Publishing magnate's ex on queen of romance novels: 'The biggest problem in my marriage was Chiung Yao'

Taiwanese romance novelist Chiung Yao married publishing magnate Ping Shin-tao in 1978. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CHIUNG YAO

TAIPEI - Breaking her silence after five decades, the former wife of publishing magnate Ping Shin-tao is finally revealing how romance novelist Chiung Yao snatched her husband from her.

In a book to be published at the end of the month, painter Lin Wan-zhen, 88, details how her marriage ended after Chiung, 80, became a bestselling author and moved into a house opposite the Ping family's to facilitate her writing, says China Times.

In 1978, Chiung went on to marry Ping, now 90, who has recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia and whose care is the subject of her latest book, Before Snow Falls.

Lin writes in her book, whose title translates as The Past Comes To Light: "Some people say that when you embark on a divorce, it's a problem between husband and wife, and has nothing to do with others. But the biggest problem in my marriage was Chiung Yao."

Her book is being launched by Crown Publishing, the company that was founded by her former husband and is now run by their son.

In an allusion to Chiung, Lin writes: "Sometimes I see other people writing about me and it's obviously the same thing, but very different from what I saw and heard. I think it's time to talk about my version of events."

Lin was 19 when she met Ping and 25 when she married him. When he founded Crown Publishing, she was his first employee; they had been married for more than 10 years.

In the book, she recalls the first time Ping brought Chiung, writer of the 1963 romance Outside The Window, home for dinner. She says she entertained Chiung the way she would entertain her husband's other Crown writers, and never expected the younger woman to break up her family.

But she also recalls the various signs of trouble: After Chiung moved into the house near the Ping family's with her son from her first marriage, she had close contact with Ping, who would leave work at 2pm to drive to her place.

Once, Lin was puzzled by her domestic helper's account of how Chiung suddenly came over in a new brocade blouse and asked Ping if she looked good in it. "Why would you come and tell someone else's husband to look?" Lin writes.

On another occasion, Lin called Chiung's house at midnight to ask for Ping, and found they were playing mahjong. "I was shocked because we had known each other, been married and lived together for so long, and I never knew he could play mahjong. She also said, 'Come and take him back,'" Lin writes.

When Chiung decorated her house, Lin had a foreboding after a decorator told her the writer's curtains were in Ping's favourite bright red. The biggest shocks came when Lin found Chiung's love letters to her husband in a chest of drawers, and when Ping and Chiung were in a car accident together, Lin writes.

Ping did not tell his wife where he had been going with Chiung during the accident, and also hurt Lin by telling her to take Chiung to hospital to have her dressing changed.

Lin writes: "After Shin-tao recovered, he found an excuse to take Chiung Yao travelling around the world and told me he was going on a work trip to Europe only a day before setting off, and they were away for a month."

She could not protest because "work was always his best excuse", she adds.

As her marriage melted down, Lin writes, "to be honest, I too wanted to learn (Chiung's) kind of running, crying, shouting, life-and-death love. I couldn't. I'm not the kind who lives in a romantic fantasy. But I was really sad and even thought about suicide".

But she chose to live on because of her three children, she adds.

Chiung made her name with Outside The Window, a teacher-student romance drawn from her own relationship with a teacher. The book was adapted into a 1973 film of the same name, starring a young Lin Ching-hsia.

Chiung and Ping were a media power couple for decades. He published her romances, including Misty Rain, Six Dreams and Deep Garden, many of which were also made into movies and television dramas.

Lin still believes that her former husband only meant to take care of his writer in the beginning. "I remember one morning when he went to Chiung Yao's house to get a manuscript. When he came back, he told me Chiung Yao had opened the door without having drawn her eyebrows and scared him," Lin writes.

But a chat, which was overheard by Ping's and Lin's young daughter, gave the mother pause.

Lin recalls how the child came home after playing at Chiung's and asked her: "Mum, if Dad were to ask you if you liked winter or summer, how would you answer?"

Lin said her reply would be straightforward, either winter or summer. Her daughter then told her Chiung had given a "smart" answer: "When it's summer, I like winter. When it's winter, I like summer."

Lin writes: "When I heard Chiung Yao's answer, I was silent. Maybe there was no ambiguity between them at the time, but I already felt her intentions."

In her epilogue, Lin says Ping "shared woe" with her during their marriage, and then "shared weal" with Chiung, choosing to spend "the best days of his life" taking care of the writer and her son.

She writes: "In the end, I have come to realise that "share woe and weal" is not one phrase, but two."

Ping is in hospital. Chiung has said she fell out with her stepchildren over whether to intubate her husband, who also suffered a stroke.

She has not responded to the book by Lin, says China Times. Chiung's daughter-in-law declines to comment on "the previous generation's matters".

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