Lim Hung Chang (Lin Gao)
Lim Hung Chang (林汉精 ; b. 17 October 1949, Singapore– ), better known by his pseudonym Lin Gao (林高), is one of the leading figures in the Chinese literary scene in Singapore.1 He has used various pen names, such as Lin Yifei (林一飞), Sanmuzi (三木子) and Lin Jingshan (林静山), but is most well-known by the name Lin Gao.2 He began writing non-fiction prose (散文) in the 1970s, ventured into short stories (微型小说) in the 1980s, and from the 2000s onwards, literary criticism and poetry.3 While much of Lim’s work was published in the literary supplements of local newspapers and literary magazines, he has also published overseas, especially in the 1990s.4 In 2015, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion in recognition of his contributions to Chinese literature in Singapore.5
Education and teaching career
Lim grew up in Cheng San village (located in present-day Ang Mo Kio New Town) in Singapore. He studied in Kong Yiong Primary School, and upon graduation, pursued secondary education in Kong Yiong High School around the mid-1960s. Thereafter, Lim completed pre-university studies in Dunman Government Chinese Middle School (now Dunman High School), graduating in 1969. Subsequently, financial considerations led him to enrol in the Teachers’ Training College (now National Institute of Education, Singapore) in 1970 instead of furthering his studies at Nanyang University.6 He graduated from the Teachers’ Training College (TTC) in 1972. Lim completed National Service after that. He then started teaching in Thomson Secondary School (德新中学, now North Vista Secondary School) in 1975.7
In 1981, Lim received a government scholarship, under which he studied Chinese literature at National Taiwan University. He considered this a milestone in his life. The exposure to and study of various literary and classical texts in Taiwan influenced his literary and philosophical views greatly. He was particularly interested in Tao Yuan Ming (陶渊明), a poet from the Eastern Jin dynasty, and had wanted to write a paper about him.8 This was postponed as Lim was busy with his work and other commitments. Nonetheless, Lim wrote about Tao for his Master’s degree at the Central China Normal University, which conferred him the degree in 2003.9
Between 1975 and 2012, Lim taught at different schools, including Thomson Secondary School, Tampines Junior College, Jurong Junior College and Raffles Junior College (now Raffles Institution). He was a curriculum specialist writer at the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore from 1985 to 1993.10
Lim became active in the literary scene in the 1970s, writing mainly non-fiction prose.11 He was studying at the Teacher’s Training College (TTC) when he began publishing his work in The Springs and Autumns of the Campus (学府春秋), Nanyang Siang Pau’s (南洋商报) literary supplement which featured the work of tertiary students. This was edited by Xie Ke (谢克), a newspaper editor and local writer.
During Lim’s days at TTC, he met the local poet Xin Bai (辛白). At that time, Xin Bai had published his poem in New Era (新年代), another literary supplement of Nanyang Siang Pau which was also edited by Xie Ke. Influenced by his peers, and motivated by his own interest in writing, Lim began publishing his work in literary supplements. Lim was very encouraged when Xie Ke chose one of his pieces intended for The Springs and Autumns of the Campus to be featured in New Era.12
While teaching at Thomson Secondary School, Lim befriended Cai Xin (蔡欣), a colleague as well as an established poet. Lim considered this period to be an important time during which he accumulated literary experiences. Cai Xin introduced Lim to other writers, such as Li Xiang (李向) and Lin Zhen (林臻). It was also with Cai Xin’s help that Lim published his second book, Collection of Commonplace Remarks (《抛砖集》) with Lianhe Wenxue Publishing (联合文学出版社).13
1980s and after
Lim’s undergraduate years at the National Taiwan University had a profound influence on his writing. It was there that he met Professor Ye Heng Jun, who taught him about Cao Xueqin’s (曹雪芹) Chinese novel, Dream of the Red Chamber (《红楼梦》), with much enthusiasm. Lim admired the seriousness, discipline and sincerity Cao exhibited in his writing, as well as the world view encompassed in the novel. To Lim, Dream of the Red Chamber and Professor Ye had the greatest influence on his literary work.14
After Lim returned to Singapore, he started to write longer reflective pieces of non-fiction prose in the early 1990s. In an interview, he expressed that he had higher expectations of his writing and had more to write about. He also believed that producing longer works was a necessary part of fulfilling the demands of writing as an artform. He further shared that his use of refined language was probably a result of his exposure to classical Chinese literature during his undergraduate studies.15
From the mid-1980s onwards, Lim ventured into different genres. He wrote short stories, which was a popular genre in the mid-1980s. In 2000, he wrote literary criticism when he was invited to submit opinion pieces analysing selected titles featured in special issues on short stories in the literary supplement City of Literature and Arts (文艺城). The editor subsequently engaged him to contribute on a monthly basis.16
Lim thought that he was not adept at writing poetry, but picked it up after he turned 60.17
Selected residencies and awards
In 2013, Lim was a writer-in-residence under the TOJI Cultural Residency for Singapore Writers programme jointly organised by the National Arts Council (Singapore) and TOJI Cultural Foundation (South Korea).18 In 2014, he won the Singapore Literature Prize for Chinese Fiction for his book, Short Stories by Lin Gao (《林高微型小说》). In recognition of his contributions to Chinese literature in Singapore, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2015.19
Lim joined the Singapore Association of Writers in the early 1990s. He was a member of the Executive Committee from 1992 to 1998 and Vice-President from 1998 to 2000.20 During his appointment, he initiated three reading sessions which were open to the general public. These focused on discussing noteworthy titles in Chinese literature. Lim also edited the association’s publications, namely a quarterly magazine about short stories, and two serials for children. In addition, he coordinated the publishing of a new literary periodical created by a group of younger writers.21
Beyond his work for the association, Lim also shares his knowledge and values as a writer through workshops and programmes. For instance, he ran a Chinese short story writing workshop held in conjunction with the Golden Point Award in Singapore in 2013. He was also a speaker at Words Go Round 2015 – a local platform encouraging students and teachers to interact with writers in the run-up to the Singapore Writers Festival.22 Currently, he serves as Invited Councilor at the Singapore Association of Writers.23
2014: Singapore Literature Prize for Chinese Fiction24
2015: Cultural Medallion, Singapore25
Selected literary works
1974: 《不照镜子的人》 (The man with no reflection)
1978: 《抛砖集》 (Collection of commonplace remarks)
1991: 《猫的命运》 (The cat’s fate)
1992: 《往山中走去》 (To the hills)
1995: 《林高文集》 (A collection of Lin Gao’s writings)
1997: 《笼子里的心》 (The caged heart)
2000: 《被追逐的滋味：林高散文》 (The feeling of being chased)
2003: 《数字拼合人生》 (Life is made of numbers)
2004: 《蛇的故事》 (The story of the snake)
2009: 《仙人掌散文系列：林高卷》 (Cactus non-fiction prose series: Volume on Lin Gao)
2012: 《倚窗阅读：评论集》 (Reading by the window)
2013: 《林高微型小说》 (Short stories by Lin Gao)
2013: 《蜥蜴回家了吗？》 (Has the lizard gone home?)
2015: 《遇见诗：林高读19新加坡诗人》 (Poetic encounter by Lin Gao)
2017: 《记得》 (Remember)
2017: 《框起人间事：林高极短篇》 (Framing the worldly matters: Flash fiction by Lin Gao)
2019: 《孤独瞭望 : 英培安小说世界》 (Vision in solitude: The literary world of Yeng Pway Ngon)
Goh Yu Mei
1. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview by Lye Soo Choon, 10 June 2008, MP3 audio, 56:10, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003324); Cultural Medallion: Lim Hung Chang,” National Arts Council, accessed 10 September 2020.
2. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview by Lye Soo Choon, 19 June 2008, MP3 audio, 45:30, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003324)
3. “Lingao” 林高 [Lin Gao], in Xinhua wenxue 50 nian dangdai zuojia ziliao huibian (1965 nian–2015 nian)新华文学50年当代作家资料汇编(1965年-2015年) [Curriculum-vitae of Singapore contemporary Chinese writers from 1965–2015], ed. Chengjun 成君 (Singapore: Singapore Arts Association, 2015), 259 (Call no. Chinese RSING C810.08 CUR); Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview by Lye Soo Choon, 10 June 2008, MP3 audio, 55:33, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003324 - 2); Chen Yuxin, Zhou Yanbing and Deng Huagui, “Fang 2015 xinjiapo wenhua jiang 4 dezhu xiang xinqin de wenhua bozhong ren zhijing” 访2015新加坡文化奖4得主 向辛勤的文化播种人致敬 [Interview with four Cultural Medallion recipients. Paying tribute to the diligent cultural practitioners], Lianhe Zaobao联合早报, 17 October 2015. (From Factiva via eResources website)
4. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 19 June 2008.
5. National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion.”
6. . Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008; Xinjiapo de ming zhengfu huawen zhongxue 1969新加坡德明政府华文中学 1969 [Dunman Government Chinese Middle School, Singapore, 1969] (Singapore: Organizing Committee for Graduation Issue, 1969). (Call no. Chinese RCLOS 373.5957 DMGCMS)
7. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
8. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
9. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008; “Lingao,” 259.
10. National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion”; Lee Jian Xun, “Nourishing Readers with His Short Stories,” Straits Times, 17 October 2015, 11 (From NewspaperSG); Lingao,” 259.
11. Lingao,” 259.
12. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
13. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
14. Lee, “Nourishing Readers with His Short Stories.”
15. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
16. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 10 June 2008.
17. Chen Yuxin, Zhou Yanbing and Deng Huagui, “Fang 2015 xinjiapo wenhua jiang 4.”
18. National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion.”
19. National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion.”
20. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview by Lye Soo Choon, 18 December 2008, MP3 audio, 56:10, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003324 - 4); National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion.”
21. Lim Hung Chang, oral history interview, 18 December 2008.
22. National Arts Council, “Cultural Medallion.”
23. “2018–2020年度理事会” [Executive Committee 2018–2020], 新加坡作家协会 [Singapore Association of Writers], accessed 26 May 2020.
24. “Singapore Literature Prize” Singapore Book Council, accessed 9 April 2020.
25. Lee Jian Xuan, “Four Awarded Cultural Medallion,” Straits Times, 17 October 2015, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at September2020 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.