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Chinese Fiction by & about Ethnic Minorities (中国少数民族文学) Interviews: Authors and Translators (作家与译者的采访)

Fan Wen’s Yunnan-Tibetan Trilogy: A Catholic Chinese Author’s Imagination Takes Flight

The China Daily features a piece on the third and final novel in a trilogy exploring the border on either side of Yunnan and Tibet:

At last author Fan Wen (范稳) has his reward for a decade of immersion in the multicultural wonderland along the Yunnan-Tibet border: Canticle to the Land (大地雅歌), the closing novel in his longish trilogy, has just been published in Chinese.

Why locate the tale there? “It’s my own ‘creative paradise’, an inspiration of sorts,” explains Fan, a devout Catholic from Sichuan province. “You can interpret this as a summons from God, or as a writer who has been vanquished by a certain spirituality, the cultures and beliefs of the people of this realm.”

That day in 1999 when he came across the “lonely” grave of a martyred Swiss missionary in Lancangjiang Canyon, Father Maurice Tornay, he realized he had found his “sacred vocation”. Indeed, the area straddling the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan and Tibet autonomous region is an anthropologist’s dream. One finds Tibetans, Han, Naxi, Yi, Lisu and other ethnic groups living together.

“I find describing the interaction – and collisions – between different cultures a challenging and engaging affair,” Fan says. “Conflicts have taken place due to differences in culture and faith, like wars between Naxi and Tibetans, and Tibetans and Han. Irreconcilable contradictions occurred between Tibetan Buddhism and Catholicism when the latter was introduced.”

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