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Changes in Spare-time Reading for University Students

In the past fifty years, great changes have taken place in the literary world. New books go on to replace the old. Readers can hardly go over all these books. With the changing of the time, university students show a distinctive feature in their after-school reading and this reflects the changes of thoughts and quality of the young people.


1950s to 1960s: Extol radical revolutionary books


Interviewee: Shi Shengcheng, a graduate from a Chengdu-based college, majored in automobile engineering. Shi is now a retiree from an enterprise.


1950s and 1960s were the times for worshipping heroes. University students took a liking in reading revolutionary books. Novels like Red Crag, Song of the Youth, Tracks in the Snowy Forest and How the Steel Was Tempered became extremely popular among students. And Lei Feng's Diary, Selected Works of Mao Zedong were almost a must to read. Everyone had a copy of Chinese Youth, an encouraging and helpful magazine for youngsters. Harvest and People's Literature were fashionable among the students as well.


1970s: Chinese and foreign masterpieces became new favorite of the young people


1977 was a special year in which the college entrance exam was resumed. University students of special ages were quite diligent in study. They spent far much time in study than in spare-time reading. Leaving no stone unturned they wished to enrich their reading so as to improve self-cultivation and expand their knowledge. Masterpieces such as works of Shakespeare were popular. Gorky's Trilogy, Collection of Lu Xun's Works, Ba Jin's trilogy of Family, Spring and Autumn were among the favorites of the students. In addition, magazines like Chinese Youth and Red Flag, the of CPC's official publication were welcomed in 1970s.


1980s: Foreign and Chinese masterpieces, romantic fictions, fictions of martial arts and biographies were in vogue


Interviewee: Mr. He, who entered Wuhan University in 1987, is now a journalist with Politics Law Department of a Wuhan-based newspaper.


1980s shot up numerous young lovers for literature. At that time, foreign and Chinese masterpieces, especially works of Tolstoy, Hugo, Shelley, Dumas and Tagore were the books young people often read. A survey named "The book that impressed you most during 1985 to 1989" indicated that Jin Yong's works ranked the second and works of Qiong Yao and San Mao the sixth. The mature operation mechanism of light literature in Hong Kong and Taiwan made such literature popular and thriving in the Chinese mainland. It also served to strengthen cultural exchange between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan and Hong Kong, which had been suspended ever since 1949.


1990s: Foreign and Chinese masterpieces, romantic fictions, fictions of martial arts, biography were still prevailing. Science fictions became student's new favorites and books for practical use as well


In addition to romantic fictions and martial arts fictions, a new type of books, science fictions came in vogue among the male students. Apart from that, contemporary masterpieces including Chinese novels Deserted Capital, White Deer Plain, Funeral of Muslin; and foreign masterworks like the Catcher in the Rye, Unbearable Lightness of Being and Thorn Bird were read most. Some Russian and Japanese books and detective stories were in rife as well.


In 1990s, with China's upcoming access to the WTO, "going abroad" fever, increasing popularity of computer, rapid development of IT industry and e-commerce, everybody seemed busy in preparing for postgraduate exams, government employee, English certificates required for going abroad. Many students began to spend much time in study than in reading again.


Beginning of the 21 century: Reading without mainstreamed style


Asked to recall some impressive books read in university, some students said there was nothing special; they just went with the times in reading. Most books they read were best sellers in bookstore. The journalist browsed in a couple of bookstores and found masterpieces very rare. Even though you found some, they were probably laid high on bookshelf. Some said many students that majored in arts still read masterpieces, but they usually borrowed such books from library or bought them. In a book rental shop one could hardly see any masterpieces. The boss of the shop said, "Few students come to rent a masterpiece."


Talking about the significance in reading books, a student said, "Reading is nothing but a way to kill time. Some girls in my class love reading cartoon books because they feel it is easy and carefree to read them. That is what I feel when reading fictions of martial arts. You can pass a cozy weekend just by spending 0.5 yuan to rent a book. To be honest, I don't know what are the thematic topics of them and what spirit they advocate."


(People's Daily February 18, 2004)


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