AH CHENG, PEN NAME OF ZHONG ACHENG (1949— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

AH CHENG, PEN NAME OF ZHONG ACHENG (1949— ). Fiction writer, essayist, and painter. Born and raised in Beijing, Ah Cheng worked on farms in Inner Mongolia and Yunnan during the Cultural Revolution. Soon after returning to Beijing in the late 1970s, he gained recognition for his paintings and writings. In the mid-1980s, he was a prominent member in the root-seeking movement, which represents a concerted effort of young writers to rediscover their cultural roots, which were destroyed in the calamities of the previous two decades.

“Qi wang” (King of Chess), his first and best fictional work, is set in the 1970s on a remote farm in Yunnan and based on the life of a group of educated youth. The protagonist is a young man obsessed with food and chess, the former to satisfy his physical needs and the latter to nourish his spirituality. Following the success of “Qi wang,” Ah Cheng wrote “Shu wang” (King of Trees) about one man’s futile effort during the Cultural Revolution to stop deforestation and “Haizi wang” (King of Children), the story of a devoted and unconventional village teacher. Notable in these stories is Ah Cheng’s use of the Chinese language. He appropriates classical Chinese, particularly its terse and compact structure and its elegance, features that are markedly different from the verbiage and political mumbo jumbo of the Mao era. Equally noteworthy is the prevailing presence of traditional values in the stories, particularly those of Daoism and Buddhism.