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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸): Moving tale of the decline of the reindeer-herding, nomadic Evenki who once inhabited the sparsely populated, richly forested mountains straddling the Sino-Russian border. The novel also has been translated into Dutch (Het laatste kwartier van de maan), French (Le dernier quartier de lune), Italian (Ultimo quarto di Luna), Japanese (アルグン川の右岸), Korean (어얼구나 강의 오른쪽) and Spanish (A la orilla derecha del Río Argún ), and Swedish version is underway (launch: 2018).
Gerelchimig Blackcrane (格日勒其木格・黒鶴)
- The Nightjar at Dusk (p 28): Read an extract from this short story, set in the Greater Khingan Mountains of northeast China, here.
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 hui: Stories 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.