Iping Liang (PhD) is a Professor of English at National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan. Her areas of specialization include critical plant studies, Asian American literature, Native American literature, and maritime Southeast Asian literature in English. Her current project concerns a critical study of plant narratives in Asia Pacific during the Cold War era. E-mail: lipntnu@gmail.com


Plants and Memories: Taiwania and Two Trees Make a Forest

Abstract: This presentation explores both the material and metaphorical aspects of Taiwania (Taiwania cryptomerioides), the coniferous tree in the Cupressaceae family that is also the tallest tree species in Taiwan. The paper will include two parts: (1) the discovery and naming of Taiwania by Japanese botanist Bunzō Hayata in 1906 from the perspective of environmental history, and (2) the representation of this species in the family memoir, Two Trees Make a Forest, by Taiwanese Canadian writer Jessica J. Lee (2019). Trained as an environmental historian, Lee writes the natural history of the island to learn more about its vegetation, as well as her family’s memories embedded on the island. Employing the approach of materialist ecocriticism, the paper argues that both the material and metaphorical aspects of Taiwania signify a “vegetal common” between the natural and the human, as Dipesh Chakrabarty has pointed out in his seminal essay (2009).
Keywords: Taiwania, critical plant studies, Jessica Lee, natural history, family history