Lai He

Lai He

Lai He (Loa Ho) (28 May 1894-31 January 1943) was a poet who was born in Changhua, Taiwan. He was a medical doctor but had enormous fame in literature. His poetry works were especially praised, and Lai was commonly known as one of Taiwan's most representative poets.

Lai's work can broadly be divided into three phases. During his early career, he wrote primarily classical Chinese poetry. On a sojourn as a doctor in a Japanese hospital in Amoy (now called Xiamen), a treaty port in China, he became acquainted with the work of Chinese May Fourth writers such as Lu Hsun (Lu Xun). Although his stay in China seems to have been depressing, he returned to Taiwan with the intention to contribute to Taiwan's cultural scene. He opened a reading room in his clinic where he provided Chinese vernacular ficition as well as Japanese periodicals. This reading room allowed him to mentor several important writers of the late Japanese colonial period. Most of his writing during this second period was nativist in his choice of themes and satirical in form. Through several short stories written during the 1920s and early 1930s, Lai satirized the brutality of colonial policemen, the indifference of the populace, and the impotence of native intellectuals. During the third period, Lai became more nativist in orientation and actively experimented with writing in Taiwanese. Although these experiments were not entirely successful, they expressed an emerging Taiwanese national consciousness upon which later Taiwanese writers would build.

In addition to his writing, Lai participated in the Taiwan Cultural Association and other activist groups. His political activity led to his arrest and a subsequent illness contracted in jail, which caused his early demise. Japanese wartime strictures on writing in languages other than the national language forced him to stop his literary output slightly before his death. He was an influence on his younger contemporaries Yang Kuei and Wu Chuo-liu. His rediscovery during the late 1970s and early 1980s also contributed to Taiwan's new nativist literature.


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