2012 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Chinese Writer Mo Yan—A National Dream Comes True

11 October, 2012 should be a memorable day for China when Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, announced the Chinese writer Mo Yan “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary,” to be the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.

It is the first time that a Chinese writer has won this prize and the announcement brought an explosion of pride across Chinese national and social media. Li Changchun, the China’s top propaganda official, the Foreign Ministry, China Writers Association and a number of celebrities and local organizations congratulated Mo Yan on his winning.

The prize of 8m kronor (£744.000) will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December.

On the same day, Mo Yan held a press conference at his hometown Gaomi in Shandong province in eastern China. During the interview, the new Nobel laureate said he was “overjoyed and scared” when he was informed of the prize by phone 20 minutes before the official announcement and he will try not to be influenced by the honor and do what he should do.

Mo Yan had been predicted by many Chinese media to have the most potential to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012, the well-known Japanese writer Haruki Murakami being his most competitive counterpart.

Born in 1955, Mo Yan is a renowned author of contemporary Chinese literature. “He is writing about the peasantry, mainly about the life in the countryside, about ordinary people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing,” said permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund, when interviewed by the freelance journalist Sven Hugo Persson. “The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to all these Chinese folktales. The term magical realism has been used about his work, but I think that is a sort of belittling him because that isn’t something he’s picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but he has done something that is quite unique. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary reality, he’s an extremely skillful narrator.”

Peter Englund also recommended starting to get to know Mo Yan’s works with The Garlic Ballads which “is a novel based on true incidents in the 1980s in China where riots happened due to a blast in the garlic market”. ”That is just a center piece for a big story involving a lot of different people. He’s not only writing about history, but he is also writing about contemporary China,” he added.

Mo’s representative works include Wa (currently untranslated, 2009), Shengsi Pilao (Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, 2006), Jiu Guo (Republic of Wine,2005), Fengru Feitun (Big Breasts and Wide Hips,1996), Hong Gaoliang Jiazu (Red Sorghum: A Novel of China,1987) etc., of which Hong Gaoliang Jiazu was adapted to an internationally successful movie directed by Zhang Yimou and in 2011 Wa enabled him to win Mao Dun Literature Prize which is one of the most prestigious literature prizes in China, awarded every four years. Dozens of his works have been translated into English, French and Japanese and many other languages.

In history, there were several other Chinese authors nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but none of them won the prize. The nominated writers include Lao She (1968), Lin Yutang (1975), Shen Congwen (1988), Ba Jin (2001) etc.. Lao She and Shen Congwen were said to have the biggest chance to win the prize in 1968 and 1988 respectively and what failed them was that they had died at that time. Normally, as the prize rules state, the prize is not awarded posthumously.

The very first Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 1901 to the French poet and philosopher Sully Prudhomme, who in his poetry showed the ”rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect”. Since then, it has been awarded annually with the will of Alfred Nobel to the person “who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …” Last year’s literature prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.

Although praised by many people, Mo Yan has become a controversial figure among some human rights activists and dissidents who have denounced the award as intended to appease Beijing, which lashed out in 2010 over the Nobel Peace Prize won by jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. This award also ignited renewed criticisms of Mo from other writers as having closely attached to the ruling Communist Party and being too willing to serve or too timid to confront a government that heavily censors artists and authors, and punishes those who refuse to obey.

US-based dissident Wei Jingsheng, prominent leader of China’s democracy movement, praised Mo Yan’s skill as a writer but questioned his actions including copying by hand part of a speech by late leader Mao Zedong for a commemorative book which contained the leader’s views on how art should serve the communist cause, according to news agency Agence France-Presse.

Following the announcement, Mo Yan’s works draw much attention from the journalists and visitors at the 64th Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, western Germany on 11 October, 2012.

On the whole, Mo Yan’s achievement signifies that Chinese literature has, for the first time, been universally accepted and may play an important role in world literature in the future. This success not only encourages Chinese people to renewably pay attention to Chinese literature which has been on the wane for a long time, but also offers an access for people in other countries to know about and to understand Chinese literature.

Chinese students rally at the Japanese Embassy in London

28 September (London time), international students from mainland China and Taiwan rallied at the Japanese Embassy in London for an anti-Japanese protest over the uninhabited islets, known as Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.

There were an estimated 40 students of the London demonstration, out of several worldwide. Some of them were waving the Chinese national flag, some were yelling, “Diaoyu island is part of China!” and some were holding a banner proclaiming “Diaoyu Island Belongs to China”. The rally lasted for about an hour from noon and ended with the collective singing of the Chinese national anthem “March of the Volunteers”, which had been sung three times during the protest.

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                                                                                        (Photographed by Ziwen Chung)

Most of the passers-by gave the thumbs up to the protesters and some Chinese drivers who drove aside the protesting group honked the horn of their car to show their support for the students.

Ziwen Chung (a postgraduate student of the University of Westminster), one of the protesters, said, “I’m a little disappointed that fewer people came and joined this event than I’d expected. Maybe the time is not right as on a Friday morning many people have to go to work or go to school.”

This demonstration was organized by an individual student and was permitted by the Metropolitan Police.

Finally, two student representatives from mainland China and Taiwan respectively tried to hand over a statement letter referring to the declaration of China’s ownership of several disputed islands which have been claimed by Japan to the Japanese Embassy. They were not allowed to enter, but the letter was accepted by the guards at the gate although there was no information about whether it will be given to the embassy.

This demonstration followed four days of large-scale and sometimes violent anti-Japanese protests in cities across China which began on 15 September after Japan’s decision to purchase DiaoyuIsland from its private Japanese owners. Similar demonstrations were also held in Berlin, Germany on 15, September when about 200 Chinese students joined a 3-hour event. On 16th and 26th September, in New York City, Chinese people gathered at the Japanese Embassy and at the headquarters of the United Nations to announce to the world that DiaoyuIsland belongs to China.

This London protest went peacefully with no injuries or conflicts. It was a rational way that overseas students showed their support for their country.

London—out of my expectation

This post just follows what I have been told in class about stereotypes.  Holding a fixed perception about certain things is terrible and hinders our exploration.  I’m now struggling to get rid of my old feelings about London and understand it in a new way.

London is not that crowded

 London is regarded as one of the most crowded cities in the world. But the scene on the tube gave me a different perception. It turned out to me that compared to the number of people on tube in Beijing where people are often squeezed, in London, it’s likely to find a seat on the tube in most times.


This is not to suggest that London is not a dynamic city. Indeed, it is a magic place where I’m sure everyone can fully involve in with interesting, or in a journalist parlance, newsworthy events happening everyday. The Fashion Week, the Film Festival, you name it. You cannot refuse going to London, can you?


Londoners are not that bad

Many people have told me thousand times before I came to UK, that you cannot expect the English people, especially Londoners to be friendly. English people are generally considered a little bit arrogant.


But my opinion changed immediately after landing at Heathrow with two very heavy suitcases, even heavier than me. While hesitating at a stair, an English gentleman, almost in his 50s, stopped me, saying nothing but giving me a sign to put down the suitcases. He lifted up my suitcases and went downstairs. To be honest, my first reaction was that he was going to rob me.  What a silly guess! He was just intended to help. This has happened several times since I came to London.  It might be quite like a very old and common thing that is not worth mentioning. However, I was shocked at this because at home I cannot expect a stranger to stop to help me willingly.

Besides, I could not imagine that our respectable professors can even fall their keens down at the side of my desk to amend my writing. This is quite unusual in China where most teachers put themselves in a higher position and communicate with students in a rather serious way and there always remains a bridge to cross between the teachers and the students.

These so called arrogant English people are indeed friendly and humble, aren’t they?

London is not that old

By saying this, I mean London is progressing with a large number of old people still learning. They impressed me on the tube where I find many old people reading books or newspapers with their thick glasses and often they take notes quite like what pupils do at classrooms. And at the BritishMuseum, I can even notice old people attending a public drawing class with children. It’s really interesting for me to find this as in my country it’s quite funny for a granny and a grandson, for example, to learn things in the same circumstance and old people often feel too shy to learn at their age.

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London is not that reputed

Renowned as the financial, political and cultural center, London also surprises me by having such a large number of beggars. They are asking for coins at the entrance of tube stations or at public squares, which is only expected to be seen in developing countries or poor areas.  Besides, they are dressed cleanly and properly, giving the sharp contrast to the situation in China where all beggars wear shabby clothes and sometimes they pretend to be in a disabled position by hiding their arms or legs.


It’s really amazing to live in a completely different city and to observe the differences which I’ve not expected gives me more fun. It’s my observation and experience that stimulate me to better adapt to and understand this city. Things are not always going as we initially plan or think. That is to say, we need to get rid of the ideas or thoughts that stick with us for a long time though it might be difficult sometimes.


To Be Transformed at British Museum, You Dare It?!


It was a gruesome night here at the British Museum last Friday night.  Can’t imagine it? In just a few minutes, the RCS’s wigs and experts transformed the performer into totally another person.

People shouted and stepped back when they saw blood, guts, gore and eyeballs on display. And, the four realistic heads stood upright on the desk also aroused screams from the crowds. Two of them were shaped like skulls with long teeth stretching out of their mouths, one wore a bloody face and one bore a scar on his cheek. Many beautiful girls had their photos taken with them and tried to imitate the models’ expressions.

Certainly, it was not a horror film, but a make-up show of really high quality. This show, as part of the free exhibition of Shakespeare’s London, attracted a lot of participants especially children who volunteered to get on the stage.

In the end, a boy, aged 6 or 7 years old, came to the center and begged for a make-up.  He sat on a chair, smiled and seemed to enjoy the process without any fear. A moment later, when a mirror was put in front of him, he immediately touched his nose to make sure if that swelling and bloody nose was still his own nose.  Knowing that his nose didn’t disappear, he laughed and bounced. His mother said,” You were so lucky to get a valuable gift tonight.”

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Sometimes, it’s not the make-up techniques that really matter, but people’s desire and courage to imagine, to try and to change. A student from America who joined the make-up show told me, “This is really interesting. Make-up is something magic. It’s like disappearing from reality and being another person in another world. ”