Chinese Writers' Association sees the light

Updated: 2011-12-02 07:39

By Yang Guang(China Daily)

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An ethnic group writer from Yunnan province told Ye Mei, chief editor of the Beijing-based National Literature magazine, that in the past he used to conceal his ethnic identity when submitting works for publication, for fear of being looked down upon.

"But now he is proud of his ethnic identity," Ye says, at the Eighth National Congress of the Chinese Writers' Association (CWA), held from Nov 22 to Nov 25 in Beijing.

"The cultural self-awareness and confidence ethnic writers have gradually established these years is most valuable," she says. "It lays a solid foundation for the further flourishing of multiethnic literature."

Held every five years, as one of the biggest events for Chinese writers, this year's four-day conference had about 1,000 participants from home and abroad. Beijing-based author Tie Ning was re-elected as the chairperson of the CWA.

According to Ye, the culture of the country's 55 ethnic groups has become more of a focus since the last session of the congress five years ago. Literary creation in ethnic languages is supported by the government and is more widely disseminated.

"Multiethnic literature injects fresh blood and vitality into Chinese literature, with its strong characteristics and creative languages," Ye says. "Its existence bears great significance for cultural transmission across borders, which is even greater than the significance of literature per se."

So far, among the more than 9,000 registered members of the CWA, 1,092 come from ethnic groups.

Started in 1981, National Literature is the country's only national-level literature monthly. Its bimonthly Tibetan, Mongolian and Uygur editions were launched in 2009.

Incomplete statistics indicate that China has more than 80 ethnic group literary magazines, about half of which are published in their native ethnic languages. Online platforms have also been established for ethnic cultural exchanges.

Besides preserving and promoting national literature, significant strides have been made in Chinese literature's go-global campaign.

People's Literature magazine published the first issue of its English edition, entitled Path Light, during the CWA's conference.

Started in 1949, People's Literature was the first literary monthly after the founding of New China. It remains one of the country's most prestigious literary magazines.

Qiu Huadong, assistant to the editor-in-chief of People's Literature and one of the editorial directors of Path Light, says the English quarterly introduces new writers, works and trends of Chinese literature to overseas readers.

"It is so named in the hope that it can provide light on the path of the go-global campaign," Qiu says.

The first 160-page issue features interviews with the five 2011 Mao Dun Literature Prize winners and excerpts of their award-winning works. Also included are short stories by Li Er, writer of Truth and Variations and Cherry on Pomegranate Tree, and young novelists born in the 1970s and 1980s. It also introduces poets from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and new novels by literary heavyweights like Fang Fang, Ge Fei, Jia Pingwa and Wang Anyi.

According to Eric Abrahamsen, one of Path Light's editorial directors, the magazine is to be distributed internationally through Chinese embassies and Confucius Institutes. Issues can also be found at the Bookworm and Sanlian Bookstore in Beijing. Digital distribution will start soon.

Thirteen native English speakers, all with literary translation experience, have been selected to do the translations.

"From our point of view, one of the attractive things about doing this magazine is we can use it to develop new literary translators," Abrahamsen says.

The second issue of Path Light is scheduled to be published at the end of February, focusing on the Chinese writers present at the 2012 London Book Fair.