Role of art and literature
From the people, to the people and for the people is what top leader Xi Jinping told a group of luminaries from the world of art and literature at a Wednesday forum.
Writers and artists have to go to the people for artistic and creative nutrition and intuition; they can ignore to do so only if they don’t care whether their creations are liked or not.
Chairman Mao Zedong delivered a similar speech at the Yan’an Forum in Shaanxi province 72 years ago, emphasizing that the aim of literature and art should be to serve the workers, farmers and soldiers. Given the background of war, Mao’s speech could not have had a lighter political tone.
At Wednesday’s forum, Xi did talk about patriotism, core socialist values and the role of art and literature in representing the characteristics of the times and social values. But he also emphasized the integration of ideology and artistic values.
Democracy should be promoted in art and literature to create a healthy, relaxed and harmonious atmosphere for the creative minds, he said, stressing that exchange of ideas among different opinion groups and different schools of thoughts is necessary to invigorate the development of art and literature.
Indeed, art and literature cannot develop without political guidance nor can they be allowed just to cater to the vulgar tastes of some people. Good writers and artists across the world know that they do not just entertain their readers and audiences with their works, but also provide them with some mental fare that, in a subtle manner, will inspire or help them distinguish between right and wrong.
However, it would be sad to underestimate the aesthetic tastes of general readers and audiences by overemphasizing the role of ideological guidance in a piece of literary or art work. The majority of readers and viewers will never be attracted to works that contain nothing but moralizing platitudes.
Good writers and artists must know what they are doing if they want to create works that transcend the times and help inscribe their names in the pantheon of greats. This is the type of writers and artists that China needs today.
China Daily, Oct. 16