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Li Yongping


Li Yongping was born on April 7, 1947, in Kuching, located in Sarawak on the island of Borneo in Malaysia.  He received his early education in Malaysia.  In 1966, he published the short story “Son of Borneo,” which won the Borneo Literature Bureau Prize.  After graduating from high school, he went to Taiwan and began studying at the National Taiwan University (NTU) in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Upon graduation, he worked as a teaching assistant at NTU and an editor of Chung-Wait Literary Monthly.  In 1976, Li traveled to the United States to further his studies, enrolling in department of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, and received a master's degree in 1978.  That same year, he also went to Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a doctoral degree, and received his doctoral degree in 1982. He has taught at the National Sun Yat-sen University's Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Soochow University Department of English Language and Literature, and the National Dong Hwa University Graduate Institute of Creative Writing and English Literature.

During his college years, under the influence of Wang Wenxing and Yan Yuanshu, Li began writing.  In 1968 he wrote a short story “A Lazi Woman," published in The Intellectual.  In 1986, his novel The Jiling Chronicles received the praise of literary critics in Taiwan, and Li gained a place in the Taiwanese literature.  Li employs techniques of modernist literature to create a text with traditional narrative and structure.  In his preface, Li has stated that he wants to break away from American and Japanese linguistic influences so he can bring out a "pure Chinese vernacular language" through his fictional work. This approach, he believes, shows a basic respect to the Chinese language.  After leaving his teaching position at National Sun Yat-sen University, he lived in isolation for four years to focus on writing his long novel, The Eagle Haidong Qing (1992).  He employed the style of fables as a way of expressing ancient moral proverbs, giving a sense of warning of the times.  Li’s ideas were rather controversial at the time, receiving both praise and criticism.  Nonetheless, The Eagle Haidong Qing remains a critical piece of the decade in Taiwan.  Li’s novels are filled with a deep sense of wandering, and the use of language is especially skillful.  He seeks to push the expressive potential of the Chinese language to its limits.  Li once said “Chinese characters are very special to me. They’re not only symbols of language but also totems.” This fascination toward Chinese language allows him to create an imaginary homeland on paper.  Generally speaking, academics and critics often categorize Li Yongping as a Malaysian Chinese writer, but Li does not like this label and does not believe that the Malaysian Chinese author perspective applies to him.  His latest novel, The End of the River, has again received critical praise and brings his writing career to another new culminating point.  Other than writing novels, he is also a prolific translator. He has translated more than twenty-five pieces of Western works, and the range of these works is very wide, from pure literature to popular literature, such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Message Down Under, Fingerprints of the God, Tthe Solitaire Mystery, The Celestine Vision, Morality Pplay, An Area of Darkness, A Bend in the River, etc.

On September 22, 2017, due to complications of cancer, Li passed away in a hospital in Danshui, Taiwan. In 2016, he started publishing chapters of a martial arts novel, A New Story of Female Knights, in Wenshun Monthly Journal. Unfortunately, he passed away before finishing the entire novel.