Bai Xianyong (白先勇)
Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai (白先勇, born July 11, 1937) is a writer who has been described as a "melancholy pioneer." He was born in Guilin, Guangxi, China at the cusp of both the Second Sino-Japanese War and subsequent Chinese Civil War. Pai's father was the famous Kuomintang (KMT) general Pai Chung-hsi, who he later described as a "stern, Confucian father" with "some soft spots in his heart." He was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of seven, during which time he would have to live in a separate house from his siblings (of which he would have a total of nine). He lived with his family in Chongqing, Shanghai, and Nanjing before moving to Hong Kong in 1948 and Taiwan in 1952.
After graduating from high school in 1956, Pai enrolled at National Cheng Kung University as a hydraulic engineering major, because he wanted to participate the Three Gorges Dam Project. The following year, he passed the entrance examination for the foreign literature department of National Taiwan University and transferred there to study English literature. In September 1958, after completing his freshman year of study, he published his first short story "Madame Ching" in the magazine Literature. Two years later, he collaborated with several NTU classmates to launch Modern Literature, in which many of his early works were published.
Pai went abroad in 1963 to study literary theory and creative writing at the University of Iowa. That same year, Pai's mother, the parent with whom Pai had the closest relationship, died, and it was this death to which Pai attributes the melancholy that pervades his work. After earning his M.A. from Iowa, he became a professor of Chinese literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has resided in Santa Barbara ever since. Pai retired from UCSB in 1994.
Pai has been credited with sophisticated narratives that introduce controversial perspectives that are groundbreaking in Chinese literature. Pai's first novel, Crystal Boys (1983), tells the story of a group of homosexual youths living in 1960s Taipei largely from the viewpoint of a young, gay runaway who serves as its main protagonist. The novel's comparison of the dark corners of Taipei's New Park, the characters' main cruising area, with the cloistered society of Taiwan of that period proved quite unacceptable to Taipei's then KMT-dominated establishment, though Pai has generally remained a loyal KMT supporter.
Other famous works include: Fallen Immortals (1967); "Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream" (1968); Taipei People (1971); and "Lonely Seventeen" (1976).
Pai is one of the few Chinese homosexuals that have come out. Pai has explained that he believed his father knew of his homosexuality and "never made it an issue," though it was never discussed.