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Tsai Shi-ping: Writing the Heartbeat of Life

By Quek See Ling

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Tsai Shi-ping doing an emotional recital

There is a popular online saying: “Wealth allows you to be capricious”. But on stage at BookFest@Malaysia 2016, it was “Gift of gab allows you to be capricious”. Appearing at the 11th edition of BookFest, Taiwanese veteran media personality and writer Tsai Shi-ping definitely fits the latter. “I did not prepare any presentation slides but never mind, I’m good at speaking!” He totally proved his point in his 2 July 2016 talk titled “Why Write? Why Read?”

The 58-year-old Tsai, who looked more like a 40-year-old, has nearly 30,000 followers on Facebook. Married at the age of 44, Tsai became a father three years later. The transition from a bachelor to a family man, coupled with the responsibility of looking after his aged parents, had inspired him to write No Turning Back, But It’s Love. Compiled from the essays that Tsai first published on his Facebook, this book describes his original and new family.

Writing: Highlighting the Meaning of Every day

Why write? Tsai believes that writing can accentuate the details in everyday life, bringing a heartbeat to the trivial. As to what to write, Tsai suggested looking at life itself. Just like what Chinese poet Yu Xiuhua once said, “Life is a succession of details”. Tsai elaborated, “You would see your wife all dolled up before heading out, but come bedtime, there she is drooling in her sleep, that’s life.” He added, “Or when you did shopping and cooked up a meal that you would be having with your children.” That is life and it can all be written down.

Tsai opined that writing a book has become easier since the appearance of Facebook. The instant sharing and feedback is nothing like solely relying on newspapers in the past. He fervently encouraged everyone to write and share their own stories.

How to write a good story then? Tsai believes that it could only be done through literature; the intricate language should be used to express the complex human emotions. For example, if you are describing the emotions after falling out of love, using the typical language in TV dramas to detail the pain will make the text sound unpolished and lack readability. Citing famous poet Hsia Yu’s Sweet Revenge as an example, Tsai said her poem did not use a single word of yearning and misery but the readers could feel the sense of longing in the poem. Tsai encouraged everyone to expand the possibilities of language to let the readers feel the tides of emotions in their inner world.

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Tsai Shi-ping (left) with the Editor-in-Chief of Taiwan’s Linking Publishing Company, Woo Kam Loon

Reading: Settling the Heart’s Desolateness

Book Cover - 回不去了。然而有一種愛

Source: Linking Publishing Company

Why read? Tsai believes that people who love to read are a lonely bunch. The reason they pick up a read is usually because they feel that they are different from the others, and have realised that there are many things in life that they cannot hold on to. As such, Tsai believes that books are mankind’s best friend that can make up for the loneliness within.

Tsai candidly revealed that he was once lost in life when he was younger. Watching friends around him busily chasing after fame and girls, Tsai just could not get used to that lifestyle and felt desolated. But once he started reading, his loneliness started to dissipate and he began to enjoy the process of understanding the world’s possibilities through the books. The poetry-loving Tsai then went on to use Cheng Chou-yu’s Uncouth Bar as his example: “Who was it that passed down this trade of poetry / Which lit a lamp at dusk”. To Tsai, reading is like lighting a lamp at dusk, bringing light and warmth to the heart.

Philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Reading and writing might just be a good way for some introspection.

About Tsai Shi-ping

Born in 1958, Tsai Shi-ping, who holds a master’s degree in political science from National Taiwan University, is a media personality and a writer. Currently the head of a radio station and a radio host, Tsai was previously a university lecturer, lead writer at Lianhe Wanbao, and the Vice-Chairman at the Republic of China Centenary Foundation, among others. His literary works include Who’s Afraid of Politics and Journal of a Thirty-Year-Old Man. Tsai had just launched his latest book, How Should I Tell You: Every day Is an Eternity, in August 2016.