Beauties’ Literature


Beauties’ Literature
(Meinü wenxue)
Beauties’ Literature refers to a 1990s literary genre of a group of women writers who were born in the 1970s. They are, or write about, pretty women. Representative of these writers are Mianmian (or Mian Mian, b. 1970), a high school dropout; Zhou Wenhui (a.k.a. Wei Hui), a graduate of Fudan University and a dance-party queen of Shanghai; and finally Beijing’s Jiu Dan. Some of their work has been so controversial that it has been banned in China, but pirated copies are commonly available. Most of their work has actually been published in China, and some of it has been translated into English, French and other languages. The bans have been justified by the antinomian subject matter: a base lust for drugs, unmarried young women having sex with Chinese and foreign men, both married and unmarried, prostitution, suicide, and so forth. LaLaLa, a collection of short stories, and Candy, a novel, are Mian Mian’s semi-autobiographies. Her other works include Every Good Kid Deserves Candy and Acid Lover. In addition to her semi-autobiographical Shanghai Baby, Wei Hui’s books include A Virgin in the Water and As Crazy as Wei Hui. Both writers, though jealous of each other, see their own work as alternative love stories and are in fact proud of being China’s first banned drug-and-pornography novelists. Jiu Dan’s novel Crows (Wuya) describes the prostitution of female students from China in Singapore, and A Woman’s Bed (Nüren chuang, 2002), her latest novel, was a big hit.
In response to her critics, Jiu Dan has described the work of such well-established female writers as Bing Xin, Chen Ran and Wang Anyi as only ‘so-so’. Serious writers and even most readers do not take Beauties’ Literature seriously, but turn to it out of curiosity and amusement. Nonetheless, some severely criticize these self-proclaimed pretty and artistic writers, calling their work ‘sub-literature’, ‘prostitutes’ literature’ or ‘privacy literature’, while others take their work to be a form of avant-garde/experimental literature.
Lyne, Sandra (2002). ‘Consuming Madame Chrysanthème: Loti’s “dolls” to Shanghai Baby.’ Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context 8 (October). Online journal, available at http://www.sshe.murdoch.edu.au/intersections/default/htm
Mian, Mian (2003). Candy: A Novel. Trans. Andrea Lingenfelter. Back Bay Books.
Shi, Anbin (2003). ‘Body Writing and Corporeal Feminism: Reconstructing Gender Identity in Contemporary China’. In Anbin Shi, A Comparative Approach to Redefining Chineseness in the Era of Globalization. Lewiston: Mellen Press, 129–206.
Wei, Hui (2001). Shanghai Baby. Trans. Bruce Humes. New York: Simon and Schuster.
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.