Ying Fenghuang, Professor, Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture, National Taipei University of Education
From the title “Uncle A-Huang” it’s not hard to see that the story is about a man; however, there is an important subtitle – “Hometown III.” “Uncle A-Huang” is the third in Chung Li-her’s four-part “Hometown” series, the other titles being “Bamboo-root Village,” “Forest Fire,” and “My ‘Out-law’ and the Hill Songs.” Therefore, if we first focus on the motif “hometown,” it will not only allow us understand the writer’s creative motives, but will, moreover, acquaint us with the structure of the series as a whole. Because it shares a title with Lu Xun’s famous short story of the same name, the series has given rise to a great deal of research into Lu Xun’s influence on Chung Li-her: titles are the same, and literary techniques and structures are similar; thus, some scholars believe that Chung’s series is an expansion and extension of Lu Xun’s “Hometown.”
The four-part series was written in 1950, after Chung Li-her came back to Taiwan following an eight-year stay in China. When he returned to his hometown in southern Taiwan he found that everything had changed under KMT rule – there was desolation all around, farming villages had fallen into poverty, and rural folk were hard pressed just to get by. Shocked and saddened, Chung was moved to write about the changes that had taken place in his absence. Uncle A-Huang – one of the author’s old acquaintances – serves as a symbol for contrasting the past with the present, illustrating the drastic changes agrarian communities underwent.
In Chung Li-her’s memory, Uncle A-Huang was a big, strapping fellow, the popular and hardworking foreman of a rice-harvesting crew. Now, however, he is a morose and idle man who lies all day beneath a filthy blanket, immersed in self-pity, constantly complaining “the harder I work the poorer I get.”
Furthermore, Uncle A-Huang’s residence is shockingly filthy, stinking of feces and urine. Outside the house there are piles dung everywhere, surrounded by swarms of buzzing blowflies. The miserable scene stands in stark contrast to former years, when Uncle A-Huang and village youths harvested rice in sunlit paddies, laughing and singing. As Chung tells it, although the soil was “black earth,” it was rich and glossy, as though soaked through with sesame oil. Hence, the vast difference between Taiwanese farming villages in the pre- and postwar eras.
Obviously, the drastic changes in Uncle A-Huang mirror those that took place in Taiwanese farming communities in the aftermath of WWII. In 1945 the defeated Japanese left Taiwan, returning the island to Nationalist Chinese sovereignty. But the new government failed the common people, and hunger and unemployment were rampant. Thus, Chung He-li was driven to pick up his pen and make a record of all he saw. In Taiwan’s literary history Chung has always been regarded as a gifted nativist writer; his “Hometown” series establishes him as the leading witness to Taiwan agrarian communities’ desolation in the postwar period.
Chung Li-he (1915–1960) wrote under the pen names Jiang Liu, Zhong Zheng, Zhong Jian, and Li He. He hailed from Kaoshu Township in Pingtung County. His father was an important landowner and rural businessman in the Liudui area. Chung entered the state school in Yanbu at the age of eight. Also attending the school were his half-brother Chung Ho-ming (who later changed his name to Chung Hao-dong) and his older cousins Chung Chiu-ho and Ch'ou Lien-ch'ou. Chung also received private Chinese instruction with his half-brother Chung Ho-ming, who later encouraged him to follow an artistic career.
When Chung was eighteen his father bought Lishan farm in Meinong and the whole family moved there. While helping his father run the farm, Chung met and fell in love with Chung Tai-mei, a girl from the neighboring village. But his family would not accept or give their blessing to his marrying a girl bearing the same family name, so in 1938 the couple eloped to the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. When their first child, Chung Tie-min, was born in 1941, the family moved to Beijing (called Beiping at the time) and Chung began to use the pen name “Jiang Liu” for his original works and translations. In 1945 he published his first collection of short stories, The Oleander, the only work he saw published in his lifetime.
While in Beijing, Chung Li-he passed himself off as a Hakka from Mei County in Guangdong. In 1945, the year after the war ended, Chung and his entire family returned to Taiwan in refugee boats. Six months later he accepted a post teaching Chinese to middle school students in Neipu, Pingtung. In January of 1947 he began coughing up blood and was taken to National Taiwan University Hospital to be treated for tuberculosis, just as the 228 Incident was taking place. He wrote down everything he saw and heard on medicine packets. At the end of the year he moved to Songshan Nursing Home for long-term convalescence. In 1949 his half-brother Chung Ho-ming was arrested and executed, followed by his cousin Ch'iu Lien-ch'iu. Chung’s grief knew no bounds. In mid-1950 Chung underwent two rounds of thoracic surgery, losing six ribs. Thereafter his health continued to decline and he struggled with poverty. In 1952 he passed the examination to become a local administrator in Meinong, but soon left his post due to exhaustion. Still determined to live off his writing, he wrote copiously throughout the 1950s. In 1956 his long-form novel Lishan Farm won second place in a competition organized by the Chinese Literature Award Committee (no work won first prize), but his novel remained unpublished.
After winning the prize, he began to correspond with writers Zhong Zhaozheng, Liao Qingxiu, and Chen Huoquan, and the three would discuss one another's works in the Literary Dispatch. Chung’s work found recognition with Lin Haiyin, chief editor of the United Daily News literary supplement, and 1959 the paper carried a number of works. Chung died on August 4th, 1960, after coughing up a large quantity of blood while revising his short story “Rain.” Chen Huoquan called him “the bloody writer.”
Chung Li-he's works show the profound influence of Lu Xun. When he returned to Taiwan after the war, the political climate was somewhat fraught and writers tended to steer clear of politics, preferring instead to focus on portrayals of ordinary people or depictions of human dignity. Chung’s portrayals are exquisitely rendered and deeply moving; a Hakka writer, he ranks as an important, Taiwanese literary figure. Chung’s collected works have been published as The Complete Works of Chung Li-he and his hometown of Meinong now boasts the Chung Li-he Memorial Museum.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=2218
|Anthology：||The Collected Works of Chung Li-he, No.1|
|Author：||Zhong Lihe (Chung Li-he)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Chung Li-he Foundation|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||https://drive.google.com/drive/my-drive|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|