JIANG ZILONG (1941— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

JIANG ZILONG (1941— ). Fiction writer. A Tianjin native, Jiang Zilong has worked in a factory, served in the navy, edited a literary journal, and held various leading positions in the Chinese Writers’ Association. These rich life experiences, particularly his years in China’s machinery industries, have inspired his writing. He came into prominence in 1979 with the publication of “Qiao Changzhang shangren ji” (Manager Qiao Assumes Office at the Factory), a short story about the difficulties within a factory as it embarks on a painful reform in order to stay solvent. In the next few years, he wrote “Kaituo zhe” (The Trailblazer), “Chi chen huang lü qing lan zi” (All the Colors of the Rainbow), “Yan Zhao beige” (Lament of the North), and “Guo wan piao pen jiaoxiangqu” (A Symphony of Everyday Life), establishing his reputation as a writer who best portrays the initial stages of the reform era. Since the early 1970s, he has published more than 80 books, most of which treat how the economic reforms have impacted the nation’s industries and urban citizenry. Manager Qiao has come to represent the courageous lower-level cadres who rose to the challenge to revive the stagnant economy by carrying out painful but necessary reforms to the outmoded manufacturing base in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. Renqi (Being Human) centers on the housing reform in a big city to expose the fierce and despicable maneuvers for power and self-interest fought within various government agencies and among individuals from the mayor to the average resident. Kongdong (Emptiness), a novel based on a family of two generations of doctors in Shanxi, portrays the tradition of Chinese medicine, which is utilized to stop the spread of tuberculosis at the turn of the new millennium. Nongmin diguo (The Peasant Empire), a major departure from the author’s urban writings, describes how a smart peasant leads his fellow villagers out of poverty, building the “richest village in the country,” but fails to escape the fate of many peasant leaders throughout Chinese history who are doomed by the corruption of power and money. The moral of the rise and fall of the village leader is that no matter how clever and how hardworking, the individual is fated to fail because he is still a “peasant” shackled by his or her own limitations and shortcomings as well as social prejudices. In that sense, the tragedy of the peasant is a lesson for China, a country still mostly populated by the peasantry.