Yang Yang

China Daily - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at yangyangs@chi­nadaily.com.cn

the School of Chi­nese Lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture of Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, the pop­u­lar­ity of the col­lec­tion rep­re­sents a new di­rec­tion in the devel­op­ment of “new lit­er­a­ture” in China that was born in 1918, when writ­ers such as Lu Xun, Hu Shi and Chen Duxiu sought to write in dif­fer­ent styles than the tra­di­tional literati.

“New lit­er­a­ture” marks the start of mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture. Themes and lan­guage are in­flu­enced by West­ern lit­er­a­ture.

“Con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese writ­ers are chang­ing their iden­ti­ties not only as mod­ern writ­ers but also while go­ing back to the tra­di­tions of the an­cient literati,” Zhang Qinghua says.

“Jia is not only a writer but also a cal­lig­ra­pher, a col­lec­tor and a scholar, who stud­ies is­sues re­lated to farm­ers and land.”

The pop­u­lar­ity of Jia’s es­says hails a re­turn of tra­di­tional es­say writ­ing, Zhang Qinghua says.

By ob­serv­ing the world from the per­spec­tive of a nov­el­ist, cap­tur­ing ugly things in our daily lives and rep­re­sent­ing them in his writ­ing, Jia has not only been in­spired by tra­di­tional es­says but also has formed his own style that adds new aes­thet­ics, says Sun Yu, an­other pro­fes­sor of Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity.

Sun’s col­league, Chen Guang­wei, says Jia draws in­spi­ra­tion from cal­lig­ra­phy and Chi­nese paint­ing, in­clud­ing rhythm and tech­niques like leav­ing white spa­ces.

Chen Xiaom­ing, di­rec­tor of the depart­ment of Chi­nese lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Pek­ing Univer­sity, gives four rea­sons for the pop­u­lar­ity of Jia’s es­says.

His es­says de­scribe in sim­ple and hon­est lan­guage the re­la­tion­ships be­tween par­ents and their chil­dren, and among other fam­ily mem­bers, which touches com­mon read­ers, Chen Xiaom­ing says.

“Jia ex­presses his un­der­stand­ing of na­ture by treat­ing things as equal to hu­mans, with­out im­pos­ing hu­man will on na­ture,” he adds.

“An­other rea­son is his pre­sen­ta­tion of hu­man na­ture as non­judg­men­tal. And he al­ways in­jects his un­der­stand­ing of destiny in his works — that is, life is full of con­tin­gen­cies.”

Lit­er­ary critic He Shao­jun says what touches him the most in Jia’s es­says is the au­thor’s free mind, with­out which “one can’t re­ally get into the essence of lit­er­a­ture”.

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