Cover image for Wintry night
Wintry night
Li, Qiao, 1934-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Han yeh. English
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
291 pages ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
820 Lexile.
Format :


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An epic spanning more than half a century of Taiwan's history, this breathtaking historical novel traces the fortunes of the Pengs, a family of Hakka Chinese settlers, across three generations from the 1890s, just before Taiwan was ceded to Japan as a result of the Sino-Japanese war, through World War II. Li Qiao brilliantly re-creates the dramatic world of these pioneers--and the colonization of Taiwan itself--exploring their relationships with the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan and their struggle to establish their own ethnic and political identities.

This carefully researched work of fiction draws upon Li's own experiences and family history, as well as oral and written histories of the era. Originally published in Chinese as a trilogy, this newly translated edition is an abridgement for English-speaking readers and marks the work's first appearance in the English-speaking world. It was well-received in Taiwan as an honest--and influential--recreation of Taiwan's history before the relocation of the Republic of China from the mainland to Taiwan.

Because Li's saga is so deeply imbued with the unique culture and complex history of Taiwan, an introduction explaining the cultural and historical background of the novel is included to help orient the reader to this amazingly rich cultural context. This informative introduction and the sweeping saga of the novel itself together provide an important view of Taiwan's little known colonial experience.

Author Notes

Li Qiao has been one of Taiwan's most famous and prolific writers for the past forty years. He wrote his monumental saga, Wintry Night, over five years, from 1975 to 1980
Taotao Liu is University Lecturer in modern Chinese in the Institute for Chinese Studies at Oxford University
John Balcom is assistant professor of Chinese translation in the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Li Qiao's novel follows the saga of the Peng family, Hakka Chinese settlers who immigrate to the mountains of Taiwan in order to establish land ownership and create a new beginning. Settling in the village of Fanzai Wood, the family encounters poverty, hard labor, and fierce storms. The novel spans the years from 1890 to the end of World War II; the changes that result from Chinese rule and then Japanese occupation and, later, the final surrender are infused in the Pengs' experiences and struggles. As head of the family, Peng Aqiang must confront the new, overbearing Japanese landlords and keep everyone clothed and fed while establishing marriage contracts with neighboring families. Peng Aqiang's grandchildren leave the country to fight for the Japanese during World War II and begin to establish their Taiwanese identity and the desire to live in an unoccupied Taiwan. Li Qiao's complete epic is actually a trilogy of three novellas, but this first translation into English contains only two of the novellas. This is a long-awaited historical novel of Asian colonialism by a celebrated author. --Michelle Kaske

Publisher's Weekly Review

To an American reader, Li Qiao's three-volume Taiwanese epic, the first and third volumes of which are translated here, references some surprisingly familiar episodes: frontiersmen grabbing land and clearing forest, aboriginal tribes taking scalps, and unscrupulous moneymen cheating the settlers. Like the Wild West, Taiwan was also being settled in the 19th century--in this case by the Hakka, a mainland Chinese ethnic group. The first volume, Wintry Night, describes the travails of founding the village of Fanzai Wood, focusing on the Pengs, a family of farmers headed by patriarch Peng Aqiang. The Pengs have purchased young Dengmai from her family as a bride for their youngest son, but when he dies, Liu Ahan, a soldier, marries her and thereby enters the Peng family. The story weaves an account of Ahan's coming of age with the history of Fanzai Wood's struggle with typhoons, the crops and Ye Atian, an unscrupulous landlord. The novel ends with the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1895, which provokes a Taiwanese rebellion; Ahan serves in that unsuccessful struggle. The third book, The Lone Lamp, begins with Ahan's son, Liu Mingji, and his friend, Peng Yonghui, being inducted as Taiwanese "volunteers" into the Japanese army in the 1940s. Ahan is dead, and Dengmei is now an old woman. The two young men are sent to the Philippines and witness the horror of the Japanese occupation. Perhaps because the translators have abridged these novels, important passages--for instance, the fight between Ye Atian and Peng Aqiang--are confusing. Still, the story illuminates and personalizes a neglected historical epoch. Balcom, in addition to translating, has provided a helpful introduction. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

This abridged translation of Li's original three-volume saga consisting of Wintry Night, Deserted Village, and Lone Lamp introduces English-language readers to one of Taiwan's most prolific authors. Balcom's introduction explains that the second volume has been completely left out of this translation. This historical novel, which took Li over half a decade to complete, is the story of the Peng family in rural Taiwan. Beginning in 1890 with patriarch Peng Aqiang, his wife Lanmei, their family of four sons and two daughters (along with their wives, husbands and children), and foster daughter Dengmei, the novel follows the migration of this extended family to the region of Fanzai Wood, where the majority of the first half of this work takes place. The family works the land as farmers, and the novel tracks their growth and progress up through the time of the Japanese occupation in 1945. Dengmei's youngest son Liu Mingji is the focal point in the latter half of the novel, which concentrates on his services in the war effort in the Philippines. Overall, this book presents its share of challenges. For instance, because numerous characters share similar surnames, general readers may find it difficult to keep them straight without pen and paper in hand. Also, the depictions of Li's main characters are not particularly strong, and there is little to bond the reader to them. However, the book has been well-received in Taiwan for its historical value, and Li has taken great care to denote the historical detail. One can only wonder whether this work would have been stronger had it been translated in its entirety. Academic and public libraries with Asian history collections and public libraries serving large Taiwanese communities will want to take note. Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Wintry Night
1 The Peng Family Make Their Way to Fanzai Wood
2 Days on Guard
3 Planting Potatoes, Making Potash, Death
4 The Unexpected
5 Love
6 Death and Disaster
7 Change
8 The Japanese Arrive
9 Endless Wintry Night
Part 2 The Lone Lamp
1 The Sound of Weeping
2 Good-bye
3 Ten Thousand Miles of Sea and Sky
4 The Clouds and the Moon
5 Misfortune
6 Good-byes on the Grass
7 Misty Spring Days
8 Sacrificial Rites
9 Women of the Mountains
10 The Journey of the Salmon
11 The Eternal Lamp