Confidence in Chinese Culture*
November 30, 2016
I hope we all have full confidence in our culture and work to lift our national spirit with literary and art works. The realization of national rejuvenation requires us to have confidence in the path, theories, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. A good understanding of and strong confidence in China's profound culture are the prerequisites for the creation of excellent works with distinct national features and unique personal style. Writers and artists should excel in learning from the best of the country's cultural heritage, and siphon energy from it. They should have full confidence in the aspirations, values, vitality and creativity of their own culture, and produce works of art that give strength to the Chinese people on their march towards the future.
Culture is the soul of both a country and a nation. History and reality have proven that a nation which abandons or betrays its own history and culture cannot prosper, and is likely to end in tragedy. Confidence in culture is basic, deep-rooted, and reaches far and wide; it is a force that is more fundamental, stable and persistent. Increasing confidence in our own culture is critical to the prospects of our country, to our cultural security, and to the independence of our national character. Without confidence in culture, there is no way to create works that are hard-hitting, unique and charming.
Human history tells us that all nations across the globe, without exception, are deeply influenced by excellent art and literature as well as by gifted writers and artists in each and every phase of their historical development. The spirit of the Chinese nation is embodied in the striving of the Chinese people and their achievements, in the cultural life of the Chinese people, in all the marvelous works created by the Chinese nation over thousands of years, and also in the fantastic creative activities of all Chinese writers and artists.
The Chinese nation has created numerous brilliant works at every step of its historical course, such as Book of Songs, Songs of Chu, fu poetry of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), poems of the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, operas of the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), and novels of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616- 1911) dynasties, that give birth to the splendid history of Chinese art and literature. It is the prolific literary and artistic creativity of the Chinese nation, our marvelous achievements, and confidence in culture that make us so proud.
Each era has its unique art and literature as well as its unique spirit. Classical art and literature in any era epitomize the social life and spirit of that era with coincident traces and features. Only when the arts of an era are closely related to the nation and share weal and woe with its people, can they air resonant voices. Writers and artists should follow the pulse of the times, respond to the call of the times, listen to the voice of the times, and brave the challenges of the times.
There is a universally applicable law across the whole world throughout history: Art and literature rise and prosper at the beginning of a new era; they change as the momentum changes, march along with their time, and synchronize with their time in rhythm and wavelength. At every critical juncture of human development, art and literature are the harbinger of social progress, heralding periodic change and social transformation. Aloof from booming life and the zeitgeist, those writers and artists who indulge in self-admiration are bound to be marginalized by society.
The significance of any work of art and literature lies in the ideas and values contained in it. All forms of expression are but a means to transmit the ideas and values. A work devoid of ideas and values is worthless no matter what dazzling forms of expression are adopted. Our core socialist values fully represent the spirit of contemporary China and serve as the cultural and ethical cornerstone that coalesces China's strength. Our writers and artists should undertake the principal task of developing and promoting the core socialist values and create excellent works carrying the distinct brand and style of China by following Chinese ways of thinking, expression of emotions and aesthetical preferences.
Since our motherland gives us the strongest support while our heroes best represent our nation, singing the praises of our motherland and our heroes is the eternal theme and the most touching chapter of our literary and artistic creations. To ignite the sense of national pride and honor of all Chinese people, we should follow this patriotic theme, describe a beautiful China, and tell the best stories of our nation through striking language and vivid images. We must hold our heroes in great respect, present them and their stories in a respectful way, promote them in our art and literature, and help our people develop positive viewpoints on history, nation, state, and culture. Our art and literature should exhibit energetic efforts on behalf of reform and opening up, socialist modernization, and a fruitful, progressive and united China, to encourage all our people to march towards a promising future.
Strengthening cultural confidence is nothing but empty talk without perceiving and applying the history of the Chinese nation. History is a mirror, through which we can better see the world and life and understand ourselves; history is also a sage whose admonition can help us better understand the past, grasp the present, and face the future. There is a Chinese verse: "Our imagination expressed in literary and artistic creation can reach any point in time throughout history and every corner of the whole world in the blink of an eye."1 Writers and artists struggling in search of inspiration and profound ideas should seek them in historical materials.
Our cultural legacy has provided writers and artists with abundant nourishment and sent their imagination flying. But writers and artists must not portray past events or persons merely through their unbridled imagination or by resorting to historical nihilism. No writers or artists can accurately reconstruct what has happened in the past, but they have the duty to tell the truth about our history and let the people know what are the most valuable in our tradition. Literary and artistic works that make travesty of history indicate that the author is not serious about history, that he is not serious about his own creations. Such works will not have a place in the literary and artistic pantheon. Only if we develop a sound outlook on history, show respect for our tradition and present the past through proper artistic means can our works stand the test of time, find their proper place in our time and pass on to posterity.
The Chinese culture is both historical and contemporary, belonging both to the Chinese nation and the whole world. Art and literature must take root in the land where they were born and grew up to reflect reality, strengthen confidence, and absorb energy, if they are to hold against the impact of other cultures. This echoes with a Chinese poem which goes, "When we eat the fruit, we think of the tree that bore it; when we drink water, we think of its source."2
We have to bear in mind the essence of Chinese culture, learn from foreign cultures, and look to the future. We need to complete a creative transformation in cultural inheritance, and try to surpass those from whom we learn. We hope to create excellent works that embody the essence of the Chinese culture, reflect the Chinese people's aesthetic pursuits, spread the values of contemporary China, and are in line with the world's progressive trends. We have to present our literature and art in the international arena with distinct Chinese features, in a distinctive Chinese style and Chinese ethos.
* Part of the speech at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Congress of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the Ninth National Congress of China Writers Association.
1 Lu Ji: The Art of Writing (Wen Fu). Lu Ji (261-303) was a writer and calligrapher of the Western Jin Dynasty.
2 Yu Xin: "Poems to the Tune of Zhi" (Zhi Diao Qu). Yu Xin (513-581) was a writer during the Northern and Southern Dynasties.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)