Bo Yang

Bo Yang

Guo Dingsheng
Born Guo Dingsheng
(1920-03-07)7 March 1920
Kaifeng, Henan, China
Died 29 April 2008(2008-04-29) (aged 88)
Xindian, Taipei County (now Xindian District of New Taipei City), Taiwan
Pen name Boyang
Occupation Historian, writer, philosopher
Language Chinese
Citizenship Republic of China
Alma mater Northeastern University
Period 1950–2008

Boyang (simplified Chinese: 柏杨; traditional Chinese: 柏楊; pinyin: Bóyáng;[1] 7 March 1920[2] – 29 April 2008), sometimes also erroneously called Bai Yang,[3] was a Chinese poet, essayist and historian based in Taiwan.[4] He is also regarded as a social critic.[5] His pen name is found in most sources as "Boyang", although this is often misconstrued in romanisation as the personal name "Bo Yang". According to his own memoir, the exact date of his birthday was unknown even to himself. He later adopted the date of his imprisonment in 1968 (7 March) as his birthday.


  • Biography 1
    • Works 1.1
    • Later Years 1.2
  • Literature (A selection) 2
    • Essays and historical research by Bo Yang 2.1
    • Prose fiction and poetry by Bo Yang 2.2
    • on Bo Yang 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Boyang was born as Guō Dìngshēng (郭定生) in Kuomintang, the then-ruling party of the Republic of China, and joined the Kuomintang itself in 1938. He graduated from the National Northeastern University, and moved to Taiwan after the Kuomintang lost the civil war in 1949.[7]

In 1950, he was imprisoned for six months for listening to Communist Chinese radio broadcasts. He had various jobs during his life, including that of a teacher. During this time, he began to write novels. In 1960, he began using the pen name Boyang when he started to write a political commentary column in the Independent Evening News. The name was derived from a place name in the mountains of Taiwan; he adopted it because he liked the sound of it. In 1961, he achieved acclaim with his novel The Alien Realm (異域 Yìyù), which told the story of a Kuomintang force which fought on in the borderlands of southwestern China long after the government had retreated to Taiwan. He became director of the Pingyuan Publishing House in 1966, and also edited the cartoon page of China Daily (中華日报).[8]

Boyang was arrested again in 1967 because of his sarcastic "unwitting" criticism of Taiwan's dictator Amnesty International. After his release, Boyang continued to campaign for human rights and democracy in Taiwan.Towards the end of his life Boyang stated in his memoirs that he did not have the slightest intention to insult Chiang Kai-shek with his Popeye translation. This was due to the fact that in his view objective criticism mattered whereas personal insults were irrelevant.[16]


Lin Zi-yao notes that during his life “Bo Yang covered a wide range of subjects from culture, literature, politics and education to love, marriage, family planning, fashion and women.”[17] Much of this is not fiction, although he also published a significant body of short stories, novels, and poetry.[18]

Aside from his Golden Triangle novel Yiyu, (異域, 1961), Boyang is best known for his non-fiction works on Chinese history (collated and translated into modern colloquial Chinese from historical records in the prison library on Green Island) and The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中國人 Chǒulòu de Zhōngguórén, 1985; English translation, with the subtitle ... and the Crisis of Chinese Culture, 1992). In the introduction to excerpts from The Ugly Chinaman, the editors of an anthology entitled Sources of Chinese Tradition from 1600 through the Twentieth Century state that “(t)he sharply negative tone of the (…) essay reflects a sense of (…) despair (…) as well as a feeling that age-old weaknesses have persisted through revolutionary change.”[19] Also referring to The Ugly Chinaman, Rana Mitter says that Bo Yang's position as a critical observer and analyst of the world is similar to Lu Xun's.[20] Edward M. Gunn agrees, saying that “(t)he fact that Bo Yang is a prolific author of satirical essays (zawen) inevitably recalls the work of Lu Xun.”[21] Gunn also emphasizes Bo Yang's “particular interest in history” and the “acerbic wit in defense of democracy and social welfare” (or social rights of the common people).[22] Bo Yang gained attention internationally when a volume of poetry entitled Poems of a Period was published in Hong Kong in 1986. These poems recall his arrest and imprisonment.

Later Years

Bo Yang lived in Taipei in his later years. He became the founding president of the Taiwan chapter of Amnesty International. In 1994, Boyang underwent heart surgery, and his health never fully recovered. He carried the honorary title of national policy advisor to the administration of President Chen Shui-bian. In 2006, Boyang retired from writing, and donated the bulk of his manuscripts to the Chinese Modern Literature Museum in Beijing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the National Tainan University, to which he also donated many memorabilia and some manuscripts.

Boyang died of pneumonia in a hospital near his Xindian residence on 29 April 2008.[2] He was married five times, and is survived by his last wife, Chang Hsiang-hua, and five children born by his former wives. On 17 May 2008, his ashes were scattered along the seashore of Green Island, where he was once imprisoned.

Literature (A selection)

Essays and historical research by Bo Yang

  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Choulou de zhongguoren 醜陋的中國人 (The Ugly Chinaman). Taipei (Yuanliu chuban 遠流出版) minguo 98 [=2009]
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Zhongguo ren shi gang 中國人史綱 (History of the Chinese People). Taipei (Yuanliu chuban 遠流出版) minguo 91 [2002]
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Bo Yang yue : du tong jian. lun li shi 柏楊曰 : 讀通鑑.論歷史 (Bo Yang about reading chronicles. Reflections on History). Taipei (Yuanliu 遠流) 1998.
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Zhong guo ren, ni shou le sheng me zu zhou! 中國人, 你受了什麼詛咒! (Chinese people, what curse fell on you?). Taipei (Xingguang 星光 Starlight) 1994
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Zhongguo lishi nian biao 中國歷史年表 (Chronology of Chinese History). Taipei (Yuesheng wenhua chuban : San you zong jing xiao躍昇文化出版 : 三友總經銷) minguo 83 [1994]
  • Bo Yang, The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture. Translated by Don J. Cohn and Jing Qing. North Sydney (Allen and Unwin) 1992.
  • Bo Yang, “The Chinese Cursed,” in: Geremie Barmé (ed.), New Ghosts, Old Dreams. Chinese Rebel Voices. New York (Times Books) 1992, pp. 210–215.
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Da nanren sha wen zhuyi 大男人沙文主義. (On Male Chauvinism). Taipei (Yue sheng chu ban躍昇出版) and Chungho, Taipei Hsien (San you zong jing xiao三友總經銷) minguo 78 [1989]
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Shui zai shuo zhen hua : yi jiu ba liu Taiwan xian shi pipan 誰在說真話 : 一九八六臺灣現實批判 (Who is telling the truth: one thousand nine hundred eighty-six realistic criticisms of Taiwan). Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong Shi : Dun li chu ban she敦理出版社) Minguo 76 [1987]

Prose fiction and poetry by Bo Yang

  • Bo Yang, The alien realm.London : Janus Pub., 1996. – Fiction.
  • Bo Yang, A farewell : a collection of short stories. Transl. by Robert Reynolds. Hong Kong : Joint Pub. (H.K.) Co., 1988.
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Bo Yang xiaoshuo xuandu 柏楊小說選讀 (Bo Yang: Selected Prose). Taipei (Huangguan皇冠) minguo 77 [1988] – Fiction.
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Wang le ta shi shei 忘了他是誰 (I forgot who he is). Taipei (Lin bai林白 ) minguo 76 [1987]
  • Bo Yang, Poems of A Period, Hong Kong (Joint Publishing Co.) 1986
  • Bo Yang 柏楊, Bo Yang xiaoshuo xuan ji 柏杨小说选集 (Bo Yang, Selected Works: Prose). Hong Kong (Zongheng chubanshe纵横出版社 Aspect Press) 1979. – Fiction.

on Bo Yang

  • Zhang Qingrong張清榮, Bo Yang yujian yu wenxue : [2007 Bo Yang xue shu guo ji yan tao hui] lunwen ji 柏楊與監獄文學 : [2007柏楊學術國際研討會] 論文集= Bo Yang and prison literature. Tainan (Tainan University 臺南大學) 2008.
  • Li Huoren 黎活仁, Bo Yang de sixiang yu wenxue 柏楊的思想與文學 = The thought & literary works of Bo Yang Taipei (Yuanliu chubanshi ye gongsi) minguo 89 [2000]
  • Mitter, Rana. A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World. Oxford UK; New York NY (Oxford University Press) © 2004, 2005. p. 270. – ISBN 0-19-280341-7; 978-0-19-280605-5.
  • Wang Xiaolu, “Bo Yang,” in: Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, edited by Edward L. Davis. Abingdon UK (Routledge) 2005, p. 62. – ISBN 0-415-24129-4.
  • Ritter, Jurgen, Kulturkritik in Taiwan: Po Yang [Bo Yang]. Bochum (Brockmeyer) 1987.
  • Bian wei hui zhubian 編委會主編 (edited by the editorial board), Bo Yang 65 : yi ge zao qi de chong er 柏楊65 : 一個早起的蟲兒 (Bo Yang, 65: An Early Riser). Taipei (Xingguang deng chuban : Wu shi tu shu zong jing xiao星光等出版 : 吳氏圖書總經銷 ) min 73 [1984]

See also


  1. ^ The character is traditionally pronounced "Bó," and Bo Yang himself pronounced it as Bó. In Modern Standard Chinese (mainland Chinese), some authorities favour the view that it is pronounced as "Bó" except when used to mean "cypress tree," when it is pronounced "Bǎi": see “柏”, 《实用汉字字典》,上海辞书出版社 (Practical Chinese Character Dictionary, Shanghai Literary Press); “柏”,《辞海》,上海辞书出版社 1999 (Cihai, Shanghai Literary Press), while other authorities favour the view that 柏 is pronounced as "Bǎi" when used as a surname, see, e.g., Xinhua Zidian 10th edition, p.11, Commercial Press 2004, ISBN 7-100-03931-2, and Modern Chinese Dictionary (现代汉语词典) 5th edition, p.30, Commercial Press 2005, ISBN 7-100-04385-9 ). Bo Yang himself always pronounced it as "Bo".
  2. ^ a b 台灣著名作家柏楊因病逝世. BBC News Online (Chinese). 29 April 2008. Accessed 30 April 2008. (Chinese)
  3. ^ See, e.g., some books by Google Book Search.
  4. ^ Wang Xialu, “Bo Yang,” in: Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, edited by Edward L. Davis. Abingdon UK (Routledge) 2005, p.62. – ISBN 0-415-24129-4.
  5. ^ Nicholas D. Kristof, "A Dictatorship That Grew Up", The New York Times, February 16, 1992.
  6. ^ 作家柏楊病逝. United Daily. April 29, 2008. (Chinese)
  7. ^ 柏楊凌晨病逝 享壽八十九歲. China Times. 29 April 2008. Accessed 30 April 2008. (Chinese)
  8. ^ Wang Xiaolu, “Bo Yang”, ibidem, p.62.
  9. ^ June Teufel Dreyer. "Taiwan's Evolving Identity." 17 July 2003.
  10. ^ Daisy Hsieh. "Tragedy and Tolerance--The Green Island Human Rights Monument." Sinorama. July 1997. Accessed 30 April 2008.
  11. ^ Philip F. Williams and Yenna Wu, The Great Wall of Confinement. The Chinese Prison Camp through Contemporary Fiction and Reportage. Berkeley CA (University of California Press) 2004, p.135. – ISBN 0-520-22779-4.
  12. ^ (Dongwu zhengzhi shehui xue bao 東吳 政治, 社會 學報 Soochow Journal of Political Science (published by Soochow University, Taipei), issue 23/2006,p.16.
  13. ^ ”Taiwanese interrogators broke his leg to elicit a confession...”, the US journalist Kristof mentions; any sharp drop in the temperature still caused the writer pain many years later and made walking difficult for him. See Nicholas D. Kristof, “One Author is Rankling Two Chinas,” in: The New York Times, October 07, 1987
  14. ^ Formosa Betrayed. Boston (Houghton Mifflin) 1965.
  15. ^ Prof. Peng Ming-min, whose father had been executed by the regime in the context of the February 28 Incident, became a victim in 1964 because he and his colleagues at Taida wrote a manifesto calling for reforms. Shelley Rigger, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. Lanham MD (Rowman & Littlefield) © 2011, 2014, p.65. – ISBN 978-1-4422-0480-5.
  16. ^ Zhou Bise周碧瑟, with Bo Yang 柏楊, Bo Yang hui yi lu柏楊回憶錄 (Bo Yang, Memoirs; Zhou's account, based on oral statements by Bo Yang). Taipei (Yuanliu chuban 遠流出版) minguo 85 [=1996].
  17. ^ Lin Zi-yao, “Preface,” in: Lin Zi-yao (ed.), One Author Is Rankling Two Chinas. Taipei (Sinkuang Book Co.) 1989, p.16.
  18. ^ .Howard Goldblatt says that “it is significant” that an anthology of his short stories entitled Secrets in English was “published in Chinese under the author's true name Kuo I-tung, for 'Bo Yang' is not essentially a writer of fiction.” Goldblatt adds, “Yet like 'Bo Yang' [the writer of essays], Kuo I-tung [the novelist and short story writer] is a social critic; his fiction is written with an eye to the recording of events and to the social inequities that gave rise to them.” See Howard Goldblatt, “Foreword,” in: Bo Yang, Poems of A Period, Hong Kong (Joint Publishing Co.) 1986, p.XI)
  19. ^ Sources of Chinese Tradition from 1600 through the Twentieth Century, Vol. 2, compiled by Wm. Theodore Barry and Richard Lufrano, with the collaboration of Wing-tsit Chan et al. New York NY (Columbia University Press) 2nd edition © 2000, p. 565. – ISBN 0-231-11270-X.
  20. ^ Both were skeptical, yet committed writers and less naive than younger 'romanticists'. “Lu Xun regarded his mission as being to try and wake up a few of the sleepers in an 'iron house' in which they were burning to death, and from which there was still no guarantee to escape. The message mixed bleakness with hope, with perhaps more emphasis on bleakness. In contrast, the impatience of the romanticists was for a better world which they felt they could almost touch; they just had to motivate the nation and the people to reach it. A similar division can be seen in the treatment of modern China in (…) more contemporary works. Bo Yang's account of the Chinese people is dark and suggests that a long, painful process will be necessary before China will be saved. (…) Bo Yang (like Lu Xun) made his criticism while declining to join a political party. Again, like Lu Xun, Bo Yang was of an older generation when his essay [The Ugly Chinaman] was finally published (65 years old) (...)” See: Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World, Oxford UK; New York NY (Oxford University Press) © 2004, 2005. p.270. – ISBN 0-19-280341-7; 978-0-19-280605-5.
  21. ^ Edward M. Gunn, Rewriting Chinese: Style and Innovation in Twentieth-Century Chinese Prose. Stanford CA (Stanford University Press) 1991, p.156)
  22. ^ “Bo Yang had indeed enjoyed playful irony in his use of wenyan wen and wordplay, as well as sport with complex syntax, all of which are key features of Lu Xun's writing.” Edward M. Gunn, ibidem, p.156. – Considering the fact that Lu Xun's writing were described as subversive and remained inaccessible to almost every citizen in Taiwan due to the ban on printing or possessing them, it is obvious that Bo Yang's Lu Xun'esque wit had to cause trouble for him under dictators like Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

External links

  • Biosketch at the Taiwanese American Foundation website
  • Hsieh Wen-hua. "Bo Yang classic reaches out to today’s youth." Taipei Times. 5 April 2008. p. 3.