A Poet Who Spear-Fishes: Syaman Rapongan Reads at NYU Shanghai

Apr 23 2015

On April 22, 2015, Syaman Rapongan (夏曼兰波安), writer from the indigenous Tao tribe of Orchid Island in Taiwan, joined NYU Shanghai for a reading on behalf of the Cross Currents in the Humanities Series and Tea W/ords Literary Series.

More than just a multi-award winning writer, Rapongan is a skilled free-diver, spear-fisher, and boat-maker. Inspired by the Pacific Islander oral tradition and worldview, he writes primarily in Chinese about the eco-poetic relationship of humans, animals, and the environment.

Reading passages from his latest book, Dream Ocean (大海浮梦), Rapongan’s words touched ocean, history, and memory, sculpting images of Euro-American, Japanese, and Han-Chinese domination that have, over time, eroded indigenous cultures.

Rapongan explained that he only uses what is immediately needed, in terms of natural resources, to preserve it for future generations. What students of NYU Shanghai took away from Rapongan’s reading of life on Orchid Island is that the key to living harmoniously in nature is to live unselfishly.

Article and photo by Charlotte San Juan