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March 2020: Feng Jicai 冯骥才

Born in Tianjin in 1942, Feng Jicai is a contemporary author, artist and cultural scholar who rose to prominence as a pioneer of China’s Scar Literature movement, which emerged after the Cultural Revolution. He has published almost a hundred literary works in China and more than forty internationally. He is proficient in both Chinese and western artistic techniques, and his artwork has been exhibited in China, Japan, the US, Singapore and Austria. He has had a major influence on contemporary Chinese society with his work on the Project to Save Chinese Folk Cultural Heritages and his roles as honorary member of the Literature and Arts Association, honorary president of the China Folk Literature and Art Association and adviser to the State Council, among others. He is also dean, professor and PhD supervisor at the Feng Jicai Institute of Literature and Art, Tianjin University.
Bio from Sinoist
This month we're delighted to feature author Feng Jicai 冯骥才, a key figure in the literary movements which followed the Cultural Revolution, and who criticized the extremes of this period in essays, interviews, and his book Ten Years of Madness: An Oral History of the Cultural Revolution. Feng's work from the 1990s focused more on his native Tianjin, and his story collection Faces in the Crowd: 36 Extraordinary Tales of Tianjin, featuring a range of colourful characters from the city, has recently been published by Sinoist Books, an imprint of Alain Charles Asia, translated by Olivia Milburn.
The port of Tianjin is where the ancient Chinese empire met the sea. The turn of the 20th century was a tumultuous time for the city, with the Qing dynasty on its last legs and the Boxers unleashing their ill-fated rebellion against the European trading concessions that had colonised its streets.
For Tianjin’s inhabitants, daily life carried on... From a miracle doctor to an ill-mannered mynah bird, they came from every walk of life and in all shapes and sizes. Together, their stories make up the rich tapestry of a city that the modern world has washed away…
This month's story is taken from this collection. 'The Yellow Lotus Divine Matriarch' (黄莲圣母) is set in 1900, as the Boxer Rebellion tears the city apart, and stories circulate about a mysterious female warrior. You can read the story in Chinese here, and in English translation, by Olivia Milburn, here.
Faces in the Crowd is also featured on our Book Review network, so you can read our reviewers' thoughts!