Teng Zhenfu， known by the moniker Lao Teng， was born in December of 1963 in Tianzhuang， a village near Tianheng Town， in Shandong province’s Jimo County. Lao Teng is a committee member of the China Writers Association， and the current chairman of the Liaoning Writers Association. A graduate of Heihe University and Harbin Normal University， he worked for some years in the famous scenic spots of Wudalianchi and Lüshunkou， his professional positions passing variously through county， municipal， and provincial levels. His hometown of Tianheng Town is known for being the birthplace of the famous so-called “Tian Heng and his 500 Retainers，” a centuries-old legend in which a nobleman slit his own throat to spare his followers， who in turn killed themselves upon hearing of his death. The righteousness and nobility that permeate the area’s local ways had a profound impact on Lao Teng’s individual character and literary works. Beginning publishing in the early 1980s， his novels include Daobin Guo， Xishi Ru， Yinghua Zhi Lü， and Guzhang. He has published six short story and novella collections， including Ao Ying and A City Without Crows， as well as two pieces of written sketches on culture， Notes on Confucianism and Confucianism： Answers for Today From Lessons of Old.
One prominent feature of Lao Teng’s works is the rich base-layer of traditional culture and the localized cultural qualities that run throughout them. This is inseparably connected to his deep grounding in Confucianism. Most of his novellas and short stories are focused on the petty officials and minor players who reside on the lower rungs of society’s ladder. These works belong to the so-called “low-level writing” genre of Chinese literature. His novels， on the other hand， tend more to portray the struggles of human nature amid the changing of the times.
Another characteristic of Lao Teng’s work is his use of animals as a means to realize the philosophical state of “human and nature as one.” Zhahangong， for instance， is the story of a white fox that keeps a desert’s ecology in balance； Hei Huamei — or Black Babbler — is about a benevolent and righteous donkey； The First Dog of the East tells the story of a loyal canine； The City’s Sorrowful Poet is about a self-respecting cat；The Death of the Butcher is the story of a vengeful cow； and A City Without Crows is about the kindheartedness of crows.
Lao Teng’s novel Xishi Ru revolves around the eponymous delicacy， made from the ribs of the blowfish and considered one of China’s most delicious dishes. Through twelve banquets at which the blowfish is sampled， we bear witness to the hypocrisies of the world and the multitude of flavors that make up human life. The story paints a picture of a highly resourceful chef， Yi Wuyang， who specializes exclusively in preparing “xishi ru.” Taking as inspiration the ancient figures of Yi Yin （assistant to Shang Tang， founder of the Shang Dynasty） and Yi Ya （attendee to Duke Huan of the State of Qi）， Yi Wuyang trains up Zheng Yuanqiao to become mayor. As tensions flair between chef and mayor， a figure behind the scenes appears： the beautiful and kindhearted woman Zhu Chengbi.
Despite being a novella， Lao Teng’s work The Shaman Curse is by no means inferior to his novels in terms of its content. The story portrays the character of the sorceress Lan Gu， a woman from the Lesser Khingan region of northeastern China who is a descendent of the shamans. A character that forges mystery， benevolence， clairvoyance， and sex appeal into one body， Lan Gu is someone that many people wish to change. Yet it is them who are ultimately changed by her. Just like blueberry liquor or poppy flowers， she can’t be loved yet is impossible to hate. With the passing of time， those who found themselves entangled with Lan Gu gradually begin to appreciate her value.
In 2018， Lao Teng published Daobin Guo， a novel that describes — with the historical expanse of a picture scroll — life in one wetland area in northeastern China. Green reeds and red sands their stage， and religion， education， and wisdom their script， two generations of righteous rural folk play out a tragic comedy imbued with feelings for country and family. The plot weaves hither and thither as a perplexing and strange story unfolds， producing a veritable encyclopedia of the folk culture of northern China’s wetland society.