Biographer sets record

Updated: 2014-11-05 07:30

By Liu Zhihua(China Daily)

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Biographer sets record

A collection of biographies by Chen Tingyi, who has written more biographies than any other Chinese author. [Photo/China Daily]

Locals shared legends about how the general outsmarted enemies and contributed to New China's 1949 founding. They claimed Xu could walk on rooftops because he was trained in Shaolin kung fu, Chen recalls.

"I liked writing since I was young and hoped to one day write a book about the legendary Xu," he says.

In 1968, Chen enrolled in the army, where his writing won acclaim. He was selected to attend a Jilin University literature and writing program in 1976, as one of the first Chinese to attend university after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

He took a job at a publishing house after graduating two years later. He felt he couldn't resist writing Xu's biography any longer.

"There was an unspoken publishing industry rule that biographies could only be about deceased people," he explains.

"Xu was alive. I was so eager to write his biography that I didn't think twice about whether the book would be published."

He started tracking down and interviewing people who'd known the general-teachers, neighbors, childhood friends and subordinates in the army.

Chen also visited places that Xu had traversed during the yearlong Long March military retreat across the country that began in October 1934.

He had to do all the interviews in his spare time. He missed two Spring Festival family reunions.