FAN WEN (1962— )
FAN WEN (1962— ). Fiction and prose writer. Born in Zigong, Sichuan Province, Fan Wen received a B.A. in Chinese from Southwestern Education University in 1985. A member of the Chinese Writers’ Association, Fan currently lives in Kunming and is the associate editor of Wenxue jie (The Literary Field). His early works, mostly fiction, began to appear in 1986, with a majority of the stories depicting contemporary Chinese life and novels portraying historical figures and events. His 1999 novel, Qing guan Hairui (Hairui: An Honest Official), is based on a well-known Ming dynasty scholar-official. Fan’s fame, however, rests largely on two novels about Tibetans and other ethnic minorities in the southwest, Shui ru dadi (Land of Harmony) and Beimin dadi (Land of Compassion), both inspired by his numerous trips to Tibet, including the Tibet Expedition sponsored by Yunnan Press in 1999 to promote the history and culture of the region. Fan was especially familiar with an area in Yunnan Province that borders the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where ancient traders made their living by journeying between Lhasa and the hinterland through the famous Tea and Horse Route along the narrow valley of the Lanchang River. Shui ru dadi is set in eastern Tibet in a town called Yanjin, named after its ancient salt industry, where the Tibetans have lived side by side with the Naxis, the Chinese, and and others for hundreds of years. Several religious practices, including Tibetan Buddhism, Dongba, and Christianity, fought oftentimes violently for the hearts and minds of the locals in the first half of the 20th century. The novel unfolds a multiethnic, multicultural history hitherto unknown to many Chinese. Beimin dadi tells of the spiritual odyssey of an ordinary man who becomes a holy monk through extraordinary trials, including the deaths of all his loved ones. Influenced by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and magic realism in Latin American literature, Fan’s novels are imbued with mysterious events and supernatural exploits that reflect Tibetan beliefs in the supernatural. An amateur anthropologist, Fan frequently inserts his field research notes, including interviews and sketches, into the fictional narrative. In addition to his fictional works, Fan has written two travelogues that also deal with Tibetan history and culture: Cangmang gu dao: hui bu qu de lishi bei ying (Endless Ancient Path: Inerasable Shadow of History) and Zangdong tanxian shouji (Notes of an Expedition in Eastern Tibet).