Unlike other traditional performances that were brought to the island by its Chinese immigrants, gezaixi, also known as Taiwanese opera, is purely and proudly "made in Taiwan." With its popularity, gezaixi made its way across the Taiwan Strait to southeastern China in the 1920s and gradually drew local audiences. Yet, in history, gezaixi was banned on the mainland during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).Because the Taiwanese had been under Japanese colonial rule since 1895, music from Taiwan was thus stigmatized and known as wangguodiao (literally, "music from a dying nation") in China during the height of the Sino-Japanese War. Similarly, gezaixi in Taiwan at the same time was strictly regulated by the Japanese government and was forced to "reform" to rid itself of its Chinese legacy. Thus gezaixi, a uniquely Taiwanese genre, on both sides of the Taiwan Strait encountered difficulties due to the hyphenated condition of the Taiwanese—living as Taiwanese-Chinese or Taiwanese-Japanese. By exploring the ambivalent Taiwanese identity during this time when the tension between China and Japan was at its peak, this paper attempts to examine how the local Chinese gezaixi practitioners sought to rework and indigenize this genre to preserve their livelihood, how this cultural expression in Taiwan adapted to the colonial assimilation policy, and how the "in-betweenness" of the Taiwanese was negotiated through the performance of gezaixi.
Hsieh Hsiao-Mei is an assistant professor in the Department of Drama and Theatre of the National Taiwan University. She received her PhD in performance studies at Northwestern University in the United States. Her research interests include cross-cultural adaptation, theatre historiography, and Chinese theatre and its transformation in the face of multicultural influences.