Zheng Qingwen passes

Zheng Qingwen. http://greenraytheatre.pixnet.net/

It is with sadness that I post that the Taiwanese author Tzeng Ching-wen (Zheng Qingwen 鄭清文) who was born on September 16, 1932 died on Saturday November 4, 2017.

Perhaps he is best known in English translation for his story “The Three Legged Horse.” Chi Pang-Yuan wrote the following of him in her introduction to a 1999 Columbia UP anthology of translations.

“Very few of Taiwan’s writers have so quietly and steadily persevered in their creative work for forty years the way Cheng Ch’ing-wen has. He has never made big waves in Taiwan’s literary circles, but his name is one that commands and receives respect. Cheng has succeeded in maintaining a high level of quality in all of his almost two hundred short stories. Each story has a central character through whom Cheng, with his light-handed application of ink and occasional splashes of color, paints his pictures of specific times, places, and circumstances. His collected stories cover in considerable detail numerous aspects of Taiwan’s past and present. Critics Peng Jui-chin and Hsu Su-lan have both compared Cheng’s approach to writing to a towering royal palm that does not tempt passersby with showy flowers or fruit or intentionally try to attract notice. So many things in contemporary society that use flashiness and glitz to compete for the public’s attention end up leading to emptiness and loneliness. Yet Cheng describes his own stories very positively: “I look at their stick-straight backbones; they are never cringing, nor arrogant. They quietly, stubbornly point in a direction, little bit by little bit, and slowly grow and develop.’ ‘Everyone has to find his own path in this life. As a writer, I wanted to find something of a resting place for the soul in a country without a set orthodox religion; in the process I unexpectedly discovered some truths that look rather simplistic on the outside, but that have far-reaching significance.’” (Chi 1999, ix-x)

Bert Scruggs <bms@uci.edu>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *