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Let Things Drift


July and August Combined Issue of Hi Art, 2010

This article is written for painter buddies as well as all creators. By “Let Things Drift”, I do not mean that one should be so passive as to give in to his fate, or our lives are as miserable as weeds, but that after we have finished a painting or other works, we had better stop worrying about them. On the one hand, worrying will result in tiredness; on the other hand, we cannot control the fate of the works. Just like you have made a dish with a cucumber; whether it is delicious or not should be determined by people who taste it. You can select cucumbers and flavorings to be used, but can you control what others will say?

This year sees Lao She’s 111th birthday. I know little about his great achievements, so I decide to leave them to be recalled by his families and not to make a discussion here. I have read many of his writings, such as Rickshaw Boy, Teahouse, Zhang’s Philosophy, Two Persons Named Ma, Cat Country, and Beneath the Red Banner. Lao She’s and Zhang Ailing’s novels are my favorite because they are humanistic, lifelike and full of local features, with witty and true-to-life words and dialogues. The authors did not mean to try their best to instruct or outsmart readers by talking about some major principles through characters in the novels.

In terms of creation, it seems that Lao She’s and Zhang Ailing’s novels are not great works in that what they focus on are small potatoes and layfolks with a low angle. However, what they really concerned were issues on the culture of the nation. Lao She has said in his books, “The wisdom of roses lie in not only bright color and fragrance but also their thorns! Only the combination of thorns, fragrance and beauty can ensure their safety, long-living and flourishing! Chinese are good in everything but the lack of their thorns!”

Lao She has adopted much dialects and Beijing style dialogues in his works, which can be seen as his writing skill. A lot of things, at different levels, can be spoken out by characters. In the same scene, some people are talking about national affairs and worrying about possible dangers when living in peace, while beside them may appear guys trafficking in persons, telling fortune, selling opium and doing a gang fight. Wang Shuo, a modern writer, is like him in his vivid description of the military courtyards during the Cultural Revolution Period. However, their difference lies in that Wang dared to curse Lu Xun while Lao She concerned Lu very much. Lao She considered that some of Lu’s writings were getting at him.

As an artist and a creator, Lao She was opposed to glorify oneself by writing one’s biography when he was still alive. The deed of preparing compliments for one’s death goes against the rule of creation and will tie his hands. Creators are just like scientists and explorers, whose future is unpredictable, need exploration, study and description. Artists are always creating. Zhao Jiabi, a famous publisher, had visited Lao She in Beijing for several times, attempting to publish a complete collection for the latter. Every time he went there with Yang Hansheng, Secretary of Party Committee of CFLAC (China Federation of Literary and Art Circles) then, and Lou Shiyi, Chief Editor of People’s Literature Publishing House. However, each time they expressed their intension Lao She would say, “I still have a great many of books to write and there are many works in my mind waiting for coming out. Why should we publish complete collections and anthologies right now? Now I want to focus on new works, and after that we can publish a total collection.”

I do not know whether people in literary circle would become the same as those in present artistic circle: they are just over forty or fifty and living with a good appetite as well as strong desires, but they have been covered in various versions of art history. In particular, some painters are toiling and moiling all the year round for several exhibitions in the name of “Art History”. By now the new China has been 61 years old. I have gone through historical documents and found no History of New China in any edition but a Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China adopted on the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee.

Zhu Wei

Thursday, June 24th, 2010