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How math made him a better writer

By Mei Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-07 07:19

Liu Zhenyun, best-seller author [Photo provided to China Daily]

Writer Liu Zhenyun was the top scorer on Henan province's national college entrance exam in 1978.

Many other celebrities have also topped the exam over the years.

Li Yanhong from Baidu did well in 1987 when he was among the top examinees in Yangquan city, Shanxi province, and Liu Qiangdong from JD.com shone in 1992 in Suqian city, Jiangsu province.

"The exam offers a window and a new opportunity in life, and I wanted to seize the chance," says Liu Zhenyun, recalling how he quit the army to appear for the examination.

The memory was so intense for him that in 1987 he published his debut novella, Tapu.

It's a story about young people in a village preparing for the exam-some succeed and some fail.

The novella was well received and launched his writing career.

Liu Zhenyun worked hard for the exam in his village in Yanjin county in Xinxiang, Henan province.

"I was very good at math. It helped me to score highest marks in my province," he says.

He says that math made him logical and sensitive to details, which are key qualities for storytelling and for writers to see through the mist in their search for the truth.

"Math helps me to deal with the connections between sentences and paragraphs," he says.

Liu Zhenyun is the author of the Mao Dun Literature Prize-winning novel One Sentence Worth Ten Thousand and I Did Not Kill My Husband, both best-sellers with film or TV adaptations.

Speaking about the impact of the exam on his life and writing, he says: "What it gave me was the chance to go to Peking University, which had a far-reaching influence on me, because at the time I was there the literary masters were alive and teaching there."

The university's Chinese literature department at that time had influential scholars from the May Fourth Movement like Wang Yao (1914-89); and founders of modern Chinese linguistics like Wang Li (1900-86); and Wu Zuxiang (1908-94).

"They changed me from the village writer I could have been, giving me a different perspective," says Liu Zhenyun.

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