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Making the old new

By Yang Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-04 08:05
Jia Pingwa talks about his creations with scholars, writers and critics at a recent launch ceremony of the souvenir edition of Zizai Duxing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

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A souvenir edition of Jia Pingwa's popular collection of essays has been launched, Yang Yang reports. 

It may be easy for a novel to sell tens of thousands of copies in China, but it is unusual for a collection of essays by contemporary writers to achieve that scale.

Writer Jia Pingwa's essay collection, Zizai Duxing (Be Free and Walk Alone), have sold 1 million copies since it was published in July 2016.

Along with Mo Yan and Yu Hua, Jia is one of the biggest names in Chinese literature. Winning his first literary award in 1978, Jia has published 17 novels, including recent ones such as Jihua (Pole Flower) in 2016 and Shanben (Origin of the Qinling Mountains) in 2018, and many novellas and essays.

In 2008, he won the Mao Dun Literary Award, the top honor of its kind in China, for his novel, The Shaanxi Opera.

Jia's fiction writing reflects distinctive features such as the local dialect, custom, people and landscape of the place where most of his stories are set-Northwest China's Shaanxi province, where he was born and continues to live. In his essays, he follows some of the traditional styles of the ancient Chinese literati and modern aesthetics and philosophy.

Jia's essays are popular in China. Some like The Ugly Stone are familiar to readers as they are included in middle school textbooks. He's known for his language and style: concise and simple but beautiful, rhythmic and emotional.

The 300-page Zizai Duxing contains 73 essays, most of which were written in the 1980s and '90s, when Jia was in his 30s and 40s.

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