Yeng Pway Ngon

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Yeng Pway Ngon
Born (1947-01-26) 26 January 1947 (age 71)
Bugis, Singapore
Notable awards Singapore Literature Prize (2004,2008,2012)
Cultural Medallion for Literature (2003)
S.E.A. Write Award (2013)
Spouse Goh Beng Choo
Children Ying Ke Wei
Yeng Pway Ngon
Chinese 英培安

Yeng Pway Ngon (Chinese: 英培安; pinyin: Yīng Péi'ān) is a Singaporean poet, novelist and critic in the Chinese literary scene in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

A prolific writer, Yeng's works have been translated into English, Malay , Dutch and Italian. Yeng has been a recipient of the Singapore Book Award, the Singapore Literature Prize (four times), and the Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the S.E.A. Write Award).[1] For his contributions to the literary scene, Yeng was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 2003.

Early life[edit]

Yeng was born in the Bugis area of Singapore in 1947. His father was a Chinese physician who came from China and his mother worked in a coffee shop in the area. Yeng's parents married during the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945).

Yeng graduated from Ngee Ann College with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Literature in 1969. As a student, Yeng excelled in Chinese and art classes at Catholic High School, Singapore, but scraped through or failed everything else. He decided to embark on writing after submitting a sonnet in lieu of an essay on any subject in Chinese class. His teacher gave him a good grade, and the poem was published in a newspaper.


From 1978 to 1983, Yeng worked as a newspaper columnist for Nanyang Siang Pau writing for the column "Chang Hua Duan Shuo". In 1983, Nanyang Siang Pau merged with Sin Chew Jit Poh to become Lianhe Zaobao. Yeng continued contributing as a columnist for the newspaper's "Ren Zai Jiang Hu" column.

Yeng became a full-time writer in the 1980s. He also wrote radio plays for Rediffusion and published many of his works. In 1987, he published a novel, Yi Ge Xiang Wo Zhe Yang De Nan Ren (A Man Like Me), which won the National Book Development Council of Singapore Book Award the following year.

In 1994, Yeng spent a year in Hong Kong as a freelance columnist for United Daily News, Ming Pao, Sing Tao Daily and Sing Tao Evening News. He returned to Singapore later that year and reopened Grassroots Book Room until 2014.

In 1995, he set up one of Singapore's most prominent Chinese bookstores, the Grassroots Bookroom, at Textile Centre. This was his second bookstore, after Vanguard Bookshop at Golden Mile Tower. In July 2014, Yeng sold Grassroots to his former customers—former Lianhe Zaobao journalist and dramatist Lim Jen Erh, Lim Yeong Shin and medical doctor Lim Wooi Tee—who reopened the bookstore at Bukit Pasoh Road in January 2015.[2]

In 2013, Yeng was the first writer-in-residence of the Nanyang Technological University Chinese department. He taught classes on Chinese literature and novel-writing and also started to devote more time to a novel about the lives of Cantonese opera actors.

In 2014, two English translations of his novels were published in Singapore. Math Paper Press brought out Art Studio, translated by Goh Beng Choo and Loh Guan Liang, while Epigram Books released Trivialities About Me and Myself, translated by Howard Goldblatt.

In 2015, The Straits Times' Akshita Nanda selected Art Studio as one of 10 classic Singapore novels. Reading it in its English translation, she called it "beautifully broad-minded in its attitude towards women's rights and inter- racial relations, nicely detailing some characters' slow awakening to the lessons one can learn in art and life outside a narrow circle."[3]


In 1977, one of Yeng's friends falsely implicated him of being a communist. Yeng was detained under the Internal Security Act for alleged leftist sympathies. He spent most of those four months alone in prison, with his wife visiting him when she could.

In 2012, Yeng was ordered to pay $10,000 in damages and $20,000 in costs to artist Tan Swie Hian. Tan had accused Yeng of libelling him in a 2005 letter which the latter had sent to The Straits Times and the National Arts Council.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Yeng is married to Madam Goh Beng Choo, a translator and former journalist. They met in a bookstore, when Madam Goh was just a 16-year-old secondary school student and Yeng a poet and writer at Ngee Ann College (now Ngee Ann Polytechnic). The couple have one daughter, who is a freelance piano teacher.

Yeng is a prostate cancer survivor. He was diagnosed in 2007, and his cancer is currently in remission.



  • 《一個像我這樣的男人》 (A Man Like Me, 1987)
  • 《騷動》 (Unrest, 2002)
  • 《我與我自己的二三事》 (Trivialities About Me and Myself, 2006)
  • 《画室》 (Art Studio, 2011)
  • 《戲服》 (The Costume, 2015)

Novels in translation

  • Unrest, translated into English by Jeremy Tiang (Balestier Press, 2018) ISBN 978-1-911221-06-7
  • Art Studio translated into Italian by Barbara Leonesi (Metropoli d'Asia, 2013) ISBN 978-88-96317-396



  1. ^ Nanda, Akshita (8 October 2013). "Singapore author Yeng Pway Ngon wins SEA Write Award". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  2. ^ Tan, Corrie (17 January 2015). "Prominent Chinese bookstore reopens with new owners and in new location". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  3. ^ Nanda, Akshita. "10 Singapore stories to ponder". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  4. ^ Tan, Corrie (1 May 2013). "In good books". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.

External links[edit]