SHI TIESHENG (1951— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

SHI TIESHENG (1951— ). Fiction writer and essayist. After middle school, Shi Tiesheng left Beijing and went to work in a village in Shaanxi, where he stayed until an illness brought him back to the capital. For 10 years after that, he worked in a small factory. Shi gained fame in the early 1980s with a series of lyrical stories, including “Wo de yuaoyuan de qingpingwan” (My Far Away Qingpingwan), which is based on his life in the village. Shi casts an affectionate eye on his characters: the honest farmers who know nothing but hard work and suffering and the equally innocent city youths who have come to accept the harsh realities of the northwestern loess. In a controlled but loving tone of voice, Shi calmly relates the small aspirations of rural people.

Laowu xiaoji (Record of an Old House), an autobiographical novel, relates the first few years of his life in the factory after he was paralyzed from the waist down. The straightforward narrative style Shi uses for this work has been adopted in many of his other stories. The novel Wuxu biji (Notes of Discussions of Impractical Matters), published in 1996, is widely considered his best work. Other writings include prose pieces about his personal struggle with illness, such as Bing xi suibi (Fragments Written between Illnesses) and “Wo yu ditan” (In the Temple of the Earth), a touching confessional essay that records how little scenes in the park changed his perspective on life and prevented him from committing suicide. Years of living in a wrecked body made him prone to melancholic ruminations but his illness also made him more philosophical with regard to the meaning of life and death, a frequent theme in his writings.