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Bai Lu Yuan
    2007-01-28 17:05:16     CRIENGLISH.com

When talking about the masters of the Chinese contemporary literature and their masterpieces, theres one writer no one can neglect. Hailing from northwest Chinas Shaanxi Province, and looking more like an ordinary farmer than a man of letters, his name is Chen Zhongshi. His novel, Bai Lu Yuan, or White Deer Plain, is regarded by critics as a classic of Chinese literature. They describe his works as a realistic reflection of Chinese contemporary history. Today, with our reporter Manling, well meet this ordinary-looking but talented writer to discover more about his approach to literature.

The Cover of Chen Zhongshi's novel "Bai Lu Yuan". [File Photo: bookschina.com]

Reporter: In 1987, Chen Zhongshi, then in his forties, began to write his novel White Deer Plain. Work continued into 1992, a span of five years. The story tells of the hardships and spiritual pursuits of several generations living on White Deer Plain, mirroring the radical changes taking place in the Chinese countryside over a near-half-century.

With the publication of this novel in 1993, Chen Zhongshi shot to fame almost overnight, since when, many lovers of literature have held him up as an idol. In 1997, Chen Zhongshi was given the Mao Dun Literature Award, the highest such award in China. In recent years, with his novels adaptation to theatres and film, and therefore distributed across a much larger audience, Chen Zhongshi is fast-becoming a household name among Chinese people.

Years after the publication of his first book, Chen Zhongshi would like to introduce it to strangers thus.

If this novel could arouse the interest of readers, help them to gain a real sense of the history it relates, and of the background against which contemporary China walks, I will feel totally satisfied.

The success of White Deer Plain has been attributed to the writers profound experience of country life. Having spent decades in the countryside, Chen Zhongshi accumulated rich raw materials for his literary creation. For the composition of White Deer Plain, he visited over 100 villages and checked the annals of more than 20 counties. The notes he wrote down amount to nearly a million words.

Actually, even before the publication of White Deer Plain, Chen Zhongshi had already enjoyed fame in the literal circle of Shaanxi Province. Since publishing his first work in 1965, the writer never stopped composing, creating many novellas and short stories. They can all be said to act as mirrors, reflecting the reality of different historical periods in China.

Since the completion of White Deer Plain, for Chen Zhongshi, the most frequently-asked question relates to his next novel. But in recent years, the writer has in fact concentrated mainly on prose and criticism, indicating no intention to write a second novel. Maybe he is simply waiting for the right occasion; perhaps he has already begun preparations. Lets hear how the writer himself expresses it:

The reader has his or her own judgment. They wont automatically love anything you write simply because you composed a novel they liked. If the next work you release is less good, they are sure to abandon you.

With such a solemn attitude to the reception of his work, Chen Zhongshi is clearly cautious about beginning his next novel. And he also says that for a writer no change in writing means no hope in the future.

If one day we do witness the publication of another novel from the writer, we are sure to discover a different Chen Zhongshi.

Thank you, Manling, for introducing us to one of the most influential writers in contemporary Chinese literature. Now, to deepen your impression of this writer, well present you with a short story composed by Chen Zhongshi, which, we hope, will lead you to a better understanding of his writing style.

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