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Longtime writer celebrates debut novel

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-21 07:10

Culture writer Yu Qiuyu is enjoying a treat he hasn't experienced for a while: He was in the limelight for his writing.

Last week, he was surrounded by journalists and readers. His publisher, Beijing Motie Book Co, hosted the event to announce Yu's first novel, Bing He, or Icy River.

However, Yu, 68, denied that he wrote the novel only recently.

"I've been writing all kinds of essays and plays for more than 40 years, and have had many experiences in academic research, public speaking, education and writing," Yu says.

"It is not like I suddenly want to write a novel when I get old. My life is colorful and I have never ceased the practice of writing in the past decades."

Yu has been largely out of the public eye since 2008, when the well-known writer was accused of not fulfilling his donation promise to earthquake victims. At the press event last week he emphasized he had been living under "wrong" media reports in recent years, and at a separate lecture, Yu said the accusation was a "slander".

Longtime writer celebrates debut novel

Yu rose to fame in the 1990s through publishing best-selling, information-dense travelogue-style books, and later became an authority on cultural subjects.

He is also a prominent scholar on theatrical art. His wife, Ma Lan, is a traditional Chinese Huangmei opera artist, and her signature repertoire includes The Emperor's Female Son-in-Law (Nyu Fuma).

The novel, released by China's largest private publishing company, is set in ancient times, and centers on a young, beautiful and talented woman, Meng He, who leaves home to look for her biological father, but chances to win the highest Imperial examinations.

With help from a princess, Meng avoids punishment from the emperor when she reveals her real gender, finds her father, and marries her true love, a young intellectual man who was badly injured while saving people trapped in an icy river.

The book ends happily when the protagonist makes a living out of a ferry with her husband.

Readers can see in the novel influences of some Chinese classics that also center on women's fates: A Dream of Red Mansions, The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting), and The Emperor's Female Son-in-Law (Nyu Fuma). Yu says he wants to express "the beautiful strength of life that once appeared in history".

Yu says among all the characters, he loves Meng the most.

"The protagonist Meng He has not only a beautiful face but also a beautiful heart. She bravely endures whatever fate brings about to her, and takes responsibilities to help others," Yu says.

"There are all kinds of obstacles and difficulties in life, but there are also beautiful things and beautiful people ... I grew up in times of scarcity in the countryside, and met with lots of such kind of beautiful women in childhood."

The novel is also a metaphor, Yu says, through which he wants to note that the evolution of history is like a river, which sometimes gets frozen and blocked but brave people will dredge.

Representatives for the publisher tell China Daily they are confident the book will be a hit with readers, thanks to Yu's prominence and talent as a writer. Beijing Motie Book Co has distributed 150,000 copies.

On, one of the most popular book shopping website in China, the book has gotten more than 800 comments, but some readers complain that the novel lacks any unexpected twists, although the writing is clear and imaginative.

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