An illustrious writer who has also served as newspaper editor and cultural executive, Tsai has given her voice to those who grew up in the economic and social tides of industrialization. Although her works have been twice included in the top ten books of the year in Taiwan, she sees herself only as "a person who likes writing stories.”
Growing up in Tainan County and Kaohsiung City, Tsai was well aware of the differences between country life and city life. She developed an interest in writing when she was in high school, and the training she acquired in the Chinese language department at university sharpened her writing skills. Tsai won several student literary prizes in school, which gave her confidence in writing.
Her childhood memories as well as her observations of society all became source materials. The setting of Tsai's works are expansive, spanning local towns, military communities, and life overseas, and she reflects her concern for the people and social issues of Taiwan through each story.
Released in 1993, "Children of the Salt Pans (鹽田兒女)” is Tsai's first widely praised novel. Using a common salt-panning village as the story's background, Tsai depicts people's lives and the changing society of Taiwan in the 1950s through vivid characters and the use of colloquial language.
The novel won the United Daily News Literary Awards for Best Novel in 1993, and was adapted by Taiwan Public Television Serviceas its debut period drama. It has also been translated and released in English and Japanese.
Following in 1998, "The Olive Tree (橄欖樹)” was released as a sequel to "Children of the Salt Pans.” The story circles around a younger generation, leading readers to see the life and culture in Taiwan from the 1960s to 1980s with Tsai's sense of nostalgia.
In 2014, two decades since the publication of "Children of the Salt Pans,” Tsai released "All the Stars Are Talking (星星都在說話)” as the final novel of the trilogy, depicting the story from a male perspective for the first time.
Tsai uses the different time settings, characters, and themes in the trilogy to connect the stories through the continuance of life and society, reflecting and recording the history of Taiwan with her literary works.