Though the 19 subjects of A Quarter of the World in Their Hands vary in age, they all have something in common: They grew up after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The book, edited by Li Shujuan, director of the English department at New World Press, tells the life stories of renowned Chinese people who have achieved success in their respective fields through their own motivation and determination. Li talks to China.org.cn about the book.
Li Shujuan and A Quarter of the World in Their Hands [China.org.cn]
For the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, Li and her team had originally planned to compile stories about a group of elites born between 1949 and 1950. Once research began, however, Li found that people in this age group had too much in common and could not accurately represent different stages of change experienced in the People's Republic of China. In the end she chose to have the book concentrate on the life stories of 19 people from different age groups, to illustrate the changes experienced in daily Chinese life over the past 60 years. In the title, "Their" can denote either the 19 people featured in the book or China's 1.3 billion citizens.
Throughout the six-month interview process, Ms. Li heard many impressive and poignant stories. The subject of one story is Zhu Mingying, one of China's first pop divas, who gained popularity in the 1980s through her African music and film songs. In 1985 Zhu left for the United States to study music, and upon returning to China ten years later, retired from the entertainment industry and started her own business. She now runs a private art school that includes primary and secondary school levels and has a goal to establish an art university to offer students a well-rounded education.
According to Li, people of Zhu's age grew up in a relatively pure environment and are faithful to their dreams. "They can endure hardship and pain," said Ms. Li. As a child, Zhu overcame three failed attempts before being accepted to a dance school.
Another subject, writer Han Han, 27, is a typical member of the generation of Chinese born after 1980, dubbed the "post-80s" generation in China. Making a name for himself in 2000 with his first novel, Three Doors, Mr. Han is also a race car driver. His unique personality has been demonstrated in his rebellious behavior, including failing seven subjects in high school and making controversial public comments about social problems.
Young people like Mr. Han, who has claimed to be "a patriot but not close to the government," live by their own values and customs, and their lives are a reflection of the colorful, modern China.
They are not afraid to say and write what they think, said Ms. Li. They also do not feel guilty about spending time or money on what they love. Mr. Han once treated his friends to a 300 yuan meal when he only had 150 yuan in his bank account.
Aside from stories about people from the creative industries, the book also includes stories about a government official, a table tennis champion, an entrepreneur of a privately owned company and the first Tibetan PhD, among others.
A Quarter of the World in Their Hands is published in both Chinese and English and will be showcased at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair in October.
(China.org.cn by Ren Zhongxi, September 17, 2009)