WANG DINGJUN (1927— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

WANG DINGJUN (1927— ). Prose writer. One of the most influential and prolific prose writers in contemporary Chinese literature, Wang Dingjun was born in Shandong and spent his early youth in the Nationalist army, which he joined during the Sino-Japanese War. At the end of the Civil War, he followed the government to Taiwan and worked as a writer and editor for radio and newspapers. He has been living in the New York City area since emigrating to the United States in the 1970s. Wang’s creative oeuvre consists of mostly essays. For an essayist, the best source of inspiration is life experience of which Wang has had an abundant amount. He has gone through earthshaking events in modern Chinese history, fought two wars, and having been uprooted several times in his life, endured long separations from his family, friends, and cultural environment. In addition to these painful but valuable life-changing experiences, he possesses a curious mind that enjoys probing into history, society, and human behavior.

Many of his essays express a strong sense of nostalgia. Ever since he left his home in Shandong more than half a century ago, Wang has never returned to it in person but has never stopped writing about it. To Wang, home is a “piece of art” that he has “imagined, carved, polished and embellished” during more than half of his lifetime. It is his spiritual anchor. The concept of home in his writing is not just the village in Shandong but has extended to encompass China with its rich history and culture, including its beauty and its sufferings. Jiaoyin (Footprints), Shan li shan wai (Inside and Outside the Mountains), Zuo xin fang de xuanwo (Swirls of the Left Atrium of the Heart), Hai shui tian ya Zhongguoren (The Ocean, the Edge of the Sky, and the Chinese) are all expressions of his love for his home and his home country. Another prominent theme of his writings is humanity. He enjoys “people watching.” Every human being, according to Wang, is a slide of “scenery” that he never tires of observing and describing. From these observations, Wang derives lessons about society, human nature, and the psyche of a nation. Works such as Zhongnian (Middle Age), Qingren yan (The Eyes of a Lover), Sui liuli (Broken Colored Glaze), Women xiandai ren (We the Modern People), and Rensheng (Life) belong to this category. Taiwan also features prominently in his writings in which he bears witness to the island’s march to modernization and its impact on the environment and the people.

Wang has worked with all genres of prose writing, including the lyrical essay, narrative essay, and satirical essay. In his essays, he employs the techniques commonly used in poetry, fiction, and drama. His language is colloquial and succinct. In addition to a long list of publications of prose work, Wang has also written short stories collected in Danshen wendu (Body Heat of Unmarried Men) and Toushi (X Ray).