MA LIHUA (1953— )
MA LIHUA (1953— ). Poet, prose and fiction writer. Her writing career is built entirely upon her 25-year experience living and working in Tibet, where she went in 1976 immediately after graduating from Lingyi Teachers’ College in Shandong Province. Along with other Chinese college graduates recruited by the government to serve as teachers, technical experts, doctors, and government officials, Ma was assigned to work first as an administrator and then as an editor for Xizang wenxue (Tibetan Literature), a journal publishing literary works written in Chinese. She traveled extensively on assignments, eventually covering every county (over 70) in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Since 2003, she has been working as general editor for Tibetan Studies Press in Beijing.
In the initial phase of her encounter with Tibet, Ma belonged, in her own words, to “the last generation of Chinese romantic poets.” Tibet provided a fantasy world into which she projected her own dreams. Later when she became interested in anthropology, Ma turned to prose writing. As she traversed the Tibetan plateau and met a wide spectrum of Tibetan people, she became one of the region’s best-known spokespersons and advocates. Her cultural reportages and travel notes, which resulted from solid field research, portray Tibetan customs in vivid details. Because of the unique literary sensibility displayed in these works, Ma is credited for having built a bridge between anthropology and literature and has been called a “literary anthropologist.” Her most important prose works include Zangbei youli (Glimpses of Northern Tibet), Xixing Ahli (Journey Westward to Ali), Linghun xiang feng (The Soul Is like the Wind), and Zangdong hong shanmai (The Red Mountains in Eastern Tibet). Her poems are collected in Wo de taiyang (My Sun) and her essays in Zhui ni dao gaoyuan (Following You to the Tibetan Plateau). She is also a noted scholar on Tibetan literature, having published Xueyu wenhua yu Xizang wenxue (The Culture of the Snow Land and Tibetan Literature). Ma’s recent publication, Ruyi gaodi (The Highland of Dreams), is a fictional work inspired by the personal account of Chen Quzhen, a Qing military officer sent into Tibet in the early 20th century. Chen wrote the memoir in 1936 to record his extraordinary ordeal in Tibet. In her book, Ma mixes real historical events with fiction, and past with present, creating a postmodern work in which fictitious contemporary characters are cast as reincarnations of historical figures to recover a deeply buried past laden with mystery, violence, courage, ambition, geopolitics, and romantic love. See also WOMEN.