How the Wild Changed Me – a Philosophical Journey LUNG Ying-Tai in Conversation with Barbara Mittler and Monika LI (translator)

Talk in English, reading in German.

Diese Veranstaltung findet in Kooperation mit dem 9. Literaturherbst Heidelberg, CATS und der National Central Libary statt.

An unsuccessful writer is sent by her Buddhist master to the foot of Mount Kavulungan in southern Taiwan for two years so that her restless nature can find peace there while observing nature, people and animals. When she meets a mysterious fourteen-year-old girl, she embarks on an adventure to the mysteries of Mount Kavulungan, the namesake mountain of Taiwanese author Lung Ying-Tai’s most recent book release. In 84 episodes, she tells a ghost story, a crime story, a love story, and more, taking her readers on a philosophical journey that leads into Taiwan’s nature, history, traditions, and society. In conversation with Barbara Mittler (Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University) and Monika LI (translator), Taiwan’s most famous author will discuss her socially critical reflections on zeitgeist, experiences of lifeworlds as well as her own biographical journey and the multiple roles of an author in contemporary Taiwan. Traditionally, Chinese intellectuals have taken several possible positions, that of serving the country/ruler as a chenshi 臣仕/guan官; that of critiquing the ruler directly, from outside the bureaucracy or from inside, as the official censor (who may then be risiking to lose his job, thus being/becoming the “pure official”  qingguan 清官) and, thirdly, that of the critic from afar—only seemingly a “silent loner”—who is so abominated by the abuses of power that he is no longer willing to “wag his tail in human dirt,” a metaphor from Zhuangzi, a famous Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE. Lung Ying-Tai has taken on all three of these positions, and with her latest book—which will be the basis for the conversation and from which we will hear excerpts—moved from enfant terrible to minister to become the “silent loner”: Why?

LUNG Ying-Tai is one of Taiwan’s most renowned essayists and cultural critics, whose writing significantly contributed to Taiwan’s democratization. In the 1990s she taught Taiwanese literature and Culture in Heidelberg. She served as Taiwan’s first Minister of Culture (2012-14) and subsequently taught at the University of Hong Kong from where she resigned in 2019. With more than 30 published works (many of which censored, but, nevertheless, well known in the People’s Republic of China), she is considered the most well-known author in the Chinese speaking world.




Barbara Mittler studied Sinology, Musicology and Japanese in Oxford, Taipei and Heidelberg. Since 2004 she has been Professor of Sinology in Heidelberg, where she co-founded the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” (from 2007) and, building on this, the Center for Asian Studies and Transcultural Studies (CATS, opening 2019). Her research focuses on Chinese cultural politics, with work on Chinese music, the early press, the Cultural Revolution, and image and text in the formation of cultural memory, among others. In 2000 she was awarded the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, in 2002-2004 she was a Heisenberg Fellow, in 2009 she received the Henry Allen Moe Prize in the Humanities, and in 2012 the Fairbank Prize for her book on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. She has been a member of the Leopoldina – National Academy of Sciences since 2008, and of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences since 2013. As a fellow and visiting professor, she has stayed at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, at the Humanities Center of Stanford University, and at EHESS in Paris. She is currently leading two projects, the China-School-Academy, a project of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which produces teaching and learning materials for school subject teaching on China (, and the Heidelberg part of the BMBF Collaborative Research Center on Epochal Lifeworlds, which, together with international fellows, investigates the interplay of humans, nature, and technology in moments of “collapse” and the “critical transitions” that characterize historical epochs.

Monika LI grew up bilingual – German and Hungarian – and studied German, philosophy and sinology in Heidelberg. She first came to Taiwan in 2009 as a scholarship holder at the National Taiwan University. She lives with her family in Berlin and Taipei, where she translates Taiwanese literature into German.