China Focus: 120 years on, Chinese sci-fi charts its own course

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by Xinhua writers Huang Xinxin, Yu Li

CHENGDU, May 23 (Xinhua) -- As early as 120 years before the launch of China's Chang'e-6 spacecraft, which aims to retrieve samples from the moon's far side, the Chinese people had already envisioned sending humans to the moon.

In 1904, Huangjiang Diaosou, a Qing Dynasty novelist, penned an unfinished novel depicting human migration to the moon, marking China's first original sci-fi work.

Although he never completed his novel, modern sci-fi writers contributed to a book released at the 15th Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Chinese Science Fiction held in southwest China's Chengdu from May 17 to 19, featuring extended versions of his intriguing tale.

In the new extensions of the tale, some sci-fi writers depict the protagonist departing from the Wenchang Space Launch Site, the launchpad of the Chang'e-6 spacecraft, to build new cities with the inhabitants of the moon. Others describe humans once again setting off from the moon to further explore the galaxy.

According to veteran sci-fi writer Ling Chen, in addition to continuing the Chinese people's dream of lunar exploration, the new extensions of the novel also advance Chinese sci-fi literature and art.

In the early 1900s, sci-fi was still a nascent genre in Chinese literature, with only a few active authors besides Huangjiang Diaosou.

Renowned Chinese writers Lu Xun and Liang Qichao also sought to introduce Western sci-fi novels to China to stimulate national enthusiasm for modernization. "From the Earth to the Moon," a sci-fi novel by French author Jules Verne, was translated into Chinese by Lu Xun in 1903.

Today, Chinese sci-fi works are making waves globally. Chinese author Liu Cixin's "The Three-Body Problem" has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the world's premier sci-fi award, and has been translated into more than 30 languages, with people like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Hideo Kojima and Niall Ferguson all fans of the book.

Last October, the World Science Fiction Convention, the world's largest and most influential sci-fi event, was held in China for the first time.

The Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Chinese Science Fiction have also grown into a world-renowned sci-fi literature award comparable to the Nebula Awards of the United States and the Seiun Awards of Japan.

Modern sci-fi is considered a product of the sci-tech and industrial revolutions in the West in the 19th century. Since its introduction to China, Chinese writers have explored nearly all sub-genres of Western sci-fi, including space opera, cyberpunk and time travel.

Chinese sci-fi has greatly evolved over the years and is no longer merely imitating Western sci-fi, said Wang Jinkang, one of China's leading sci-fi writers, adding that while sci-fi universally focuses on the destiny and future of humankind, Chinese sci-fi shares this core feature but offers a distinct perspective.

"Chinese sci-fi provides the Chinese people's insights and solutions to the common dilemmas faced by humankind. People are curious about how Chinese people think and what they will do in the future," said Wu Yan, a sci-fi writer and professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology.

"The Three-Body Problem" is an example," Wu said, explaining that the book explores and addresses global issues from a Chinese perspective.

At the 15th Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Chinese Science Fiction, another book titled "The Mountain, the Pine, and the Moon: 56 Chinese Science Fiction Writers' Fantasies of Their Hometowns" was released. It is a collection of works by 56 Chinese sci-fi writers, including Liu Cixin, themed around hometown, nostalgia and imagination.

Shi Yi, one of the editors of the book, said that the inspiration behind publishing the collection stems from a desire to develop a distinctive style in Chinese sci-fi. With a civilization steeped in 5000 years of agricultural heritage, the Chinese culture embodies a deep connection to ancestors and homeland, he said.

Li Jingze, vice chairman of the China Writers Association, said that this approach showcases the unique awareness and creative prowess of Chinese sci-fi within the global sci-fi landscape.

"It serves as a new contribution of Chinese sci-fi to global sci-fi literature," said Yan Feng, professor at Fudan University.

The blockbuster "The Wandering Earth," adapted from Liu Cixin's novel, also emphasizes the theme of home by depicting the human race venturing out to find a new solar system for planet Earth to settle as the sun approaches its demise.

"Chinese sci-fi today is no longer an imported product, but a new creation demonstrating the Chinese people's visions of science, the world and the future," Wu said.

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese already used their imagination and questioned the universe through mythology and poetry, which resonates with Chinese sci-fi today.

Chinese sci-fi is now also looking back on Chinese history and philosophy for more inspiration, Wu said, noting that while it has learned from different cultures around the world, Chinese sci-fi remains deeply rooted in Chinese culture, ushering in a period of vibrant development.

"One day in the future, we may launch another book of Chinese sci-fi from Mars. At that moment, people will look at Earth and say, 'The blue planet is the home of those who wrote down the stories, traveled through the universe and created the new world,'" Li Jingze said. Enditem

(Xinhua correspondent Tong Fang contributed to the story.)

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