Peering Into a New World– Chinese Literature

Asian Literature is varied and insightful, and one needs to delve more into it to find get a flavor of another prominent sphere of literature in Asia—Chinese Literature.

Chinese Literature dates back to thousands of years ago, when each dynasty focused on the development of literature. The Shang dynasty is the first to have recorded historical and archaeological evidence. The Zhou Dynasty provided a basis for the development of philosophical and religious works. The scientific and historical texts were developed during the Han dynasty and so the works continued to develop with the change in dynasty.

The 9th edition of the Hyderabad Literary Fest hosted China as a guest nation in 2019 and organized a session with the China Writers Association on January 25. The session consisted of a panel that was specially invited by China and A. Lai, President of the Sichuan Provincial Writers Association. The panel included a well-known novelist, playwright and the Vice-President of Shanxi Provincial Writers Association, Ge Shuiping; a member of the National Committee of China Writers Association, Guan Renshan; the Chief Editor of the magazine ‘Literary Port’, Rong Rong; and Bei Ta, a professional poet, translator and General Secretary of the Chinese Shakespeare Society. Each panelist was introduced by highlighting his respective achievements and then his background was discussed. Owing to their diverse backgrounds, Lei said: “Diversity makes literature charming.”

Mr. A Lai said that he was curious to find out more about China’s ‘Himalayan neighbour’ i.e. India. He said that though China and India may have had geo-political disagreements, he felt that knowing more about India and the other neighbouring countries is important. Guan Renshan spoke about ‘lighting up China’s rural areas with literature’. He talked extensively about life in rural areas of China, of which he had a first-hand experience. He also expressed his wish for more Chinese writers writing about the human condition and the destiny of peasants, their life and experiences to help light up the people living in these areas.

Ge Shuiping, who writes on women issues, reflected on her own past and said that while growing up she had observed how difficult it was for women to do anything. She then pioneered the issue of feminism and female literature in China, wherein women writers wrote about the destiny of women in lower classes and rural areas. Chinese writers have been writing prominently from the year 1950’s to 1980’s. Most female writers wrote about love and sex in the 1980s. She also stressed on the fact that women deserve respect and should be free from the shackles of injustice and male chauvinism. She added, that India and China are similar in many ways including social development and that both the countries could gain inspiration from each other. Adding to this, Rong Rong shared how she spoke to various female poets in order to know the technique of writing poetry. She said the answers, though varied, had one thing in common that they all felt that poetry was their way of expression.

The last speaker, Bei Ta, briefly discussed ‘the development of contemporary Chinese poetry over the past 40 years’ and emphasized on four points. He noted that Chinese poets understand foreign literature and culture better than those in any other countries. For foreign poets, the work of Chinese poetry is unimaginable and difficult to understand and by using traditional Chinese culture, the poets go through unparalleled emotions, thoughts and direct experiences due to the dramatic social transformation.

He explained the treatment meted out to poets in China by drawing analogies with the weather. He stated that at present, the atmosphere is warm but in 1980s, it was best described as ‘hot’ as the work of poets was given immense importance and, in the decade of 2000s, when the poets were neglected, the period was termed ‘cold’.

Through the panel discussion, it is clear that though India and China may not have strong political connections, when it comes to literature, people from the both the countries want to read and know more about its cultures. Whether it is the Chinese writers or the Indian writers, they all face the same challenges in their respective countries. Such discussions provide people a platform to understand and gain deeper knowledge of different forms of literature.

Picture Courtesy- Thy English Academy

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