LIAO HUIYING (1952— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

LIAO HUIYING (1952— ). Although not a self-professed feminist, from the very beginning of her career Liao has put women’s lives at the center of her writing. Focusing on women caught in Taiwan’s transition to modernity in the 1970s and 1980s, a period that saw a nascent feminist movement on the island, Liao describes incongruities between traditional expectations and modern realities faced by women in their struggle for economic independence as well as equality and respect in relationships. She treats controversial issues such as chastity, sexual libertinism, sexual abuse, and the birth of children out of wedlock. Written in the realist mode, her stories challenge social mores and promote the women’s independence movement. The short story “Youma caizi” (Seed of Rape Plant), much of which is based on her own relationship with her mother, portrays the life of a traditional woman who has endured a loveless marriage and has resigned herself to her hard lot. Although she has raised her daughter on the belief that women are like colza seeds and take root wherever the wind blows them, the college-educated young woman has taken a very different path, becoming a successful career woman and enjoying a loving relationship. This change tackles the age-old Chinese practice of privileging sons over daughters and points out that education is the only means by which women can rise above their traditional roles. It also represents the author’s attempt at resolving her own love-hate relationship with her mother. Liao’s novel Bu gui lu (The Road of No Return) features a lonely 24-year-old woman who falls in love with a married middle-aged man. Through the pain and guilt that accompany their illicit affair, the story emphasizes the importance of women having a strong sense of self in order to cultivate enduring and meaningful relationships.