim to find out the answers to these questions with our focus this month, which tries to tackle the thoughts and issues of Formosan youth from many different angles.

The first subject we tackle is that of marriage. Here, we have a variety of different opinions. There is the Chinese teacher in her late twenties who wants to focus on her career until it is established before contemplating marriage. Her view on delaying marriage is also supported by a masters student who believes it is too expensive to get married and have children for the youth of today. Also related to the marriage situation are our articles regarding the declining birth rate in Taiwan. We learn some reasons for the low birth rate here, and we also discover that the problem may not be as dramatic as the media would have us believe.

Our other main topic is the job and university situation of young people and the challenges that they may find pursuing their dreams. Two students, one from a restrictive all-girls school background, and one a student come to the big city from the South, will share with us their different university experiences and how they have transformed their lives, in addition to expressing their hopes and aspirations for life after graduation. We will also hear from people working in different jobs, such as the content tarot reader, and a struggling actor. They will each share their opinions about family expectations and pressures from society and the difficulty meeting them when doing a rewarding, but not necessarily well-paid job.

 

Photo by Wesley He



Friday, 13 January 2012 12:23

University Life: Freedom or Responsibility?

University students Lisa Lo and Yu-Tang Hou (侯昱堂) tell us about their feelings and impressions on university life in the following two videos. They represent the youth of Taiwan, and have both had very different university experiences, but both agree that university is a place where one can simultaneously feel more mature but still enjoy the carefree hapiness of youth.

Lisa is a student of Graphic Communication at National Taiwan Normal University. She comes from Taipei and has found in university a sense of freedom and emancipation, in addition to an opportunity to meet lots of new people from all walks of lfe, which had previously been difficult due to her all-girls school upbringing.

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