Ah Cheng

Ah Cheng
(né Zhong Acheng)
b. 1949, Beijing
During the Cultural Revolution, Ah Cheng spent some time in Inner Mongolia before going to the Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan in the tropical southwest. He returned to Beijing in 1979. In 1984 he wrote ‘The King of Chess’ (Qiwang), an award-winning short story that earned him universal acclaim. In the following year, he wrote two more ‘King’ stories as well as a series of sketches entitled Romances of the Landscape (Biandi fengliu) which describe the scenery and customs of border areas far from ‘civilization’. In 1986, Ah Cheng emigrated to the USA, where he continued to write, though never attracting the attention that the ‘King’ stories received.
The most striking feature of both the ‘King’ stories and his ‘landscape romances’ is Ah Cheng’s use of language and narrative, which borrow heavily from traditional storytelling techniques. Closely related is the skilful introduction of ideas drawn from Confucianism and Daoism, philosophies that had been attacked vehemently in the previous three decades. His descriptions of life in the countryside are also remarkable, avoiding both the self-pity of Scar literature and the idealized images of orthodox and pastoral writers. Because of his debt to traditional Chinese culture, Ah Cheng is usually included among the Root-seeking school of writers (xungenpai). However, in the ‘King’ stories, he avoids their excessive emphasis on violence and brutality.
Ah, Cheng (1990). Three Kings. Three Stories from Today’s China. Trans. Bonnie McDougall. London: Collins Harvill.
Ah, Cheng (1992). ‘The First Half of My Life: A Boy from the City Struggling for Survival in Far-Away Yunnan’. Trans. Linette Lee. In Helmut Martin (ed.), Modern Chinese Writers: Self-portrayals. Armonk, NY: M.E.Sharpe, 107–17.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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