The major trends in Chinese literature for 2016

By Zhang Yuchen Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/27 17:03:39

Chinese literature has seen some significant trends in 2016. In addition to a publishing boom involving new works by Chinese literary masters and new rising stars, some once-neglected genres have gained attention around the globe.

Driving by two international awards winners, Cao Wenxuan and Hao Jingfang, children's literature and sci-fi have boomed in China this year. Meanwhile, online literature has had a breakthrough overseas after long years of development.

Award wave

Cao Wenxuan - children's literature

A representative figure in the genre of children's literature in China, Cao became the first Chinese author to win the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The April win ended up attracting global attention to the Chinese children's literature.

His novel Bronze and Sunflower as well as his Dingding Dangdang series of books were praised by the jurors of the award. "They don't lie about the human condition; they acknowledge that life can often be tragic and that children can suffer," the International Board on Books for Young People commented on Cao's works.

Cao holds more copyrights overseas than nearly any other Chinese author. Speaking to the Global Times a few days after he won, Cao showed confidence in Chinese literature's ability to succeed overseas, saying that Chinese writers are of "high quality" and possess "endless sources" of inspiration for their creations.

"The strangeness of Chinese stories is irresistibly charming to foreign readers. Meanwhile, behind these stories are basic and universal values belonging to all humanity," Cao said.

Hao Jingfang - Folding Beijing

In 2015, Liu Cixin made the world stand up and take note of Chinese sci-fi when he won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with his book The Three-Body Problem. This year, the eyes of the world once again turned to China when writer Hao Jingfang won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette with her short novel Folding Beijing -  the first Chinese woman to win this prestigious award for sci-fi literature.

Folding Beijing is set in an imaginary futuristic Beijing that reflects current social problems such as the impact of increased automation and economic downturns.

In a November article, The Guardian pointed out that "Western audiences began to wake up to the excellence and diversity" of sci-fi from around the world in 2016 as works from China "began to filter into Western consciousness."

Along with Hao's Folding Beijing, Death's End, the final volume of Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past (also known as the Three-Body Problem) trilogy made the list of The Guardian's best sci-fi and fantasy books for 2016. Liu's 2015 Hugowinning novel is currently the only Chinese sci-fi book on the List of 50 Recommended Books by Upload VR, a San Francisco-based media outlet that reports on virtual reality and augmented reality.

Hugo Award winner Hao Jingfang Photo: IC

Hugo Award winner Hao Jingfang Photo: IC


Exporting online literature

Wangwen, or online literature, has become a hot-button word this year. One of the reasons for this was that the rising popularity of Chinese Web novels among Western readers was making headlines in China in the latter half of 2016.

In the opinion of many within the publishing industry in China, Chinese online literature has grown into the country's new cultural export, right up there with Hollywood films from the US, manga from Japan and soap opera's from South Korea.

"China's online literature is still at a young stage, but has become one of the most popular genres overseas," Lin Tingfeng and Hou Qingchen, heads of original content at online publisher China Reading Limited, said in a December interview with Chinese news outlet

"Our statistics show that the amount of translated Chinese online literature works overseas now number in the several thousands."

In the US, most fans follow Chinese serial Web stories through online fans communities such as Wuxiaworld and Gravity Tales, which were established by Chinese cultural enthusiasts. The enthusiasm of these fans is so great that some of them volunteer to translate Chinese works for free just so they can share them with the community.

Both the writers and translators of online works such as Against the Gods, I Shall Seal the Heavens and The Desolate Era are held in high esteem by fans and comments on these stories easily number in the thousands.

According to statistics from Alexa, a California-based company that provides commercial Web traffic data and analytics, the traffic on Wuxiaworld ranks at 1,491 globally and 954 in the US. It receives nearly 373 million page views a day. Traffic on the site showed a sharp increase from January 16 to April 16, and has continued to rise throughout the rest of the year.

In addition, online literature has become a great source of content for film, TV series and video game adaptations. TV series Nirvana in Fire, adapted from the novel of the same name, is one example of a tremendously successful Chinese program that even attracted fans in South Korea this year.

Speaking on these adaptations in his interview with, Hou pointed out that online literature is very tightly tied to fan culture.

"Unlike the export of individual printed literary works, the spread of online literature oversees can be seen as the dissemination of an entire cultural system."

"Online literature comes from netizens, which makes it more down-to-earth and more widely accepted," Lin said.
Newspaper headline: A year in the life of books


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