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Page 1

EXPLORING THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NARRATIVES OF 1949 CHINESE

IMMIGRANTS TO TAIWAN





A Thesis



Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for

The Degree Master of Arts in the

Graduate School of The Ohio State University



By

Yi Fan Pai



* * * * *



The Ohio State University

2008





Master’s Examination Committee: Approved by

Dr. Mark A. Bender, Advisor

Dr. Dorothy Noyes

Advisor

East Asian Languages and Literatures

Graduate Program

Page 2

Copyright by

Yi Fan Pai

2008

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5 meat, and sometimes mushrooms. Too many ingredients will take away the

6 original flavor and you can’t taste the rice.

7 Pai: I see. So only meat and mushroom?

8 Li: Yes.

9 Pai: Is it the way great-grandmother used to do it?

10 Li: Yes. ((LF))

11 In the morning we would put aicao [a kind of grass for bringing good luck

12 and expelling the evil spirit] at the front door and we children would help your

13 great-grandmother to make zongzi.

14 The children’s job is to clean the bamboo leaves.

15 Pai: Like I just did. ((LF))

16 Li: ((laughing and nodding)) We did it much faster than you!

17 ((pause)) Ah, it’s hard to find real aicao in Taiwan now.

From telling us the “correct” way of making the traditional food and celebrating the

Festival, Li implicitly but strongly restates her identity as a non-Taiwanese. She is

passing down her identity as Chinese to the next generation—maybe unawares—by

separating herself and her children/grandchildren from the Taiwanese through the

narrative. Ben-Amos states one aspect of the tradition is that it “implies the dynamics of

transmission of cultural heritage from generation to generation,” and teaching the

traditions by narratives even more quickly to establish the identification (1984: 117).

Identity in Negotiation

During the interviews, I have asked direct questions about the informants’ identities.

However, even the most straightforward question like “where are you from” can generate

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multiple answers. The following two excerpts from the interviews display the informants’

constant negotiation of identity.

I.

1 Pai: Where are you from?

2 Meizheng (Mei): Do you mean where I feel I’m from? Or according to my household

register?

3 Pai: I don’t want you to think about it. Just tell me where you’re from.

4 Mei: I’ll say I’m Northeasterner.

5 Pai: Do you mean you’re from the same place you’re mother is from?

6 Mei: Yes. I feel that I am a Northeasterner.

II.

1 Pai: Where are you from?

2 MZ: My father is from Hebei [province] and my mother is from the Northeast.

3 Pai: What about yourself?

4 MZ: Um ((pause)). Now I will say I’m a Northeasterner.

While analyzing these narratives, I have realized that the “where are you from”

question is actually tricky if asked in Chinese. “Where are you from” is the closest but

not accurate translation of the Chinese sentence Ni shi nali ren. In this case,

the term nali is used as a verbal question marker to ask about place. Both of my

informants were born in Taiwan but none of them claimed that they are from Taiwan.

Their responses to this question suggest that there are multiple meanings of the term nali,

and both of them take the symbolic meaning rather than the literal meaning. The “place”

they chose to identify with—no matter whether it is Hebei province or the Northeast—is

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