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Words turn small town lifestyle into a big story

By Fang Aiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-26 07:42
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Writer Lin Peiyuan speaks at a lecture during the recent 2020 Shanghai Book Fair. [Photo provided to China Daily]

His word keeps his world relevant. Author Lin Peiyuan, 32, observes the intricacies, history, character, old-fashioned charm and foibles of his hometown in South China's Guangdong province. He peppers his work with the salty, wet atmosphere of the small town by the sea. He uses local-dialect phrases to tell a story of universal humanity.

Xiaozhen Shenghuo Zhinan (A Guide to Small Town Living) published recently, comprising 10 short stories concerning the author, is a case in point. It is an intense example of self-observation written with panache.

The cultural and linguistic region Lin's works repeatedly evoke is often referred to as Chaoshan. This is an amalgamation of the cities Chaozhou, Jieyang and Shantou, or Swatow, at the southeast side of the province.

The region, across the straits from Taiwan, sits on the Tropic of Cancer and has moderate weather. It is located between a Cantonese-speaking region and Hakka dialect area, and therefore shares their cultural conventions.

Historically, it was a hub of international trade and, not entirely separate, a launchpad for many Chinese to seek their fortune overseas.

As hit TV series The Bad Kids and local indie bands, such as Jiulian Zhenren and Wutiaoren, have become popular, Chinese audiences are paying greater attention to the dialects, traditions, dwelling styles and the ornate arcaded streets of small cities and towns in Guangdong. They provide a tantalizing glimpse of yesteryear.

"Our local culture used to be framed by that of North and Northeast China in terms of media exposure," Lin says.

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