Shi Tiesheng


Shi Tiesheng
b. 1951, Beijing
Writer
Shi Tiesheng was sent to Guanjia village near Yan’an as an ‘educated youth’ (zhiqing) in 1969, returning home in 1972 suffering from an illness that left him with a permanent disability and prevented him from working. Shi Tiesheng turned to writing fiction. His first major short story was the award-winning ‘My Faraway Qingpingwan’ (Wo yaoyuan de Qingpingwan, 1983). The story looks back at the narrator’s time in northern Shaanxi as an educated youth. It recalls with affection the simple and natural world he left behind, its harsh beauty and the strengths and kindness of its impoverished inhabitants.
Shi Tiesheng’s main contribution to contemporary fiction is his description of the disabled (see disabilities). Whereas other writers tend to use the disabled as symbols of either China’s degeneration or the shortcomings of individuals, Shi Tiesheng’s disabled characters show compassion for others and steadfastly pursue meaning in life.
Shi’s most complex story on this theme is ‘Strings of Life’ (Ming ruo qinxian), about two blind banjo players, a master and his apprentice. The old musician was told by his own master that when he has worn out a thousand banjo strings, he can tear open the banjo’s casing and find inside a prescription for medicine that will restore his sight. After the old man breaks his thousandth string, he discovers that the piece of paper carrying the ‘prescription’ is blank. Realizing that this was how his master had ‘encouraged’ him to face the hardships of life, he does the same for his own student.
Shi, Tiesheng (1984). ‘My Faraway Qingping Wan’. Trans. Shen Zhen. Chinese Literature (Spring): 61–76.
——(1991). Strings of Life. Beijing: Panda Books.
KAM LOUIE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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