• Zuo Ning and Jonathan Stalling

OU's Newman Prize for Chinese Literature Celebrated at Renmin University, Beijing

An in-person awards ceremony for the 2021 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, a biennial award sponsored by the Institute for US-China Issues in the College of International Studies, was held on the afternoon of March 10, 2021, in Shaw Hall at Renmin University in Beijing, China. The University of Oklahoma will be hosting its own awards ceremony on Zoom this Friday, March 19th at 7 p.m. CST. Selected videos of the award ceremony in China will be broadcast during this online celebration. Register here for the event.

Professor Yang Qingxiang of Renmin University

This year’s winner is internationally renowned novelist and professor Yan Lianke, a faculty member of Renmin University’s College of Language and Literature. He was presented with the award in a ceremony attended by Yan Mei, Secretary of the Party Committee of the School of Liberal Arts of Renmin University of China, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Arts of Renmin University of China and reporters from more than 10 domestic and foreign media sources, including China.com, The Paper, Tencent, and Phoenix. The award ceremony was presided over by Professor Yang Qingxiang, Vice Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, Renmin University of China.

Yan Lianke is the seventh winner of the award and the fourth mainland Chinese writer to win the award after Mo Yan, Han Shaogong and Wang Anyi. At the March 10th event, College of International Studies Dean Scott Fritzen gave the opening speech via video and congratulated Yan Lianke on his achievement. Newman Professor Jonathan Stalling, Director of the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature (and Co-Director of the Institute for US-China Issues), also gave a speech, praising the uniqueness of Yan Lianke's work and discussing his contributions to world literature.

CIS Dean Scott Fritzen speaks at the event
Professor Jonathan Stalling speaks at the event

In his speech, Chen Jianlan, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China, cited the positive reactions to Yan Lianke's works from home and abroad to create more context for understanding this internationally acclaimed Chinese contemporary writer. He also discussed Yan Lianke’s work at the School of Arts of Renmin University of China, where he has established an international writing center, opened one of China’s first creative writing programs, and has begun to train an ever-expanding base of influential young writers from China and abroad. Thanks in part to Yan's efforts, the college's creative writing major has become an important force in China. After concluding his remarks, Chen Jianlan presented Yan Lianke with his Newman Prize medallion.

Dean Chen Jianlan presenting the award to Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke gave his acceptance speech, entitled "A Village Bigger Than the World." He spoke of his belief that "literature must be like hometown" and insisted on the importance of local creativity, noting that he sees his hometown as a microcosm of China and the world beyond. Yan spoke of how the good and evil in human nature are clearly engraved on the faces, hearts and behavior of everyone in the village, and that as a writer he tries his best to explore the full range of human nature in his work, including both the visible and invisible aspects of reality. Yan spoke of his hope that literature can promote understanding by stimulating common humanity.

Yan Lianke speaking at the ceremony

The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature was established in 2009 by the Institute of U.S.-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma. It is awarded every two years to promote outstanding Chinese fiction and poetry that best reflects the human condition. The award is named after Harold J. and Ruth Newman in recognition of their generous donations to the establishment of the Institute of US-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma.

At the upcoming virtual ceremony on Friday, March 19th, Harold J. Newman’s speech will be broadcast along with speeches by this year’s winning Juror Eric Abrahamsen and, of course, Yan Lianke. The international online ceremony will also celebrate the student and adult winners of the Newman Prize for English Jueju, which was expanded this year to include entries from the United Kingdom as well as Oklahoma. The Friday ceremony, scheduled on Zoom from 7-9 p.m. CST, is open to all. To register, visit https://BIT.LY/2NK0QUe.

All photos by Wu Hanbing, Lunan College of Literature, China Net.

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