Chen Yingzhen (1937-2016)

Dear Colleagues:

This is to let those who have not heard that the maverick Taiwanese author Chen Yingzhen passed away yesterday in Beijing after almost ten years in intensive care, following a series of strokes.

Chen Yingzhen is best known for being one of a group of native Taiwanese (Hoklo) authors called “xiangtu” writers (native soil, nativist), although he eschewed the term himself. He came of age around 1960, publishing about a dozen short stories at a young age in the journal Bihui 筆滙, edited by Yu Tiancong. In the mid-1960s he wrote several important stories published in the journal Wenji 文季 (which changed titles a couple times). He was then incarcerated under Chiang Kai-shek; he was first sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted and he was released in 1975 on the death of the elder Chiang.

Chen was a central figure in the Xiangtu Wenxue Lunzhan (Nativist Literature Debate) in the late 1970s, and in the 1980s he published and edited the important exposé journal Renjian 人間 (In Society). He continued to write fiction through this period. Chen was almost unique among prominent Hoklo intellectuals in that as a confirmed Marxist he advocated reunification with mainland China. He also launched one of the most sustained and sophisticated critiques of global capitalism in Taiwan. He was controversial in Taiwan, particularly in the Chen Shuibian era. He had a strong following among some intellectuals in the PRC and was awarded honorary status as a fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His health in great peril from about 2006 (he had previously suffered a severe stroke in the early 2000s), he was moved to Beijing where he lived out his life in intensive care.

His collected fiction is available in a 6 volume set from Hongfan in Taiwan. A collection of his translated stories done by Lucien Miller is published by the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies. To read more extensively of his life and works, one can consult my entry “Chen Yingzhen” in Thomas Moran and Ye Dianne Xu, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Chinese Fiction Writers 1950-2000 (Broccoli Clark Layman; 2013), pp. 36-46.

Christopher Lupke 陸敬思 <>

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