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Sunflowers and Stars

The Ideological Role of Chinese Children’s Rhymes and Poems in the Twentieth Century

Valerie Pellatt

This book traces a hundred years of the development of Chinese nursery rhymes, children’s rhymes and children’s poems from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century. It draws on anthologies of traditional and modern rhymes and poems published in The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, exploring the form, function and content of these texts in the light of rapid political change in China.
The role of traditional rhymes is examined within the context of a male-dominated family hierarchy of Confucian thinking that profoundly shaped children’s development. The language and literature reforms of the 1920s brought a poetry revolution in China, as authors began to write for children in the vernacular language and offer a purposeful argument against Confucianism, in favour of science and democracy. Literary approaches evolved, first into the socialist-realist approach of the 1940s and 1950s, then into the «three prominences» of the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, children’s rhymes promoted the messages of modern science, but maintained a traditional Confucian outlook. In the 1980s, children’s poetry in the People’s Republic of China began to follow a new direction, in keeping with the new era of cultural and economic liberalization.
This book uses the evolution of the children’s poetry genre to provide a fascinating insight into Chinese political, moral and social life in the twentieth century.
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Chapter Six: The development of children’s poetry in Taiwan

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CHAPTER SIX

The development of children’s poetry in Taiwan

Children’s literature in Taiwan

Hong (1994: 1–2) reminds his readers of the rather special situation of Taiwan vis-a-vis mainland China. Culturally, it is not simply a breakaway area of China, but distinct from other Chinese-speaking areas in its origins and influences. It is a place where east and west meet, having been invaded and colonized by the Qing regime and the Japanese, occupied by USA forces and preserving a strong aboriginal culture. Hong recognizes the importance of market forces in literature. While children’s literature is an area which involves politics and education, Taiwan has a free economy, and production of literature, like any other product, responds to demand. The purchasers of children’s literature are very often not the end users (Hong 1994: 2). Children’s literature is not a necessity and is therefore a marginal consumer product. When adults have spare money, they will buy children’s literature, but in a society which does not have a developed economy, or in times of unrest, the children’s book market will not flourish and there is no opportunity for the creation of new literature (ibid: 2). Taiwan’s economy began to grow in the 1970s when American aid was withdrawn. This was a traumatic, but pivotal period for Taiwan: formal links with both Japan and the USA ceased, and Taiwan, as The Republic of China, was excluded from the United Nations in favour of the People’s Republic of China....

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