The River Runs Wide: The Literary Carreer of Chung Chao-cheng


His Early Years

Chung Chao-cheng was born in Taoyuan County’s Longtan Township. His father, a teacher and school principal, shaped and encouraged Chao-cheng’s love of literature. He followed in his father’s footsteps in pursuit of a career in education, attending Tamkang Middle School and then the Changhua Normal School. A poorly treated case of malaria during the early 1940s left Chao-cheng hard of hearing, which hampered his pursuit of a university degree in National Taiwan University’s Department of Chinese Language and Literature. He withdrew before graduating. Continuing Chinese studies on his own, Chao-cheng diligently refined his skills and began writing and creating lucid, elegantly crafted stories, essays, critiques, translations and edited works. Over five decades of creative zeal produced today’s plethora of material authored by Chao-cheng as well as seen the author assume a leadership role in literary affairs. His efforts have been recognized by numerous awards and honors.

Chung Chao-Cheng. First Scrapbook (1952).


The Author with his Older Sister at the Mucha Kogakko (Mucha Public School) (1928).


Into the World of Literary Arts

Novels represent the largest body of Chung Chao-cheng’s creative output. Most of his more than thirty novels revolve around historical themes and the influence of fate over the human condition. He frequently approaches stories from an “autobiographical” perspective to reflect on epic changes in Taiwan history from the perspective of his protagonists and to highlight the earthy grit, determination and pioneering spirit of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan’s indigenous Malayo-Polynesian tribes also featured prominently in his works. Chao-cheng penned numerous stories and novels that adapted traditional indigenous stories and historical experiences. During the 1960s, Chao-cheng penned several works that reflected the literary experimentalism prominent at the time. A number of his works also adapt local Taiwanese folk stories. Over his career, this highly versatile author also translated more than 40 works of foreign literature into Chinese, introducing celebrated literary works from Japan and Europe to readers of Chinese. Chao-cheng also dabbled in translations of popular fiction and detective novels.

Dayan Village (1958). The Taiwanese Trilogy.


A Life Dedicated to Literature

In the early years of the nascent postwar Taiwan literature movement, Chao-cheng joined with Chung Li-ho, Liao Ching-hsiu, Wen Hsin and others in the small contemporary circle of Taiwanese authors to publish a regular newsletter, the Literary Bulletin - a periodical that proved essential to stoking the remnant embers of Taiwan literature. Chao-cheng also joined as an editor on literary compilations, including the cornerstone Compilation of Works by Taiwanese Authors. Books such as these helped raised the visibility of local authors. Subsequent publication of the professionally-done Taiwan Literature and Art magazine, edited by Wu Chuoliu, at last gave local authors and intellectuals a true forum for expression. Chaocheng was also a prominent figure behind the establishment of the Chung Liho Memorial Museum, the promotion of Taiwan literature and other important movements. He maintained active, strong relationships with writers both in Taiwan and overseas, generating a wealth of correspondence over his career. Chung Chao-cheng the author has, over the years, accumulated many academic honors and awards that amply testify to a lifetime of achievement.

Chung Chao-cheng & Yeh Shih-t’ao. First Issue of Taiwan Literature and Art Magazine (1977). Vol. 1, Compilation of Works by Taiwanese Authors (1965).


Delving Further into the Author’s ‘Self’

As an ethnic Hakka and member of Taiwan’s intelligentsia, Chung Chao-cheng took a role at the fore of promoting Hakka culture and rights … elevating Hakka interests and concerns to the national level. He was an active participant in the “Movement to Reinstate Our Mother Language” and successfully secured the creation in the 1990s of a dedicated Hakka language radio station (where he served as its first president and chairman). Through such, Chao-cheng helped raise ethnic consciousness among Hakkas in Taiwan and energize a rejuvenated Hakka cultural spirit. Such vigorous work in this realm secured for him recognition as a leading light of Hakka cultural promotion.

Text and images are provided by National Museum of Taiwan Literature