2018 / 6月
在這樣眾聲喧嘩的場域，作為主賓的台灣，也擘劃出三大展區，包含展現台灣風土民情、文化特色的「主題國展區」；以推介台灣不同類型書籍為主的「國際版權書區」；以運用台灣漫畫雜誌《Creative Comic Collection創作集》連載內容進行虛擬實境體驗的「CCC漫筆虛實展區」，加上穿插大量的音樂、電影、作家講座等超過50場的藝文活動，讓民眾留下鮮明的台灣印象。
另外，位在會場另一端的「CCC漫筆虛實展區」更是獨領風騷，策展內容來自《蘭人異聞錄》、《異人茶跡》、《北城百畫帖》、《龍泉俠大戰迷霧人》等幾套以台灣人文歷史為主題的漫畫，背景橫跨大航海時代、清代、日治等不同時期，再運用浮空投影、AR、Google Tango空間動態偵測等技術，搭配Asus ZenFone手機，讓民眾進行數位體驗，遊戲之餘，也深化對於台灣的認識。
Lynn Su /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Robert Green
The 2018 Bangkok International Book Fair opened on 29 March, on the eve of Songkran, the Thai new year festival, and coinciding with the annual two-month holiday for Thai students. It is Asia’s largest book fair, about three times larger than the annual Taipei International Book Exhibition. Held in the splendid Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, this year’s event attracted some 1.8 million visitors.
For the second time in 11 years, Taiwan has been invited to the book fair as its guest of honor, symbolizing both the close cultural exchanges between the two countries and the success of Taiwan’s publishers in making inroads into Southeast-Asian markets.
Thailand has always been known for its openness and tolerance, a place where the traditional and the modern coexist, where even foreign cultures can find a welcoming place. At the book fair, for example, a giant Buddhist relief carving watched over the endless stream of visitors as they entered. The art installation left quite an impression, and highlighted the importance of Buddhism in Thailand. It also hinted at the country’s high degree of design sophistication.
The Bangkok Book Fair focuses on retail sales rather than industry deals over marketing rights. A survey of the publications exhibited therefore provides insight into current reading trends. It shows a flourishing popular literary market and considerable interest in online novels set in ancient China. There was also much in the way of yaoi (boys’ love) fiction, horror fiction, Japanese manga and anime, and American comics. Also on display were boldly designed and delicately bound literary translations reminiscent of European publications. The exhibition hall resembled a cultural smorgasbord, with publications on ancient Chinese literature and history, books with Indian themes, and works on the royal family, politics and military of Thailand.
Finding humor in shared confusion
As the guest of honor at this year’s book fair, Taiwan set up three exhibition areas within the busy convention center. The International Pavilion featured a Taiwan Pavilion that displayed the unique characteristics of Taiwanese arts and culture. In the international copyright section, Taiwanese publishers introduced a rich variety of publications. The third exhibition area was called the “Creative Comic Collection (CCC) Exhibition,” and featured virtual reality displays of comics serialized in the Taiwanese magazine Creative Comic Collection. In addition there were more than 50 other cultural events, including musical performances, movies, and literary discussions, that helped introduce visitors to Taiwan.
The cultural exchanges attempted to create a spirit of equality and openness, and most of all to express the mutual friendship between the countries. It took immense creativity and resilience for the organizers to successfully pull off the event.
Designer Xiao Qing-yang, who curated the Taiwan Pavilion, coaxed out possibilities for dialogue by focusing on similarities between the cultures of Taiwan and Thailand, such as geographic and climatic similarities and the similar spelling and sound of the countries’ names, which leads to so much confusion for foreigners. He decided to use “Tai-Thai Reading” as a general theme that captured the sentiment. He used glove puppetry, a classic folk art in Taiwan, to create a thematic visual element for the Taiwan Pavilion. Pairs of puppets faced each other from two sides of an open book, appearing to read and talk to each other.
The graphic theme for this year’s Bangkok International Book Fair was a sketch of a reader with a simple black outline, which at first glance looks like a schoolkid’s doodle. “This reminded me not to be too serious,” Xiao says. “When a country is already well advanced in design concepts, it can afford to be playful and irreverent.”
He therefore designed a logo for the “Tai-Thai Reading” exhibit with the initials “TTR” forming the eyes and mouth of a smiley face, which in turn brought smiles to visitors’ faces.
Old traditions, new entertainments
Thailand’s unique culture has always provided rich source material for the creative industries and draws upon centuries of folk tradition. Taiwan’s exhibits also drew inspiration from the lives of ordinary people and integrated contemporary entertainment styles, in a way that chimed with the character of the book fair overall, with its free admission and atmosphere reminiscent of a large-scale traditional fair. This shared approach of mass appeal and focus on the public enabled the Taiwanese exhibits and performances both to blend in with the book fair and to complement it.
Chio-Tian Folk Drums and Arts Troupe, for example, performed a traditional temple procession to the accompaniment of electronic music, and the costumed temple character Prince Nezha joined the performance. The National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra performed a rendition of some traditional folksongs. The flagship Taiwan Pavilion displayed publications focused on facets of people’s daily lives, including the experiences of Aboriginal peoples, food and drink, and tourism in Taiwan’s mountain areas. The pavilion was decorated with typically Taiwanese round tables and stools, theatrical glove puppets, and an exemplar of the first model of bicycle manufactured in Taiwan. The exhibit’s designers combined these elements into an aesthetically pleasing whole that sketched out an initial impression of Taiwan for Thai readers.
On the opposite side of the exhibition hall, the CCC Exhibition provided perhaps the most unusual of all the exhibits. Using aerial projection, augmented reality, and Google Tango spatial motion detection technology in combination with Asus ZenFone smartphones, visitors could enter a virtual reality world based on various comic-book series that explore Taiwanese culture and history. Aside from the fun of it all, visitors could gain a deeper understanding of Taiwan.
Seeking market share in Southeast Asia
The success of this year’s exhibition notwithstanding, Taiwanese publishers did not participate in the Bangkok International Book Fair for eight years after being first honored as the guest nation in 2007. This year, however, aside from the busy schedule of arts and culture events, 156 publishers exhibited thousands of books. In the international copyright section, publishers and distributors discussed distribution rights at the Foreign Rights Exchange Seminar, while at the Publishing Industry Forum of Taiwan and Thailand, guest speakers gave presentations on various fields, such as literature, education, children’s literature, and e-books, allowing professionals from the two countries to get to know their counterparts.
Readers in Thailand are, in fact, no strangers to Chinese-language publications. Lu Qinzheng, chairman of the Association of Taipei Publishers, explains that in earlier times Chinese publications in Southeast Asia came mainly from Taiwan, but later mainland Chinese publishers gradually took over the market. Moreover, in the past Taiwanese publishing houses mostly negotiated copyright deals individually, but this approach yielded little success. As their market share dwindled, Taiwanese publishers eventually withdrew from Thailand’s book fairs.
During the Publishing Industry Forum of Taiwan and Thailand, James C.M. Chao, chairman of the China Times Publishing Company, pointed out that even as the overall value of Taiwan’s publishing industry continues to decline, publishing on the island remains vibrant. In 2017 more than 40,000 new books were published in Taiwan, an average of 110 a day. It is truly an age of market fragmentation.
Itzel Hsu, a literary agent for the Grayhawk Agency, said that the diversity of Taiwan’s publications allows them to be competitive and sets them apart from the serialized historical fiction published in China. This also creates a market opportunity for sales in Southeast Asia. Lu Qinzheng pointed out that demand for publications on education, health and daily life, as well as picture books, has risen along with economic growth in Southeast Asia. The high quality of Taiwan’s publications will also be a major asset in expanding market share.
Thailand through writers’ eyes
Thailand’s cultural richness ensured that participation in this year’s book fair would be of great benefit to Taiwan.
A number of authors from Taiwan participated in exhibition events, including Sakinu Yalonglong, Chi Ta-wei, Ho Ching-yao, Chang Hsi, Lin Li-ching, Chen Mei-yan, Ho Wen-yung, Hsu Yu-jung, and Chiu Cheng-tsung. They represented diverse communal voices—Aboriginal and gay, for example—and a variety of genres, including fantasy, online writing, picture books and young adult literature. Through individual talks and panel discussions with Thai authors, these writers showcased the variety of Taiwan’s literary landscape and enlivened the cultural exchanges.
The first impression of many writers at the Bangkok Book Fair is often one of amazement. The crowds are as thick as during New Year celebrations and visitors can seem much like frenzied shoppers at an electronics show. This year’s displays featured a remarkable variety of publications, as well as e-book publishers and makers of logistics systems used for home delivery distribution.
Author Lin Li-ching, however, pointed out that the Bangkok Book Fair emphasizes merchandize and a lively shopping experience. This is quite a contrast to the Taipei International Book Exhibition, which features many more literary talks and where visitors are used to meeting authors in person, something that rarely happens at the Bangkok event. These differences might prove instructive for the organizers in both countries.
Fiction writer Ho Ching-yao noted that the various cultures on display at the book fair competed to outshine each other but they are in fact all quite unique in their own way. Seeing the rich variety on display, he became even more convinced that his own writing about yaoguai (demons and monsters) is a viable way to showcase the originality of Taiwanese culture. After seeing the brisk sales for picture books and children’s books at the fair, it dawned on him that he could create children’s picture books with those fantastical creatures and thus help preserve traditional folklore.
When the 11-day Bangkok International Book Fair drew to a close on April 5, readers came away satisfied, publishers had found new market opportunities, and authors and designers had all benefited from the creative collision of cultures. The event has rekindled Taiwanese interest in Southeast-Asian markets, and tales of further cultural cooperation are sure to follow.