Novelist Liu Zhenyun grew up in a small mountain village in central
China's Henan Province
. He has a clear memory of the
hardships the village folks lived. When he was a child, Liu dreamed
of becoming a chef, a local opera actor, or a countryside teacher.
"All of the three vocations have close relation with the land
where I was brought up. More importantly, I would not have to
travel a field to see my beloved grandma. But going to a university
has changed my life course irreversibly," recalls Liu, who has
engaged in novel writing for 25 years.
The beginning of his writing career, however, was very much a
Born in 1958 in Yanjin County, Henan Province, Liu became an
army-man at the age of 15 and it was encouraged by one of his
comrades that Liu started to learn how to write essays and short
Demobilized from the army in 1978, Liu taught for a brief time
as a middle school teacher. The same year, he was enrolled by
Peking University in the capital.
Although Liu published his maiden works in campus journals at
Peking University in the mid-1980s, he insists that his literary
career started only after he began working as a journalist. Liu
divides his writing career in three phases.
"At first, I write on the basis of my personal experiences and
my inner feelings," he says. Such kind of works including Tapu
Township (Tapu) and Chicken Feathers
Everywhere (Yidi Jimao), reflecting his life
experiences at different stages.
Liu's first well-known novel is Tapu Township published
Responding to the Chinese society's collective memories of the
dark and chaotic years, especially the "cultural revolution"
(1966-76), Liu writes about the hardships and yearnings of Chinese
youths at a time when China was at the early stage of a new era,
the era of opening up and reforms.
Liu began attracting huge public attention after his two novels
Chicken Feathers Everywhere and Working Unit
(Danwei) were combined and adapted into a popular TV drama
series by Feng Xiaogang in 1994.
The expression Chicken Feather Everywhere, or yidi
jimao in Chinese, became a popular mainstream idiom and
expressed the messy, boredom, resignation and trivia in the life of
many Chinese, mostly at lower end of the social ladder. The story
revolves around Xiao Lin, a civil servant, who finally comes to
terms with his mundane life.
Liu admires such ancient literary classics as Zhuang Zi. In
addition, he boldly expresses his disgust of some popular
kungfu (wuxia) novels.
"Works short of imagination would exert negative impact on the
readers. I believe people without imagination would always be weak
and hopeless," he says.
Liu focuses on depicting average people in imaginative novels.
"Small potatoes are the vast majority. Their daily living seems
trivial and insignificant. The reality is their state of living
determines the outlook of our time," he says.
"For instance, what happens in the tofu at the kitchen in Xiao
Lin's (Chicken Feathers Everywhere) home means much more
to him, to me and to society than the G-7 Economic Summit in the
(China Daily November 26, 2007)