He Dun


He Dun
b. 1958, Changsha, Hunan
Writer
A leading writer of 1990s new urban fiction, He Dun taught middle school art in his native Changsha in the 1980s before launching his own business in interior design. His lifestyle change from idealistic academic to materialistic entrepreneur followed the pattern of many in the early 1990s who chose to xiahai (take the plunge into the sea (of business)). With his changed lifestyle came an evolution of values and worldview; he decided to write so as to describe the attitudinal changes accompanying the commercialism of the 1990s, where individual choices abounded and personal ethics were re-examined. His realistic accounts of Changsha are closely based on personal experience, and delineate the moral fall-out accompanying urban business success stories.
He Dun first gained critical acclaim for his novellas Hello, Younger Brother (Didi ni hao), Life is not a Crime (Shenghuo wuzui), and I Don’t Care (Wo buxiangshi), all published in 1993. He shows the value of material success in the 1990s to be as ephemeral as political or academic success proved to have been in the 1980s. His stories make striking references to fate and the rise of superstitious practices in the 1990s which are often directly related to the market economy. He Dun elaborates upon this in his novel The Himalayas (Ximalaya shan, 1998), where his protagonist searches unsuccessfully for spiritual ideals that are at odds with the decadent business environment of the city.
See also: Humanistic Spirit, ‘Spirit of the Humanities’; Qiu Huadong
Lu, Jie (2001). ‘Cultural Invention and Cultural Intervention: Reading Chinese Urban Fiction in the Nineties’. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 13.1 (Spring): 107–39.
Tang, Xiaobing (2000). Chinese Modern: The Heroic and the Quotidian. Durham: Duke University Press, 273–315.
ROBIN VISSER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.