Bo Yang

Bo Yang bigraphy, stories - Writer, historian

Bo Yang : biography

7 March 1920 – 29 April 2008

Boyang (The character 柏 is traditionally pronounced "Bó". In Modern Standard 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". 7 March 1920. BBC News Online (Chinese). 29 April 2008. Accessed 30 April 2008. – 29 April 2008), also sometimes erroneously called Bai Yang,See, e.g., by Google Book Search. was a Chinese language writer based in Taiwan. 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.


Boyang was born as Guō Dìngshēng (郭定生) in Kaifeng, Henan Province, China, with family origins in Hui County (輝縣), now part of Xinxiang, Henan.. United Daily. April 29, 2008. Boyang’s father changed his son’s name to Guō Lìbāng (郭立邦) to facilitate a transfer of schools. Bo Yang later changed his name to Guo Yìdòng (郭衣洞). In high school, Boyang participated in youth organisations of the 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 Kuomintang lost in the civil war in 1949.. China Times. 29 April 2008. Accessed 30 April 2008.

In 1950 he was imprisoned for six months for listening to Communist Chinese radio broadcasts. He worked various jobs, including as a teacher. During this time, he began to write novels. In 1960, he began using the penname Boyang, which he derived from a place name in the mountains of Taiwan because he liked the sound of it, to write a political commentary column in the Independent Evening News. 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.

Boyang was arrested in 1967, and from 1969 was imprisoned as a political prisoner (for "being a Communist agent and attacking national leaders") on Green Island for nine years, because of his unwitting criticism of Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek and in particular a translation of a comic strip of Popeye.June Teufel Dreyer. 17 July 2003. In the strip, Popeye and Swee’Pea have just landed on an uninhabited island. Popeye says: "You can be crown prince," to which Swee’Pea responds, "I want to be president." In the next panel, Popeye says, "Why, you little…" In the final panel, Popeye’s words are too faint to be made out. Chiang was displeased because he saw this as a parody of his installing his son Chiang Ching-kuo as heir apparent. Boyang translated the word "fellows" as "my fellow soldiers and countrymen," a phrase used by Chiang Kai-shek.Daisy Hsieh. Sinorama. July 1997. Accessed 30 April 2008. (Towards the end of his life Boyang wrote in his memoirs that he did not have the slightest intention to insult Chiang Kai-shek in with this translation.) The original 12-year sentence was commuted to eight years after the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975. However, the government refused to release Boyang after his sentence expired, until it gave in to pressure from international organisations such as Amnesty International. After his release, Boyang continued to campaign for human rights and democracy in Taiwan.


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).

Later Years

He lived in Taipei in his later years. He became the founding president of the Taiwan chapter of Amnesty International. Also 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 much memorabilia and some manuscripts.

Boyang died of pneumonia in a hospital near his Xindian residence on 29 April 2008. 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.