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Shaanxi, a mecca for writers

(Global Times)

09:16, October 24, 2012

For tourists and locals alike, the city of Xi'an in China's northwest Shaanxi Province is as well-known as the country's capital city of Beijing. Known for signature cultural relics like the Terracotta Warriors and the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda, this ancient capital city is usually on the list of must-see sites.

Shaanxi is not just famous for its concentration of cultural heritage from China's 5,000 years of history; it is also attracting attention for its modern literature. Local writers like Jia Pingwa, Chen Zhongshi and Lu Yao (1949-92) have long become household names.

"Since the opening up (in 1978), three writers received the Mao Dun Literature Prize, the most prestigious literature award in China, six received the Lu Xun Literature Prize and others were recipients of literary prizes like the Bing Xin Award and Jun Ma Award," said Lei Tao, executive vice president of Shaanxi Writers Association.

"Shaanxi novelists represent the pinnacle of literature in the country," Lei told the Global Times.

Consistent development

In the 1950s and 60s, novels like History of Starting up an Undertaking by Liu Qing (1916-78), In the Peaceful Days by Du Pengcheng (1921-91), and On the Beach by Wang Wenshi (1921-99) were representatives of Shaanxi's literature, reflecting a change of pace in rural lives and mentalities during the socialist reforms of that period. Their influence in the literary circle was already obvious.

"Works then featured a revolutionary realism," said cultural critic Xiao Yunru, in an interview with Xi'an Daily in September.

In recent years, Shaanxi literature gained wide recognition following masterpieces like Jia Pingwa's Turbulence (1987), Deserted City (1993) and Qin Qiang (2008) and White Deer Plain (1993) by Chen Zhongshi.

Shaanxi literature of 60 years shares one common characteristic: a realism that reflects local life in different eras, according to Xiao.

"Realism is a tradition among Shaanxi writers," said Lei. "Most writings centered on life in the countryside, reflecting local life and psychological changes."

For example, White Deer Plain, which earned author Chen Zhongshi the 4th Mao Dun Literature Prize in 1997, describes three generation of interactions between the Bai and Lu families in their village. The novel chronicles 50 years from the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to the beginning of the founding of the country (1949).

Jia Pingwa's Qin Qiang took home the 8th Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2008. The author depicts the profound upheavals in a village, values and interpersonal relationships brought by the period of opening-up in the late 1970s. The story is based on Jia's hometown, Danfeng county, southeast of Shaanxi.

"This is similar to the works of other local writers like Ye Guangqin, Gao Jianqun and Feng Jiqi," said Lei. "They are familiar with this subject. This is an advantage."

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