A Cheng was born in Beijing in 1949. A self-taught painter and writer, he emerged from the ruins of the Cultural Revolution in 1979 by joining the Stars artists in their pioneering avant-garde exhibitions. His novella, "The Chess Master," published in 1984, was an instant success. It is now considered by many to be his tour de force and a masterpiece of modern Chinese fiction.
"The Chess Master" is a tale of the dramatic transformation of the protagonist Wang Yisheng from an obsessive chess player into an enlightened chess master who understands the Tao of life. Although the story is set in the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, it shuns the depiction of political violence and human suffering and focuses on the simple pleasures of life enjoyed by Wang and other high school students sent to work in state farms. It is noted for its celebration of friendship, occasional feasts, and Chinese chess, but the core of the story lies in A Cheng's belief in the great potential of seemingly ordinary people in self-transcendence.
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