HUANG CHUNMING, A.K.A. HWANG CHUN-MING (1939— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

HUANG CHUNMING, A.K.A. HWANG CHUN-MING (1939— ). Fiction writer. A native of Taiwan, Huang Chunming is one of the most prominent Taiwanese writers. His short stories are among some of the best works written in modern Chinese. The clash between urban and rural values is an ever-present theme in his works; as a leading voice in the nativist movement in Taiwan, Huang shows a nuanced understanding of the rural communities of the island and its poor and disadvantaged residents. His characters are rendered poignantly real in their merits and shortcomings. His description of the Taiwanese countryside is far from the bucolic paradise sung by Romantic poets; it is a poverty-stricken, unbearably harsh place to live. Huang’s riveting tales portray the little people in the villages and small towns callously pushed aside by urban spread and made poorer as a result of Taiwan’s economic boom and rapid modernization. “Nisi yizhi lao mao” (The Drowning of an Old Cat), a tragic tale about an old villager’s futile attempt to prevent city people from building a swimming pool next to the village’s auspicious well, is directly concerned with the erosion of a traditional lifestyle by the encroachment of urbanization. “Erzi de da wan’ou” (His Son’s Big Doll) exposes the dehumanizing effects of commercialism in its description of the anguish felt in the heart of a man commodified as a “sandwich man” dressed as such an advertisement.

Keenly aware of the erosion of traditional practices and attitudes brought on by disruptive changes, Huang is nostalgic about the vanishing rural virtues in traditional Taiwanese communities. However, he is unsentimental about his feelings. He writes humorously and shows a close affinity with his characters, who show a remarkable likeness to his friends and relatives in the small town of Luodong, where he grew up. Huang is noted for his moral vision as well as his originality as a storyteller. He uses metaphors to delineate the problems faced by his characters. “Xuan” (Ringworm), a tale about a rural family struggling in dire poverty, paints a scene of misery by focusing on ringworms, a symbol of poverty and passive attitude on the part of the poor.