should even local, regional, or national memories be secured, structured,
and represented? Of course, this is a fundamentally political question
about the nature of the public sphere, about democracy and its future,
about the changing shape of nationhood, citizenship, and identity.
* Introduction: East Asia, Tradition and Globalization
As economic globalization looms ever larger in East Asia, we must raise the question of how the local cultures in this region are responding to this epochal change. The economy of East Asia is post-Fordist since the technological advances in communications and the intensification of capital flow allow such areas as China and Hong Kong to be "increasingly differentiated and segmented" as markets and industrial production areas (Tomaney 159). In this context, the "alternative modernity" theory is one dominant discourse that seeks to address such a pressing issue, maintaining that there should be various approaches to modernity to accommodate differences embedded in the multitude of locales and local cultures. For example, China asserts her particular approach to development and modernization, in a way that could be summarized in Deng Xiao Ping's famous slogan, "Marxism in the Chinese Way." As seen in this phrase coined by Deng, central to the discourse of alternative modernity is the notion of reworking tradition. Michael Watts explains the plasticity of tradition: "the realm of 'tradition' or 'custom' provides much of the symbolic raw material around which local communities, interest groups, and classes rework and refashion the modernizations of capitalist transformation"(15). Aihwa Ong, arguing that the reworking of tradition is the dominant logics of transnationality in East Asia, identifies the pertinence of this concept to the discourse of alternative modernity in her book Flexible Citizenship. Tradition is a pool of resources and thereby East Asian countries and their people have means at disposal for their own economic, social and urban development not necessarily repeating the footsteps of the West. Moreover, the flexible re-use of tradition also helps East Asian countries, which already have a long and complicated history of mutual interaction, to envision regional communications and alliances across national boundaries. In this sense, the discourse of alternative modernity seems to offer an antidote to any pressure resulting from the onset of the capital accumulation space. The inventive use of tradition, something old and familiar, is thought to deal with the shock of change brought about by the flexible accumulation in the era of globalization.
I will argue, however, that the discourse of alternative modernity, with its core concept of reworking tradition, is insufficient to map out the relationships between traditions and globalization in contemporary East Asian countries. In spite of the possibility of a "flexible" integration of tradition and globalization, there are still "bumps on the road to this end," so to speak. I will seek to qualify the optimism embedded in such a development discourse as "alternative modernity" by examining how tradition has become abstracted and reduced into nothing more than a myriad of images in globalization. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre's theoretical concept of differential space and David Harvey's time-space compression, I will study with close analysis how a contemporary Chinese woman writer, Tzu Tianxing, gives out the half-revealed jarring relationship between Chinese nationalism and contemporary globalization in her writing of a melancholy urban history embodied in the historical novella, "The Old Capital (1995)."1. Showing the major patterns of how traditions are reshaped by forces of globalization in Taipei, this literary work leads us to see sites of contraction between tradition and economic globalization in East Asia, a critical vista repressed in the optimistic discourse of alternative modernity, which advocates the collaboration of the local and the global.
* Kyoto, Taipei and Nostalgia: Tzu's "Old Capital"
The novella "The Old Capital" narrates a nolstalgic journey in the second-person point of view2. The main character, without a name (henceforth referred to as You), a middle-aged woman, is compared to a spectral being, overloaded with memories that cannot be corroborated anymore by the fast-changing urban landscape of contemporary Taipei. What is more ironic, the urban changes, that which alienates her away from her own city, take place in the name of the return to the local during the process of globalization. To avoid a direct confrontation between her memories and the new cityscape, the main character assumes the identity of a tourist, first to Kyoto and then to Taipei, to indulge herself in the nostalgia of the lost time. In this sense, she is what Wolf Lepenies would describe as a melancholiac, who "has reached a stage where everything [one] regarded as self-evident has been forfeited; this in turn directly causes him to question legitimation and thus to establish new self-evident truths" (164).
Tzu's story consists of two major trips taken by the female "you" character. Receiving a fax from her best friend, asking to meet her in a hotel in Kyoto, You flies to Japan from Taipei as soon as possible without waiting for any further confirmation from the friend, referred to as "A." Later she realizes that her friend, whom she has not seen since they graduated from college, would never come to Kyoto. Her trip in the ancient city then turns into an introspection of her bygone past. Walking alone on the streets of Kyoto, she remembers the old looks of her hometown Taipei during the time when both she and her friend shared adolescent romantic longings. Without seeing her friend as planned, You shortens the trip and flies back to Taipei.
Interestingly, she returns to Taipei to start another trip in her home city by sheer chance. When she steps out of the airport in Taipei, a local tourist guide mistakes her for a Japanese. She goes along with this mistake and joins Japanese tourists in a packaged tour that commemorates colonial Taipei for nostalgic Japanese. With a tour map of the old Taipei city in her hand, she discovers another past of Taipei: during the time of occupation (1895-1945), Japanese imperialists built Taipei as a duplication of Kyoto to construct another imperial city where the emperor could reside outside of Japan. The juxtaposition of contemporary Taipei and its colonial history hrows into sharp relief for her an intolerable fact that the old city of Taipei as she knows since childhood cannot be reclaimed. The urbanization accelerated by globalization has transformed Taipei beyond recognition. It is no surprise that the novella ends at the point where the main character finds herself lost at home, crying desperately to herself, "Where am I?"
Often labeled as a spokesperson for what can be called pro-China cultural nationalism, Tzu Tianxing received much critical attention in the recent literary debates during 1990s when Taiwan starts to challenge vehemently the dominant hegemony of pro-China ideology and begins to develop a Taiwan-centered cultural nationalism3. The critical reception of her "Old Capital" is produced amidst this political turmoil. A reading of her work often means an interpretation of what the ideology of Great China means culturally in contemporary Taiwan. As a cultural politics closely associated with the ideological controls by Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan after 1949, Great China echoes the concept of Great Germany, and speaks of the supreme national pride in being a Chinese. Such interpretations of her works often focus on the cultural significance of Tzu's political stance. A sympathetic reading of Tzu's works is to urge the readers to suspend their political judgment against Tzu's supposedly conservative ideology (referring to her not being politically correct in the trend of localization (pen tu hua). David Der-wei Wang, for example, argues that it would be premature to reach the conclusion that Tzu is a cultural conservative since it is not yet clear in which political direction Taiwan is heading, let alone determining which political assumption is conservative or progressive (14). Another reading is to take Tzu's cultural concerns as vocal manifestations of minority cultures. For one, Chaoyang Liao takes Tzu as a supporter of multiculturalism, who values cultural heterogeneity as witnessed in Taiwan: "the dystopian vision [of the ending] . . . points not only to th fear of historical fossilization but to the fear of the total assimilation of difference in national and ethnic rigidity." Despite their different views of Tzu's identity politics, these critics all seem to discuss her work from within the context of post-Chiang Taiwan. Here I will employ a comparative and global framework to produce a revisionist reading of Tzu's literary politics, examining Tzu's "Old Capital" as a case study of writing history at a time when the sense of history seems to be eliminated by the forces of globalization.
* Globalization, Autochthony, and Erasure of History in urban Taiwan
To better understand the relationship between nationalistic discourses in Taiwan and contemporary globalization, it is imperative to turn to the geopolitics of East Asia in the last quarter of the twentieth century and concentrate on the upsurge of Taiwanese consciousness in the middle of the transition from the Cold-War period to a globalized era. Let us rehearse here a commonly known section of history. During the Cold War, the cultural and political identity of the Taiwanese are moored on the concept of Great China4. As Mainland China developed closer relationships with United States both politically and economically, the halo around Chiang's political claim of Taiwan as the only orthodox representative of Great China started to rapidly fade. Such geopolitical change in East Asian consequently brought about a tremendous ideological crisis in Taiwan. In the 1980s the nationalistic ideology of Great China, constructed officially by the KMT, started to be severely challenged5. Without a readily available scaffolding of credible legitimation, the Taiwanese began to dub themselves as the Orphan of Asia, a nation without international recognition of its sovereignty. At this moment, Taiwan is typical of minor states in globalization, witnessing fast economic development while the state and local culture are rapidly losing their established authority6. The Taiwanese consciousness thereby emerged in this set of circumstances7. As Joseph Bosco argues, the recognition of the uniqueness of Taiwan "began in the mid-1980s when surreptitious exchange with the PRC began" (quoted in Chang 25). The Taiwanese consciousness arises also because of a strong desire to on the par with other developed countries of the world. A-chin Hsiau comments. "a significant aspect of Taiwanese cultural nationalism emergent in the early 1980s under KMT rule was the disappointment in the slow progress of the native culture toward 'full' modernization" (21). Thus, the assertion of Taiwan as the local thereby surfaces to defend the Taiwanese from being trapped by an ideological and cultural void created by the arrival of global integration8 and seeks to claim its own participation in the global scene.
While Western countries often defend its cultural identity by a tight legal regulation of immigration against the inrush of aliens, minor states are likely to secure itself against an unstable cultural position by the claim of being rooted to the land. Weller describes where Taiwan stands now: "The island floats in limbo, not quite a nation and not quite a state, with no change in sight, but vibrant all the same with its economic success, its politics, and its people's arguments about who they really are" (477). The contemporary response to global changes with the Taiwanese consciousness cannot be adequately explained by the classical account of cultural nationalism, and a new theoretical vocabulary is in demand to comprehend the discourse of localization in Taiwan9. Geschiere and Nyamnjoh, in their comparative studies of contemporary African states, provide a provocative theoretical model, proper for me to appropriate to describe the Taiwanese localization as a response to globalization. They bring our attention to a curious phenomenon in Africa, the intensifying and shifting distinction between the local people and the strangers.
Thus political liberalization leads, somewhat paradoxically, to an intensification of the politics of belonging: fierce debates on who belongs where, violent exclusion of "strangers" (even if this refers to people with the same nationality who have lived for generations in the area), and a general affirmation of roots and origins as the basic criteria of citizenship and belonging (Geschiere and Nyamnjoh 423).
The two anthropologists call this contemporary redefinition of citizenship and belonging "autochthony": with the etymological and mythological meanings of birth from the earth, this term refers to a latter-day claim of legitimacy based on whether one has access to land. To be more specific, the issue of the place of burial, Geschiere and Nyamnjoh note, is of supreme significance in differentiating so-called local people from outsiders; it is often asserted that home should be where one's ancestors are buried. Geschiere and Nyamnjoh allege that the local, central to the concept of autochthony, can only be "a trope without a substance of its own. It can be used for defining the Self against the Other on all sorts of levels and in all sorts of ways" (448). Witnessing the "forceful forms of exclusion" rampant in Africa and Europe in the millennial capitalism, they construe autochthony, the incessant and violent distinction between Self and the Other on the basis of the access to land, as a resistance to the unprecedented mobility in the era of globalization (449)10. We can borrow their theoretical formulation of autochthony to allow us to distinguish the localization prompted by globalization in Taiwan from the 19th-century nationalism resulted from the uprising of the bourgeois class in the Western Europe. As we might remember from the classical articulation of cultural nationalism by Ernest Renan, a shared history rather than geographical boundaries is required for the rise of nationalism. A nation of people that shares a common past will strive to work together for a common future. In contrast to Renan's cultural nationalism, autochthony lays emphasis on access to the physical place to be the basis of distinction among the people inhabited on the same piece of land.
The rise of Taiwanese consciousness is the key to understanding Tzu's "Old Capital." You in the novella experiences this historical change in Taiwan, known as "localization," in terms of the transition from the cultural nationalism of Great China to the phenomenon of autochthony in Taiwan. She yearns for a homogeneous nationalistic culture that has disappeared: "The people at that time were very nice and innocent, willing to sacrifice their lives or confront death for a belief or a loved one, no matter to which political party each of them belonged" (151). You is startled to find that the exalted sensibility associated with the space in Taipei can only be traced from her memories of those glorious days11.
Back then, the Milky Way and meteors were crystal clear in the summer night. A long while of gazing at the night sky often brought out grandiose contemplation over the survival and demise of generations, and the rise and fall of dynasties. If you were naïve enough, you would vow on the spot to achieve something epic so as not to depart this life with nothing done (152).
It is noteworthy that her lament is not about the collapse of nationalism per se but the majestic national space where one intimates a harmonious identification with history, nation and the people. You's chronic moodiness is in fact a symptom of a dislocated cultural elite, who has adhered to the ideology of Great China of Chiang Kai-shek's time. Specifically, this nationalist ideology of Great China is an identity mechanism, created to persuade people to disregard Chiang's political quagmire, to embrace the newly constructed myth of nationhood: the Taiwanese people are the true inheritors of the sublime Chinese culture in contrast to the "illegitimate" communist sovereignty in Mainland China12. Such nationalist ideology always gives culture the privileged position as the major medium through which one relates to his/her everyday life. And You proves herself a true cultural elite grown up in the time of Chiang, who hardly doubts that culture should have the paramount power to counteract political chaos and moral crisis. Chiang's cultural nationalism has permeated her sensual experiences in her urban space to such an extent that every moment of her childhood and youth she feels calmly integrated with the august national consciousness. Now in the heat of political turmoil, as if it were possible to distill one's sensibility and experiences from their entanglement with the cultural ideology of Chiang's regime, she wants to keep intact her experiences of growing up in Taipei. Here one see a typical cultural elite of the nationalist kind, once immersed in the culturalism of the nationalist elevation, forever believing that culture, with its uplifting quality, should survive mundane changes. The melancholy of You, by no means accidental, a consequence of the fallen nationalism, is doomed to come on once the utopian ideology of Great China is passe.
If the localization movement in Taiwan has deprived You of her cultural privileges, she also believes that it questions her identification with the Taiwan consciousness. For all her life, it never occurs to her that one day she would be stigmatized as an unwelcome outsider. Her claim of citizenship and sense of belonging have been questioned by autochthony in Taiwan, which defines natives as those who have a family history rooted in the land in question and excludes others by such a distinction. Yet now You remembers words of a writer of similar cultural background: "'You come to realize that no place can become one's hometown when there are no burial grounds of one's family members'" (187). Such a denial of her citizenship provokes harshly interior debates and You painfully ponders:
[You often hear that if] you don't want to stay here, you had better leave. Or, get out of here and go back to XX. It sounds like you do have somewhere else to go back to and somewhere else to stay, and you are still here simply because you unabashedly outstay your welcome (169).
Obsessed with her identity crisis, the major character keeps questioning the validity of autochthony. As You sees it, what is assumed in autochthony in Taiwan is an essentialist, unbreakable connection between the Self and the land, mistaken for the basis of the politics of exclusion. You experiences this dramatic transformation as a fall from a pedestal of grandeur into a pit of abjection. It is not until the city she knows disappeared that she comes to realize how much she takes for granted her strong sense of belonging to the old Taipei. Strangely, the political and cultural changes in her urban space seem to become internalized: You begins to notice changes taking place in her own body. She starts to excrete a briny odor, as smelly as bodily fluids and sweat, hard to be suppressed and impossible to be eliminated (168). Symbolizing the invisible and ever-widening distance between her and the once familiar urban space, now a foreign land for a wai-sheng-ren (a mainlander) like her, the salty stench coming from her body allegorizes You's bewilderment over the new politics that seems to have changed her relationship to the everyday space overnight.
You accuses the current urban development in Taipei of erasing local spatial history in the name of autochthony. She laments the fact that Taipei has become a city without history: "Perhaps whatever you were familiar with or remembered in the city has passed away before you do" (195). Indeed, Taipei for You has become a generic city as Frank Lloyd Wright describes: "'A city, where skyscrapers grow like weeds, is the seedbed of prostitutes and banks' " (quoted in "The Old Capital" 190, 229, 230)13. As profit-oriented commercialism dominates the growth of the city, like many other metropolis in the era of globalization, You finds her hometown expanding and shifting chaotically: for all their trendy looks, the newly opened shops and just expanded roads nonchalantly wipe out old spatial arrangements. From the eyes of a pedestrian, You observes how she is isolated from the river, the sky and the sea by high-priced apartment complexes, elevated highways and kitsch shops. Once she took her fiancé right before their wedding to her childhood "secret garden" only to see an eight-lane highway in front of them, she recollects how she responded:
For one moment, you couldn't remember what it had been here. It felt like witnessing a murdered body. Yet after calling the police you returned to the scene to find that there was no body at all, no traces of blood, as if nothing had ever happened. (200-01)
To her, the mushrooming commercial projects in Taipei deal one blow after another to terminate for good the organic connection between the city and the nature.
Contemplating at the sight of a strip of old houses, built at the time of the Japanese rule. You envisions that these beautiful historical buildings are about to "be confiscated efficientlly" only to be rebuilt into [functional] apartments for postal office clerks, customs officials, university staff, and government officials (187).
When there is no longer anything irreplaceable on this land to draw people together, the latter cannot do anything but stay here with great reluctance. The new rulers must have been aware of this point, so they propagate with great frenzy the slogan of communalism, hoping that people will ignore the accountability of whoever is in power and just set their mind on their dear land and their fellow people. Who dares to challenge the legitimacy of the latter! Do you ever see the opposition party, who has bashed everything, dares to say anything against the cause of the land and the people? (199)
You raises a strong political criticism of autochthony in her paranoid vision of the impending catastrophe: urban development in the name of localization means erasure of history to her.
The author appropriates a canonical reference of utopia in classical Chinese literature, "Plum Blossom Spring" (Tao Hua Yuan Ji), to describe You's despair at the seemingly no-turning-back spatial changes in Taipei. In this classical work, a fisherman wanders into a village whose inhabitants live independently of the outside. The utopian village denotes a zone free of the trauma of drastic political and historical changes. The author Tzu reverses this utopian meaning and satirizes autochthony as a self-enclosing attempt. It seems that autochthony promises Taipei a new utopian era, but instead, alienated from the traces of its immediate past, You finds Taipei no more than a city of concrete. Her walks in the city are thus repeated experiences of the clashes between the old spatial practices of nationalism and that of autochthony. The past she remembers is a life in an unbounded imaginary, a space open enough to accommodate the personal histories of all inhabitants past and present. Now You only finds frantic efforts to abuse urban spaces for profit and to deny so-call the "non-Taiwanese" the right to the identification with Taiwan, again all in the holy name of localization.
It is interesting to note that You possesses a double vision of the urban space after she finds all the buttresses of cultural nationalism gone: Her ghost-like vision is the remains of cultural nationalism in the wake of globalization.
There was nobody on the beach around this time in autumn. Files and files of ghosts passed by and you saw none of them, neither the winter swimmer who had been swallowed up by a shark one or two years ago, nor the one who would die from his attempt to save others from be drowned years later, not even the ghost of yourself (163).
Like a ghost cast out from the realm of the alive, You becomes the excluded in history and starts to see what she cannot see before. The capacity to see the dead is a transfigured ability of a dislodged national elite. A national elite like Jules Michelet writes "on behalf of the dead" (Anderson 197). Furthermore, the violence of death must be forgotten to be remembered as glorious sacrifice for the nation (Renan 11; Anderson 204-7). Here You sees the violence of death, and finds glaringly obstruding fragments of the past deeply buried from the sight of her fellow urbanites.
* The Seduction by Globalization
If You finds no history in Taipei, she seeks to reclaim the lost home in a foreign city, Kyoto. The crux of her nostalgic journey lies in the fact that her desire, a nationalist longing for reconnecting with the lost past, colludes with the overwhelming power of globalization in manipulating time and space. You's doomed quest for her own past in the novella thus poses an irony, since what enables her melancholy gaze at the history of Taipei, the forces of cultural globalization (such as time-space compression and the logic of differential space), are exactly the powers that erase the past of her own city. You visits Kyoto in the hope of meeting her best friend from college and thus reliving the memory of their good days together in Taipei. During her stay in Kyoto, she tries to remember what it was like to have a sense of belonging. The symbol of historical Japan allows her to cast a melancholy gaze at her own past in Taipei, which she believes to be reshaped into a new city without a history.
You's trip to the ancient capital of Japan embodies nostalgic tourism in the age of globalization as a convenient vehicle to attach to a history, more often than not a fragmentary one. For one thing, advanced technology in transportation and communications shrinks the globe into a small world, the prominent time-space compression phenomena as described by Anthony Giddens and David Harvey14. At the same time, as Henri Lefebvre contends, such a global space tends to be reduced into myriad images for visual consumption: "The symbol of this constitutive repression is an object offered up to the gaze yet barred from any possible use, whether this occurs in a museum or in a shop window" (POS 319). As seen in the novella, the trip by itself defines how You, seduced by the seemingly undiminished historical image of Kyoto in the fast changing global era, mystifies the contemporary mode of nostalgic tourism as a time travel machine that brings one back to the bygone past.
The operation of time-space compression, masking the physical distance between Kyoto and Taipei, allures You to embark on a nostalgic voyage. Propelled by a fax from her best friend (another one of the modern communications tools), she acts on impulse, leaving her family behind to hurry to Kyoto. The magic of another modern technology, a jumbo jet, takes You to her destination in less than three hours. Kyoto seems to be within an easy reach, and so should the past, which will be evoked and shared as soon as she meets her friend. She comes to realize her own assumption of being able to de-compress time, and go back to a primeval past during this trip:
For the first time, you realized how strangely this appointment was made, in a style that can be found only in an agrarian era or in the time of Wei Sheng15. To begin with, you knew nothing at all about her flight number and you came only with the information in the fax. A did not ask you how you were going to get to the hotel from the Kansai International Airport, only leaving you the address of the hotel. Perhaps she [A] imagined here to be a tiny old city, and indeed she can be right: this place is nothing like the metropolitan cities she visited and not much larger than the towns you two frequented when young. (202)
The contradiction presented in the passage is apparent. You understands the logistics involved in travelling to a foreign country such as arrival information, transportation and accommodation. However, her desire to link up with the past is so strong that she unwittingly buys into the convenience of time-space compression in the form of the seemingly effortless cross-ocean travel, suggested in A's fax. You imagines she can make the trip as easily as they could together at 17, always ready to explore the world without worrying about any potential trouble that might come along the way. In contrast, such a carefree transnational trip is made possible in a seemingly uninhibited space. What she downplays in the trip to Kyoto is not only the geographical distance but also the fastidious details on the road: having left Taipei at noon, she is already walking on the streets of Kyoto in the early evening (173). To You, the global space seems to be as open as the bygone national space to which she once belonged. The attractive openness and mobility provided by the modern technology of the global age transform the transnational space into a mirage of the only open space she knows about, the national space in Taipei.
As the story unfolds, You's desire to return to the past by meeting an old friend is deferred, because her friend A never comes as promised. Consequently, the ungratified longing is then further projected onto their meeting place, Kyoto. In other words, her tourist gaze and walk in Kyoto can be seen as a personal attempt to map out a city that can protect her from the overwhelming sense of loss brought about by urban spatial change that globalization brings to Taipei. Walking in Kyoto while lingering on the memories of her previous visits with her little daughter, You unwittingly turns herself into a lonely tourist. Those early trips to Kyoto with her daughter, vicariously establish the intimacy between You and the ancient city. In fact, You repeatedly brings her daughter to Kyoto to show the little girl what she has missed in Taipei, i.e., a timeless utopian space unaffected by localization and globalization:
You cannot help swearing, every time you see this fir woods, that if there were tiny fir woods nearby your house that would stay the same for fifty years, you would be more than happy to see your daughter loitering in the woods, neither studying nor working for the rest of her life (193).
Such a utopian longing results from her endorsement of the common image of Kyoto, an ancient capital that remains timeless in the maelstrom of urban changes. Needless to say, such a transfixed image of Kyoto as a city of history has been officially promoted since the 1950s. At that time, the Kyoto city government enacted "the Kyoto International, Cultural, and Tourist City Construction Law" to "make Kyoto an international city of culture and tourism by maintaining and developing its superb historical, cultural, and artistic resources and developing cultural and tourist facilities" (Callies 150). The decades that followed witnessed the new capital of Japan Tokyo's metamorphosis into a global city; meanwhile, the old capital Kyoto acquires the significance of representing the authentic Japanese spirit, that survives rapid changes. As the Japanese set their eyes on the future, they are assured at the same time that there is always a past to cling to. In this sense, the image of Kyoto as an intact city of history serves as a safety valve for Japan's process of globalization. Indeed, Kyoto exemplifies what Lefebvres calls a differential space. Lefebvre argues that global spaces are likely to be reduced to images and signs, whose meanings are defined in relation to other images of spaces. Here, Kyoto, in sharp contrast to Tokyo, epitomizes the image of historical Japan. As John Clammer fittingly describes:
If pilgrimage was often a form of tourism, contemporary tourism from the cities is itself a form of pilgrimage, the religion in question being 'Japan' and the underlying motives being not just consumption as such, but also the construction of a postmodern self, one situated in relation to Japanese history and concerns with ethnicity while simultaneously turning towards an increasingly globalized world in which the actual content of everyday life is the consumer society, a distinctive form of late capitalism that intrudes on every area of the psyche and society. (151)
This "pilgrimage to Japan," boltered by tourism, is the condition that allows You to dream that walking in Kyoto can experience the transhistorical capacity of culture. Falling prey to the trick of differential space and time-space compression and thus subscribing to the stereotype of Kyoto, You is quick to imagine this city as the utopian space suitable for her daughter and herself to call home.
Embodying order in a chaotic world, Kyoto becomes You's sanctuary. This sense of order, again, a melancholic projection enabled by the differential image of Kyoto, can be reinforced everywhere in the daily life of Kyoto from the Cherry Blossom Festival, which symbolizes the harmony between man and nature, to the same menu and fixed price at the tea shop in the Takashimaya department store. Year after year, those same shop fronts and cafes in Kyoto, like the quiet streets and serene temples, welcome her with familiar hospitality. In contrast to the transgressive spatial practice which Michel de Certeau describes as the pedestrian's wild footsteps, You's walking falls into the pattern that can be described as succumbing to a "suspended symbolic order" that characterizes Kyoto (de Certeau 106).
To You, the order manifested in Kyoto can ultimately function to counteract the vicissitude of history, figured by the ultimate finality of death. We might recollect that the preoccupation with writing about death is inherent in cultural nationalism: with the violence associated with death forgotten, death is re-evoked as renewal. You's brooding over death can be read as a melancholic longing of the nationalist writing of death, in which the survival of popular sensibility contravene the brutal interruption of death. In this sense, she is a true follower of the de Certeau's tenet, believing that travel ironically is the way home16. As she contemplates at the Seiryo Temple, she remembers a prisoner's reflection before his execution: "He [the prisoner] saw the sunshine outside of the window, hearing the warden's radio churn out familiar tunes17. He thinks to himself that as long as everything remains the same tomorrow, his death will not matter" (195). Another moment of introspection on Seiryo Temple leads her to an old director's thoughts on death, similar to the prisoner's in content: "Old people are forced to confront death every day. His wish is to sit up from his coffin to read the newspaper every ten years, feeling contented after knowing that the world goes around as before"(201). Such thoughts on death reveal You's yearning for order to overcome loss as symbolized in its extreme form, death. Pining for a symbolic order (the routine world mediated through the means of mass communications such as the radio and the newspaper) in a confining space of their own (the cell and the imaginary coffin), the two dying persons speak out You's melancholy imagination. And Kyoto in this sense plays for her a role similar to the radio and the newspaper respectively to the prisoner and the director. Specifically, Seiryo Temple, her personal favorite, registers the site of this imaginary space18. This temple now becomes a public space for local people of all ages. She notes the sights and sounds around the temple: a college boy feeding a stray cat, a middle-age salaryman paying homage to the lord after work, elementary school students clattering among themselves, young housewives walking dogs, old timers loitering around (194). This temple is where You calls home and wishes to die when the time comes: "If there were any place called home, where one would move back from the hospital to have the last moment," she thought to herself that "the temple would be the one" (195). In other words, Kyoto represents to her the symbolic order defiant against loss. Here we can observe that her melancholy longing seeks to restore the national space that Benedict Anderson describes as the homogeneous, empty time in which "'old' and 'new' were understood synchronically, coexisting" (187) 19.
Despite the fact that Kyoto, a city of culture and history in the globalized world seems to promise You a symbolic order, the stability and security implied by the order has always been in crisis. With the image of crisis resurfacing time and again to disrupt her ideal projection of a symbolic order, this unceased tension between meaning and loss accounts for You's melancholy nostalgia for a forgotten past. Not long after she arrives in Kyoto, she prays that this trip will not be a catastrophe, a sense of crisis somehow remains inexplicable to her (173). The conflicting anxiety over meeting A suggests You's sense of crisis during her quest for order and meaning. Ironically, she worries that A would really come and the two old friends would surprise each other with how fast they had aged over the years of separation:
God, you will see A tonight when you go back to the hotel. You wish she would not behave like those who have been away from home for years and always bluster in English during conversation... Also, you wish she would not be as sloppy as many Americans in her dress. You are worried that you two would sit at different corners of the hotel lobby, side-glancing at each other for a while and exclaiming silently, "Oh, God, have I become as hard to recognize as she!" (192)
The stream of consciousness of You is juxtaposed contantly with paragraphs from Yasunari Kawabata's Old Capital, passages mirroring the anxiety of You. Kawabata's novel narrates a story in which twin sisters (Chieko and Naeko), separated at birth, fail to stay together in spite of a fleeting moment of reunification. Likewise, A and You are also the twins destined to be apart. The twins of Kawataba is a modern parallel to the pair (You and A) of Tzu's "Old Capital" in the globalized East Asia. Writing at the beginning of the Japanese economic boom, Kawabata "wanted to set down the beauty of the old city, Japan's capital from 794 to 1868, before it disappeared forever" (Seidensticker, quoted in Brown 378). Here the allusion to Kawabata's Old Captial, stories of historical beauty before impending disappearance, imparts the hidden crisis inherent in the symbolic order represented by Kyoto.
The tension between her desire for a tangible order and her anxiety over the irrevocable loss of a splendid and comfortable urban space at home dominates not only her brief stay in Kyoto but also her consequent trip back home to Taipei. As a typical symptom of a melancholiac, she always struggles between a vision of a symbolic order and an acute pain over the loss of it. She is a true melancholiac, who remains in "proximity to the world, despite loss of world" (Lepenies 127).
Notably, it is the forces of globalization that sustain the emotional tug-of-war between hope and frustration, if one may say so. As Lefebvre emphasizes, the drastic spatial changes brought about by contemporary globalization redraw boundaries of all kinds and signal fast-changing spaces with images or visual mirages. Meanwhile, spatial changes in the global era often seduce one to take mobility, fluidity, or openness for granted and further render concrete spaces invisible. These spaces of contemporary globalization often present a reservoir of tantalizing possibilities. You in "The Old Capital" typifies how one is beguiled by the phatasmagoria produced by global spatial changes. A pertinent example of such mirage in the global space is the privilege for one to be at home in the world. Stepping into an elegant café in Kyoto, You mumbles to herself in Japanese, "I am home (Tadaima)" (183). At one moment she accelerates her pace of walking in Kyoto: "You hurried up and decided to take a shortcut. As if you could reach the Café you have in mind before dark, you would see your daughter at age five, crouching at the rim of the garden pond, feeding and petting the fish inside" (172). Likewise, the Middle East figures in her imagination prominently as a magic land where whatever one loses can be retrieved. During a trip to Cairo, it dawns on her at the sight of the bazaars on the crowded streets that the long-gone street vendors around the old amusement park in Taipei found themselves a new home here (164). She also fantasizes about what travels do to manipulate the imaginary boundary between home and foreign lands. Her melancholic longing intensified by the imagination of the exotic lands can be well described by a quote from Freud in the novella: "There you see a giant Aryan king as tall as a tree, colorful reliefs of Egyptian motifs, gigantic statues of the king, and the real statue of the Sphinx. Here is a fantasy land" (quoted in 183). You tends to think that there are chances "out there" to be connected with the past, and deceptive conditions of globalization make it possible for her to play out such deep-rooted melancholy longing time and again.
Paradoxically, You's sense of loss has been deferred constantly by her role as global trotter. It is the chance encounters with the local in the foreign lands that motivate her to embark on one trip after another. The sparks of emotions experienced on the road sometimes echo the recollected familiarity, intimacy, or safety, and for You another trip may bring her closer to the home she remembers.
Always imagining her trip as a pilgrimage in search of the lost order at home in Taipei, she would deny to herself her identity as a tourist, but her self-cast role as a homeward-bound pilgrim never strikes anyone else as anything other than an ordinary tourist. In other words, the tours, always ready-packaged, have framed You's trips before she endows them with the significance of a personal quest. When she leaves Kyoto, no one sees her off except the hotel manager "and [You] couldn't explain to him why [You] would not wait till the Cherry Blossom Festival starts and have canceled the reservation for that week" (210). In short, You's trip to Kyoto is an attempt to retrieve a typical national space, with "empty, homogeneous time," in a seemingly similar space, the global space, enabled by time-space compression. We can conclude for the moment our discussion on the seduction by the global space with Lefebvre's remark: "Not that this space [the global space] 'expresses' them in any sense; it is simply the space assigned them by the grand plan: these classes find what they seek" (POS 309).
* An Apocalyptic Vision of Globalization:
Reluctantly returning from Kyoto, You can only face Taipei by once again indulging herself in another trip in this home city. Keenly aware of the fact that Taipei has transmogrified into an unfamiliar city, she chooses to assume the persona of a foreigner to see the city (211). If she cannot do anything about the spatial changes, at least she can take on a different identity, one that has suffered no shocks of urban changes in Taipei. She tries to calm herself, "That's fine. You have another week off before going back to work. The vacation has just started" (211). The next morning, using a tour map of colonial Taipei that she had bought in Kyoto, she blends in with other real Japanese tourists to set out on a walking tour recommended by a guidebook. The moment she decides to accept the role of a Japanese tourist, mistakenly conferred on her by an eager local travel guide at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, You once again takes advantage of her tourist identity to prolong her melancholy longing for her past. Again, her "tour" of Taipei, like many other tours in our global age, has been standardized according to the logic of differential space, which reduces concrete everyday space to mere images and signs. That is, each tour can be seen as an attempt to compress the locale into a tour map of points of interest, prescribed "local attractions" predominantly for visual consumption. Specifically, You's tour draws on the illusion of time-space compression to compress Kyoto and Taipei back to the moment when the two cities were not yet wide apart in urban development.
With her deliberate reduction of her vista into a tourist gaze, You makes the city tour, visiting old buildings constructed in the colonial time by the Japanese. For all her attempts to see the familiar with a foreign eye in the manner of the Japanese tourists, You comes to realize, as she walks, the difficulty of looking at Taipei in the way the map instructs. "Sight-seeing" in Taipei evokes her memories of all the corners she had wandered before; her walk to the Shihmenting (The West Gate District ) illustrates the complexity of her tour experience. According to the colonial map of Taipei and her guide book, the Shihmenting is the "entertainment district" for the colonial Japanese. But You sees the same space in a different way: she remembers the last time she came here on a date with her then boyfriend. They were hassled by pimps. It had already become a seedy area, no more the "entertainment district" she has seen as a high school girl. Little does she know that years later she will come back to see the Shihmenting again, this time as an outsider. Seeing for the first time after years the degeneration of this district, dirty and smelly, cheap and sleazy, You cannot bear to continue gazing on the sad look of this place. Feeling depressed at the sight of the dirty streets, avoidance is the only way that she can think of to preserve the sweet memories of the space. Ironically, this fake tourist's engaging look at the Shihmenting contradicts her intention of seeing the city with an outsider's gaze, supposedly more detached and unconcerned. The complicated interaction between a tourist walking on the streets scattered with personal memories and a conscious play with a fake tourist identity disorients her. She then tries to shift back to her tourist identity, trying to contain and confine the clashing fragments of the past back into an image.
Like a tourist who has become exhausted from viewing the bewildering abundance of new objects and strange customs, you choose to sit down on the bricks surrounding a roadside tree, and take instead an imaginary journey on the travel guide. (221)
Toward the end of the tour in colonial Taipei, she loses the newly bought Japanese hat that gives her the look of a tourist and the map of imperial Taipei. You's walking in the home city as a foreign tourist finally brings her to understand the futile efforts to be content with reducing the urban space of Taipei into images on the colonial map and the travel guide.
More than an ill-fated ending of her nostalgia, You's eventual failure to excavate the geography of Kyoto in Taipei is also the intolerable outcome of representing and containing any space in the logics of differential space. At the time she realizes that Taipei was constructed in the image of Kyoto as another imperial city, You also finds herself lost in the city since major spatial reference points with which she used to map Taipei are no longer there. Here the very different fate of the twin sisters in Kawabata's Old Capital comes into play with the destinies of Kyoto and Taipei. For You, both cities are subject to the power of globalization, but she laments the different development paths of these two metropolises: Kyoto is preserved as a timeless town whereas Taipei transmogrifies into a city without history. She chooses to put on the mask of a foreign tourist to avoid seeing Taipei as it is. Ironically, her early trip to Kyoto and now the tour in Taipei reveals to her all the more the gap between the twin cities, Taipei and Kyoto.
In fact, You's trips in the twin cities of Kyoto and Taipei surprisingly lead her to witness contradictions that contemporary globalization fashions. Her melancholic journey catches a glimpse at the contemporary development of Taipei and Kyoto in the globalized world. As David Der-wei Wang shrewdly observes, the scope of the novella is much more ambitious than the length of a novella would suggest (28). Taipei and Kyoto are also twins separated at birth, as suggested in the allusion to the severed twin sisters in Kawabata's Old Capital, and yet represent different ways of appropriating tradition into economic development. On the one hand, Kyoto, as a differential space of the past, represents local as an image of eternal past; meanwhile, the logic of autochthony galvanizes Taipei to become a curious hybrid of a local as "a trope without a substance of its own" (Geschiere and Nyamnjoh 448). Each signals a major paradigm of shaping the local in the globalized East Asia. You sees the dark side of "reworking tradition": Instead of a means to facilitate the process globalization, reusing tradition in the name of the local amounts to nothing much more than ruins and empty images. In this sense, she witnesses the violence of differential spaces that are not meant to be seen. A global space, as Lefebvre describes, is one of "images and signs," which "presents itself as transparent (and hence pure) world, and as reassuring, on the grounds that it ensures concordance between mental and social, space and time, outside and inside, and needs and desire" (POS 389). The hardly-ceased deferral of nostalgic gratification, sustained by her restless transnational travels, driving her to the point where she sees the contradiction of urban development between two cities in the contemporary globalized world, brings her to see, instead of the "concordance" between the subject and the space, images and signs of two cities that fail to usher her to the past she remembers. She also let us see the helplessness of the individual in attempting to close this widening gap between the two kinds of history-making, as symbolized in Kyoto and Taipei, to establish a meaningful relationship with a primeval history in which one finds harmony between urban life and nature.
Where the residents of Taipei see localization and progress, the eyes of You sees an apocalypse. You comes to a vision of despair at the end of her many urban walks. Walking to the shore of the Tanshui River, where she spent many happy days in her youth, she finds herself in close proximity to the place and the inhabitants, but feels no connection of any kind. Lifelessness dominates this aftermath of the total destruction of her past. A stray dog looked at her with no response whatsoever. The daunting noise in this scene is merely mechanical, the noise that foretells the fact of a violent death. "A helicopter hovers above, perhaps to find a floating body in the river; an old gaffer rushes by on a battered motorcycle, giving out throttling hubbub and dark exhaust, perhaps in a hurry to identify the body on short notice" (233). Her home city now can only appear in the form of a prison: "Approaching the base of an elevated highway, she found the gray concrete mass more and more like towering prison walls. It was dead quiet, not even a scratching sound was heard. Not a bit. 'Where am I?' You started to cry out loud" (233).
The novella speaks of the "afterlife" of the nationalism of Great China in the globalized East Asia. While the space of flexible accumulation destroys the hegemony Chang Kai-shek's cultural nationalism, the main character in "The Old Capital" goes along with what time-space compression hopes to find the homogeneous national space again in the open global space, an illusory space produced by time-space compression. The apocalyptic vision gives a radical edge to the otherwise melancholic novella. It provides a glimpse of the inevitable slippage between the flexible use of tradition as championed by the discourse of alternative modernity and the unavoidable outcome of reworked traditions as empty signifers. While adherents of alternative modernity may see exciting moments in which tradition and globalization accommodate each other, the melancholic eye of You in Tzu's "Old Capital" witnesses the relic piles of images of history, scattered and unnoticed, cast away as traditional practices not fit for the moment. You wanders around as a romantic adventurer, by means of tourism in the age of time-space compression, hoping to find a chance to realize the cultural values (as symbolized in the projected order of Kyoto) spoon-fed to her. Indeed, one of her blind spots lies in her failure to see that cultural nationalism of Great China is no less a form of exclusion. An open space to a member of cultural elite such as herself can mean a prison cell to some others, such as pro-Taiwanese nationalists. In spite of her cultural conservatism, the apocalyptic ending of the novella registers a denial of the local reconstructed in response to globalization as seen in Taipei and an aesthetic rendition of the violence of globalization, which erases history and simultaneously produces prolifically mere images of the local and history.
The title of Zhu's novella can also be translated as "The Ancient
Capital." I use The Old Capital instead to be identical with the
English translation of Yasunari Kawabata's work to which Zhu's novella