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Cultural Salvation in the Ages of Rootlessness and Banishment: A Case Study of Hong Kong and Taiwanese Intellectuals’ Reception of Existentialism

Liu Yajing

During the 1950s and 1960s, the popularity of existentialism had soared in Hong Kong and Taiwan simultaneously. The ages of rootlessness and banishment roamed when national separation shaped by Chinese Civil War and the political pressure asserted by the Cold War have become the substructure of intellectuals’ reception of existentialism. These intellectuals, with a sense of national responsibility, captured the image of existentialism as a kind of cultural salvation which served as a cure for national traumas and reviving national culture. This kind of historical phenomenon had been reflected by the special issue Existentialism of Collegiate Life published in 1963 in Hong Kong. However, whether intellectuals’ cultural imagination of existentialism could really work depended on their attitudes towards the reality, which indicated the divergence between Hong Kong intellectuals and Taiwanese intellectuals in the special issue. Hong Kong intellectuals were constrained by ideology of Cold War and could not face up to the colonial issues in Hong Kong, while Taiwanese intellectuals realized the issues of becoming westernized and opposed to the dictatorship in Taiwan. In short, this article attempted to analyze the intellectuals’ reception of existentialism from the special issue Existentialism and examined a historical review of Hong Kong and Taiwan.