Yu Hua

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Written and spoken word (general)
Asia, Eastern
created on:
April 28, 2005
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since February 16, 2011. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Yu Hua
Yu Hua, Copyright: Klett-Cotta


Yu Hua was born in Hangzhou in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang in 1960. His parents, both doctors, moved with him shortly after his birth to the small town of Haiyan. Here, where at first there "was not even a bicycle", he lived for almost thirty years. The author says, "This place has been my inspiration to this day."
After completing his secondary school studies, Yu Hua did a dentist´s training course in the local hospital, spent a year at a Medical School and then worked as a dentist for five years. Parallel to this he began to write. Later Yu Hua broke off his medical studies and took up a position in the district cultural department where he was primarily concerned with the collection of folkloric songs and stories.

After his literary debut in 1987 with the short story "Wie Schall und Rauch" Yu Hua moved to Peking. In the late eighties and early nineties further texts followed in quick succession: in 1991 his first novel "Schreie im Regen" (transl. "Screams in the Rain") was published and thereafter "Leben" in 1992 ("To Live", 2003) and "Der Mann, der sein Blut verkaufte" in 1995 ("Chronicle of a Blood Merchant", 2003). The novel "To Live" which was filmed by the famous director Zhang Yimou in 1994, brought him immediate fame. In this novel the story is told in simple, powerful sentences of the farmer Fugui and his family. The characters are portrayed with great precision from outside as from the perspective of a camera. In his novels Yu Hua does not use narrative features such as flash-backs, soliloquies and psychological insights. It is through the apparent simplicity of his style that the texts acquire their own particular, moving and compelling character. In "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant", the author also uses a consciously simple language with true to life dialogue. The characters are portrayed with all their strengths and weaknesses in a laconically realistic way there is neither pathos nor any taking-back of what is said. In this way both books cover several decades of the most turbulent period history of China.

In contrast to the film version of "To Live", which despite international awards (among others Jury Grand Prix at Cannes in 1994) was banned in the Peoples’ Republic and of which the director and main actors were refused the right to work for two years, Yu Hua’s books have so far had no problems with the censors, as their critical potential derives from a very indirect and figurative mode of representation. Yu Hua’s experimental short novels and – above all – "To Live" and "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" have put him, together with Wang Shuo, Su Tong and Mo Yan, among those authors of the younger generation whose books have the highest circulation.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)



Published Written,
Pan Macmillan

Cries in the Drizzle

Published Written,

Chronicle of a Blood Merchant

Published Written,
Novel. Pantheon/ Random House: New York

To Live

Published Written,
Novel. Anchor Books/ Random House: New York

The Past and the Punishments

Published Written,
Short Stories. Univ. of Hawaii Press: Honolulu


2002 Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to win the James Joyce Foundation Award
1998 The novel "To Live" won the Premio Grinzane Cavour
"To Live" and "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" were named two of the last decade’s ten most influential books in China
"Brothers" was shortlisted at the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

China - Between Past and Future

A project on contemporary art in China

(24 March 06 - 14 May 06)


International Festival of Literature Berlin

Interview at Ohio State University