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Writing about homeland overseas (overseas Chinese concern)

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Zhang Ling (second from right) interviews veterans of the Anti-Japanese War in Ruian City, Zhejiang Province.
Photo provided by the interviewee

Zhang Ling, a native of Wenzhou, Zhejiang, is an overseas Chinese writer and screenwriter, a recipient of the Canadian National Literature and Art Fund and the Ontario Literature and Art Fund. The novel has won literary awards such as the Annual Novelist Award of the Chinese Literature Media, the Grand Jury Award of the Overseas Chinese Literature Award, the "China Times" Best Open Book Award, and the Hong Kong "Dream of Red Mansions Award" World Chinese Novel Expert Recommendation Award.

The disaster film "Tangshan Earthquake" based on his novel "Aftershock" won many awards including the best film at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival and the best film at the Hundred Flowers Awards.

dream of writing

From childhood, Zhang Ling had a strong interest in literature and writing. When she was a student, she always seized every opportunity to read and write. Chinese class and composition class are her favorite courses, and her dream of becoming a writer is quietly sprouting at this time.

The college entrance examination in 1979 was an important turning point in Zhang Ling's life. At that time, she was still working as a lathe operator in a small factory in Wenzhou. The resumption of the college entrance examination gave her a chance to realize her dream.

"The content of the college entrance examination at that time was not limited to high school courses, and the daily knowledge accumulation of candidates could play a role." Zhang Ling said, "The reading habits and long-term reading accumulation I cultivated since childhood were of great help in the college entrance examination."

Studying in the Foreign Languages Department of Fudan University was Zhang Ling's first time traveling alone. At that time, although Wenzhou was only more than 500 kilometers away from Shanghai, it took a whole day to take a sea cruise one way. Leaving her hometown and coming to Shanghai was the first time she saw the world outside of Wenzhou.

"In the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of Fudan University, I gradually expanded from reading in a single language and a single subject to reading world literature in two languages. Thinking about it now, those four years of study experience are of great significance to my ideological enlightenment and creation." Zhang Ling said.

Record the mood of the Chinese

In 1986, Zhang Ling went abroad to study and obtained a master's degree in English literature and a master's degree in hearing rehabilitation from the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Cincinnati in the United States. After graduation, Zhang Ling worked as a full-time hearing rehabilitation teacher in a clinic in Toronto, Canada. For long periods of time, she juggled her writing between her clinic work and her home life. This experience provided her with a rich perspective when observing and writing.

In 1998, the first edition of Zhang Ling's debut novel "Watching the Moon" came out. When the work was published, it was at a time when the reform and opening up brought great changes to Chinese society. The protagonist of the novel, like Zhang Ling, is full of thoughts about his hometown and his hometown.

"Overseas Chinese have mixed emotions in the face of the development and changes in their hometown. On the one hand, they feel relieved for the prosperity of their hometown, and on the other hand, they are worried about the loss of some traditional culture caused by economic development. "Watching the Moon" is the product of this conflicting mentality. It is a record of the state of mind of the Chinese people at that time." Zhang Ling said.

It has been 24 years since "Watching the Moon" was published, and many changes have taken place in the world. "In the city of Toronto where I live, Chinese is already the second most popular language after English. There are signs in Chinese everywhere in shopping malls, banks, and hospitals. Many supermarkets can use payment tools such as Alipay, and Chinese can also be used directly in the driver's license test." Zhang Ling said, "These changes have made the confusion and alienation of the new immigrants in "Watching the Moon" a thing of the past. Global communication and transportation have developed by leaps and bounds, and communication at home and abroad has become instant and convenient. When a person can return home at any time Or when you hear information from your hometown at any time, the perspectives of observing the world become three-dimensional and diverse. At present, I think "Watching the Moon" is a kind of "historical data" that allows people to remember the past and understand the origin."

Embracing the hometown

Han Jingqun, editor-in-chief of October Literature and Art Publishing House, said: "A person who has never left his homeland has no homeland." Zhang Ling also believes that the concept of "homeland" is relatively far away from people.

"It is impossible for a person to be born from a crack in a rock like Sun Wukong. He needs to have a sense of belonging to his 'roots'. Wenzhou is the place where I have the feeling of 'roots'. The appearance of Wenzhou has changed a lot compared to my childhood. However, from a cultural point of view, Wenzhou is the only place in the world that can give me a 'sense of positioning'." Zhang Ling said.

Recently, Xinhua Pioneer planned and published Zhang Ling's nine-volume collection of novels. Among these full-length works, more than half are set in Wenzhou. Hometown is a consistent theme in Zhang Ling's works.

During the epidemic, Zhang Ling was far away in a foreign country, and Zhang Ling was very homesick. He missed his 92-year-old mother, missed the tofu crab and fish ball soup in his hometown, and wanted to hear the familiar accent. Sometimes, when she was walking on the streets of foreign countries, she saw the flow of people coming and going, and the nostalgia for the streets of her hometown made her almost cry.

"My hometown is the source of inspiration for my novels. Memories of my hometown fill every brain space that is not occupied by daily affairs." Zhang Ling said.

Recently, a French publishing house told Zhang Ling that thanks to her French version of the novel "Golden Mountain", the word "watchtower" has entered the French vocabulary.

"A work that tells the truth and tells the truth will naturally move and influence others, even if it is only a small number of people." Zhang Ling said, "When I write, I always face my observations and feelings honestly, instead of Consider in advance what kind of social benefits the work can produce, and what kind of cultural and historical mission the writer has. Sociality is the consequence of the work, not the cause. I think the influence of writers and literature lies in recording changes with delicate brushstrokes, and using Promote change in a silent way."

(Editors in charge: Yuan Bo, Hu Yongqiu)

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