Wong Meng Voon



Wong Meng Voon (b. 27 July 1937, Perak, Malaya–), pen name Meng Yi, is one of Singapore’s most well-known Chinese authors.1 Most known for his mini-fiction, Wong actively promotes the Chinese mini-novel genre to the world through his creative writings and critical studies.2

Early life
Wong’s family was forced to relocate to Pahang, Malaya, during the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1941. He began his elementary education in Pahang in 1946.3 At a tender age of 10, he began reading classical Chinese novels, and at 17 began reading English books.4 His interest in reading books of both languages helped lay the foundation for his bilingualism. 

In 1958, Wong moved to Singapore and studied at the Faculty of Chinese at Nanyang University. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Washington in the United States in 1975, Wong returned to Singapore and worked in the civil service for several years before joining the private sector in 1983.5 His overseas exposure and working experiences proved to be enriching resources for his short stories, and resulted in a change of his writing style. In fact, many commentators viewed his return from America as an important turning point in his writing career.6  

Education7
1961: Bachelor of Arts, Nanyang University, Singapore.
1966: Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Nanyang University, Singapore.
1968: Master of Arts, University of Singapore, Singapore.
1975: Doctor of Philosophy, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

Major accomplishments
Wong started writing Chinese short stories at the age of 16 and became well-versed in fiction writing, especially in the form of mini-fiction.8 Several of Wong’s works were translated into other languages. For example, Glimpses of the Past was translated into English and Tagalog, When I Meet Huilan Again into English and Japanese, and The Official’s Chair into English and Malay.9 

Two of Wong’s early short-story compilations, When I Meet Huilan Again (1968) and I Want to Live (1970) were very well received when they were first published.10 These two compilations, representative of his earlier writing style, were full of compassion for the under-privileged in local society. However, the publication of The Happy Nest (1991) after his return from America marked a distinct change in his writing style. His works became more reflective of the global society, and his writing style more distant and satirical.11 Wong explained that this change in style was inevitable as his life experiences made him realise that human nature was not as beautiful as he had imagined it. He found it difficult to continually sing praises of human nature, and thus chose a satirical tone for his writings.12

Besides writing fiction, Wong has actively supported the development of the Singapore Chinese literary circle and promoting the genre of mini-fiction. Before he left for America in 1970, Wong established the Singapore Association of Writers together with other Singaporean writers.13 Upon his return in 1976, he became the association’s president, remaining in this position for 20 years. He also assumed various other positions, including vice-president of the Asian Chinese Writers Association and president of the World Chinese Writers Association (Singapore branch), as well as research positions with the Centre for Chinese Language and Culture at Nanyang Technological University, and China’s Guangdong Zhanjiang Normal University.

He has been a member of the Arts Advisory Panel of the National Art Council since 2002. Wong is currently the honorary president of the Singapore Association of Writers and charter president of the World Chinese Mini Fiction Research Association.14

Wong has published essays, written academic research papers, edited literary magazines and compiled several anthologies that showcase the works of Singaporean authors. One of the most significant works which he edited is A Preliminary Study of the History of Singapore Chinese Literature, published in 2002. This book, which took nearly nine years to complete, studies the Chinese literary scene in Singapore from 1919 to 1995, and is arguably the first work that systematically documents the development of Singapore Chinese literature.15 

After his retirement in 2000, Wong started teaching modern Chinese literature, and Singapore and Malaysian Chinese literature at the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore, and the Singapore Institute of Management. He is still active in creative writing and in academic research on mini-fiction, and often represents Singapore at overseas literary conferences.16

Over the course of his writing career, Wong has received numerous awards and accolades that recognise his efforts and accomplishments in the literary field. In 1978, he was awarded the Translation Prize by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, and in 1981, became the nation’s first Chinese-language literature recipient of the Cultural Medallion Award. Accolades from beyond Singapore include the South-East Asia Writer Award bestowed by the royal family of Thailand in 1981, and the Life-long Achievement for World Chinese Micro-Fiction Award – jointly awarded by the World Chinese Micro-Fiction Research Association, the Micro-Fiction Association of China and the Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House – in 2008.17

Published books18
1969: Zai Jian Huilan De Shi Hou [When I Meet Huilan Again]
1970: Wo Yao Huo Xia Qu [I Want to Live]
1971: Song Dai Bai Hua Xiao Shuo Yan Jiu [A Study of Short Stories and Novels of Sung Dynasty] 
1980: Xin Ma Wen Yi Cong Lun [Essays on Singapore and Malaysia's Chinese Literature]
1981: Glimpses of the Past: Stories from Singapore and Malaysia
1989: Sulyap sa lumipas: mga kuwento mula sa Singapore at Malaysia [Glimpses of the Past: Stories from Singapore and Malaysia]
1991: An Le Wo [The Happy Nest]
1993: Chao Yang Cong Wo Shen Bian Lue Guo [The Sun Brushes Against Me]
1994: Xue Fu Xia Dong [The Ups and Downs of an Institute] 
1995: Huang Mengwen Wen Ji [A Collection of Wong Meng Voon’s Writings]
1996: Huang Mengwen Wei Xing Xiao Shuo Xuan Ping  [A Collection of Mini Fiction and Commentaries by Wong Meng Voon]/ Xin Hua Wen Xue Ping Lun Ji [A Collection of Essays on Singapore’s Chinese Literature]
1997: A! Dong Fang Cheng Shi [Ah, the Oriental City!]
2004: Huang Mengwen Wei Xing Xiao Shuo [A Collection of Micro Novels by Wong Meng Voon]
2007: Huang Mengwen Zhong Pian Xiao Shuo Zi Xuan Ji [A Self-Collection of Short Stories by Wong Meng Voon]/Wei Xing Xiao Shuo Wei Xing Lun [A Study on Mini Fiction] 
2008: Xin Hua Wen Xue.Shi Hua Wen Xue Ping Lun Yu Shi Liao Xuan Ji [Singapore Chinese Literature and World Chinese Literature – Selected Essays and Historical Materials]/Huang Mengwen Wei Xing Xiao Shuo Zi Xuan Ji [A Self-Collection of Mini Fiction by Wong Meng Voon]

Awards19
1951: Literary Award (Novel), Ma Yi (Ant magazine), Penang, Malaysia.
1958: Literary Award (Novel), Nanyang University Chinese Society, Singapore.
1978: Translation Prize, National Book Development Council of Singapore, Singapore.
1981: Cultural Medallion (Literature), Singapore / South-East Asia Writer Award, Thailand.
1994: Special Literary Award (Prose), Beijing Radio, China.
1996: Literary Award (Prose), Top China magazine, China.
2008: Whole-Life Accomplishment on World Chinese Mini-Fiction Award, World Chinese Mini-fiction Research Association.

Family20
Wife:
Wong married his ex-Nanyang University classmate, Tan Hua Sok (Chen Huashu), in 1964.

Daughter: Wong Yin Wei.
Son: Wong Kai Yan.



Author 

Tan Chee Lay



References
1. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M.] (Ed.). (2005). 《新加坡华文 作家传略》[Xinjiapo Hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 151. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 1284. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
2. 骆明. (主编)[Luo, M.] (Ed.). (2005). 《新加坡华文作家传略》[Xinjiapo Hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 151. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP)
3. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, p. 5. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
4. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, pp. 145–146. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
5. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, pp. 145, 149. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
6. 黄孟文 [Huang, M. W.]. (2008). 《黄孟文微型小说自选集》[Huang Mengwen wei xing xiao shuo zi xuan ji]. 上海: 上海文艺出版社, p. 141. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 HMW)
7. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, p. 146. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
8. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, p. 145. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
9. Nanyang Technological University. (2012). Nanyang alumni awards 2013 recipients: Dr Wong Meng Voon. Retrieved 2016, November 20 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/NanyangAlumniAwards/Recipients/PreviousYearAwardRecipients/2013/Pages/DrWongMengVoon.aspx
10. Nanyang Technological University. (2012). Nanyang alumni awards 2013 recipients: Dr Wong Meng Voon. Retrieved 2016, November 20 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/NanyangAlumniAwards/Recipients/PreviousYearAwardRecipients/2013/Pages/DrWongMengVoon.aspx
11. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 1285. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
12. 黄孟文 [Huang, M. W.]. (1996). 《新华文学评论集》[Xin hua wen xue ping lun ji]. 新加坡: 云南园雅舍,p. 242. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.095957 HMW)
13. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: UniPress, The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, p. 145. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)
14. Nanyang Technological University. (2012). Nanyang alumni awards 2013 recipients: Dr Wong Meng Voon. Retrieved 2016, November 20 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/NanyangAlumniAwards/Recipients/PreviousYearAwardRecipients/2013/Pages/DrWongMengVoon.aspx
15. 黄孟文, 徐乃翔. (主编) [Huang, M. W., & Xu, N. X.] (Eds.). (2002). 《新加坡华文文学史初稿》[Xinjiapo hua wen wen xue shi chu gao]. 新加坡: 新加坡国立大学中文系, p. 457. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.095957 XJP)
16. Nanyang Technological University. (2012). Nanyang alumni awards 2013 recipients: Dr Wong Meng Voon. Retrieved 2016, November 20 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/NanyangAlumniAwards/Recipients/PreviousYearAwardRecipients/2013/Pages/DrWongMengVoon.aspx
17. Nanyang Technological University. (2012). Nanyang alumni awards 2013 recipients: Dr Wong Meng Voon. Retrieved 2016, November 20 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/NanyangAlumniAwards/Recipients/PreviousYearAwardRecipients/2013/Pages/DrWongMengVoon.aspx
18. 许福吉. (主编)[Xu, F. J.] (Ed.). (2012). 《黄孟文选集》[Huang Mengwen xuan ji]. 新加坡: 八方文化创作室, p. 384. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 HMW)
19. 许福吉. (主编)[Xu, F. J.] (Ed.). (2012). 《黄孟文选集》[Huang Mengwen xuan ji]. 新加坡: 八方文化创作室, p. 383. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 HMW)
20. 石川 [Shi, C.]. (1997). 《黄孟文评传》[Huang meng wen ping zhuan]. 新加坡: Uni Press, 1997, pp. 4, 146. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 SC)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Huang, Mengwen, 1937-
Authors, Singaporean--Biography
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Chinese literature>>Chinese fiction
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Literature)
Authors, Chinese--Singapore--Biography