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Home >> Sci-Edu
UPDATED: 16:09, November 15, 2006
Tie Ning: First woman to head China's literary world
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As the first woman writer elected as president of the Chinese Writers Association, 49-year-old Tie Ning broke the stereotype of the government-sponsored organization.

"It ends the era of a literary world dominated by great masters and ushers in the age of common people," fellow writer Sun Yunxiao wrote in his blog, commenting on Tie's election.

Born in 1957, Tie was elected president of the association on Sunday at the seventh congress of the association in Beijing, becoming China's top literary official.

The association, founded in 1949, is a non-government body made up of outstanding Chinese writers to encourage Chinese literary activities and promote exchanges between the Chinese and foreign literary circles.

Compared with predecessors -- Mao Dun (1896-1981) and Ba Jin (1904-2005) -- who made their names before the founding of New China with works attacking the feudal society, Tie comes from another age.

"I belong to the generation of writers who grew up with China's economic reform and opening up process," Tie said in an interview with China's major news website, before the election.

China's literary world has become increasingly diversified since the 1980s, leaving behind the era when the literary landscape was dominated by several great masters who were admired by an awestruck public.

Tie published her first story in 1975. At the age of 25, she won a national acclaim for her prize-winning short story "Ah, Xiangxue," which relates the adventures of a country girl who yearns to know about the outside world and gets on a train by mistake.

Her novel "The Red Shirt Without Buttons" and short story "June's Big Topic" won her another two national awards in 1984. Since the 1980s, Tie has published a number of collections of short stories and novels and become one of China's most well-known writers.

In 1996, 38-year-old Tie was elected vice president of the Chinese Writers Association. Meanwhile, she also served as president of the Hebei Provincial Writers Association.

To many of her colleagues, Tie, who has never been married, is a smart and nice-looking lady, who "has a positive attitude towards life and literature". Her election seemed to be warmly welcomed by Chinese writers, especially of her generation.

"First of all, she is a real writer. Her books demonstrate her talents and creativity. Secondly, she is of good character and is influential among writers," Sun said.

Other writers hope the woman president will introduce "new vitality" into the 57-year-old association.

"Some people may think that a writer of our generation is less weighty than the literary masters as Mao Dun and Ba Jin. But I personally support the election of a young, capable and vigorous writer as the new president," writer Hai Yan was quoted as saying by the China News Service.

"The president of the writers association should not be viewed as a figurehead," Hai said.

The Chinese Writers Association has been criticized for its "officialdom" by writers in recent years and is under huge pressure for institutional reform. Chinese writers have also frequently been chastised by the public for their lack of social responsibility, shallow understanding of social changes, ignorance of history and deliberate avoidance of social conflicts.

The Southern Metropolis Daily commented that compared with Mao Dun and Ba Jin, who either held too many titles to focus on the association or were too old and weak to deal with the association's affairs, Tie was subject to much higher expectations.

The newspaper said it expected that Tie, after the promotion, will continue to write good novels and use her position to reinforce Chinese writers' professional consciences.

Although Tie has turned down all media requests for interviews since the appointment this week, her position in both the literary and political arena, as well as her earlier words and deeds, might still belie her would-be agenda for the organization with more than 7,600 member writers.

In 2002, Tie was elected to the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party of China as an alternate member at the Party's 16th National Congress.

Responding to questions on her "dual identity", Tie said early this year that she dosen't think that being an official limits her freedom of writing.

"First of all, I personally don't put them at opposite sides. Secondly, being a writer is my job, my duty and my focus," she said. "As a writer, my soul is free. My writing is independent. Nobody forces me to write, neither am I restricted by anyone."

While serving as president of the Hebei Provincial Writers Association, Tie was said to have devoted great efforts to help young writers and create more opportunities for them. She also successfully raised enough money to build a provincial literature center and set up a provincial institute for literature.

But she admitted that being an official is a challenge because she had to get used to mixing administrative issues and writing. "I deal with the issues in the most efficient way and then get back to writing. Such a situation challenges a writer's perseverance."

"If I have certain so-called capability, then it is my ability to return to my soul under any conditions," she said.

Source: Xinhua

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