LU YAO, PEN NAME OF WANG WEIGUO (1949—1992)
LU YAO, PEN NAME OF WANG WEIGUO (1949—1992). Novelist. Born into a poor peasant family in Shaanxi, Lu Yao left the countryside to attend Yan’an University in 1973 as a Chinese major. After graduation, he worked as a journalist and later as an editor for the journal Shaanxi wenyi (Shaanxi Literature and Art). In 1980 he published a novella, “Jing tian dong di de yi mu” (An Earth-Shattering Episode), which won a national prize. Two years later the short novel Ren sheng (Life) was published and shortly after a movie based on the novel was made, making Lu Yao a household name. In 1992, a year after he finished his most ambitious work, Pingfan de shijie (An Ordinary World), a novel that won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, Lu Yao died at the age of 42.
Having grown up in the poor and conservative countryside and worked his way into the city, Lu Yao understood on a personal level the extraordinary challenges and moral quandaries faced by educated youths of rural backgrounds. He wrote about the economic reform that lured young peasants into the cities, forcing them to change their traditional ways of thinking in order to find their place in the new economy and new social order. Ren sheng tells about the emotional journey of Gao Jialin, a high school graduate, as fate throws him back and forth between his native village and the city and between a simple, submissive country girl and a sophisticated, independent city woman. With his dreams repeatedly dashed, Gao finally realizes that he belongs to the soil that nurtured him, and his future rests with the poor and backward countryside that waits for him, and the educated country youths like him, to transform. Similarly, Pingfan de shijie deals with the great transformations taking place in rural communities and the surrounding small towns since Deng Xiaoping’s reform. The novel covers the first decade of the reform era when China underwent fundamental changes in its economic, social, and cultural spheres. Lu Yao wrote in the realist tradition, and as an idealist he firmly believed in the future of the country.