Yu Hua

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Yu Hua
Yu Hua at the 2005 Singapore Writers Festival
Yu Hua at the 2005 Singapore Writers Festival
Native name
Born (1960-04-03) April 3, 1960 (age 59)
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China[1]
OccupationNovelist, essayist
Alma materLu Xun Literature School
Period1984 - present
GenreNovel, prose
Literary movementAvant-garde
Notable worksTo Live
Chronicle of a Blood Merchant
Cries in the Drizzle
Notable awards5th Zhuang Zhongwen Literary Prize
James Joyce Award
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
RelativesFather: Hua Zizhi (华自治)
Mother: Yu Peiwen (余佩文)

Yu Hua (simplified Chinese: 余华; traditional Chinese: 余華; pinyin: Yú Huá) is a Chinese author, born April 3, 1960 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Shortly after his debut as a fiction writer in 1983, Yu Hua was regarded as a promising avant-garde or post-New Wave writer.[2] Many critics also regard him as a champion for Chinese meta-fictional or postmodernist writing. When his writing style changed towards a more “psychologized” narrative in the 1990s and experimented with more chaotic themes like in Brothers, Yu Hua received strong criticism from critics and readers.[3]

Yu Hua has written five novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His novels have been translated into English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Persian, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Hungarian, Serbian, Turkish, Hebrew, Korean, Czech, Mongolian and Malayalam.[4]

Background and History[edit]

A young Yu Hua's parents worked as doctors, so the family lived in a hospital compound across from the mortuary. His childhood proximity to death shaped his later works.[5] He practiced dentistry for five years before turning to fiction writing in 1983 because he didn't like "looking into people’s mouths the whole day."[6] For Yu Hua, the Cultural Revolution took place from the ages of seven to seventeen.[3] It is for this reason that many of his works include the violence and chaos that were prevalent at the time. In his own words, “a calm, orderly society cannot produce such great works.”[3] One of the distinctive characteristics of his work is his penchant for detailed descriptions of brutal violence.[7]

Writing Themes and Style[edit]


Heavily inspired and affected by the Cultural Revolution,[3] the theme of modern Chinese history is prevalent in Yu Hua's writing. His stories are often set in small towns during historical periods that he experienced including China under Chairman Mao's rule,[8][9] the Civil War and Cultural Revolution,[10][4] and post Mao capitalist China.[4] Childhood is also a theme which appears often in his stories, but does not consequently lighten the subject matter. Yu Hua is known for his brutal descriptions of violence, cruelty and death[3] as well as themes surrounding “the plight of China’s underclasses” as seen in Chronicle of a Blood Merchant.[11] When he began focusing on more chaotic themes in Brothers, Yu Hua admitted his belief that despite his past modeling after Kafka's novels, "the essential nature of writing was to free yourself. If the great masters can unfetter themselves, why can’t we?”[3] In this same work, he prides himself on his simultaneous expression of tragedy and comedy.[3]


Yu Hua has been influenced by magic realism and also incorporates pre-modern Chinese fiction elements into his work. He is known to use dark humour and strange modes of perception and description in his writing.[12] He has been influenced by music, with a particular interest in classical, and the narrative structure of music; in fact, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant uses techniques borrowed from Yue opera's style.[13]

Yu Hua's work has been successful at constructing mysterious and rich literary universes in both fiction and non-fiction. As Yu Hua has said, "Inevitably the novel involves China's history, but I don't intend to present history. My responsibility and interest as a writer lie in creating real people in my work, real Chinese people."[13]

In the beginning of his career, he wasn't successful at gaining traction with the readers due to the complexity of his work. He aimed to demonstrate the dark side of human psychology and society in a non-traditional way. He changed his style after he started to gain traction in the writing world and adjusted his work away from over complexity due to readers’ finding his work difficult to understand. After his adjustments, he focused on injecting the right amount of modern ideologies into his work which is primarily constructed on the narration of “realistic societies”.[14]

Yu Hua's writing style focuses on quality over quantity. Known by the complexity and unique linguistic styles, his effective style of writing and communication breaks the everyday rule of linguistics to form and, in a sense, its own linguistic system. With its complex foundations, Yu Hua's work has been successful at constructing mysterious and rich literary universes in both fiction and non-fiction.[15]


Note: titles have been translated into English from the original Mandarin Chinese.

Short story collections[edit]

Originally published in literary journals, these stories were subsequently anthologized in different collections in both Taiwan and Mainland China.[16] The most complete collection of his stories to date is I Don’t Have My Own Name (January 2017), including 21 stories; “Leaving Home at Eighteen”, “Classical Love”, “World Like Mist”, “The Past and the Punishments”, “1986”, “Blood and Plum Blossoms”, “The Death of a Landlord”, “Predestination”,[17] “No Name of My Own”, “Boy in the Twilight”, “Why There Was No Music”, “Victory”, “Appendix”, “Mid-Air Collisions”, “On the Bridge”, “Sweltering Summer”, “Timid as a Mouse”, “Their Son”, “The Skipping-and-Stepping Game”, “Why Do I Have to Get Married?” and “Friends”.[18] Other anthologies with these works include; The April 3rd Incident, The Past and the Punishments (1996), translated by Andrew F. Jones; Boy in the Twilight (2014), translated by Allan H. Barr; On the Road at Eighteen (1991); Summer Typhoon (1993); Shudder (1995); and the three volumes of Yu Hua's Collected Works (1994), among others.[16]


  • To Live (1993), Yu Hua's earliest novel, follows the transformation of a spoiled son of a landlord as he witnesses the brutality and hardships of the Civil War and Cultural revolution. The novel was originally banned in China but later named one of that nation's most influential books.[10]
  • Chronicle Of a Blood Merchant (1995) follows a struggling cart-pusher and portrays the hardships of life under the leadership of Chairman Mao.[8]
  • Brothers (2005): Described as “an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok”,[4] Brothers consists of two volumes following the childhood of two step-brothers during the Cultural Revolution and life in post-Mao, capitalist China.[4]
  • Cries in the Drizzle (2007): In this novel, Yu Hua writes about a boy through his childhood in China under the reign of Mao. As a black sheep in society and his own family, he observes the consequences of Communist rule from a unique perspective.[9]
  • The Seventh Day (2015), Yu Hua's most recent novel, tells the story of Yang Fei who dies at age forty-one and, without adequate money for a burial plot, is left to aimlessly roam the afterworld. Over the course of seven days, he encounters the souls of friends, family and acquaintances who died before him.[19] Yu Hua "got the idea that death is not the end of life but just a turning point" from living close to a mortuary as a child.[5]


  • China in Ten words (2011).[20]


Yu Hua received the Grinzane Cavour Prize as his first award in 1998 for his novel To Live.[21] Four years later, Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to receive the James Joyce Award (2002).[22] Originally published in 1993, To Live was then published in English in 2003[21] and earned him the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France in 2004.[23] That same year, Yu Hua was awarded the Barnes & Noble Discovery Great New Writers Award (2004)[21] and in 2005, took home the Special Book Award of China.[23] Since then, he has also won the Prix Courrier International (2008)[23] for his novel Brothers[24] which was also shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize[22]

TV and Film Adaptations[edit]

Three of Yu Hua's works have screen adaptations. “To Live” (1994) was directed by Zhang Yimou, with Yu Hua himself participating in screenwriting.[25] Though the screenplay was greatly altered it was still banned upon initial release. However, “To Live” swept awards at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. The same novel was directed by Zhu Zheng as a television drama in 2003, named after the protagonist “Fu Gui”. The movie and novel emphasize two ways of “living” through exposing harsh realities underneath the facade of life and pondering the significance of existing.[26] The television adaptation followed the tragedies in the original storyline more closely, avoiding the casting of big names in order to effectively portray the simplicity of civilian life in revolution era China. Each have their own virtues, but the public seems to prefer the movie. “Brothers” (2007) was adapted in Cantonese by Hong Kong director Sung Kee Chiu. It starred big names but many audience members expressed disappointment in the weak theme presentation; some complaining that the film only glorified its actors.[27] Most recently “Chronicles of a Blood Merchant” (2015) was adapted into a Korean language film,[28] both directed by and starring actor Ha Jung-woo.

Further reading[edit]

  • Shouhuo 收获 1991, No. 6 (changpian xiaoshuo) 长篇小说.
  • Shouhuo 收获 1992, No. 6 (zhongpian xiaoshuo) 中篇小说 .
  • Yu, Hua; Jones, Andrew F. (trans) (1996). The Past and the Punishments. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-1817-2. OCLC 45727784.
  • Yu, Hua; Berry, Michael (trans) (2003). To Live 活着. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 978-1-400-03186-3. OCLC 51752247.
  • Yu, Hua; Jones, Andrew F. (trans) (2003). Chronicle of a Blood Merchant 许三观卖血记. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42220-1. OCLC 51978096.
  • Yu, Hua; Barr, Allan H. (trans) (2003). Cries in the Drizzle 在细雨中呼喊. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-307-27999-6. OCLC 104878666.
  • Yu, Hua; Chow, Eileen Cheng-yin (trans); Rojas, Carlos (trans) (2009). Brothers 兄弟. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42499-1. OCLC 228701323.(Chinese: 兄弟; pinyin: Xiōng Dì, 2005–2006)
  • Chinese Writers on Writing featuring Yu Hua. Ed. Arthur Sze. (Trinity University Press, 2010).
  • Yu, Hua; Barr, Allan H. (trans) (2011). China in Ten Words 十个词汇里的中国. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-307-37935-1. OCLC 701810348.
    (simplified Chinese: 十个词汇里的中国; traditional Chinese: 十個詞彙裡的中國; pinyin: Shí Gè Cíhuì Lǐ De Zhōngguó) ISBN 978-986-120-477-2
  • China in Ten Words Yu Hua. translated by Allan H. Baar. (Pantheon Books, 2011).
  • “Huhan yu xi yu” 呼喊与细雨 (Shouts and Fine Rain)
  • Yu, Hua; Barr, Allan H. (trans) (2014). Boy in the twilight: stories of the hidden China 黄昏里的男孩. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-307-37936-8. OCLC 841899112.
    (Chinese: 黄昏里的男孩; pinyin: Huánghūn lǐ de nánhái)
  • Yu, Hua; Barr, Allan H. (trans) (2015). Seventh Day 第七天. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-804-19786-1. OCLC 883747924.
  • World Like Mist: Eight Stories (pinyin: Shi shi ru yan) ISBN 986-7691-37-7
  • "How My Books Have Roamed the World", in Specimen: The Babel Review of Translations (Chinese 2016, English 2017)[29]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, Ian (11 October 2012). "An Honest Writer Survives in China". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  2. ^ Anne Wedell-Wedellsborg, “One Kind of Chinese Reality: Reading Yu Hua. ”Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews, Vol. 18 (Dec., 1996), pp. 129- 143.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g “On Brothers and Chaotic Aesthetics: An Interview with Yu Hua,” Chinese Literature Today 1:2 (2011).
  4. ^ a b c d e Yu, Hua (2010). Brothers (1 ed.). Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-307-38606-9.
  5. ^ a b "Interview with Yu Hua". Goodreads. 2015-01-06. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  6. ^ Yu, Hua (30 August 2003). "Interview with Yu Hua". University of Iowa International Writing Program (Interview). Interviewed by Michael Standaert. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  7. ^ Zhao, Yiheng (Summer 1991). "Yu Hua: Fiction as Subversion". World Literature Today. 65 (1). JSTOR 40147343.
  8. ^ a b Yu, Hua (9 Nov 2004). Chronicle of a Blood Merchant. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 1400031850.
  9. ^ a b Yu, Hua (2007). Cries in the Drizzle. Anchor Books. ISBN 0307279995.
  10. ^ a b Yu, Hua (2003). Berry, Michael (ed.). To Live. Google Books: Random House Digital, Inc. p. 117. ISBN 1-4000-3186-9.
  11. ^ "Yu Hua". Paper Republic.
  12. ^ Moen, M. O. (1993). Blurring the lines : postmodernism and the use of tradition in the works of Yu Hua.
  13. ^ a b "Writer Yu Hua". www.china.org.cn. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  14. ^ "论余华小说创作特点". ent.sina.com.cn. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  15. ^ "资料介绍:话剧《活着》原著余华_影音娱乐_新浪网". ent.sina.com.cn. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  16. ^ a b Yu, Hua (1996). The Past and the Punishments. University of Hawai'i Press. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  17. ^ 王, 志艳. "迄今收入余华短篇篇目最全的小说集出版". 中华读书报.
  18. ^ "Kirkus Review". Kirkus. Pantheon.
  19. ^ Yu, Hua (2016). The Seventh Day (reprint ed.). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 0804172056.
  20. ^ LIGAYA MISHAN (November 10, 2011). "China as Paper Republic". New York Times.
  21. ^ a b c "Yu Hua". Contemporary Authors Online. 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Yu Hua: Brothers, 2008 Shortlist". Man Asian Literary Prize. 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  23. ^ a b c "Yu Hua". The New York Times. 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  24. ^ Bao, Xinjing (11 Nov 2003). "Prix courrier international. Yu Hua lauréat 2008 avec "Brothers"". Courrier International. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  25. ^ "【转载】活着影评二则". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  26. ^ 沈, 文蕙. "存在之思与现实之痛". 华中师范大学文学院. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  27. ^ "豆瓣的影评". 豆瓣影评. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  28. ^ "许三观.韩语中字". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  29. ^ "我的书游荡世界的经历 | Specimen". Specimen. 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2018-10-20.

External links[edit]