François Cheng

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François Cheng.

François Cheng (Chinese: 程抱一; pinyin: Chéng Bàoyī; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng Pao-i,born 30 August 1929 in Nanchang, Jiangxi) is a Chinese-born French academician, writer, poet and calligrapher. He is the author of essays, novels, collections of poetry and books on art written in the French language, and the translator of some of the great French poets into Chinese.


Born in China and taking French citizenship in 1973, he was elected to the Académie française in 2002, and was the first person of Asian origin to be a member of the Academy. He was the winner of the 1998 Prix Femina for Le Dit de Tianyi ("The Tale of Tianyi") (pub. Albin Michel, Paris, 1998).

When Cheng arrived in France in 1948, on a study grant, he did not speak a word of the language. He subsequently adapted quickly and profoundly. In his speech to the Académie française, he explained, "I became a Frenchman in law, mind and heart more than thirty years ago [...] especially from that moment when I resolutely went over to the French language, making it the weapon, or the soul, of my creative work. This language, how can I say everything that I owe to it? It is so intimately bound up with the way I live and my inner life that it has proved to be the emblem of my destiny."[1] It took many years before he became a novelist. His first works were on Chinese poetry and painting, and in the late sixties and early seventies he worked closely with the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan on texts from the classical Chinese canon. These exchanges informed Lacan's late teaching on psychoanalytic interpretation.[2] Later he began to write works of poetry himself, before finally turning to the writing of novels.

Since 2008, he is a member of the Fondation Chirac's honour committee.[3]

Anne Cheng, a sinologist, is his daughter.[4]


  • Analyse formelle de l'œuvre poétique d'un auteur des Tang : Zhang Ruoxu (1970)
  • Le Pousse-pousse, by Lao She, (translation, 1973)
  • L'Écriture poétique chinoise (1977)
  • Vide et plein: le langage pictural chinois (1979)
  • L'espace du rêve: mille ans de peinture chinoise (1980)
  • Sept poètes français (1983)
  • Henri Michaux, sa vie, son œuvre (1984)
  • Chu Ta : le génie du trait (1986)
  • Some Reflections on Chinese Poetic Language and its Relation to Chinese Cosmology dans The Vitality of the Lyric Voice (1986)
  • The Reciprocity of Subject and Object in Chinese Poetic Language dans Poetics East and West (1988)
  • De l'arbre et du rocher (1989)
  • Entre source et nuage, Voix de poètes dans la Chine d'hier et d'aujourd'hui (1990)
  • Saisons à vie (1993)
  • Trente-six poèmes d'amour (1997)
  • Quand les pierres font signe (1997) (with Fabienne Verdier)
  • Le Dit de Tyanyi (1998, Prix Femina)
  • Shitao : la saveur du monde (1998, Prix André Malraux)
  • Cantos toscans (1999)
  • D'où jaillit le chant (2000)
  • Double chant (2000, Prix Roger Caillois)
  • Et le souffle devient signe (2001)
  • Qui dira notre nuit (2001)
  • L'éternité n'est pas de trop, Albin Michel, (2002)
  • Le Dialogue, Une passion pour la langue française, Desclée de Brouwer, (2002)
  • Le Long d'un amour, Arfuyen, (2003)
  • Le Livre du vide médian, Albin Michel, (2004)
  • Que nos instants soient d'accueil, with Francis Herth (2005)
  • À l'orient de tout, Gallimard, (2005)
  • Cinq méditations sur la beauté, Albin Michel, (2006)
  • L'un vers l'autre. En voyage avec Victor Segalen, Albin Michel, (2008)
  • Qand reviennent les âmes errantes, Albin Michel, (2012)
  • Cinq méditations sur la mort - autrement dit sur la vie - Broché (2013)

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