ZHANG HENSHUI (1895—1967)
ZHANG HENSHUI (1895—1967). Novelist. After the publication in 1919 of his first novel, Nan guo xiangsi pu (Love in Southern China), Zhang Henshui maintained an unchallenged status as the most popular novelist in China throughout the Republican period (1911—1949). Although his name faded on the mainland during the Mao era, he continued to enjoy a large readership in the rest of Chinese-speaking communities. Recent years have seen a revived interest in him on the mainland, with the publications of new editions of his works and several television dramas adapted from his novels.
A prolific writer with more than a hundred titles to his name, Zhang was a transitional figure, bridging the worlds of traditional and modern literature. His novels, written in the traditional style of Chinese vernacular fiction, rely heavily on suspenseful plots and smooth and accessible language to tell a good story. Grouped with the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies school, which believed entertainment to be the mission of literature, Zhang is not considered a mainstream writer and his novels are generally regarded as lowbrow. Romantic stories such as Chun ming wai shi (Anecdote of a Sunny Spring), Jinfen shijia (The Family of Wealth), and Tixiao yinyuan (Fate in Tears and Laughter), are his representative works. During and after the Sino-Japanese War, his novels turned toward social satire and realistic portrayals of Chinese society in turmoil. Bashiyi meng (Eighty-one Dreams) is a representative work of this period. His novels written before 1949 were serialized in newspapers in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Zhang wrote a few novels after the Communist victory in 1949, including Kongque dongnan fei (The Peacocks Fly Southeast), Feng qiu huang (The Male Phoenix Courting the Female Phoenix), and Qiu Jiang (The Autumn River), all based on traditional tales. He died of a stroke in Beijing.