Ethnic Literature in China: A Primer for the Uninitiated

A while back I came upon what seems to be a fairly comprehensive look at novels by non-Han writers published since 1949 that deal directly with issues of culture and identity. Entitled Ethnic Minority Novels  (少数民族小说), the Chinese-language article is unfortunately not signed, but it appears to have been written by a scholar and published in one of China’s academic quarterlies.

I’d like to summarize parts of it here.

First, a few factoids from the essay:

  • China officially recognizes 55 non-Han peoples as native to the PRC
  • There are over 500 writers in the China Writers Association who consider themselves members of a minority ethnicity
  • Since the 1970s, China has published over 300 novels by minority writers dealing with ethnic themes
The paper focuses on several authors: Tujia writer Sun Jianzhong (孙健忠), the Evenki Ureltu (乌热尔图), and three Tibetans, Yeshi Tenzin (益希单增), Taxi Dawa (扎西达娃) and Alai (阿来). Several “ethnic” novels have been awarded the Mao Dun Literary Prize, arguably the most prestigious literary award in China today:

  • 《黄河东流去》(李準)(Yellow River Flowing to the East by Li Zhun)
  • 《穆斯林的葬礼》(霍达)(Muslim Funeral by Huo Da)
  • 《尘埃落定》(阿来)(Red Poppies by Alai)
Here is a longer list of what the author of this piece considers “significant” novels by ethnic writers since the Cultural Revolution. I have listed them by ethnicity. (Please note: translations of titles are mine and do not necessarily mean the novel has been published in English):
  • 《太阳村》(张长)(Sun Village by Zhang Chang)
  • 《雪夜》(李元吉)(Snowy Night by Li Yuanji)
  • 金牧场》(张承志)
  • 心灵史》(张承志)(History of the Soul by Zhang Chengzhi)
  • 《穆斯林的儿女们》(查瞬)(Muslim Sons and Daughters by Cha Shun)
  • 补天裂》(霍达)
  • 《天眼》(马端芳)(Heaven’s Eye by Ma Duanfang)
  • 《英雄博克》(夏莫斯·库玛尔)
  • 血菩提》(朱春雨)
  • 《山魂》(朱春雨)(Mountain Soul by Zhu Chunyu)
  • 《骑兵之歌》(敖德斯尔)
  • 盐柱》(江浩)
  • 《醉乡》(孙健忠)
  • 《最后一只白虎》(李传锋)(The Last White Tiger by Li Chuanfeng)
  • 《死街》(孙健忠)(Death Street by Sun Jianzhong)
  • 《战斗的年代》(柯尤慕·图尔迪 )
  • 《苏醒了的大地》(啊·乌铁库尔)
  • 《波努河》(蓝怀昌)(Bonu River by Lan Huaichang)

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