Samstag, 11. Mai 2019, 12:00 - 14:45 iCal

On Happiness Road

Taiwanischer Film with English subtitles

SIN 1 Department of East Asian Studies
Spitalgasse, 2 Hof 2 Aufgang 2.3, 1090 Wien


The story follows the childhood memories and coming-of-age herstory of Lin Shu-chi, called ‘Chi’, born on the day of the death of Taiwan’s former dictator Chiang Kai-shek on 5 April 1975, through martial law

and its lifting in 1987 to the democratization of Taiwan. The beginning of the film introduces its outreach beyond a number of lovable, enchanting cartoon characters with small Chi’s question: „What is happiness?“ that is contrasted with social, economic and political backgrounds:

Growing up, Chi is taught to speak Mandarin at school instead of the Taiwanese Hokkien she uses at home. The classroom has 毋忘在莒 wuwang zaiju, a poverb favoured and often used by Chiang

Kai-shek promising never forget to reclaim the (Chinese) mainland. In nearly every scene, the director

carefully designs background details representative of the time.

Primary school Chi is told to find her aboriginal grandmother barbaric and the viewer is informed about

ethnicity issues in Taiwan. Insisting on issues typically Taiwanese (like the Hokkien dialect, or the Republic-

of-China sticker on Chi’s schoolbag) made acquiring Chinese (even Hong kong) funding impossible for the director. Chi’s past is familiar to Taiwanese viewers born in the late 1960s and 1970s – and so painful that the distance created by the animated format is probably a necessity. On the other hand, the film does not shy away from painful parts of Taiwan’s past. For instance, one of Chi’s classmates in school is Betty, a mixed-race girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, one of many abandoned children born to local Taiwanese women and American troops stationed in Taiwan from the Korean War. Another classmate is killed in the 921 earthquake, one of the most deadly catastrophes to have struck the island.

In university, Chi joins social movements despite the strong objection of her parents, possible only after martial law was finally lifted. Following the footsteps of her older cousin, she later moves to the United States to pursue the American dream and marries a Westerner, only to realise happiness remains out of reach. Following her grandmothers’ death, Chi returns to her family on Happiness Road, where she begins to feel nostalgic about her childhood and starts to contemplate the meaning of “life” and “home”.

What is happiness? Will Chi find her own happiness?

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Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies


Astrid Lipinsky
Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies
Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften
4277 43844