Yeng Pway Ngon



Yeng Pway Ngon (b. 26 January 1947, Singapore–) is a well-known poet, novelist and critic in the Chinese literary scene in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. A prolific writer, Yeng’s works have been translated into English, Malay and Dutch. Yeng has been a recipient of the Singapore Book Award, the Singapore Literature Award (thrice), and the Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the S.E.A. Write Award).1 For his contributions to the literary scene, Yeng was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 2003.2
 
Early life
Yeng was born in the Bugis area of Singapore in 1947. His father was a Chinese physician who came from China and his mother worked in a coffee shop in the area. Yen’s parents married during the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945).3


Yeng attended Catholic High School4 where he excelled in Chinese and art but struggled with all the other subjects.5 Due to his poor academic performance, Yen left Catholic High School in secondary two and transferred to Wei Li (Methodist) School.6

When Yeng was in secondary two, he began writing under the pseudonym Qi Fei and later drew comics for the school’s student paper. He even took part in a comic drawing competition and emerged as the first prize winner.7 During his secondary school days, Yeng was once given an assignment by his teacher to write an essay but he wrote a poem instead. Instead of receiving a scolding from his teacher, Yeng got high marks for his work. Encouraged by this, Yeng subsequently got his poem published.8

Artistic career
In 1966, Yeng enrolled in Ngee Ann College (now Ngee Ann Polytechnic).9 It was during his time in college that he developed an interest in writing, especially poetry writing. Yeng was particularly inspired by the modern Taiwanese poets of the 1960s such as Yang Mu, Ya Xian and Zhou Meng Die. Using the pen name Kong Da Shan, Yeng wrote and submitted essays to the various Chinese newspapers for publication.10 Yeng also became the editor and publisher of a literary magazine, Cha Zuo (Tea House), and by 1968, he had published a collection of poetry called Shou Shu Tai Shang (On the Operating Table).11

Yeng graduated from Ngee Ann College with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Literature in 1969.12 Upon graduation, Yeng had an opportunity to further his studies in Taiwan. However, he chose to stay in Singapore instead as he wanted to be close to his girlfriend (later wife) Goh Beng Choo.13

Yeng went on to publish a literary magazine, Vanguard Monthly, in which he was also the editor. In 1974, Yeng published a collection of poetry, Wu Gen De Xian, and a collection of essays, An Xian Sheng De Shi Jie.14 That same year, he opened Vanguard Bookshop. The bookstore was sold two years later and Yeng subsequently opened Grassroots Book Room, which stocked specialist and limited edition books on history, philosophy and literature.15

Yeng was an outspoken young man.16 His vigorous critique of social issues in his writings, the large number of leftist books, posters, music recordings and Mao verses in his two bookshops, in addition to a false accusation, led to a run-in with the government. In 1977, Yeng was detained under the Internal Security Act for four months. Upon his release, Yeng decided to close Grassroots Book Room.17

From 1978 to 1983, Yeng worked as a newspaper columnist for Nanyang Siang Pau writing for the column Chang Hua Duan Shuo. In 1983, Nanyang Siang Pau merged with Sin Chew Jit Poh to become Lianhe Zaobao. Yeng continued contributing as a columnist for the new paper’s Ren Zai Jiang Hu column.18

The 1980s was a fruitful period for Yeng, who had by then become a full-time writer.19 In addition to writing for the newspapers, Yeng wrote radio plays for Rediffusion20and published many of his works. In 1987, he published a novel, Yi Ge Xiang Wo Zhe Yang De Nan Ren (A Man Like Me), which won the National Book Development Council of Singapore Book Award the following year.21

In 1990, Yeng published another literary magazine, Jie Chu (Encounter), which ceased publication a year later.22 In 1995, Yeng decided to spend a year in Hong Kong23 as a freelance columnist for United Daily News, Ming Pao, Sing Tao Daily and Sing Tao Evening News. He returned to Singapore later that year and, inspired by the specialist book stores he saw in Hong Kong, reopened Grassroots Book Room.24

Yeng’s reputation as a writer had grown by then. In 2000, he was invited to Taiwan by the Cultural Bureau of Taipei to be a fellow at the Taipei International Writers-in-Residence programme.25 He was the only Singaporean selected to attend the programme.26 Three of his novels won the Singapore Literature award: Unrest (published in 2002), Trivialities about Me (published in 2006), and The Studio (published in 2011). The latter two were selected by the journal Asia Weekly for its prestigious annual list of top 10 Best Chinese Novels in the world along with the works of Nobel laureate Mo Yan and the highly acclaimed writer Yan Geling.27

Several of Yeng’s plays have been performed, including Love Story, Man and Bronze Statute by Singapore Broadway Playhouse in 200328 and The Studio in 2012.29

In 2013, Yeng was invited to be the first participant in the Nanyang Technological University (formerly Nanyang University) Chinese department’s writer-in-residence scheme where he taught classes on Chinese literature and novel writing.30

Yeng is now working on a novel about the lives of Cantonese opera actors. When he is not writing, Yeng spends his time minding his bookstore.31

Stylistic conventions
Yeng’s earliest influences as a writer were the Taiwanese poets and writers of the 1960s, such as Li Ao and Liang Shi Qiu, and leading figures of modern Chinese literature, such as Lu Xun and Zhang Ai Ling.32 Yeng also admires the works of America writers Saul Bellow and Erica Jong, Czech writer Milan Kundera, British philosopher Bertrand Russell, and French literary theorist Roland Barthes.33


As a columnist, Yeng’s sharp satirical writing style and his independent, inquiring mind are legendary among readers of his newspaper column.34

Yeng has dabbled in almost every genre of writing: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and social critique. However, writing novels appeals to him the most. Yeng’s novels reflect many of his own life experiences. Unrest, for example, was written based on his memories of being in detention while The Studio was penned as the result of his struggle with cancer.35

Of his various works, writing the novel Unrest gave Yeng the most satisfaction while the novel he is most satisfied with is Gu Du De Lian.36

Despite having produced a large number of works, Yeng is not planning to stop writing. In an interview, he said, “I still feel like I haven’t written the book I was meant to write”.37

Family
Wife: Goh Beng Choo.38

Daughter: Ying Ke Wei.39

Awards40
1988: National Book Development Council of Singapore book award for Yi Ge Xiang Wo Zhe Yang De Nan Ren (A Man Like Me).
2003: Cultural Medallion for Literature.
2004: Singapore Literature Prize for Sou Dong (Unrest).

2008: Singapore Literature Prize for Wo Yu Wo Zi Ji De Er San Shi (Trivialities About Me).
2012: Singapore Literature Prize for Hua Wu (The Studio).

2013: Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the S.E.A. Write Award).



Author
Chor Poh Chin



References
1. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
2. National Arts Council Singapore. (2013, October 4). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Literature. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/literary-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-literature
3.
Lye, S. C. (Interviewer). (2007, March 25). Oral history interview with Yeng Pway Ngon [Transcript of cassette recording no. 003125/16/01] Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Hong, L. & Huang, J. L. (2008). The scripting of a national history: Singapore and its pasts. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 HON-[HIS])
6. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Hong, L. & Huang, J. L. (2008). The scripting of a national history: Singapore and its pasts. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 HON-[HIS])
8. 李白娟 [Li, B. J.]. (2003, September 27). 作家英培安出书20本从没想过会得奖 [Zuo jia Ying Pei An chu shu 20 ben cong mei xiang guo hui de jiang]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
10. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
11. 李白娟 [Li, B. J.]. (2003, September 27). 作家英培安出书20本从没想过会得奖 [Zuo jia Ying Pei An chu shu 20 ben cong mei xiang guo hui de jiang]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
13. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
15. 张曦娜 & 龙国雄 [Zhang, X. N. & Long, G. X.]. (2003, October 28). 重情讲理相互扶持 [Zhong qing jiang li xiang hu fu chi]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. 新加坡文献馆 [Xinjiapo Wen Xian Guan]. (2011, March 13). 英培安 [Ying Pei An]. Retrieved from http://www.sginsight.com/xjp/index.php?id=5965
17. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
18. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Oon, C. (2003, December 15). Not just a Love Story. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Hong, L. & Huang, J. L. (2008). The scripting of a national history: Singapore and its pasts. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 HON -[HIS])
22. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
23. 张曦娜 & 李白娟 [Zhang, X. N. & Li, B. J.]. (2001, July 8). 英培安安回到小说的跑道 [Ying Pei An an hui dao xiao shuo de pao dao]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. 张曦娜 & 龙国雄 [Zhang, X. N. & Long, G. X.]. (2003, October 28). 英可为父亲对人很合理 [Ying Ke Wei fu qin dui ren hen he li]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
26. 新加坡文献馆 [Xinjiapo Wen Xian Guan]. (2011, March 13). 英培安 [Ying Pei An]. Retrieved from http://www.sginsight.com/xjp/index.php?id=5965
27. 李白娟 [Li, B. J.]. (2003, September 27). 作家英培安出书20本从没想过会得奖 [Zuo jia Ying Pei An chu shu 20 ben cong mei xiang guo hui de jiang]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
29. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
30. Tay, S. A. (2000, December 4). Wow, they still remember me. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Oon, C. (2003, December 15). Not just a Love Story. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. 李白娟 [Li, B. J.]. (2003, September 27). 作家英培安出书20本从没想过会得奖 [Zuo jia Ying Pei An chu shu 20 ben cong mei xiang guo hui de jiang]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. 张曦娜 & 李白娟 [Zhang, X. N. & Li, B. J.]. (2001, July 8). 英培安安回到小说的跑道 [Ying Pei An an hui dao xiao shuo de pao dao]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. 'I offend people'. (2003, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. 'I offend people'. (2003, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. 李白娟 [Li, B. J.]. (2003, September 27). 作家英培安出书20本从没想过会得奖 [Zuo jia Ying Pei An chu shu 20 ben cong mei xiang guo hui de jiang]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Tan, C. (2013, April 29). In good books. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Nanda, A. (2013, October 9). Yeng Pway Ngon wins SEA Write Award. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. 张曦娜 & 龙国雄 [Zhang, X. N. & Long, G. X.]. (2003, October 28). 重情讲理相互扶持 [Zhong qing jiang li xiang hu fu chi]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yeng Pway Ngon. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Yeng+Pway+Ngon
46. Nanda, A. (2013, October 9). Yeng Pway Ngon wins SEA Write Award. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources

Yeng, P. N. (1993). A man like me. Singapore: Grassroots Book Room.
(Call no.: RSING S823 YEN)

Yeng, P. N. (2010). Poems 1, Rebellion = Ying Peian. Singapore: The Literary Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 895.11 YIN)

Yeng, P. N. (2012). Poems 2, Personal notes = Ying Peian. Singapore: The Literary Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 895.11 YIN)

Yeng, P. N. (2012). Poems 3, Self exile = Ying Peian. Singapore: The Literary Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 895.11 YIN)

Yeng, P. N. (2012). Poems 4, Resurgence = Ying Peian. Singapore: The Literary Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 895.11 YIN)

Yeng, P. N. (2012). Poems 5, Other thoughts = Ying Peian. Singapore: The Literary Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 895.11 YIN)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1968). 手术台上 [Shou shu tai shang]. 新加坡: 五月出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 811.5 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1974). 安先生的世界 [An xian sheng de shi jie]. 新加坡: 茶座出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C818 YPA 1974)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1983). 园丁集 [Yuan ding ji]. 香港: 山边社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C818.2 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1984). 拍案集: 英培安文集 [Pai an ji: Ying Peian wen ji]. 新加坡: 文学书屋.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C818 YPA 1984)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1985). 翻身碰头集 [Fan shen peng tou ji]. 新加坡: 草根书室.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C818 YPA 1985)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (1992). 蚂蚁唱歌 [Ma yi chang ge]. 新加坡: 草根书室.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C818.2 YPA 1992)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2002). 人与铜像 [Ren yu tong xiang]. 新加坡: 草根书室.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2002). 骚动 [Sao dong]. 台北: 尔雅出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2003). 爱情故事 [Ai qing gu shi]. 台北: 唐山出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.92095957 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2004). 日常生活: 英培安诗集 [Ri chang sheng huo: Ying Peian shi ji]. 新加坡: 草根书市.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C811.5 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2006). 我与我自己的二三事 [Wo yu wo zi ji de er san shi]. 台北: 唐山出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2007). 不存在的情人: 英培安短篇小说集 [Bu cun zai de qing ren: Ying Peian duan pian xiao shuo ji]. 台北: 唐山出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2004). 一个像我这样的男人 [Yi ge xiang wo zhe yang de nan ren]. 台北: 唐山出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 YPA)

英培安 [Ying, P. A.]. (2011). 画室 [Hua shi]. 台北: 唐山出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 YPA)



The information in this article is valid as at 5 March 2014 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
Personalities
Arts