Hakka writer Li Neng-chi (李能棋), who is better known by the nom de plume Li Qiao (李喬, also credited as "Lee Chiao"), and Taiwanese opera actress Tang Mei-yun (唐美雲) have been named as the honorees of the 38th National Cultural Award. The two recipients have been honored for their superlative contributions to the worlds of literature and traditional arts, respectively, with which they have helped strengthen the culture of Taiwan and earned the respect and admiration of the nation.
Li was born in Miaoli in 1934 and has gone on to become one of the most influential Taiwanese writers of his generation and a major figure in Hakka literature. His writings are known for their realistic depictions of human frailty, most often portraying the lives of the ordinary people and helping their voices be heard.
He has also played an important role in the revitalization of Hakka culture, particularly through works like his "Cold Night (寒夜三部曲)" trilogy, short story "Bitter Water Pit (苦水坑)," and novel "The Spring of Lan Caixia (藍彩霞的春天)," the last of which was published in both Japanese ("Ran Tsaisha no Haru") and Spanish ("La Primavera de Lan Caixia") editions in 2018. The "Cold Night" trilogy is considered his most important work. An epic tale of Japanese-era Taiwan, it is a showcase for the greatness of maternal love and the dignity and suffering of the people of Taiwan, as well as their love of the homeland.
Tang was born in Tainan in 1965 and grew up in a Taiwanese opera family. A specialist in masculine wen-wu sheng* roles, she has become well known for both her skilled acting and distinctive singing voice, having trained not only in Taiwanese opera, but also in Peking opera. Tang performed at the National Theater for the first time in 1989 as part of the show "Iron Bravery, Gentle Heart, Wild Goose Flying South (鐵膽柔情雁南飛)," and was later taken on by the Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe (河洛歌仔戲團) as their primary xiao sheng*, gradually going on to establish a firm presence in the theatrical world.
In 1998, she founded the Tang Mei-Yun Taiwanese Opera Company (唐美雲歌仔戲團) and began organizing major annual performances that experiment with a variety of performance styles. She has also helped expand the range of modern Taiwanese opera by integrating elements of Western symphonic music, creating a fusion of East and West that brings out the best of both cultures.
The National Cultural Award is Taiwan's highest national honor for the cultural scene, given in recognition of Taiwanese lives of outstanding achievement in the arts. They are presented by the premier in person, who awards recipients with a certificate, medal, and cash prize at a grand ceremony held in their honor.
*Editor's Note: The sheng is a masculine role type that may be portrayed by either male or female actors. Wen-wu refers to roles that combine scholarly and martial characteristics, while xiao denotes young.