Chiang Hsun

Author, art historian

Chiang Hsun is a Taiwanese author and art historian. After graduating from Department of History and Graduate School of Arts of Chinese Culture University, he furthered his studies in arts in Paris. After returning to Taiwan in 1976, he was the chief editor of the Lion Art Monthly published in Taiwan. He also taught in Chinese Culture University, Fu Jen Catholic University, National Taiwan University, and Tamkang University. He has written poems, novels, and essays, and is author of Six Lectures About Loneliness.

A family waits for their food to be served at a restaurant in Keelung, Taiwan, 23 May 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwanese art historian: The five elements of cooking in the olden days

Being his mother’s good helper in the kitchen for many years, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun got to experience cooking with firewood, charcoal and of course the everyday natural gas. He is convinced that a different fire and stove begets a different flavour in food. Taiwan today is fortunate to have access to fire at the flick of a switch but this could all change. Lucky thing for Chiang, some firewood is all he needs to make his favourite scorched rice snack.
A vendor wears a protective mask while working at a food stall at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, on 21 May 2021. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

Life and life lessons in the old markets of Taiwan

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers his trips to the market as a child which taught him more than he could ever learn in schools about life and humanity. From the back lanes of 44 Kan Site, a shopping street that used to house exactly 44 shops, he would peek into courtyards and encounter the kindness of shop owners; from the varied stalls of Dalong Market, he learnt about the sanctity of life of all living beings, human or animal.
The blooming Calophyllum blancoi. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: Reflecting on the indigenous culture of Orchid Island

Catching sight of a rare native flower in bloom, art historian Chiang Hsun ponders beauty in diversity and the unique heritage of the indigenous people of Taiwan’s Orchid Island.
A girl wearing a costume of Netflix series Squid Game poses for photographs in front of a giant doll named 'Younghee' from the series on display at a park in Seoul, South Korea, 26 October 2021. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Lessons from Squid Game: Would you be slapped for US$10,000?

Art historian Chiang Hsun counts the ways that the hit Korean drama series Squid Game puts humanity to shame. The rich and powerful exploit the weaknesses of the poor while the ordinary man is given a choice but can’t help but choose the wrong choice each time. Life is one reckless gamble we willingly take, all for the chance of living a dream.
What colour is autumn's scent? (iStock)

Taiwanese art historian: What colour is the scent of autumn?

Strolling in the autumn light, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers that his mother always requested for fabrics in the colour of “autumn’s scent”. If fragrance sets a mood, and that mood can be captured in a mood board, what would that scent look like? Perhaps at the very least, it’d be a rich, mellow shade of dust settling on the seasons.
The silver grey skies of Chishang.

Taiwanese art historian: 'Severing all ties’ in a pandemic

Cloistered in Chishang township in Taiwan’s Huadong Valley for the past four months, Chiang Hsun has no choice but to face himself in all its foibles. At peace with himself, he is at peace with the world. He revels in beautiful sights, as if he’s the only one let in on nature’s little secret. Just as he readies to leave, tourists trickle back into Chishang, bringing a bit of a bustle with them. May their hearts be still, says Chiang, to see the beauty that lies before them.
Lanterns with candles float on the waters of the Hozu River in Kyoto, Japan. The lanterns carry prayers to send off ancestors' spirits. (iStock)

Ghost Festival: When the wall between the living and the dead crumbles

Many Chinese refer to ghosts and spirits as "good brothers". Now that the Gates of Hell are open during the Ghost Festival, art historian Chiang Hsun asks how one is to get along with the deceased who have come back? Would it be like strangers crossing paths, or would one recognise the other? And should we dismiss these folk beliefs as mere superstitions?
Art historian Chiang Hsun learns some life lessons from a stray cat at a farmhouse. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: A stray cat, a farmhouse in Taiwan and a quiet afternoon

In our periods of isolation, even desolation through the pandemic, one can become cautious about forming bonds. A stray cat Chiang Hsun befriends reminds him that humans can’t help but care about one another, even when they pretend not to care. Yet they’re also guilty of caring too much, cocooning themselves to protect what they have. Will we ever learn to let go and have a good rest, defenceless?
The Grand Hotel is illuminated with the Chinese characters '平安' (Peace) in Taipei, Taiwan, 3 June 2021. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

Taiwanese art historian: What flowers and swallows taught me about life amid the pandemic

As art historian Chiang Hsun recites the Diamond Sutra and prays for the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, he believes in the adage that "this too shall pass". In tough times, we must remind ourselves to be grateful for the breath of life and to be kind to one another. May humankind be safe and well in their warm homes, wherever they may be.