Pen name of Huang Zuqiang (1952- ), a Chinese author primarily of the historical swords-and-sorcery genre known as Wuxia. After training as a painter, he served as an assistant curator at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, before resigning in 1989 to dedicate himself to his writing. Huang's wuxia work, written in imitation of Ni Kuang and Jin Yong, might have remained firmly in the realm of Fantasy, were it not for his controversial Xun Qin Ji ["Searching for the Qin"] (1997), in which a Near Future special forces agent Xiang Shaolong (Hong Siulong in Cantonese pronunciation) is sent back in time to film the coronation of China's first emperor in the third century BC. Arriving several years too early, and a thousand miles from his retrieval point, he becomes an unwitting participant in historical events (see History in SF).
Huang's book was a bulky, unremarkable tome of Time Travel hokum, swiftly derided for its anachronisms and lack of attention to true historical detail. However, with its publication on the cusp of the Hong Kong Handover, it was accorded significant impact through its focus on China's great unifier and/or first dictator, and its intimate speculation on the nature of destiny. This was exacerbated by the Cantonese television adaptation, with the English title A Step into the Past (2001 TVB), which further extended its artistic heritage onto the airwaves and DVD for much of the following decade. The television show was soon thrust into conflict with the censors of the People's Republic of China, a state founded on principles of Marxist determinism (see also Liu Cixin), and hence unwilling to abide any sense of tinkering with what has already occurred. Ironically, A Step into the Past was immune from this charge, as its narrative firmly presents time travel as part of a determinist past: Xiang's trip is already part of the historical record, hence the appearance of his face on a terracotta warrior (see Time Loop). However, the television series did strongly imply, through doubled casting, that many of the Qin dynasty figures encountered by the protagonist were reincarnated as his contemporary friends and lover; this, itself, was regarded as a promotion of unwelcome and technically illegal superstition (see Reincarnation). It inspired numerous imitators in the early twenty-first century, many of which did indeed feature their characters doing the unthinkable and changing history (see Time Paradoxes). The situation reached its ludicrous apogee in March 2011, when the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television published new broadcast guidelines that chastised time travel stories for lacking "positive thoughts and meaning", and proscribed them for casually making up "myths ... monstrous and weird plots ... absurd tactics and promoting feudalism, superstition, fatalism and [beliefs in] reincarnation." English-language newspapers reacted with wry amusement at the news that the Chinese had "banned time travel", although the implications for freedom of expression and imagination are no laughing matter. [JonC]
born Hong Kong, China: 2 December 1952
- Xun Qin Ji ["Searching for the Qin"] (Beijing: Huayi Chubanshe, 1997) [in six volumes: pb/]
Previous versions of this entry