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Eerie Island - An NMTL Special Exhibition on Paranormal Literature in Taiwan

  • DATE:2018-03-28~2019-03-03
  • VENUE:1st Floor, Exhibition Room D

Have you ever wondered about origin behind your favorite (or most frightening) ghost and ghoul stories? How have they endured and been passed down for so many years? Taiwan’s history is replete with tales of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins inhabiting this land from its dense high-mountain forests down to the stone-cold depths of its surrounding seas. Ghosts are frequently presumed to be spirits of the dead that continue wandering amidst the living. Ghouls are a much more encompassing category that includes a kaleidoscopic array of grisly-looking creatures, anthropomorphic entities, and similarly inexplicable beings. Taiwan’s indigenous Austronesian peoples have a particularly rich heritage of stories in this genre that is grounded in the myriad of perspectives that different Austronesian groups have on both physical and preternatural existence. The line of demarcation distinguishing ghosts from ghouls is a purely arbitrary construct that changes with time and across cultures. The appearance of such otherworldly apparitions tends to relate closely to human fears, anxiety, and uncertainty. In facing the abnormal, our attempts to rationalize open the door to potential supernatural, even occult, explanations. Passed down stories of the unknown naturally shape how a group perceives and interacts with the world and are woven firmly into group history and heritage. Throughout history, tales of the paranormal have provided regular inspiration to both commoner storytellers and literati authors. Folk tales have traditionally used ghosts and ghouls as vehicles for teaching moral lessons. Conversely, literary authors have adopted and used these elements in a diverse variety of ways and, as a result, expanded the horizons of literary imagination. However, in more modern times, many time-honored stories of otherworldly spirits and sprites have fallen by the wayside and been forgotten to time. Our once vast storehouse of traditional ghost and ghoul stories is dwindling, dying out with their storytellers and in the moldering pages of unread books. In losing these tales, we are losing the rich soil that nourishes and renews our local and native cultural landscapes. The focus of this exhibition is on traditional Taiwanese stories of the paranormal. The first section explores the meanings underpinning paranormal stories, which unfold across local maritime, natural, and social landscapes. The second section examines how literature in the modern era has drawn inspiration from these often obscure and fading legends and tales, breathed into them new life, and won new generations of fans. The organizers hope that the interactive nature of this exhibition helps visitors better understand and appreciate the unique character of the Taiwan ‘ghost and ghoul’ genre and its connection to everyday life and experience and provides a new lens on Taiwanese local culture.