Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2016.4.12)

Following Xinjiang's Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Following Xinjiang’s Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Just started 冬牧场 (lit, winter pasture) by Li Juan. In 2010, she was commissioned to live with a Kazakh family as they herded their camels, sheep and horses deep into the desert of southern Altay where they traditionally graze during the bitterly cold winter. Her job: To document the little known, semi-nomadic lifestyle of Xinjiang’s Kazakh that features seasonal migrations.

Li Juan (李娟) is a young female Han writer born in Xinjiang. She spent most of her childhood in Sichuan before returning, and by her own admission, speaks only a smattering of Kazakh. See here for an introduction to her writing — all of which revolves around Xinjiang — including links to translations of some of her shorter pieces. To date, within China her best known titles are probably two collections of essays entitled 我的阿勒泰 (lit, my Altay) and 阿勒泰的角落 (lit, corners of Altay).

Promotional copy on douban reads as follows:

2010年冬天,李娟跟随一家哈萨克牧民深入阿勒泰南部的冬季牧场、沙漠,度过了一段鲜为人知的荒野生活。作为第一位描写哈萨克民族冬牧生活的汉族作家,她以饱含深情、灵气飞扬又不失节制的文字,呈现出阿尔泰最后一批 “荒野主人” 冬季转场时的独特生存景观,令人叹为观止。

“阿尔泰古今讲故事” 本周精彩语录: 母语文本的纪录

我国学者数十年来致力于少数民族民间故事、诗歌谣谚、宗教口诵经典等的收集翻译整理,出版了大量翻译作品,取得了举世瞩目的成就,但其中也存在着一些遗憾和失误,这就是忽略了对少数民族民间作品母语文本的记录,有相当多的翻译整理本没有母语原本,没有逐字逐句的直译。这样的直接后果是,丧失了作品多方面的 科学价值,而且由于没有母语的承载,这些文本也难以作为相关民族后代传承文化的文本来使用。此外,由于缺乏语音记录和直译,相关民族特有的文化、社会和宗 教概念难以在汉文文本中全面正确地反映。鉴于此,今后在搜集整理少数民族民间文学作品时,应保留用国际音标记录或用本民族文字书写的严谨客观的母语文本。

(杨福泉,纳西族学者,中国民族报)

Jusup Mamay, Manaschi: A Rehabilitated Rightist and his Turkic Epic

A while back I stumbled upon a short Chinese news item about a newly discovered handwritten manuscript of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas (玛纳斯史诗). This centuries-old trilogy in verse recounts the exploits of the legendary hero Manas, and his son and grandson in their struggle to resist external enemies and unite the Kyrgyz people. Along with heroic tales such as Dede Korkut and the Epic of Köroğlu, Manas is considered one of the great Turkic epic poems. To get a feeling for how it sounds, listen here to a brief recitation by Manas scholar Elmira Köçümkulkızı.

Mural of Manas in OshAccording to the report (手抄本被发现), a retired cadre named 吾米尔·毛力多 in Xinjiang’s Wuqia County recently donated a 570,000-line, Kyrgyz-language Manas libretto to the local branch of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Based on the notes of a famous Manas storyteller or manaschi named 艾什玛特·玛木别朱素普, the text was painstakingly hand-copied by the cadre in the 1950s. At some point during the Cultural Revolution he learned the original had been seized and burnt, so he wrapped his own copy in several layers of cowhide and buried it in his courtyard for safekeeping.

“Now,” the news report quotes him, “I figure it is time to let this hand-copied manuscript see the light of day.”

Intrigued by the gap in time between the manuscript’s burial and its “re-discovery”— after all, the Cultural Revolution ended almost 40 years ago — I wondered why the text of an ancient Turkic epic like Manas is so politically sensitive. [Read more…]

Soft Power Strategy: Where Does China Figure in Turkey’s Literary Translation Program?

Turkey's funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Turkey’s funding for literary translation into other tongues: Bulgarian editions outnumber Chinese 10:1

Over the last 11 years, Turkey has spent US$4.4m to fund translation and publication of fiction by Turkish authors via its TEDA grant program, according to Turkish Books, an article that appeared in the Hürriyet Daily on February 24, 2016. TEDA’s own chart shows that just 24 titles appeared in Chinese as a result, compared to 258 in German, 147 in Arabic, 100 in Persian, 103 in English, and 65 in French.

Oh, yes, and 251 in . . . Bulgarian, a language with an estimated number of less than 10 million native speakers. Granted, Bulgaria was ruled by the Ottomans, so nostalgia may be a factor here. But still, one has to wonder: Who determines how TEDA’s funds are spent, and what is their soft power strategy?

Chinese readers can be forgiven if the only Turkish author they’ve ever heard of is 奥尔罕·帕慕克 (Orhan Pamuk) as rendered我脑袋里的怪东西 by translator 陈竹冰 (Chen Zhubing). Pamuk’s latest novel, Kafamda Bir Tuhaflı (A Strangeness in My Mind) has just been launched in Chinese by Shanghai People’s Publishing House (我脑袋里的怪东西). After all, at least 10 of his novels have appeared in Chinese and he is very popular in the PRC.

The number of Turkish authors available in Chinese is rather short (see here for a partial list), but the good news is that Turkey’s most famous 20th century work of fiction, Tanpınar’s Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü (The Time Regulation Institute) is being translated and may — according to Istanbul’s Kalem Agency — appear in Chinese within 2017. Elif Şafak is also fairly well known, but her novels normally appear first in Taiwan.

List: Modern China-based Evenki Authors & Their Published Works

* Under Construction *

Modern China-based Evenki Authors &

Their Published Works

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 8.56.19 PMThis list is based mainly on authors published in 2015 in 《新时期中国少数民族文学作品选集·鄂温克族卷》(lit, Selected Fiction by Ethnic Minority Writers in the New Period, Evenki Volume, at left), but I’ve added in many of their other published short stories and novels. All links are to Chinese text unless the linked word is in English.

Although the Evenki live on both sides of the Amur, my list below covers only those in the PRC. Of course, there were Evenki poets born and raised in the Soviet Union, such as Alitet Nikolaevich Nemtushkin, and Nikolaĭ Oëgir, who both used an Evenki script developed in Soviet times.

If you’re keen to learn the current state of Evenki as a spoken language, see Tungusic Languages Under Threat. Evenki Place Names behind the Hànzì also makes interesting reading.

If you have anything to add or correct, please leave a comment!

阿日坤:

安娜: 访鄂温克族女作家安娜 . 《金霞和银霞》,《牧野上,她发现一颗星》,《牧野深处的眷恋》,《心波》,《飞驰的天使》,《芦苇荡的回声》,《哈迪姑姑》,《静谧的原野》,《欢腾的伊敏河》,《摇篮·摇篮曲》,《心潮》,《祝福您鄂温克》

娜仁托雅:

敖蓉: 鄂温克的气息.《神奇部落的神秘女人》,《映山红》,《古娜吉》

白淑琴:

道日娜:

德纯燕: 《美丽新世界》, 《初长成》, 《好时光》, 《旅行者》

德柯丽: 《小驯鹿的故事》 [Read more…]

Ethnic ChinaLit Excerpt of the Week: Zha Jianying on Ji Xianlin’s “The Cowshed”

Nearly 20 years after the appearance in China of one of the most shocking first-person narratives of the Cultural Revolution, The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (牛棚杂忆, 季羡林著), The New York Review of Books has published the book in English. Written by Ji Xianlin, the account appears with a new introduction by Zha Jianying (查建英), a writer and media critic based in New York. The following is excerpted by from NYT’s interview with Zha Jianying (Remembering the Cultural Revolution):

Q. When “The Cowshed” was published in China in 1998, it is supposed to have been widely read. Was that really the case? These days in Beijing, the Cultural Revolution is a rare topic. People shrug their shoulders and barely recall Ji or what he went through. How do you account for this?

A. Time is obviously a factor. A less obvious but more important factor is censorship. The forgetfulness hasn’t happened naturally; there is something insidious behind the phenomenon. The human desire to turn away from past trauma is perhaps universal, but the amnesia many Chinese display these days is highly selective. If you ask them about the Opium War or the Japanese invasion, for instance, they won’t shrug their shoulders; they are likely to treat you with a lecture. Those events occurred much earlier, yet are well remembered because the state constantly reminds people about China’s humiliation at foreign hands. Every Chinese kid is schooled in those history lessons. But an internal mess? That’s a totally different matter. The Cultural Revolution was instigated by Mao, supported by the entire party leadership, with millions of Chinese participating in the violence and persecution. It’s a thoroughly homemade nightmare. And the same party continues to rule today. So is it surprising that the topic has been quietly muzzled? Do you wonder why the government would like people to forget about it and why many Chinese happily obliged?

Ethnic ChinaLit: February 2016 Newsbriefs

Richard Bernstein reviews Perry Link’s translation of physicist Fang Lizhi’s autobiography, Most Wanted Man in China, and Ji Xianlin’s The Cowshed. (Enemy of the State)

International publishers, booksellers and free speech advocates have penned an open letter to HK head honcho Leung Chun-ying calling for him to defend HK’s interests in the face of China’s forced disappearances and detention of five HK-based publishing professionals. (Renditions)

The New York Times reports that Yang Jisheng (杨继绳), author of 墓碑, a controversial book on the Great Chinese Famine of 1958-61 — translated and published as Tombstone — has been told he cannot go to the US in March to accept an award from Harvard U for his “ambitious and fearless reporting.”  (Travel Ban

Writer and media critic Zha Jianying on Ji Xianlin’s newly translated The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (牛棚杂忆, 季羡林著). (Remembering the Cultural Revolution)

Perhat Tursun, le Salman Rushdie de Chine: En 1999, le romancier ouïghour sortait son Art du suicide et allait immédiatement être la cible de menaces de mort. Aujourd’hui, il se remet enfin à écrire. (Profil)

Liu Cixin’s much acclaimed sci-fi novel, The Three-body Problem (三体, 刘慈欣著), has reportedly sold 110,000 copies worldwide as of end 2015.  According to the report, this refers to the first part of the trilogy. The second, The Dark Forest, is also out, and the third, Death’s End, will be published in 2016. (全球销量)

Uyghurche ئۇيغۇرچە Уйғурчә | Uyghur language and culture for English-speakers features an excerpt from a translation of one of Memtimin Hoshur’s longer short stories, This Is Not A Dream (بۇ چۈش ئەمەس), as well as translations of a few others of his works.  (uyghurche.net

China’s ambassador to Bangladesh demands – and obtains his wish – that Last Words, farewell letters from

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s ‘Last Words’ series after censorship

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s ‘Last Words’ series after censorship

Tibetans before they self-immolated in China, be excised from the Dhaka Art Summit (Feb 5-8). (Last Words)

The obligatory annual round-up of writing by minority authors has been published at Chinawriter.com.cn. Yang Yumei, a member of the Dong people who holds a Ph D. in ethnic literature (杨玉梅, 侗族), follows the traditional format — writers are generally identified and grouped by their ethnicity — and touches on several dozens of non-Han authors and their 2015 works deemed worthy by the literary establishment. This year’s theme appears to be fiction that highlights the patriotic contribution of all nationalities to the campaign to liberate China from Japanese aggression in the 30s and through the end of World War II  (文学使命的新实践) [Read more…]

Quick Guide to China’s Contemporary Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

Updated: Feb 18, 2017

Quick Guide to China’s Contemporary 

Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

I’m often too busy to immediately write a well-researched post about contemporary “ethnic-themed” fiction that has been translated and published in a foreign tongue. This is a loose category (民族题材文学) that includes stories — regardless of the author’s ethnicity — in which non-Han culture, motifs or characters play an important role.

In my brief list below, there are entries for fiction (and a bit of poetry) touching on peoples such as the Bai, Evenki, Hui, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Manchu, Miao, Mongolian, Lahu, Lisu, Oirat, Seediq, Tibetan, Tujia, Uyghur, Xiongnu and Yi. Unless noted, the original is in Chinese and the translation is in English. But I’ve also included a handful of renditions into French, German, Spanish and Japanese.

I welcome your updates and corrections.

Here is a set of links I hope you’ll find useful:

General

Chinese Fiction in Translation: Novels/Novellas with “Ethnic” Theme 

  • Table with info on ten works translated into English or French during 2009-14, including writing by Alai, Chan Koonchung, Chi Zijian, Fan Wen, Gao Jianqun, Jiang Rong, Li Jinxiang, Pema Tseden, Shi Shuqing, Wang Gang and Wu He.

Chutzpah! Issue 14

  • Dedicated to non-Han authors including Alat Asem, Aydos Amantay, Baoerj Yuanye, Ju Kelzang, Kanglin Gioro, Lhajam Gyel, Muhammedemin Abliz, Na Zhangyuan, Pema Tseden and Ye Fu.

Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and  Popular Culture

  • This collection presents works drawn from the large body of oral literature of many of China’s recognized ethnic groups — including the Han, Yi, Miao, Tu, Daur, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Kazakh — and the selections include a variety of genres such as epics, folktales, folk songs and quyi. Edited by Victor Mair and Mark Bender.

Pathlight Issue Spring 2014

  • Dedicated to non-Han authors including Alat Asem,  Artai, Aydos Amantay, Ayonga, Dan Zeng, Guan Renshan, Jin Renshun, Memtimin Hoshur,  Jidi Majia, Luruodiji, Ma Huan, Nie Le, Patigul, Ye Fu, Ye Guangqin, Ye Mei and Yerkex Hurmanbek.

 

Evenki (鄂温克族)

Balajieyi (芭拉杰依)

  • 驯鹿角上的彩带 (lit., colored ribbon on the reindeer’s horns): To be translated into Swedish by Anna Gustafsson Chen and published within 2017. It features an Evenki narrator telling an Evenki love story that spans the 1900-1950 period. The author is a 74-year-old Evenki woman whose mother was Aoluguya’s last practicing shaman. She explains her motivation for writing the book:  “Since mother departed, no one has donned that Shaman Spirit Robe made of metal and leather, or struck the Spirit drum to pray for the Evenki . . . There are some things that, if I don’t record them, will truly be forgotten. I began collecting and collating our traditional handicrafts and legends. I want to use words to leave a record of everything about us Evenki. This is our people’s collective memory . . . I want to leave this for the children who love the forest.”

Chi Zijian (迟子建)

Gerelchimig Blackcrane (格日勒其木格・黒鶴)

Hui (回族)

Huo Da (霍达)

  • Funeral of a Muslim (穆斯林的葬礼): With sales of some 2.5 million copies, Huo Da’s tale about three generations of a Hui family in Beijing is quite possibly the most popular ethnic-themed novel ever published in China. It spans the turbulent years of the Japanese invasion, World War II and part of the Cultural Revolution.

Li Jinxiang and Shi Shuqing (李进祥、石舒清 )

La rivière des femmes: Nouvelles huiStories set among the Muslim Hui along the banks of Qingshui River in Ningxia.

Shi Shuqing (石舒清)

  • 西海固の人々  (西海固的事情): Collection of short stories set in Ningxia’s Xihaigu Prefecture.

[Read more…]

Mapping Mongolian Music

In 蒙古音乐地图计划:如何面对外界错位的蒙古文化想象?Thepaper.cn reports on a young Chinese citizen of Mongolian heritage, Odon Tuya (敖登托雅) who has initiated her own “Mongolian Music Map Project” (蒙古音乐地图计划). Her aim: To document the current indie Mongolian music scene – including traditional musicians in Mongolian Music Mapplaces like Xinjiang – via published interviews and, eventually, to capture it on film. A writer and a music critic, she has already interviewed 150 musicians, agents, folk song scholars and fans, according to the report. Here’s an excerpt from the Jan 29 2016 interview conducted in Chinese (translation is mine):

Odon Tuya: Due to regional differences and local cultural history, there are many distinctions between musical categories. Differences in tribal culture exist not only in terms of language and dress; even music has been impacted. When you mention Mongolian music, many people think only of the horse-head fiddle [morin khuur or 马头琴], throat singing [hoomii or 呼麦 ] or long song [urtyn duu or 长调]. In fact, very few people have an understanding of the variety of musical types and instruments involved. Unity evolves and is based upon a foundation of collective characteristics and slight differences. Obscured cultural traditions and the Mongolian spirit [蒙古精神] are what is held in common; regional divergences are what has created such variety and richness . . . be it professional musicians or folk artists, and regardless of the musical genre or the instruments played, they represent the most intuitive manifestation of the Mongolian spirit.

Ethnic ChinaLit Roundup for end January 2016

Multilingual CASS scholar Adili Zhumaturdu (阿地力·朱玛吐尔地) reports that his 4-volume Chinese translation of the Kyrgyz epic, Manas (玛纳斯史诗), has made it onto the list of 86 books for “popularizing multi-ethnic traditional culture” (全国推荐中华优秀传统文化普及图书名单) recommended by China’s very official State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. An ethnic Kyrgyz, he worked closely with Jusup Mamay, China’s last great Xinjiang-based manaschi capable of reciting the classic that counts over 200,000 lines of verse. Zhumaturdu is also the author of a detailed Chinese-language biography of the much-revered storyteller (居素普·玛玛依评传) that I discuss in Jusup Mamay, Manaschi: A Rehabilitated Rightist and his Turkic Epic.

* * *

A typeface that fuses the Tibetan script with Latin letters — referred to as the “China Daily Tibet Font” (see headline China Daily Tibetan Fontat right) – was featured in a report celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It was created as a collaboration between China Daily and Beijing Founder. Details are scant, but no Tibetan names figure among the designers. Interest in things Tibetan among mainstream Chinese and foreigners alike has fueled literary output over the last few years, including the wildly popular Tibet Code (藏地密码) and the controversial Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver.

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Behemoth (悲兮魔兽), a harrowing documentary by Zhao Liang about coal mining in Inner Mongolia, was recently screened in Beijing. Well received at international venues such as the Venice Film Festival, it has been shown to small audiences just three times in China and has reportedly been banned. Watch the trailer here. As I’ve reported before, ethnic Mongolian herders say access to traditional grazing land is increasingly being curtailed or permanently denied in favor of rapacious mining and logging projects, and inadequate or total lack of compensation for the land is also an issue. For more information, see Inner Mongolian Artists Speak Up.

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Tujia folklorist Sun Jiaxiang (孙家香), who documented more than 500 Tujia folk tales and authored 孙家香故事集 (lit, Sun Jiaxiang’s Collected Tales), passed away in January 2016, aged 97. Chinanews.com (土家族首位女性故事家) reports that her collection was officially designated for publication under the Ninth Five-year Plan (1996-2000), and it does appear to have been published (here). Sadly – like so many state-bankrolled publications about China’s ethnicities – I cannot find where it can be purchased online. However, Lin Jifu’s 孙家香故事讲述研究 is available, and it profiles her as a folklorist and a storyteller in her own right.