Excessive literary prizes faces credibility crisis

By Chen Boyuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 8, 2015
Adjust font size:

While the annual Nobel Prize in Literature is to be announced soon, in China, the Ministry of Culture has decided to slash the number of literary prizes by more than 60 percent in a total rectification of the country's culture industry.

The multitudinous literary prizes are inviting a credibility crisis to this industry, as writers and the public both question the award winners' quality and the judging panel's authority. Even for the four major awards – the Mao Dun Literature Prize, the Lu Xun Literary Prize, the Lao She Literary Award, and the Cao Yu Theater Award for Outstanding Writing – scandals also emerged in recent years, when suspicions of cheating and calls for a more transparent reviewing process began to dampen the awards' long-established honour.

The numerous literary awards in China sometimes even invited numerous winners at one time. Regarding the 2014 Ai Qing Poetry Award for Primary and Middle School Writing, 400 people were awarded for a total of 1,704 prize-winning works.

While some awards have been suspended due to a lack of funds, others are seeking candidates with a huge money prize. An expert who was among the judges in literature awards said that excessive prizes and arbitrary awarding measures are a feature of the current market, adding that some prizes are even taken as marketing measures for promoting tourism.

In the latest Silk Road Mulei Caizigou Village Literary and Artistic Award held in Xinjiang, the organizer was frank enough to say that it was meant to be something good for the village, and was to be shaped into a local cultural brand.

The hometown of Mo Yan, a Chinese Nobel Laureate in Literature, also established the "Red Sorghum Poetry Award," which staff at its administration office said was a publicity effort to boost local tourism based on Mo’s fame.

The numerous literary awards are in fact a response to writers' needs for them. Winning a major literature prize in China used to mean a sudden change of life. Despite the fact that literature awards no longer have such implications, winning one still means a quick rise in wealth and social esteem.

Regarding the country's requirement to reduce excessive literature awards, Bai Ye, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that among the numerous awards, many of them may not have even passed approval. "Such awards are suspect of violating approval regulations and won't last long," he said.

However, A Lai, the chairman of the Sichuan Writers Association, was open to the mushrooming of non-governmental literature prizes, especially when major awards, such as the Mao Dun Prize and the Lu Xun Prize, are not awarded every year. "Our provincial Sichuan Literature Prize is awarded every three years. Apart from this, there's not really a famous local award," he said.

He commented that literature awards are meant to facilitate the dissemination of literary works and that as long as an award is fair and transparent, it should be acceptable. He said writers' associations should support non-governmental organizations in holding literature awards, but he warns of cheating and abuse of power in awarding prizes.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter