CHEN ZHONGSHI (1942— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

CHEN ZHONGSHI (1942— ). Fiction and prose writer. Fame came to Chen Zhongshi late in life. Prior to the publication of Bai lu yuan (The White Deer Plain), which won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, he was an obscure writer leading a quiet life in Xi’an in northwestern China. The novel changed his career almost overnight. Noted for its stylistic clarity and memorable characters, the novel addresses the issue of morality in Chinese society, particularly the role Confucianism plays in rural communities. In the view of the May Fourth generation, Confucianism was seen as the culprit responsible for China’s decline; it was blamed for having emasculated the Chinese nation, turning it into “the sick man of the Orient.” This verdict held sway decades after the May Fourth Movement. It is no surprise that when the root-seekers began their search for cultural heritage in the 1980s, they opted to overlook this most important tradition. Chen set out to rectify the situation. In Bai lu yuan, a novel about the sweeping changes taking place in northwestern China’s countryside during the 20th century, Chen attributes the disintegration of social order to the abandonment of Confucian values. In his effort to reevaluate the role Confucianism plays in Chinese society, Chen presents the ancient teaching as a positive force in building and maintaining social stability and in serving as an indispensable moral compass. In addition to Bai lu yuan, Chen has written many short stories and essays.