Han Shaogong


Han Shaogong
b. 1 January 1953, Changsha, Hunan
Writer
Han Shaogong is a writer primarily known for his ‘root-searching’ literature during the early 1980s. In 1985, he published an influential essay, ‘The Roots of Literature’ (Wenxue de gen), which gave the Root-seeking school (Xungen pai) its name and established him as its main representative. In the essay, Han calls for a literary inquiry into traditional Chinese culture so as to better understand China’s modern literary and psychological heritage.
Unlike the ‘root-seeker’ Ah Cheng, Han did not identify with traditional Chinese culture. His quest to uncover ancient Chu culture was combined with the use of magical realism to portray the anxieties of a stagnant and superstitious culture in a style very much his own. In his representative short story, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ (Bababa), the retarded Bing Zai is a symbolic figure of degeneration, and the only survivor of a mass suicide. Aunt Shu in ‘Woman, Woman, Woman’ (Nününü) is another prototype of the Chinese national psyche. After suffering a stroke, she undergoes a transformation in both character and physique that symbolizes the power of repression over the individual. Han caused another stir in the 1990s with his novel Dictionary of Horsebridge (Maqiao cidian, 1996). In it, he analyses 111 words that were used in Horse-bridge village during the Cultural Revolution as though they were single events. Writing about the politics, history, tradition, language and psychology of the village, he attempts to create a new literary consciousness about the Cultural Revolution, a hitherto uncharted field in Chinese literature.
Han, Shaogong (1992). ‘After the “Literature of the Wounded”: Local Cultures, Roots, Maturity, and Fatigue’.
In H.Martin and J.Kinkley (eds), Modern Chinese Writers: Self-Portrayals. Armonk, NY: M.E.Sharpe, 147–55.
——(1995). Homecoming? And Other Stories. Trans. Martha Cheung. New York: Renditions Press.
——(2003). A Dictionary of Maqiao. Trans. Julia Lovell. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lau, J (1993). ‘Visitation of the Past in Han Shaogong’s Post-1985 Fiction’. In E.Widmer and D.Wang (eds), From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lee, Vivian (2002). ‘Cultural Lexicology: Maqiao Dictionary by Han Shaogong’. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 14.1 (Spring): 145–77.
BIRGIT LINDER
Hani
The Hani population of some 1.3 million dwell mainly between the Red and Lancang rivers in southern Yunnan province, including Xishuang-banna. The region is rich in minerals and plants which are to be developed and environmentally protected. The Hani are polytheists and practice ancestor-worship. They have a tradition of maintaining the family line by having a son’s name begin with the last one or two words of his father’s. The farmers are skilful at opening up new terraced fields which can stretch from the foot right to the top of the mountains. The staple food is rice and corn, plus self-produced fish. Deep-dried locusts and cooked chicken heads are considered the best to offer important guests.
They have many traditional oral literary pieces, e.g. Genesis and On the Floods (see ethnic minority literary collections). In 1957 the government helped them create a written script using the Roman alphabet. The major festivals of the Hani are: the Sheep Day, on which sacrifices are made; the June Festival, when people sing, dance, play on swings and hold wrestling contests; and the Hani New Year’s Day, on the first day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, when every village holds a big banquet in the centre of the main street. All the villagers gather and drink toasts by turns, wishing each other good luck and happiness. When evening falls, young people sing love songs and head for a world of their own, deep in the bamboo forests.
Zhang, Xingrong (1997). ‘A New Discovery: Traditional 8-Part Polyphonic Singing of the Hani of Yunnan’. Chime 10/11 (Spring/Autumn): 145–52.
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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