Professor Pai Hsien-Yung (白先勇教授)

Senior Fellow of Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study, City University of Hong Kong

Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Co-founder of Modern Literature Magazine

Acclaimed Author of "Taipei People" (臺北人), "Lonely Seventeen" (寂寞的十七歲), etc.

General Producer and Artistic Director of new Kun Opera "Peony Pavilion" (青春版《牡丹亭》)

Professor Pai Hsien-Yung (白先勇教授)

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Upon his graduation from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, Professor Pai Hsien-yung enrolled at National Cheng Kung University as a hydraulic engineering major, because he wished to participate in the Three Gorges Dam Project. The following year, he found himself uninterested in hydraulic engineering and thus transferred to English literature at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Taiwan University (NTU). In 1958, he published his first short story ‘Madame Chin’ in the magazine Literature. Two years later, he collaborated with several NTU classmates – Ouyang Tzu, Chen Jo-hsi, Wang Wen-hsing, etc. – to launch Modern Literature, in which many of his early works such as Moon Dreams, Jade Love and Graduation were published.

In 1962, Professor Pai studied literary theory and creative writing at the University of Iowa in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1965, after earning his master’s degree from Iowa, he taught Chinese language and literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara until his retirement in 1994. He has resided in Santa Barbara since 1965.

Professor Pai has published many works including the short stories collections Lonely Seventeen, Taipei People and The New Yorker, the essays collection Mo Ran Hui Shou (Suddenly Turning Back), and the novel Crystal Boys.

Professor Pai has been fond of Chinese folklore and classical literature since his childhood, and has read a lot of them. Xue Ren Gui Zheng Dong (Xue Rengui’s Expedition to the East), Fan Li Hua Zheng Xi (Fan Lihua’s Expedition to the West), Shuo Tang (Heroes of Tang Dynasty), Shu Shan Jian Xia Zhuan (The Swordspeople from Shu Mountains), Ti Xiao Yin Yuan (Dramatic Marriage), the trilogy Family, Spring and Autumn by Ba Jin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West were all his favourite works, and Dream of the Red Chamber in particular. During his college years, he exposed himself to western modern literary works and introduced them to the Chinese communities, and his works were also influenced by western literature. However, during his study in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his passion for Chinese history, culture and literature was rekindled. That also explains why his works are steeped in traditional culture and feature a distinct Chinese identity, even though he has lived overseas for such a long time.

Not only is Professor Pai an eminent Chinese writer, he is also a strong advocate for the resurgence and passing on of Kun opera, a genre of classical Chinese opera he fell in love with when he was a child. His novel Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream is an example of how he was inspired by Peony Pavilion, a masterpiece of Kun opera. He has spared no effort in promoting Kun opera over the past twenty years, especially to the younger generations. He collaborated with the Kun opera artists in Hong Kong and Taiwan and gave public talks there. It had been his wish over the years to chalk up a youth version of Peony Pavilion, and this dream finally came to pass when it premiered with a great resonance with the audience in 2004. More importantly, the version gave Kun opera a new lease of life.

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白先勇,于1956年在建國中學畢業後,由於他夢想參與興建三峽大壩工程,以第一志願考取成功大學水利工程學系。翌年發現興趣不合,轉學台灣大學外國語文學系,改讀英國文學。1958年,他在《文學雜誌》發表了第一篇短篇小說《金大奶奶》。兩年後,他與台大的同學歐陽子、陳若曦、王文興等共同創辦了《現代文學》雜誌,並在此發表了《月夢》、《玉卿嫂》、《畢業》等小說多篇。

1962年,他飛往美國愛荷華大學的愛荷華作家工作室學習文學理論和創作研究。1965年,取得愛荷華大學碩士學位後,白先勇到加州大學聖塔芭芭拉分校教授中國語文及文學,並從此在那裡定居。1994年退休。

白先勇出版有短篇小說集《寂寞的十七歲》、《台北人》、《紐約客》,散文集《驀然回首》,長篇小說《孽子》等。

白先勇從小就喜愛中國的民間文學和古典文學,閱讀了大量的中國民間故事和古典作品。如《薛仁貴征東》、《樊梨花征西》、《說唐》、《蜀山劍俠傳》、《啼笑姻緣》;巴金的《家》、《春》、《秋》;《三國》、《水滸傳》、《西遊記》,特別是《紅樓夢》,都是他所喜愛熟讀的作品。在大學時代,由於受西方現代文學思潮的影響,白先勇開始閱讀和介紹西方現代派作家的作品,在創作上也開始模仿西方文學。但是大學畢業後入美國愛荷華作家工作室,白先勇又把自己的注意力轉向了中國的歷史文化和文學的研究。對中國民間故事和中國古典文學的喜愛,使他具有比較深厚的中國傳統文學的素養,這就是為什麼白先勇長期生活在台灣和美國,沐浴在歐風美雨之中,而他的大部分作品卻仍能保持著比較鮮明的民族風格的原因。

白先勇自小與崑劇結下不解緣,其小說《遊園驚夢》即受崑劇《牡丹亭》啟發。他對崑劇藝術一往情深,作了二十年推廣崑劇的“義工”。更熱心向年輕一代介紹崑劇,經常在港、台地區與崑劇藝術家合作,做公開演講。製作青春版《牡丹亭》是他多年的夢想,這個夢想終於在2004年及以後的一段時間得以實現,並影響卓著。