Gao Xingjian (born January 4, 1940) is a Chinese émigré novelist, playwright, and critic who in 2000 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity." He is also a noted translator (particularly of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco), screenwriter, stage director, and a celebrated painter. In 1998, Gao was granted French citizenship.
Gao's drama is considered to be fundamentally absurdist in nature and avant-garde in his native China. His prose works tend to be less celebrated in China but are highly regarded elsewhere in Europe and the West.
Gao in 2012
|Born||January 4, 1940|
Ganzhou, Jiangxi, China
|Occupation||novelist, playwright, critic, translator, screenwriter, director, painter|
|Citizenship||Republic of China (1940–49)|
People's Republic of China (1949–98)
France (since 1998)
|Alma mater||Beijing Foreign Studies University|
|Notable works||The Other Shore, Soul Mountain, One Man's Bible|
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize in Literature |
|Spouse||Wang Xuejun (王学筠); divorced|
Born in Ganzhou, Jiangxi, during wartime China in 1940 (Gao's original paternal ancestral home town is in Taizhou, Jiangsu with his maternal roots from Zhejiang), his family returned to Nanjing with him following the aftermath of World War II. He has been a French citizen since 1998. In 1992 he was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
Gao's father was a clerk in the Bank of China, and his mother was a member of the Young Men's Christian Association. His mother was once a playactress of Anti-Japanese Theatre during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Under his mother's influence, Gao enjoyed painting, writing and theatre very much when he was a little boy. During his middle school years, he read lots of literature translated from the West, and he studied sketching, ink and wash painting, oil painting and clay sculpture under the guidance of painter Yun Zongying (simplified Chinese: 郓宗嬴; traditional Chinese: 鄆宗嬴; pinyin: Yùn Zōngyíng).
In 1962 Gao graduated from the Department of French, BFSU, and then he worked for the Chinese International Bookstore (中國國際書店). During the 1970s, because of the Down to the Countryside Movement, he went to and stayed in the countryside and did farm labour in Anhui Province. He taught as a Chinese teacher in Gangkou Middle School, Ningguo county, Anhui Province for a short time. In 1975, he was allowed to go back to Beijing and became the group leader of French translation for the magazine China Reconstructs (《中國建設》).
In 1977 Gao worked for the Committee of Foreign Relationship, Chinese Association of Writers. In May 1979, he visited Paris with a group of Chinese writers including Ba Jin. In 1980, Gao became a screenwriter and playwright for the Beijing People's Art Theatre.
Gao is known as a pioneer of absurdist drama in China, where Signal Alarm (《絕對信號》, 1982) and Bus Stop (《車站》, 1983) were produced during his term as resident playwright at the Beijing People's Art Theatre from 1981 to 1987. Influenced by European theatrical models, it gained him a reputation as an avant-garde writer. His other plays, The Primitive (1985) and The Other Shore (《彼岸》, 1986), all openly criticised the government's state policies.
In 1986 Gao was misdiagnosed with lung cancer, and he began a 10-month trek along the Yangtze, which resulted in his novel Soul Mountain (《靈山》). The part-memoir, part-novel, first published in Taipei in 1990 and in English in 2000 by HarperCollins Australia, mixes literary genres and utilizes shifting narrative voices. It has been specially cited by the Swedish Nobel committee as "one of those singular literary creations that seem impossible to compare with anything but themselves." The book details his travels from Sichuan province to the coast, and life among Chinese minorities such as the Qiang, Miao, and Yi peoples on the fringes of Han Chinese civilization.
By the late 1980s, Gao had shifted to Bagnolet, a city adjacent to Paris, France. The political drama Fugitives (1989), which makes reference to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, resulted in all his works being banned from performance in China.
While being forced to work as a peasant – a form of 'education' under the Cultural Revolution – in the 1970s, Gao Xingjian produced many plays, short stories, poems and critical pieces that he had to eventually burn to avoid the consequences of his dissident literature being discovered. Of the work he produced subsequently, he published no collections of poetry, being known more widely for his drama, fiction and essays. However, one short poem exists that represents a distinctively modern style akin to his other writings:
(April 13, 1986, Beijing)
Gao is a painter, known especially for his ink and wash painting. His exhibitions have included:
The Premier Zhu Rongji delivered a congratulatory message to Gao when interviewed by the Hong Kong newspaper East Daily (《东方日报》):
Gao's work has led to fierce discussion among Chinese writers, both positive and negative.
In his article on Gao in the June 2008 issue of Muse, a now-defunct Hong Kong magazine, Leo Ou-fan Lee praises the use of Chinese language in Soul Mountain: 'Whether it works or not, it is a rich fictional language filled with vernacular speeches and elegant 文言 (classical) formulations as well as dialects, thus constituting a "heteroglossic" tapestry of sounds and rhythms that can indeed be read aloud (as Gao himself has done in his public readings).'
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2000 goes to the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian "for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama".
Beijing People's Art Theatre (北京人民艺术剧院/北京人民藝術劇院) is a theatre company that was founded in June 1952 by drama master Cao Yu.
Since its founding, the company has produced nearly 300 dramas of different styles, from classic Chinese themes to adaptations of Molière. The company is based in the Capital Theatre in Beijing.
Through the 1960s, it was known primarily for staging the representative works of master playwrights Guo Moruo, Lao She, Cao Yu and Tian Han. Since the 1980s, the theater has introduced nearly 80 new dramas by 27 award-winning playwrights, including Signal Alarm, the first play written by Gao Xingjian, and his most celebrated drama Bus Stop.
In 1980, the company toured outside China for the first time, performing Lao She's masterpiece "Tea House", the company's signature work, in Japan and Western Europe. The company broke more new ground in 1983 when it invited playwright Arthur Miller to direct a production of what was seen at the time as a uniquely American drama "Death of a Salesman," an experience Miller recounted in the form of a day-to-day diary in his book Salesman in Beijing (1985).In 2005, the company made its United States debut with productions of "Tea House" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University in New York City.Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather
Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather, also rendered from Chinese as A Fishing Rod for My Grandpa, is a 2004 collection of six short stories by the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian. All of the stories were originally written between 1983 and 1990. The stories were translated to English by Mabel Lee.
The book was published in New York by HarperCollins, in 2004, with ISBN 0-06-057555-7,
and in London as Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather, translation by Mabel Lee, flamingo, London, 2004, ISBN 0-00-717038-6China International Publishing Group
The China International Publishing Group (CIPG),
also known as the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration,
is the largest foreign-language publishing organisation in China.
Established in October 1949, it has developed into a global media corporation, providing up-to-date information about China to readers worldwide through books, magazines and the Internet.CIPG owns seven subordinate publishing houses, i.e. Foreign Languages Press, New World Press, Morning Glory Publishers, Sinolingua, China Pictorial Publishing House, Dolphin Books and New Star Publishers.
The organisation annually publishes over 3,000 titles of books and around 50 journals in more than 10 languages.
Notable periodicals include Beijing Review, China Today, China Pictorial, People’s China and China Report.
Its subsidiary, the China International Book Trading Corporation is in charge of the distribution.It also runs 20 overseas branches in countries and regions, including the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Egypt, Mexico and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with about 3,000 staff members including around 100 foreign workers.In addition to publishing, CIPG operates a number of websites, including china.org.cn and chinagate.com.cn,
releasing news in nine languages, including Chinese (both in simplified and traditional characters), English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Korean and Esperanto.
It is also responsible for the implementation and management of the national translation test and appraisal for the Chinese Ministry of Personnel.Prominent people who have worked in the CIPG include Nobel Literature Prize-winning novelist and playwright Gao Xingjian, Nobel Prize-nominated poet Bei Dao, actor and politician Ying Ruocheng (known for his role in the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor), translators Yang Xianyi and Ye Junjian, author Xiao Qian, non-fiction novel writer Xu Chi, cartoonist Ding Cong, former Chinese Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua and former UN Undersecretary General (1972-1979) Tang Mingzhao. Several foreign employees have also gained notoriety, including the pseudonymous author "Alex Hill," whose account of working as a foreign editor for the organization was widely read in 2015. In his account, the author writes of feckless bureaucracy, political correctness, and a general feeling of malaise among the many foreigners working in the compound.China Today
China Today (Chinese: 今日中国; pinyin: Jīnrì Zhōngguó), formerly titled China Reconstructs (Chinese: 中国建设; pinyin: ZhōngJiànshè), is a monthly magazine founded in 1952 by Soong Ching-ling in association with Israel Epstein. It is published in Chinese language, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, German and Turkish, and is intended to promote a knowledge of China's culture, geography, economy and social affairs as well as positive view of the People's Republic of China and its government to people outside of China.
Foreign advisor and naturalized Chinese citizen Israel Epstein was editor-in-chief of China Today from 1951, later he returned to China at the request of Soong Ching-ling. The magazine was renamed China Today in 1990. China Today is usually published the first week of the month. In the pages of the magazine, the editors usually showcase what they characterize as the growing modernization and development which has happened in China since the reform and opening up policies of Deng Xiaoping began in December 1978.Acclaimed novelist, playwright and translator Gao Xingjian, who received the Nobel Literature Prize in 2000, worked in the magazine as the chief of its French edition from 1975 to 1977. Renowned actor, translator and politician Ying Ruocheng briefly worked for the English edition of the magazine in the 1970s. He went on to serve as China's vice minister of culture in the 1980s and played a supporting role in the 1987 Oscar-winning film The Last Emperor.Faye Wong (2001 album)
Faye Wong (王菲) is a 2001 album by Beijing-based singer Faye Wong. The songs are a mixture of pop and rock numbers, including pop rock, techno and electro genres.
It included 11 tracks in Mandarin Chinese and five in Cantonese. The latter provided Wong's most significant release of new Cantonese songs since Toy in 1997.Faye Wong worked with new partners on this album, including Singaporean singer-songwriter Tanya Chua and Taiwanese rocker Wu Bai.Gao (surname)
Gao (Chinese: 高) is an East Asian surname of Chinese origin that can be literally translated as "high" or "tall". There are approximately 16 million living people with this surname. Some places, such as Taiwan, usually romanise this family name into Kao. In Hong Kong, it is romanized to Ko. In Macau, it is romanized to Kou.Gert Fylking
Gert Åke Fylking, born on 7 October 1945 in Stockholm, is a Swedish actor, journalist, politician (Christian Democrat) and anchorman of the radio programme Gert's Värld on Radio 1 101,9 FM, where he is known by the nickname of Fylking Sverige (a handle translatable as Your Man Fylking from Sweden). He has participated in many theatre productions, films and TV programmes. He is married to Tanja Fylking; they have six children and live in Stockholm. Among his friends are Robert Aschberg, Hasse Aro and Lennart Jähkel, and especially the late Christer Pettersson (since their childhood).Jo Riley
Josephine Riley is a British writer, translator, theatre actor, and schoolteacher. Dr. Riley has written and translated several books about theatre arts, especially Chinese theatre. She currently teaches film and drama at Munich International School in Germany.
Riley reads, writes, and speaks Mandarin Chinese, and is better known for having in the early 1980s widely traveled in China and learned to act in the Chinese theatre as one of the first foreign students at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, eventually writing Chinese Theatre and the Actor in Performance (1997, Cambridge University Press), a reference book that "gives an 'inside' view of Chinese theatre and the actor in performance for the first time [...] from her personal observations of, and dialogue with, Chinese actors and her first-hand experiences of the theatre world of China in general, none of which was possible before 1980." She also made the first English translation of The Other Shore by Nobel Laureate in Literature playwright Gao Xingjian.List of Chinese Nobel laureates
Since 1957, there have been eight Chinese (including Chinese-born) winners of the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prize is a Sweden-based international monetary prize. The award was established by the 1895 will and estate of Swedish chemist and inventor Alfred Nobel. It was first awarded in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace in 1901. An associated prize, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was instituted by Sweden's central bank in 1968 and first awarded in 1969.
Following is a list of Nobel laureates who have been citizens of the Republic of China or the People's Republic of China and of overseas birth.List of Chinese writers
This is a list of Chinese writers.Mabel Lee
Mabel Lee is a translator of the works of Nobel Prize-winning author Gao Xingjian. She has taught Asian studies at the University of Sydney and is one of Australia's leading authorities on Chinese cultural affairs. Lee was a professor of South-East Asian Studies at Sydney University and had already begun translation of the poems of Chinese writer, Yang Lian when she met Gao Xingjian, in Paris in 1991. After that meeting, Lee offered to translate Soul Mountain, a project which took seven years, and an additional two to find a publisher for the book in Australia. Following publication, Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.Lee's translation won the 2001 NSW Premier's Translation Prize despite criticism about the book, and her translation's quality. After her retirement from teaching, she translated another of Gao's novels, One Man's Bible, as well as a short-story collection and a book of his essays.In 2012 Lee's translation of Gao Xingjian: Aesthetics and Creation was published by Cambria Press. The book is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor H. Mair.One Man's Bible
One Man's Bible (S: 一个人的圣经, T: 一個人的聖經, P: Yī gè rén de Shèngjīng, French: Le Livre d'un homme seul) is a novel by Gao Xingjian. Set during the Cultural Revolution, the novel stars an alter-ego of Gao who reflects on his previous experiences around the world. Throughout the book, the chapters alternate between the narrator describing his life during and after his time in China during the Cultural Revolution. He describes how he looks for freedom and how to retain that freedom.
The book was originally published in Chinese in 1999. The book was later translated into English by Mabel Lee, a Chinese professor at the University of Sydney. Éditions de l'Aube published the book in French.
William John Francis Jenner writing for The Guardian said that the book "belongs to that sad class of books sold on the strength of their authors having won a prize. But a prize is rather a thin argument for reading it, especially in a wooden English translation."Shi Tiesheng
Shi Tiesheng (史铁生) (January 4, 1951 – December 31, 2010) was a Chinese novelist, known for his story which was the basis of the film Life on a String. The China Daily stated regarding his essay about the park near where he lived, "Many critics have considered I and the Temple of Earth (zh:我与地坛) as one of the best Chinese prose essays of the 20th century."Shi was born in Beijing, and graduated from Tsinghua University High School.
In 1969 he was a "sent-down youth" or urban youth sent to a rural area of Shaanxi as part of the Down to the Countryside Movement of the Cultural Revolution. There he was paralyzed in an accident at the age of 21, and was sent back to Beijing.Shi was published for the first time in 1979. His 1983 short story "My Faraway Clear Peace River" (我的遥远的清平湾) won the National Excellent Short Story Prize. The story is about a sent-down youth and an old man of the village, and takes the view that the peasants suffer more over the long term than the urban youth sent from the city. A sequel, "A Story of Rustication" ("Chadui de gushi") was published in 1986.In 1980 director Tian Zhuangzhuang based a short film called Our Corner on a story by Shi; it was the first film by a filmmaker of China's Fifth Generation Cinema.Shi's 1985 novella "Like a Banjo String" (命若琴弦) about a pair of blind musicians, was the basis of the 1991 film Life on a String directed by Chen Kaige.His collections of short stories include My Faraway Clear Peace River (Wo de yaoyuan de qingping wan) (1985) and Sunday (Libairi) (1988).A collection of English-language translations of his short stories was published in 1991 as Strings of Life.In 1996 his novel Notes on Principles (务虚笔记) was published.
In selecting it as a notable work of Chinese literature since 1949 which could qualify as an overlooked classic, Professor Shelley W. Chan of Wittenberg University said Notes on Principles was similar to but better than Soul Mountain by Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian.In 1998 his kidneys began to fail and he subsequently required dialysis three times
weekly.He received the Lao She Literature Prize for Fragments Written at the Hiatuses of Sickness (病隙碎笔)(2002).In 2006 he published My Sojourn in Ding Yi (我的丁一之旅), about an immortal spirit that inhabits the bodies of a succession of people, including Adam, Shi Tiesheng himself, and the book's hero, Ding Yi.On the morning of December 31, 2010, Shi died of cerebral hemorrhage.Soul Mountain
Soul Mountain is a novel by Gao Xingjian. The novel is loosely based on the author's own journey into rural China, which was inspired by a false diagnosis of lung cancer. The novel is a part autobiographical, part fictional account of a man's journey to find the fabled mountain Lingshan. It is a combination of story fragments, travel accounts, unnamed characters (referred to by the pronouns "I", "you", "she", etc.), and folk poetry/legends. An English version translated by Mabel Lee was published in the United States on December 5, 2000.The Bus Stop
The Bus Stop is a Chinese absurdist play written in 1981 by Gao Xingjian. Though originally completed in 1981, a second draft wasn't completed until 1982, and the play was not performed on stage until 1983. The play premiered at the Beijing People's Art Theatre and was directed by Lin Zhaohua, the Deputy Director of the People's Art Theatre. Though appreciated by many audiences, the original run was shut down by the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign after only 13 performances. Now banned from performance in mainland China, The Bus Stop remains an influential text in Chinese absurdist drama.The Other Shore
The Other Shore (Chinese: 彼岸; pinyin: bǐ'àn; untoned Bi An; previously translated The Other Side) is a play by the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian. It was first published into English in 1997 and translated again in 1999.
One of the most controversial and important plays in contemporary Chinese drama, its intended premiere under the direction of Lin Zhaohua at the Beijing People's Art Theatre had its production shut down by the Chinese government before it reached performances. The playwright proceeded to direct productions of the play at the Taiwan National College of Art in 1990 and at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 1995.