KE YUNLU, PEN NAME FOR BAO GUOLU (1946— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

KE YUNLU, PEN NAME FOR BAO GUOLU (1946— ). Novelist. One of the most prolific and popular novelists in China today, Ke Yunlu has written more than a dozen novels since 1980. Xin xing (A Rising Star), published in 1984, and the television show based on it earned Ke his national fame. The novel portrays a county party secretary and the difficulties he encounters in the Chinese bureaucracy notorious for its corruption, inefficiency, and nepotism. With this and other novels about the inner workings of Chinese political and social system, Ke soon came to be known as an astute interpreter of Chinese officialdom; his novels, particularly Ye yu zhou (Night and Day) and Shuai yu rong (Fall and Rise), both depicting the complexities of life in Beijing in the 1980s, have been deemed “must reads” for those who wish to understand Chinese politics and social relationships.

In addition to his works on contemporary politics, Ke has published several novels about the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. Heishanbao gang jian (History of Heishanbao) paints a village in the throes of absolute tyranny where the leader catalogs his conquests in politics and sex in secret codes. Furong guo (The Hibiscus Country) offers a panoramic view of Chinese society, from the capital city to a small village, from high-ranking officials to the common people, in particular the young Red Guards later sent to China’s remote countryside. Also set in the Cultural Revolution but focusing on the experience of young people growing up in an era of political radicalism and social destruction, Ke has written Xisheng (Sacrifice), whose young protagonists struggle to fulfill political idealism and romantic love at a time of moral confusion, Mengmei (Obscuration), a tragic tale set in a small southern town that depicts the sexual awakening of a boy through his relationship with an older woman and how they are destroyed by an unforgiving society, and Nage xiatian ni gan le shenme (What Did You Do That Summer), an investigation of the tragic fate of a schoolteacher who was beaten to death in the name of justice by his rebellious students who live to regret their atrocious act. Picking up the coming-of-age theme, Fuqin xianyi ren (Suspect Fathers), published in 2005, examines the maturing process of a boy as he interacts with the opposite sex and with the older generation, and Chenggong zhe (A Success Story) is about the experience of a young man of humble beginnings who achieves material success at the expense of moral and spiritual integrity.

Ke is a man of many interests. He has forayed into such areas as psychology and mysticism. His curiosity about the workings of the human mind has resulted in a psychological novel, Jidu zhi yanjiu (A Study of Jealousy), featuring a gathering of writers, a social group the author considers to be the most susceptible to jealousy. His foray into the study of qigong, a system of deep-breathing exercises thought to possess miraculous powers, led to the publication of a novel, Da qigong shi (The Qigong Master), which, along with his other metaphysical writings, caused a great deal of controversy.