Sanmao: The Wanderlust Writer

OV Digital Desk

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Sanmao (26 March 1943 – 4 January 1991) was a Taiwanese writer and adventurer who gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s for her autobiographical works chronicling her travels and experiences in different parts of the world. Her writing was characterized by its honesty, humor, and a deep understanding of human nature. Her real name was  Echo Chen Ping.

Life and Career

Sanmao was born on 26 March 1943, in Chongqing, China, and grew up in Taiwan. She was educated at the National Taiwan University and later studied philosophy in Madrid, Spain, where she met her husband, Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz. The couple traveled extensively together, living in several countries, including the United States, Germany, and the Sahara Desert.

Sanmao’s writing career began in the 1970s when she started publishing her travel essays in various newspapers and magazines in Taiwan and Spain. Her first book, “Stories of the Sahara,” published in 1976, was based on her experiences living with her husband in the Sahara Desert. The book was an instant success, and Sanmao quickly gained a loyal following of readers who were captivated by her adventurous spirit and unique perspective on life.

Over the next two decades, Sanmao wrote several more books, including “The Mountain That Loved a Woman,” “Red Dust,” and “Island of Dreams.” Her writing touched on themes such as cultural differences, identity, and the human experience, and it was often infused with a sense of humor and wit.

Sanmao’s popularity continued to grow, and she became a household name in Taiwan and mainland China. She was also highly respected by many in the literary world for her unique style of writing and her contributions to the genre of travel literature.

Sanmao’s life came to a tragic end on 4 January 1991 when she committed suicide in Taipei, Taiwan, at the age of 48. Her death shocked her fans and admirers around the world, and many mourned the loss of one of the most influential and beloved writers of her generation.

Today, Sanmao’s legacy lives on through her writing, which continues to inspire and captivate readers around the world. Her works have been translated into multiple languages, and her unique voice and perspective continue to resonate with people from all walks of life.

Award and Legacy

Sanmao’s legacy as a writer and adventurer is still felt today, more than 30 years after her death. Her writing has inspired generations of readers around the world with its honesty, humor, and insight into the human condition.

In recognition of her contributions to literature, the Sanmao Literary Award was established in Taiwan in 1992, the year after her death. The award is given to outstanding works of literature that explore the themes of life, humanity, and the world, and it has become one of the most prestigious literary awards in Taiwan.

Sanmao is also remembered for her advocacy of women’s rights and her efforts to promote cross-cultural understanding. She wrote extensively about her experiences living and traveling in different parts of the world, and her writing helped to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes.

In addition to the literary award named in her honor, Sanmao has been the subject of several films, documentaries, and stage productions. Her life and work continue to inspire writers, adventurers, and women around the world, and her legacy is a testament to the power of storytelling and the human spirit. On 26 March 2019, Google celebrated Sanmao’s 76th Birthday with a doodle.