Skip to main content

Exploring Banned Books Through Puzzle Games

  • PublishTime:2023-07-31

by Jian Hong-Yi, Gregory Laslo

To the people of modern Taiwan, restrictions on freedom of speech and banned books may seem like something out of the distant past. But if we fail to understand what happened during the authoritarian period, those tragic events may occur again. In June this year, NMTL launched a new exhibition titled “Writers Blocked: Special Exhibition of Once-banned Taiwan Literature.” A puzzle game is also a part of this exhibition, which can give visitors a sense of the stifling ideological atmosphere of the authoritarian era.

To understand banned books is to understand the history of the Taiwanese people’s struggle for freedom. Between the Taiwan Government-General during the Japanese colonial era and Taiwan Garrison Command during the martial law period, heavy restrictions on the publication of books, magazines, and newspapers decimated Taiwan’s literary world and larger society, causing immense harm to countless souls. Looking back on it, this history seems full of absurdities and mistakes.

In this exhibition, viewers can see those which fell victim to the censor – be they authors, books, or even songs. The reasoning and methods of the bans are explained alongside their many targets in the exhibition hall, all presented in detail, classified by format and content. This exhibition is probably the largest banned book exhibition yet seen in Taiwan.

The banning of books is a rather serious historical topic. This, combined with its historical distance, may make it difficult for younger readers to understand. NMTL therefore designed a puzzle game, which is interspersed throughout the exhibition hall. Besides simply viewing the exhibits, visitors can use a pen and paper (or their phones) to solve puzzles about each topic. Each puzzle has clues for players to follow within the works and objects on display. By following the clues, players can gradually piece the broken and forgotten fragments of literary history back together.


The exhibition has seen many visitors since its opening on June 21st, and the puzzle game has proven as much a draw as the drive to learn about the history of banned books in Taiwan. Judging from the lively atmosphere of the exhibition hall, adding a game to the mix has succeeded at lightening this dark chapter of history. This hot summer is the perfect time to come and join us for an intellectual and entertaining literary experience at NMTL!

♦ Examples of Banned Books

Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, translated by Cao Yu.

Reason for ban: Translator’s association with the Communist Party.

The Chinese translator, Cao Yu, did not accompany the Kuomintang to Taiwan; he was hence labeled a “communist-affiliated  author”, and his translations were banned, despite his source material being world-famous.

Taiwan Church News, banned 1969

Reason for ban: In violation of the National Language Policy.

Because the Church News was written in Hokkien, using Roman characters, it ran afoul of the postwar National Language Policy, and was ordered to cease publication.


Heart Lock, banned 1962

Reason for ban: In violation of “public morality.”

As Kuo Liang-hui’s Heart Lock involves issues such as incest and extramarital affairs, it was considered to be obscene literature, and hence banned. The author was also expelled from the Chinese Art and Literature Association.