Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010
CHI ZIJIAN (1964— )
CHI ZIJIAN (1964— ). Fiction writer. Chi Zijian is native to China’s northeast, which she considers “the soul” of her creative imagination. Since she published her first story in the mid-1980s, Chi has produced several collections of stories and essays and a number of novels. Growing up in the remote mountainous region of Heilongjiang, Chi prefers quiet, simple country living to the thrill of urban life, a sentiment reflected in her writings. She writes in a plain but sensual language, telling stories based on her observations of life around her, particularly the folklores and customs of her hometown. She appreciates the small pleasures of what nature has to offer. Like a poet, she picks out the imperceptible bits and pieces of life and turns them into aesthetic moments. Because of the pronounced features of sentimentality, intimacy, melancholy, and nostalgia, Chi’s stories often read like romantic poems. Even her novels bear characteristics of lyrical poetry; Mangmang qiancheng (Uncertain Prospects) and Chen zhong xiangche huanghun (Morning Bells Ring through Dusk) are some examples.
Wei Manzhouguo (The Puppet State of Manchuria), on the other hand, marks a radical departure from her previous endeavors. Instead of the usual concern over the individual life in contemporary rural northeast, Chi turns her attention to an important period in the region’s and the nation’s history. The book does not directly treat the armed resistance against the Japanese during World War II, but deals with the daily lives of the characters, from historical figures such as Emperor Puyi and guerrilla general Yang Jingyu to fictional characters who represent the ordinary folks who had to carry on with their lives under the Japanese occupation. The novel also contains references to regional customs such as the drum dance and the river lantern festival. Another ambitious novel, E’erguna He you an (On the Right Bank of the Argun River), an epic story narrated in the voice of a 90-year-old woman, the head of an Oroqen tribe living at the Sino-Russian border, is about the century-old history of how a traditional community tried to survive and maintain its lifestyle and human spirit under the pressure of outside forces. Chuanyue yunceng de qinglang (Sunshine Through Clouds), told from the perspective of a dog, is one of her rare acts of experimentation with a different form of narration. See also WOMEN.