Chung Chao-cheng: the author who launched Taiwan’s roman-fleuve

Chung Chao-cheng: the author who launched Taiwan’s roman-fleuve
Chinese Name: 鍾肇政
Born: January 20, 1925
Birthplace: Taoyuan County (Northern Taiwan)

Chung Chao-cheng is a famous Taiwanese novelist. He enjoys equal popularity as Yeh Shi-tao (葉石濤), a contemporary literary writer in the Taiwanese literary world. The two authors are called "North Chung South Yeh." Since the publication of his first essay in 1951, Chung has worked hard to launch Taiwan’s roman-fleuve (river-novels) with the "Turbidity Trilogy (濁流三部曲)," and is the first writer to complete a roman-fleuve in Taiwan. Chung has a strong sense of literary creativity and has won numerous awards, including the Wu San-lien Literary Award, the National Award for Arts, and the National Cultural Award.

Born in a Hakka village, Chung moved several times because of his father's work and has lived in Daxi, Dadaocheng, Taoyuan’s Fuxing Township and Pingzhen. After the war, he settled in Longtan. In addition to living in his ancestral home, his experiences living in the mountains and with indigenous people, as well as residing in Taipei, all became scenes in his long and short stories. Chung has five elder sisters and four younger sisters. Surrounded by women in his life, this also affected his style of novel writing.

While he was fulfilling his military service, Chung suffered from high fever, which impaired his hearing. After the war, he studied Chinese at National Taiwan University, but for only two days. In addition to his hearing impairment, another reason for him leaving school was that after entering National Taiwan University’s Department of Chinese Literature, he discovered that the course content was mostly the “Four Books and Five Classics (四書五經),” as well as the “Eight Classics of the Tang and Song Dynasties (唐宋古文八大家),” but Chung was interested in modern literature.

In the era of Japanese rule, Chung completed Japanese education for middle school students and young teachers. After the war, he decided to take the path of literary creation and began to work hard to learn Chinese. Through a large amount of reading and self-study of Chinese-Japanese works, he was able to publish his first piece of writing in 1951 - "After Marriage (婚後)." After 1935, Chung entered a new stage of his novel writing.

In 1961, Chung published his first novel "The Dull Ice Flower (魯冰花)" and in the same year he published the river-novel "Turbidity Trilogy" - "Turbidity (濁流)", "Miles of Country (江山萬里)" and "Flowing Cloud (流雲)." In 1964, he began writing another river-novel "Taiwanese Trilogy (臺灣人三部曲)" - "Sinking (沉淪)," "The Song of Heaven and Ocean (滄溟行)," and "The Song of Chatian Mountain (插天山之歌).” It took him ten years to finish the novel. He also wrote the river-novels, "Alpine Trilogy (高山三部曲)" and "Rising Waves (怒濤)," and is the only novelist in Taiwan to have completed four roman-fleuves.

"Turbidity Trilogy” delicately describes the author's personal experience and the landscape under great changes at the time. It also consists of the themes of lingering love, forming a work that is vast in vision. "Turbidity Trilogy" is the source of Taiwan river-novels. It is an epic depicting the suffering of the nation and people. This novel allows many new generations of readers to gain an understanding of the time during which his or her father or grandfather lived - that vaguely explored period which was full of bitterness, humiliation, confusion, but also hope for the future.

In terms of literary activities, Chung collaborated with a group of enthusiastic literary Taiwanese writers such as Chen Huo-chuan (陳火泉), Liao Ching-hsiu (廖清秀), Chung Li-he (鍾理和), Li Rong-chun (李榮春), Shih Chui-feng (施翠峰), Hsu Bing-cheng (許炳成) and others, to issue a small literary publication called “Literary Friends Communications (文友通訊)” in the 1950s. At that time, many Taiwanese writers who had grown up under Japanese rule faced difficulties in switching to Mandarin and silently began to learn Chinese writing. Therefore, mutual encouragement and assistance was needed. However, “Literary Friends Communications (文友通訊)” was suspended under the pressure of the White Terror period in 1958.

Apart from his literary creations, Chung also actively worked towards commemorating the achievements of Taiwan’s early generation of writers. From the late 1970s onwards, he participated in many activities to push for the establishment of memorial halls for Taiwanese authors and was concerned about Taiwan’s literary environment and cultural construction. He helped establish the Chung Li-he Memorial Hall, Lai-he Memorial Hall, Yang-xi Memorial Hall, and Wu Zhuo-liu Memorial Hall, as well as the Deng Yu-hsien Music Hall. Chung spared no effort in helping give birth to these cultural places. His selfless spirit in developing Taiwan’s literature is admirable.