Li Rulin



Li Rulin (李汝琳; b. 5 July 1914, Qinyang, Henan, China–d. 17 March 1991, Singapore), real name Lee Hung Pen (李宏贲), was one of Singapore’s Chinese literary pioneers.1 During his lifetime, Li also published under a number of other pseudonyms, including Li Lin, Li Jiguang, Li Yanhui, Ding Xuan, Cao Su, Zhang Wang, Feng He, Huang Kang and Situ Ke.2 A prolific writer, Li’s key published works include four poetry collections, two essay collections, six publications of short stories and novels, as well as a collection comprising his poetry, essays and screenplays.3 Also a renowned literary editor, one of Li’s major contributions was his systematic compilation of works by notable literary writers in Singapore and Malaysia into three series of publications.4 Edited by Li, these publications incorporated works from post-World War II to Singapore’s independence, and thus serve as a comprehensive reference for the study of Chinese literature produced in Singapore and Malaysia.5

Early life
Born into a scholarly family, Li’s mother died when he was four years old.6 Before entering primary school, he learnt to recite poetry from his grandmother and studied Chinese classical literature under private tutorship.7

Li developed an interest towards modern Chinese literature when he was in secondary school.8 His favourite Chinese authors – Lu Xun, Guo Moruo and Mao Dun – strongly influenced his thoughts and perspectives. Besides Chinese literature, Li also read extensively on popular Western literature and Japanese novels.9 He won first prize in a class poetry-writing competition organised by his teacher, and also founded three literary publications with like-minded classmates and friends during his secondary-school days.10

After completing secondary education, Li proceeded with tertiary education in Beijing and he attained a bachelor’s degree in literature in June 1937.11 While pursuing his degree, Li founded another three literary publications with a few good friends and family members.12

Following his graduation from the university, Li took up a course on playwriting and then joined the army on 7 July 1938.13 During his time in the military, he was also involved in editing a monthly publication titled Xi Xian Wen Yi (西线文艺).14

In 1944, Li’s father died and he then left China in the same year. By the invitation of a compatriot from his hometown, Li went to Calcutta, India, and became an editor for the literature and art supplement of two Chinese newspapers – Zhong Guo Zhou Bao (中国周报) and Zhong Guo Ri Bao (中国日报) – in September 1944.15

Teaching career in Singapore
Li came to Singapore in December 1947 and started teaching at the The Chinese High School in the following year. In April 1952, he was nominated as chairman of an organising committee to form an association for Chinese secondary-school teachers in Singapore. Established two months later in June, the association was known as the Xin Jia Po Hua Wen Zhong Xue Jiao Shi Hui (新加坡华文中学教师; currently known as the Singapore Middle School Chinese Teachers’ Association, or Xin Jia Po Zhong Xue Hua Wen Jiao Shi Hui [新加坡中学华文教师会]) and Li was appointed as its first executive director.16

In 1953, Li resigned from The Chinese High School.17 In the following year, he took up the position of lecturer cum head at the Chinese department of the Teachers’ Training College (present-day National Institute of Education).18 He remained at the college for 17 years, and then became a lecturer at the Nanyang University in 1970. Li retired from the teaching career in 1973.19

Literary career and contributions
China
Li began submitting his work for publication during his teenage years. His first published work was in 1927 – a piece of poetry published in the supplement of a newspaper in China. Titled “Ku Zu Mu” (哭祖母), the poetry was written in memory of his grandmother who had passed away.20 In 1930, Li’s short stories were published for the first time, and the titles included “Wu” (悟) and “Shuang Ying” (双影).21

Li’s first book was published in September 1936 when he was an undergraduate. It was a poetry collection titled Xi Zuo Ji (惜昨集). Included in the collection was “Feng Xue Tian” (风雪天), which had won first prize in a poetry-writing competition during his secondary-school days.22

Singapore
Li had focused his efforts on teaching during his first few years in Singapore, but began to spend more time on writing after his resignation from The Chinese High School.23 In July 1956, his first essay collection Jian Xian De Xing Cheng (艰险的行程) and second poetry collection Zai Sheng Ji (再生集) were published. These were followed by his first short-story collection Hui () in December 1957. Five years later, in December 1962, Li’s only novel Xuan Wo (漩涡) was published.24

Born and educated in China, Li’s writing style carried the distinctive characteristics of Chinese modern literature. Combined with the local influence, his works were uniquely different from those of writers who grew up in Singapore, as well as writers in China.25 After Li had migrated to Singapore, he often portrayed the lives of the local working class in his works.26

In 1958, Li commenced editorial work on three series of publications: Xin Ma Wen Yi Cong Shu (新马文艺丛书), Nan Fang Wen Cong (南方文丛) and Xin Ma Xi Ju Cong Shu (新马戏剧丛书).27 These publications serve as a comprehensive reference for the study of Chinese literature produced in Singapore and Malaysia, as they contain a systematic compilation of works by notable literary writers in Singapore and Malaysia from the post-WWII period up to Singapore’s independence (1945 to 1965).28 Comprising a total of 54 books, it was a large-scale project that took Li four years to complete.29

Besides writing, Li was also actively involved in the local cultural scene. In June 1965, he was appointed chairman of the judging panel for a playwriting competition organised by the Ministry of Culture (now known as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth). He was also a consultant for the Singapore Writers’ Association in 1976.30 In addition, Li played an instrumental role in the establishment of the cultural interest group Xi Shan Wen Yi Zhong Xin (锡山文艺中心), which is still active today.31 The group engages in a range of activities, including exchanges with overseas cultural collectives and the publication of a biannual literary magazine titled Bukit Timah Literature (锡山文艺).32 The group started as a regular gathering of like-minded individuals to discuss developments in the literary scene during the 1980s. The meetings took place in a coffeeshop near Li’s residence at Eng Kong Garden, and the number of participants had increased from an initial six or seven to over 40 by 1991.33

Works
Key published works34
Sep 1936: Xi Zuo Ji (惜昨集) (poetry collection).
Jul 1956: Jian Xian De Xing Cheng (艰险的行程) (essay collection).
Jul 1956: Zai Sheng Ji (再生集) (poetry collection).
Dec 1957: Hui () (short-story collection).
Aug 1958: Jie Mei Liang (姊妹俩) (short story/novelette collection).
Nov 1959: Xiao Ye Ji (消夜集) (essay collection).
Sep 1961: Kou Men (叩门) (poetry collection).
Dec 1962: Xuan Wo (漩涡) (novel).
Sep 1979: Xin Gui (新贵) (short story collection).
Sep 1980: Jin Yu Sha (金与沙) (poetry collection).
Dec 1986: Li Rulin Chuang Zuo Ji (李汝琳创作集) (collection of poetries, essays and screenplays).
Nov 1987: Zou Ma Kan Hua Shuo Bi Lin (走马看花说比邻) (travelogue).
Dec 1987: Piao Fu (飘浮) (short story collection).
19--: Li Rulin Zhong Pian Xiao Shuo Ji (李汝琳中篇小说集) (novelette collection).

Edited publications35 
1958: Xin Ma Wen Yi Cong Shu (新马文艺丛书).
1958: Nan Fang Wen Cong (南方文丛).
1958: Xin Ma Xi Ju Cong Shu (新马戏剧丛书).

Family
Li married Huang Ying in June 1949.36 In celebration of his 70th birthday, his children published a book titled Li Rulin De Sheng Huo He Zhu Zuo (李汝琳的生活和著作). The book contained a compilation of reviews on Li’s works over the years, as well as a write-up on his work and life.37

In November 1990, Li’s health began to deteriorate. He died on 17 March in the following year at age 76 from a brain disease, and was buried at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery.38



Author
Cheryl Sim



References
1. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php; 最后的敬礼 [Zui hou de jing li]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
2. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
3. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 14. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
4. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php; 我们所知道的李老 [Wo men suo zhi dao de Li lao]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. 我们所知道的李老 [Wo men suo zhi dao de Li lao]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php; 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
7. 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 1. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
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10. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); 马仑 [Ma, L.]. (1984). 马华文作家群像 [Xin ma hua wen zuo jia qun xiang]. 新加坡: 风云出版社, p. 58. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 ML)
11. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 马仑 [Ma, L.]. (1984). 马华文作家群像 [Xin ma hua wen zuo jia qun xiang]. 新加坡: 风云出版社, p. 58. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 ML); 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 2. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
13. 马仑 [Ma, L.]. (1984). 马华文作家群像 [Xin ma hua wen zuo jia qun xiang]. 新加坡: 风云出版社, p. 58. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 ML); 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 3. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
14. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
15. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, pp. 10–11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); 马仑 [Ma, L.]. (1984). 马华文作家群像 [Xin ma hua wen zuo jia qun xiang]. 新加坡: 风云出版社, p. 58. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 ML)
16. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); Singapore Middle School Chinese Teachers’ Association. (n.d.). 系我 [Lian xi wo men]. Retrieved from 新加坡中学华文教师会 [Xin Jia Po Zhong Xue Hua Wen Jiao Shi Hui] website: http://www.scta.com.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53:2010-03-16-09-57-34&catid=34:about-us&Itemid=41
17. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
18. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
19. 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
20. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 1. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
21. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
22. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 10. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
23. 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
24. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
25. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
26. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
27. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
28. 我们所知道的李老 [Wo men suo zhi dao de Li lao]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
30. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php; National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Achievements. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/achievements.php
31. 共饮咖啡少一人 [Gong yin ka fei shao yi ren]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. 曽采 [Zeng, C.]. (1993, March 15). 你遗留下一个愿望 [Ni yi liu xia yi ge yuan wang].  合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 山文》第40布会通 [Xi Shan Wen Yi di si shi qi fa bu hui tong zhi] [Web log post]. (2013, December 29). Retrieved from 新加坡锡山文艺 [Xin Jia Po Xi Shan Wen Yi] website: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_d498da840101pqri.html; 山文》第39布会报导 [Xi Shan Wen Yi di san shi jiu qi fa bu hui bao dao] [Web log post]. (2013, July 7). Retrieved from 新加坡锡山文艺 [Xin Jia Po Xi Shan Wen Yi] website: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_d498da840101m724.html; 南治国 [Nan, Z.]. (2013, November 19). 锡山脚下的诗意咖啡 [Xi shan jiao xia de shi yi ka fei]. 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao]. Retrieved from Factiva.
33. 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 共饮咖啡少一人 [Gong yin ka fei shao yi ren]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 餐室老板卓宝胜 – '我失掉了良师!' [Can shi lao ban zhuo bao sheng – “Wo shi diao le liang shi!”]. (1991, March 28). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, pp. 10–14. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/index.php
35. National Library Board. (2014). Li Rulin: List of works. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/lirulin/listofworks.php
36. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 11. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL)
37. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2003). 李汝琳研究 [Li Rulin yan jiu zhuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 12. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 LRL); 李锦宗 [Li, J.]. (1984). 李汝琳的生平及作品 [Li Rulin de sheng ping ji zuo pin]. In 李元昆 (编) [Y. Li (Ed.)], 李汝琳的生活和著作 [Li Rulin de sheng huo he zhu zuo] (pp. 1–18). 中国: 怀庐书屋, p. 1. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRL -[LC])
38. 作家李汝琳逝世 [Zuo jia Li Rulin shi shi]. (1991, March 19). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 18 November 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. 

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