ZHU XINING, A.K.A. CHU HSI-NING (1927—1998) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

ZHU XINING, A.K.A. CHU HSI-NING (1927—1998). Fiction and prose writer and editor. Zhu studied art in Hangzhou but abandoned his studies to join the Nationalist army. When the government lost the Civil War and retreated to Taiwan, Zhu went along with the troops and had reached the rank of colonel by the time he left the army. Recognition came to him in the 1950s when his short stories were published. Many of his writings, though set in the mainland at the beginning of the 20th century, deal with the impact of modernity on the traditional way of life, a theme that resonated with the concerns shared by some intellectuals in Taiwan at the time. “Tien jiang” (Molten Iron), a gripping tale about a small town in northern China during the Qing dynasty, juxtaposes the arrival of modernity, represented by the coming of the train, with the gruesome death of a man determined to win back a salt production contract and with it his family’s honor. His “irrational” behavior (self-mutilation that culminates in pouring hot, lavalike iron into his own mouth) is portrayed as a last desperate and futile attempt to hold on to the traditional way of life. A posthumously published novel, Hua Taiping jia chuan (The Hua Family Heritage), relates the changes in a Shandong village when Christian missionaries crack open the isolated, self-sufficient agrarian society. This novel reflects his family background. Zhu’s grandfather, a preacher in his hometown in Shandong, was one of the first generation of Chinese Christians. Zhu is noted for his innovative techniques, his riveting plots, and his portrayals of Chinese country life. His aesthetics influenced a younger generation of writers, including Zhang Dachun and his daughters Zhu Tianwen and Zhu Tianxin.