At the display for the Taiwan Church Press at the Taipei International Book Exhibition I came across a number of interesting works. The press has issued a 70-volume set of the collected newsletters of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. (University and research libraries, take note! So far no sets — NT$150,000 (US$4,600) each — have been sold to America or Europe.) The Presbyterian Church has long been an advocate of the rights of the people of Taiwan to speak Taiwanese without oppression, write in Taiwanese (including in romanization), and enjoy other political and human rights.
The newsletter, which dates back well into the nineteenth century, was written in romanized Taiwanese until 1969, when the KMT forced a change to Mandarin in Chinese characters. While flipping through a volume of the newsletters from the 1920s, I was startled to see that crossword puzzles in Taiwanese were a regular feature. (Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)
It’s one thing to have read of the novels, poems, religious material, and technical manuals written in Taiwanese, it’s another to see something so human and familiar leap out from the page. This really helped bring home for me how much has been lost, especially in terms of opportunities, because of the suppression of romanized Taiwanese, first by the Japanese and then by the KMT.
Interestingly, if you look at the answers below, you’ll see that each of the boxes is meant to be filled in with not an individual letter but with syllabic units.
I’ve tried my hand at creating some crosswords in Mandarin using Hanyu Pinyin, but in individual-letter, not syllabic style. This is a little tricky. In English, all letters of the alphabet can appear at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a word. That’s not so in Mandarin as written in Pinyin. The letters i and u, for example, never come at the beginning of a word. And no word ends with anything other than a, e, i, o, u, g, n, or r. (I’ll finish some of those crosswords one of these days, Gus!)
It would be easier to make a crossword puzzle using bastardized Wade-Giles because that has fewer letters but also more finals. But of course not as many people would be interested in solving it, me included.
For even more on the issue of the romanization of Taiwanese, see the Taiwan section of De-Sinification.