2 August 2020

Famous Chinese writer discovered his passion in NZ

Annabella Gamboni
Communications Advisor

When Ma Boyong first arrived in New Zealand as a young international student, he knew no one and lacked confidence in his English skills.

Almost 20 years on, Boyong is now a literary superstar in China with more than 6,683,611 followers on Weibo, and is the writer of the book,The Longest Day in Chang’An (长安十二时辰). The latter was adapted into a popular TV series in China with a viewer rating of 9.4 out of 10 on Viki.

But Boyong’s journey to entertainment stardom was an unexpected one, and began when he was a student at the University of Waikato.

“I studied marketing and communications, but the first time I arrived at the university I felt a little fear,” he said. “I felt fear because I didn’t know anyone, and it was a challenge to follow lecturers.”

As a student, Boyong found solitude in the university’s campus library. It was there that his passion for writing started.

“I was in the library trying to look for Chinese books, but noticed there weren’t many there,” he said.

Since graduating from University in 2004, Boyong has had great success as a novelist, columnist and blogger.

One of his most successful pieces is The City of Silence – a science fiction novel set in the year 2046, based on an authoritarian state.

In 2010, he won China’s most prestigious literary award, the People’s Literature Prize.

Though Boyong has built a successful career, he said he often reflected on his time as a student at the University of Waikato.

Recently, he returned to New Zealand and visited the university campus – something he had been dreaming of ever since he left the country in 2004.

“Almost every month I would dream about how to go back to New Zealand and come back to campus,” he said.

Although Waikato was the catalyst for what would be a successful writing career for Boyong, he says it wasn’t his most cherished memory.

“The best part about being at Waikato was meeting my wife,” he said. “We met each other at a café, and when I persuaded her to go to the Balloons over Waikato event with me, it all took off from there.”

This story was originally published on the Education New Zealand Media Centre and is republished with permission.

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About the contributors
Annabella Gamboni
Communications Advisor

Annabella Gamboni is a member of the communications team at Education New Zealand. At high school, she spent three months in Germany as an exchange student, and later, spent a semester at a UK university.