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Writer Wang Tuo takes passion for arts to top culture post

Wang Tuo, CCA chairman, tells Cloud Gate Dance Theater's Lin Hwai-min that the government hopes to solve the work space problem of many groups of perf...
Wang Tuo, the new CCA chairman, talks to composer Ma Shui-long during the CCA's spring party in Taipei. The art and culture sector was well-represente...
The Cloud Gate Dance Theater hopes to recover from the fire at its studio and warehouse with the government proposing temporary studio alternatives. P...
Wang Tuo, the new chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs, addresses publishers and documentary film directors, telling them about his service-or...

Wang Tuo, CCA chairman, tells Cloud Gate Dance Theater's Lin Hwai-min that the government hopes to solve the work space problem of many groups of perf...

Wang Tuo, the new CCA chairman, talks to composer Ma Shui-long during the CCA's spring party in Taipei. The art and culture sector was well-represente...

The Cloud Gate Dance Theater hopes to recover from the fire at its studio and warehouse with the government proposing temporary studio alternatives. P...

Wang Tuo, the new chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs, addresses publishers and documentary film directors, telling them about his service-or...

Writer and former legislator Wang Tuo recently took office as chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA), faced with the challenge to do something for the country's art and culture during his 105-day tenure.
Although the job came a bit late in his career of service to his countrymen, Wang - an ex-legislator who turned 64 last January 9 - accepted it. The man of letters known to spend at least two hours a day reading would like to prove that he could do something about Taiwan's culture policy.
A fire, which razed the rehearsal studio and warehouse of the Cloud Gate Dance Theater in Pali, Taipei County, and left Lin Hwai-min's dance company homeless, highlighted the government as strapped for financial resources to help. The CCA's total annual subsidy for the groups of performing artists is only NT$100 million. Cloud Gate leads as subsidy recipient with the biggest share.
But the central government and the local government did propose temporary spaces for the dance company's immediate use and in the process addressed the critical work space problem of other groups of performing artists. For now, Taiwan's best-known dance company must recover and move on fast for there are commitments, including 121 performances lined up for year 2008, to fulfill.
During a call on Wang, Lin expressed regret that the fire put in a dilemma the official who still had to warm up to his new post. Wang responded, pointing out that the blaze put in focus not just the difficult plight of one dance company but also the predicament of all those in the art and culture sector throughout Taiwan. Wang, in fact, urged Lin to continue to raise his voice not just for the future of his own company but also for other groups, rallying the society to influence the government to rise above partisan politics to allocate the much-needed funding for the arts.
Wang as a former lawmaker knew the importance of financial resources to get culture-related work off the ground. Wang, in fact, vowed to do his best to bring up the CCA budget from the original 0.36 percent to 1.5 percent. The entire culture funding is 1.34 percent of the national budget of NT$1.6 trillion. In the last few years, the CCA budget was repeatedly slashed in the Legislative Yuan.
To serve groups of performing artists as well as individuals engaged in culture-related work will remain the top priority of the CCA under the leadership of Wang.
Wang years ago built his name as a writer. He published his first novel titled "Aunt Chin-shui" back in 1970. The society's lowly and impoverished people, ever confronted by difficulties in the struggle to survive, served as his inspiring subjects. Aside from "Aunt Chin-shui," his important writings have included "Looking Forward to His Early Return" and "Ku Ku Ching and Hsiao Laotou."
"Aunt Chin-shui" tells the story of a good woman from the very small fishing village of Badouzi in Keelung. "Looking Forward to His Early Return" captures the emotions of a fisherman's wife and children, waiting for the head of the family to bring home the day's catch from the dangerous sea. "Ku Ku Ching and Hsiao Laotou" is a children's storybook.
Aside from engaging in literary writing, Wang also got involved in the political reform movement. Back in 1978, he registered as a candidate for the position of Keelung City's assemblyman. But the election was scrapped that year.
Because of the Kaohsiung Incident, which saw the clash between the police and the pro-democracy demonstrators on December 10, 1979, Wang was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison. He began serving his jail term in 1980.
Wong Chin-chu, the former CCA top official, recalled that Wang Tuo and her husband, Liu Feng-sung, served their jail sentence as political dissidents together. Wang's spouse and she visited their husbands in jail regularly.
Wong's imprisoned husband wrote her a letter once a week. Wang Tuo, however, penned a letter to his wife everyday, claimed Wong. Wang, however, clarified that his wife was the one who wrote him daily.
After Wang was granted parole in 1984, he helped establish the Wen Chu Magazine (Literary Quarterly) and contributed regularly to it. He even served as editor. Wang also helped Chen Ying-chen start the Ren Jian Magazine. The publication is filled with investigative reports, showing concern for the people, for life, and for Taiwan.
In 1987, when the government lifted the ban on travel to China, Wang joined a Beijing tour group. The oral narration of history by the guides left a lasting impression. As legislator, he pushed for improvement in this area in Taiwan. To visit Badouzi nowadays is to encounter guides with so much to tell.
In 1989, he entered the Keelung mayoralty race but lost. He ran for the office of legislator from Keelung in 1998 and won. He was reelected in 2001 and 2004. .
Wong openly said that she was convinced her successor as chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs would show similar concern, which he manifested towards his family, to Taiwan society and culture.
Wang's track record as legislator is proof of his interest in the culture cause. He served in the culture and education committee, pushing policies and projects related to art and culture. The Taiwan International Documentary Festival organized once every two years became possible with his full support. He personally rallied support for the educational film festival.
When sculptor Ju Ming held his first one-man show years ago, Wang wrote an article titled "Waiting for a Great Artist to Appear." This was published in the China Times. Wang was likewise attracted to the paintings of the late naive artist Wang Tung.
When moon guitar-playing singer and storyteller Chen Ta from Hengchun Peninsula turned up in Taipei to perform at a coffee shop, Wang also penned a piece titled "Singing His Own Songs."
Wang sees similarities between Chinese and Taiwanese literature. But because of differences in social and geographic environment, there are differences in the literature on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
While serving in the Legislative Yuan, Wang sometimes expressed regret over having to put aside his writing career to go into politics. Otherwise he would have been more prolific in his literary output.
As a literary writer, Wang dreamed of establishing a creative writing workshop, offering grants covering board and lodging for six months to gifted writers, who wish to pursue their writing passion.
Born in the humble fishing village of Badouzi in Keelung, Wang attended Keelung High School. When the small power plant next to his home inaugurated a small library, Wang was delighted. He went on to read all the books found there. This was how Wang developed a fondness for reading.
"Reading is the best bridge for communication between man and the rest of the world," said Wang. As legislator from Keelung, Wang once raised NT$5 million to set up a library at a primary school. He also invited experts to train lecturers and volunteers to teach students how to read. He also actively helped promote the CCA's islandwide book exchange project in the past.
Wang was a Chinese literature major, graduating from the National Taiwan Normal University. He next went to the National Chengchi University for his master's degree in the Chinese language.
As a working student, he took up odd jobs, even finding employment in the coal mine. He later became a lecturer at Kuangwu College of Technology.
Lin Wen-yi, a student of Wang Tuo, found him to be an interesting high school teacher. In class, Wang did not hesitate to use a language of disrespect when he talked about the highest official of the land. Wang opened Lin's mind to what democracy is all about.
Wang once spotted a commuter on a train reading his book, "Aunt Chin-shui." He asked her what she thought of his writing. She told him that she found it too heavy and serious. She wondered why the author chose not to write about happy experiences. Apparently Wang wanted to let readers get a true picture of society.
Wang gave the impression of being a caring person. He remarked once that his mother had everything to do with his goodness. Aunt Chin-shui in Wang's first published novel is virtually a description of his mother.
On more than one occasion since he became the CCA head, Wang expressed his joy over his appointment. However, he added each time: "I wish that this had happened earlier and not only now."
Wang realized that during his very brief tenure, he would not be able to come up with new policies. But he could still smooth out the CCA's promotion of art and culture, giving his professional staff room to carry out their work. He himself would deal with all outside interference and pressure.
Wang still harbors a dream and passion for the future of Taiwan's culture. He welcomes dreamers to join him in making his service-oriented vision a reality.


Updated : 2021-04-17 16:20 GMT+08:00