15 October 2014
Today, an ensemble of heroes has assembled here, the young and the old have come together, we have both old writers and old artists of noble character and high prestige, and have new literature and art talents who are bursting into the limelight, I know some comrades already well in the past, some comrades I’m meeting for the first time. I am very happy to see everyone.
The literature and art undertaking is an important undertaking of the Party and the people, the literature and art front is an important front for the Party and the people. For a long time, the broad literature and art workers have devoted themselves to literature and art creation, performance, research and dissemination, have been industrious and hardworking in their own areas, serving the people, they have obtained great achievements and made major contributions. Through everyone’s common efforts, our country’s literature and art garden contains hundreds of flowers competing and flowering, bringing forth innumerable achievements, they have presented a vivid vista of flourishing and development. I’d like to use this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to everyone, and extend my warmest respect to the literature and art workers nationwide.
I had thought about convening this meeting of today earlier, and only now has the opportunity arisen, I’d mainly like to listen to everyone’s opinions and suggestions, and analyse the situation and exchange ideas with everyone, as well as discuss the basic policy of literature and art flourishing and development in our country. Just now, a few comrades spoke very well, they have ideas, they have insights, and I have been greatly stimulated by listening to them. Next, I will present five issues, and discuss them with everyone.
The first issue: realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation requires the flourishing and prosperity of Chinese culture.
Why do we give such high regard to literature and art and literature and art work? This question must first and foremost be examined by bringing it into the larger picture of development of our country and the world. I have said that realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the Chinese people since the advent of modernity. Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any time in our history, and we have more confidence and more ability to realize this goal than at any time in history. But to realize this goal, we must give high regard and full rein to the important role of literature and art and literature and art workers.
Culture is an important force in the existence and development of a nation. Every leap forward in human society, every step up in human civilization, has invariably been accompanied by historical progress in culture. The Chinese nation has a civilization with a history of more than 5000 years, and until modernity, China consistently was one of the world’s strongest countries. During the historical current of a few millennia, the Chinese nation has never had plain and smooth sailing, it has encountered innumerable difficulties and hardships, but we have endured and overcome them, one major reason for this is that the sons and daughters of China of every generation have fostered and developed a Chinese culture with unique characteristics, which is wide-ranging and profound, this has provided a strong spiritual pillar for the Chinese nation to overcome difficulties across generations.
The German philosopher Jaspers wrote in his book “Vom Orsprung und Ziel der Geschichte” that [the period] from 800 BCE to 200 BCE was the “axis period” of human civilization, it was a period of major breakthroughs in human civilization and spirit, and civilizations of that time such as ancient Greece, ancient China and ancient India brought forth great thinkers, the ideas and principles that they put forward have created the traditions of different cultures, and have ever since influenced human lives. This is a very profound and insightful statement. Through the ages, the reason why the Chinese nation has had a position and influence in the world, was not through militarism and aggression, it was not through external expansion, but it was because of the strong inspiration and attraction of Chinese culture. Our ancestors understood very early on already that “when the people afar are unsupportive, bring them round and cultivate literature and virtue”. In elucidating the endowment of the Chinese nation, the characteristics of the Chinese nation and the spirit of the Chinese civilization, persuading people with virtue and changing people with culture have been very important elements.
History and reality both indicate that human civilization is created jointly by all nations in all countries in the world. Wherever I go and visit, the most intoxicating is the civilizational achievements of the people of all nations in all countries. Global civilization is brimming with treasure, and I will give some examples of countries and nations. Ancient Greece produced myths, fables, sculptures and building art with a profound influence on human civilization, the tragedies and comedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes are classics of Greek art. Russia has Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Nekrasov, Chernyshevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky, Sholokhov, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Repin and other such great masters. France has Rabelais, de la Fontaine, Moliere, Stendhal, Balzac, Hugo, Dumas pere, Dumas fils, Maupassant, Romain Rollans, Sartre, Camus, Millet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Rodin, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy and other such great masters. England has Chaucer, Milton, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Dickens, Hardy, Shaw, Turner and other such great masters. Germany has Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms and other such great master. America has Hawthorne, Longfellow, Madam Stowe, Whitman, Mark Twain, Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway and other such great master. I have recently visited India, and the Indian people also have extraordinary literature and art creative vitality, around 1000 BCE, they already created the four great compilations of the “Rig Veda”, the “Atharva Veda”, the “Sama Veda” and the “Yajur Veda”, at the time when Faxian and Xuanzang went on their pilgrimage to seek the scriptures, Indian poetry, dance, painting, religious architecture and sculpture had reached very high levels, and Tagore has had a global influence. Our country has even more, from Laozi, Confucius, Zhuangzi, Mencius, Qu Yuan, Wang Xizhi, Li Bai, Du Fu, Su Shi, Xin Qiji, Guan Hanqing and Cao Xueqin, to “Lu, Guo, Mao, Ba, Lao and Cao” (Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Mao Dun, Ba Jin, Lao She and Cao Yu), to Nie Er, Xian Xinghai, Mei Lanfang, Qi Baishi and Xu Beihong, from the Book of Odes and the Songs of Chu to Han poetry, Tang poetry, Song Poetry, Yuan verse as well as Ming and Qing novels, from the “Epic of King Gesar” and “Manas” to the “Jangar” epic, from the new culture movement of the May Fourth era and the establishment of the new China to the present period of reform and opening up, they have all brought forward literature and art masters that are as brilliant as the stars, and have left us with a body of literature and art masterpieces as vast as the sea, they have not only provided rich nourishment to the Chinese nation, they have also contributed resplendent chapters to global civilization.
History and reality both indicate that the Chinese nation has strong cultural creativity. At any important historical juncture, culture has sensed changes in the destiny of the nation, set the tide of the times and brought forth the trumpets announcing an age; it has been the drum and the cheer for hundreds of millions of people, and for the magnificent motherland. Chinese culture has both held fast to its roots and incessantly moved forward with the times, it has ensured that the Chinese nation has maintained a firm ethnic self-confidence and a strong capacity for renovation, it has fostered common sentiments and values, common ideas and spirits.
Without the flourishing and prosperity of Chinese culture, there will be no great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The rejuvenation of a nation requires major material strength, it also requires major spiritual strength. Without the vigorous guidance of advanced culture, without the great wealth of the people’s spiritual world, and without the incessant strengthening of the nation’s spiritual strength, a country and a nation cannot stand tall among the forest of the nations of the world.
Literature and art are the bugle call for the progress of the time, they are most able to represent the spirit of an age, and are most able to guide the customs of an age. “Changes in letters infect the ways of the world, rise and fall are tied to the order of an age” During the literary and artistic renaissance in Europe, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Da Vinci, Rafael, Michelangelo, Montaigne, Cervantes, Shakespeare and other literature and art giants have sounded the song of a new era, and opened up people’s souls. When talking about the literary and artistic renaissance, Engels said, this “is an age that called for giants and produced giants in power of thought, passion and character, in universality and learning.” In our country’s development history, cultural development including literature and art development equally is tightly bound up with the development of the Chinese nation. Before the Qin, our country saw the flourishing period of a hundred schools contending, which was a golden era in which our country’s ancient culture was founded. In the beginning of the 20th Century, during the new culture movement of the May Fourth era, an innovative spirit founded in the area of literature and art had a major influence on social change, and became a major driver for liberating the thoughts of the entire nation.
Now, the entire Party and the people of all ethnicities in the entire country are, according to the struggle objectives established by the 18th Party Congress and the reform tasks put forward at the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress, moving forward with the undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics step by step. To realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objectives and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is a major, long-term and arduous undertaking . A magnificent undertaking requires a magnificent spirit. In realizing this magnificent undertaking, the role of literature and art is irreplaceable, literature and art workers have a great role. The broad literature and art workers must understand the position and function of literature and art from this height, and understand the historical mission and responsibilities they have undertaken.
Mister Lu Xun said that in order to remould the spiritual world of our compatriots, we must first work on literature and art. Raising the spiritual banner, erecting spiritual pillars, building spiritual gardens, are inseparable from literature and art. As skyscrapers are being built as a forest across our country, the skyscraper of the spirit of the Chinese nature should also stand out majestically. Our country’s writers and artists should become the prophets, pathfinders and heralds of the mood of the age, they should manifest the beauty of belief and the beauty of sublimeness, carry forward China’s spirit and concentrate China’s forces, and inspire the people of all ethnicities in the entire country to become full of vigour and vitality and march towards the future through even more literature and art works that have muscles and bones, that have virtue and have a temperature, through writing down and recording the magnificent practice of the people and the progressive needs of the age,
The second issue: creating excellent works that live up to their times
“Articles should be written for their times, poems should be composed for events.” To weigh the literature and art achievements of an era, in the end, one must look at its writings. The most fundamental matter in promoting the flourishing and development of literature and art, is that it is necessary to create and produce excellent works that live up to this magnificent nation of ours and the magnificent times. Without excellent works, however lively and actively other affairs are conducted, they will only be superficial writings, they will not be able to truly penetrate the people’s spiritual worlds, they will not be able to touch people’s souls or guide and resonate with people’s thoughts. Literature and art workers should keep firmly in mind that creation is their central task works are the root of their position in society; they must concentrate and keep improving their creation, and offer the best spiritual nourishment to the people.
Excellent literature and art works reflect the cultural and creative abilities and levels of a country and a nation. To guide, lead and enlighten people, we must have good works, to promote Chinese culture’s marching out, we must also have good works. Therefore, we must see the creation and production of excellent works as the central link in literature and art work, strive to create and produce ever more excellent works that disseminate the values and ideas of current-day China, embody the spirit of Chinese culture, reflect the aesthetic pursuits of Chinese people, and organically integrate ideology, artistry and enjoy ability, we must create a trend of “robust writing, with a great energy in written works”. Excellent works are not limited to one style, or not shaped in one particular way, and are not defined by one single authority, there must be both spring snow [Note: metaphor for highbrow culture] and there must be rustic songs [Note: metaphor for popular culture], there must be works of colossal stature and indomitable spirit, and there must be works covering the sky and the earth. As long as something has positive energy and infectiousness, beautiful and tender spirits and enlightening wisdom, if it can be disseminated and remembered, if the popular masses love it, it is an excellent work.
Literature and art deeply merges in to people’s lives, in business and lives, favourable and adverse circumstances, dreams and expectations, loves and hates, life and death, in all aspects of human life, enlightenment can be sought in literature and art works. Literature and art has its greatest attraction, and its greatest influence, on the young. When I was young, I red quite a few literary works, I browsed all kinds of books that could be found then, which did not only include many splendid chapters and meaningful writings that remain fresh in my memory today, I have also come to learn much of life’s true meaning from them. Literature and art are the best methods for different countries and nations to build mutual understanding and communication. Last year in March, I visited Russia, and said when I held a conference with Russian Sinologists that I had read many works by Russian writers, for instance, after I read Chernychevsky’s “What Is to Be Done?”, a great shock was brought to my heart. When I visited France in March of this year, I talked about the influence of French literature and art on me, because many of the elder generations of our Party’s leaders went to France in pursuit of learning, and so when I was young, I had a strong interest in French literature and art. In Germany, I talked about the story of “Faust” that I read. At that time, I was in a production brigade in north Shaanxi, and heard speak of a young intellectual who had this book “Faust”, and so I walked 30 li to borrow this book, and afterwards, he walked 30 li to come and fetch this book back. Why did I mention these things abroad? Because literature and art are the language of the world, to discuss literature and art means to discuss society and human life, and it is the easiest way to build mutual understanding and communication between spirits.
Since reform and opening up, our country’s literature and art creation has welcomed a new springtime, resulting in the creation of large numbers of excellent works that are universally appreciated. At the same time, it can also not be denied that in the area of literature and art creation, it also happens that there is quantity but not quality, or that there are “high plateaus” but no “high peaks”, there are problems of plagiarism, imitation, and stereotypical writing, there are problems of mechanistic production and fast food-style consumption. In some works, there is ridicule of the noble, distortion of models, subversion of history, and vilification of the popular masses and heroic characters; some do not clearly divide right and wrong, or do not distinguish the beautiful and the ugly, they make the repulsive into the beautiful, and excessively play up the dark side of society; some look for oddities or hunt for women, they blindly appeal to vulgar tastes and base interests, they make works into “sources of quick money” in pursuit of profits, or as “ecstasy” for sensual provocation; some are scribbled recklessly, are produced in a rough and slipshod manner, give strained interpretation, and produce cultural “rubbish”;, some pursue extravagance, are excessively packaged and parade wealth, and make the form more important than content; some also hanker after so-called “art for art’s sake”, they only write about personal grievances and fondnesses, or storms in teacups, they are removed from the masses and removed from life. All things warn us that literature and art cannot lose its direction in the great tide of the market economy, and cannot deviate for whatever person’s problem, otherwise literature and art will not have vitality.
I have talked with a few artists, and asked them what the most prominent problems facing literature and art at present are, they coincidentally said the same word: impetuousness. Some people believe that if they repeatedly polish a work, they will not be able to timely change it into applied values, or they say they cannot timely change it into Renminbi, it’s not worth the expense. This attitude may not only mislead creation, it may also cause vulgar works to be widespread, resulting in the phenomenon where the base coin drives out the proper coin. Humanity’s literature and art development history demonstrates that an eager pursuit of quick success and profit, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, and doing things roughly and badly, not only harms literature and art, it also harms society’s spiritual life. Vulgarity is not popularity, desire does not represent hope, pure sensual pleasure is not equal to spiritual pleasure. Literature and art must win the people’s approval, this will not work through showy but impractical skill, opportunism, fishing for fame and compliments, self-praise or “a big sedan chair where people carry people”.
The reason why excellent works are “excellent”, lies in the fact that they contain profound thinking, their artistry is exquisite, and their production outstanding. “He whose goodness has been filled up is what is called beautiful man. He whose completed goodness is brightly displayed is what is called a great man.” From the past to the present, literature and art monuments are invariably the crystallization of full preparation, the glamour of literature and art invariably is the manifestation of its internal abundance. All works handed down from ancient times and eternal writings are inevitably works of calmness and perseverance, effort and care. Flaubert said that writing “Madame Bovary” “took five days to write a single page”, and that “the scene in the inn maybe took three months.” Cao Xueqin wrote “Dream of the Red Chamber” through “ten readings and five revisions.” It is exactly because this pursuit of diligence, and this spirit of continuous improvement, that good literature and art works can be forged.
“When you aim for the highest, you will at least become middling; when you aim for middling, you will fall low.” Achieve greatness through tolerance, be upright without selfish desires, show high ideals by frugal living, slow and steady wins the race. Generally speaking, magnificent writers and artists have a process of gradual advance, gradual realization and gradual completion. Literature and art workers must have noble ideals, which means that they must pursue “the path towards the horizon”, be able to endure the chill of “last night’s West wind withering the green trees” and the loneliness of “climbing the high tower alone”, even if “their clothes slowly become looser”, they “must have no regret”, even if “they become wan and thin”, their hearts must be happy, so as to achieve, in the end, the comprehension that “I have sought her across many miles, a hundred times”, “When all at once I turn my head, there she is, where lantern light is dimly shed.”
“Poems and songs follow the trends of the world, there is no day without something new.” Innovation is the life of literature and art. Some problems occurring in literature and art creation are quite connected to insufficient innovative abilities. I his “Classical Book of Literary Criticism”, Liu Xie repeatedly discussed how writers and poets must innovate in step with the life of the times, and stimulate innovation with their own art. The Tang Dynasty calligrapher Li Yong said: “Those who imitate me fall into convention, those who study me will be dead.” The Song poet Huang Tingjian said: “those who follow others will end up falling behind others, those who found their own school begin to become distinct.” Literature and art creation is the integration of ideas and methods and the profound innovation of content and form, it is a concentration of all kinds of artistic factors and technical factors, it is a linkage of minds and ideas. We must ensure that the spirit of innovation penetrates into the entire process of literature and art creation and production, and strengthen original literature and art creativity. We must persist in the principle of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend, carry forward academic democracy and artistic democracy, create a positive, healthy, relaxed and harmonious atmosphere, advocate full discussion between different viewpoints and schools, advocate the full development of carriers, materials, forms and methods, and promote mutual learning in terms of ideas, content, styles and fashions. Our country’s ethnic minorities can sing and are good at dancing, and have created various and colourful literature and art achievements for a long time, this is a treasure in our country’s literature and art, we must protect and develop it well, and let this blossom into ever more gorgeous splendour in our country’s literature and art garden.
To let literature and art creation flourish and to promote literature and art innovation, we must have a large batch of famous literators and artists endowed with both virtue and artistry. We must put the construction of literature and art troops into an even more prominent and important position, strive to foster a batch of influential leading literature and art characters in all areas, and build a line of mighty literature and art talent troops. Literature and art give people value guidance, spiritual leadership and aesthetic enlightenment, the ideological, professional and ethic qualities of literators and artists themselves are fundamental. Literature and art workers must consciously stick to their artistic ideals, incessantly raise their scholarship, self-cultivation and mastery, strengthen their ideological accumulation, knowledge gathering, cultural mastery and artistic training, and strive to ensure that we “catch the vast heaven and earth in image, and capture the myriad creatures into brushstrokes”. Apart from the fact that they must have good specialist mastery, they must also have a noble personality and bearing, and have a social sense of responsibility to “take up morality and justice on shoulders of iron.” Under the conditions of developing the Socialist market economy, they must also deal well with relations of interests, earnestly and strictly consider the social effect of their works, stress quality and artistic morality, bring a just wind to history, bring broad virtue to the people of the world, maintain an unimpeachable reputation for themselves, and strive to win the love and welcome of the people through noble professional integrity, a good social influence and excellent work with beauty in form and content.
Internet technology and new media have changed the circumstances of literature and art, and have fostered a batch of new literature and art forms, they have also brought profound change in literature and art ideas and literature and art practice. Because of the digitization of the written word, the picturification of books, the networking of reading and other such developments, literature and art and even social culture are facing a major transformation. We must adapt to the development of these circumstances, grasp online literature and art creation and production well, and strengthen positive guidance. In the past few years, people-run cultural offices, people-run cultural management bodies, online literature and art communities and other such new literature and art communities have grown greatly in number, online writers, contracted writers, free manuscript authors, independent film producers, independent performers and singers, free fin arts workers and other such new literature and art groups are extremely vibrant. It is very well possible that among these people, famous literators and artists will emerge, in the past and the present, and in China and the outside world, many literators and artists have emerged from society and among the people. We must broaden work coverage, extend and join arms, see them in a whole new light, use new polices and methods to unite and attract them, and guide them towards becoming effective forces for the flourishing of Socialist literature and art.
The third issue: persisting in a creative orientation with the people at the centre
Socialist literature and art, essentially speaking, is the literature and art of the people. In his Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art, Comrade Mao Zedong pointed out that: “The question of for whom, is a fundamental question, a question of principle.” Comrade Deng Xiaoping said: “Our literature and art belongs to the people”, “the people are the mothers of literature and art workers.” Comrade Jiang Zemin demanded that the broad literature and art workers “engage in the creation of literature and art within the people’s creation of history, and foster the progress of literature and art within the progress of the people.” Comrade Hu Jintao stressed that: “only by putting the people in a central and highest position, remaining together with the people forever, and persisting in the creative orientation of putting the people at the centre, will it be possible for the forest of literature and art to always remain green.”
The people are both the creators of history and the witnesses of history, they are both the “dramatis personae” of history, and the “librettists” of history. Literature and art must reflect well the hearts and voices of the people, and so must persist in this fundamental orientation of serving the people and serving Socialism. This is a basic task that the Party has put to the literature and art front, and is crucial in deciding the future destiny of our country’s literature and art undertaking. Only if we closely establish a Marxist literature and art view and truly ensure that the people are at the centre, will it be possible for literature and art to generate the greatest positive energy. Putting people at the centre means that we must make satisfying the people’s spiritual and cultural needs into a starting point and stopover point for literature and art, and literature and art work, make the people into the subjects of literature and art expression, make the people into connoisseurs and critics of literature and art aesthetics, and make serving the people into the vocation of literature and art workers.
First, the people need literature and art. The people’s demands are multi-faceted. To satisfy the people’s daily increasing material needs, we must grasp economic and social construction well, and increase the material wealth of society. To satisfy the people’s daily increasing spiritual and cultural needs, we must grasp cultural construction well, and increase society’s spiritual and cultural wealth. Material needs have first position, the most important thing is to be able to eat one’s fill, and therefore “the people see food as their heaven.” However, this is not to say that the people might go as well without the needs in their spiritual and cultural lives as with, the greatest difference between human societies and the animal kingdom is that people have spiritual needs, and people’s needs for spiritual and cultural lives have always existed.
Following the incessant rise in the people’s living standards, the people’s demands concerning the quality, style and manner of cultural products, including literature and art products, has also risen. Literature, theatre, film, television, music, dance, fine arts, photography, calligraphy, quyi, acrobatics, folk art, mass art and other such areas are all developing in step with the time, and grasping the needs of the people, excellent works that the people love to see and hear are created and produced with abundant fervour, lively brush strokes, exquisite melodies and moving images, which brings the people’s spiritual and cultural lives to ever higher steps.
Moreover, international society’s attention for China has also risen, they want to understand China, they want to understand the Chinese people’s worldview, view of life and value views, they want to know Chinese people’s views on nature, the world, history and the future, they want to know the gamut of emotions among the Chinese people, they want to know Chinese historical traditions, customs and habits, the characteristics of its nation, etc. It is far from sufficient to merely rely on news bulletins and official presentations in this matter, and to rely on foreign masses to come to China themselves to understand and feel it also has its limits. So literature and art are the best method of exchange, they may play an irreplaceable role in this area, a novel, an essay, a poem, a painting, a photo, a film, a television drama, a piece of music, can all provide a unique angle on understanding China to foreigners, and can attract people, infect people and move people with their own charm. Peking opera, folk music, calligraphy, traditional painting, etc., all are treasures of our country’s culture, and are all important channels for foreigners to understand China. Literature and art workers must tell China’s story well, spread China’s voice well, elucidate China’s spirit, display China’s bearing, and let foreign peoples deepen their knowledge and enhance their understanding of China through enjoying the works of Chinese writers and artists. We must propagate our country’s excellent culture and art to the world, let foreign masses feel its charm through the process of aesthetics, and deepen their knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture.
Second, literature and art needs the people. The people are the fountainhead of literature and art creation, whenever they are separated from the people, literature and art become a rootless duckweed, a hypochondriac moan, and a spiritless body. Lenin said: “Art belongs to the people. It must have its deepest base among the lowest layers of the labouring masses. It must understand and love these masses well. It must integrate the feelings, ideas and will of these masses, and raise them up. It must arouse artists from among the masses, and ensure that they can develop. There are literature and art resource layers among the people’s lives, and the people’s lives are an inexhaustible and endless creative fountainhead for literature and art.
The needs of the people are where the fundamental value for the existence of literature and art lies. Whether or not excellent works can be produced, depends most fundamentally on whether or not they are expressed for the people, express emotions for the people and express concern for the people. All literature and art works that made a stir in their own time and were passed down to successive generations reflected the needs of their times and the aspirations of the people. The famous literary writings that our country has incessantly passed down the generations are full of compassion for the fate of the people, concern for the grief and joy of the people, and display the profound sentiments of the people though exquisite art. The “Tan Song” collected in the “Poetry Source” that reflects ancient hunting activities, the “Seventh Month” in the “Book of Odes” that reflects the hard toil of peasants, the “Picking Roses” that reflects the life of soldiers of campaign, the “Call of the Osprey” that reflects youthful love life, the “Heavenly Questions” that explore the profound mysteries of the cosmos, the “Song of Mee Lar” that reflects nomadic life, the “Ballad of Mulan” that eulogizes female heroism, etc., all emerge from among the lives of the people. Qu Yuan’s “Heaving a long sigh, I brush away my tears, grieving for man’s life, so beset with hardship”, Du Fu’s “Could I get mansions covering ten thousand miles, I’d house all scholars poor and make them beam with smiles” or “Wine and meat rot behind vermilion gates while at the roadside people freeze to death”, Li Shen’s “Who knows that every grain in the bowl is the fruit of so much pain and toil?”, Zheng Banqiao’s “Petty official, I should try to play my part, to ease shivering leaf as sorrow-laden heart.”, etc., are also all works and phrases that profoundly reflect the aspirations of the people. The earliest literary work in the world, the “Gilgamesh” epic reflects the mood and emotions of the ancient people in Mesopotamia who sought for the laws of nature and the profoundest secrets of life and death. The “Homeric Hymns” praised the courage, justice, selflessness and industry of the people. The “Divina Commedia”, the “Decamerone”, “Gargantua and Pantagruel” and other such works mainly oppose the asceticism and obscurantism of the middle ages, and reflect the people’s fervent expectation of spiritual liberation. Because of this, only if literature and art is rooted in real life, and closely follows the tides of the times, will it be able to develop and flourish; only if it complies with the people’s desires and reflects the people’s concerns, will it be full of life.
The people are not abstract symbols, but individual concrete persons, they have flesh and blood, they have emotions, they have loves and hates, they have dreams, and they have conflicts and struggles in their hearts. It is impossible to replace the experiences of the people with one’s personal experiences, and so it is necessary to open-mindedly learn from the people and learn from life, to draw nourishment from the people’s magnificent practice and rich and varied lives, incessantly accumulate life and artistry, incessantly discover and create beauty. It is necessary to put the people’s daily lives and the people’s welfare central from beginning to end, to pour the people’s love, hate, grief and joy into one’s own inkwell, eulogize lives of struggle, depict the most beautiful characters, and strengthen the people’s yearning for and confidence in beautiful lives.
Mentioning this, I remember a certain thing. In 1982, the night before I went to work in Zhengding County in Hebei, some friends came to see me off, and one of them was the writer and playwright Wang Yuanjian from the August First Studios. He said to me, when you go to the countryside, you must be like Liu Qing, go deeply into the middle of the peasant masses, and integrate with the peasant masses. In order to deeply enter the peasants’ lives, Liu Qing, who had been appointed Deputy Secretary of the Chang’an County Commitee in Shaanxi, resigned from the Country Committee Deputy Secretary position but kept his position as a Standing Committee member, and went to live in Huangfu Village, he gained experience there for fourteen years, concentrated his energy and created “The Builders”. Because he profoundly understood the lives of peasants in Shaanxi’s central plains, the characters flowing from his pen were so lifelike. Liu Qing clearly understood the loves, hates, grievances and joys of his village folks, and when the Centre promulgated a policy concerning peasants in the countryside, he could immediately imagine in his mind whether or not the rural masses would be happy or unhappy about it.
Third, literature and art must deeply live the people. Whether or not there are emotions, and for whom there are emotions, decides the destiny of literature and art creation. If one does not love the people, it will be impossible to talk about creation for the people. Lu Xun was full of love for the people, revealing that the most famous verse in his heart was “Fierce-browed, I coolly defy a thousand pointing fingers. Head-bowed, like a willing ox I serve the children.” When I worked in Zhengding, Hebei, I got to know the writer Jia Dashan, who was also a writer who warmly loved the people. After he passed away, I wrote an article to commemorate him. The deepest impression he left on me was his concern about the nation and its people, “when he was in a remote place, he was concerned about his lord.” If literature and art workers want to be successful, they must consciously breathe together with the people, share their fates, connect with their hearts, they must be happy about what makes the people happy, worry about what worries the people, and be a Ru Ziniu of the people. This is the only correct path, and is the greatest happiness of writers and artists.
Deeply loving the people isn’t a slogan, it requires profound rational knowledge and concrete practical action. With regard to the people, we must love them sincerely, love them thoroughly, love them lastingly, and must therefore profoundly understand the rationale that the people are the creators of history, we must go deeply into the masses, go deeply into life, and sincerely and honestly become students of the people. When I say we must go deeply into life, it is the case that some comrades have already gone, but they only looked like a speeding horse looks at flowers, or touched upon them like a dragonfly on water, they haven’t brought their heart into it, and haven’t been truly touched. We must resolve this question of “for whom, relying on whom, who am I”, and so must tear down the walls of the “heart”, and must not only throw our bodies into it, but also our hearts and minds.
All literature and art innovation, in the final analysis, directly or indirectly stems from the people. “A grasp of mundane affairs is genuine knowledge, understanding of worldly wisdom is true learning.” Art can fly on the wings of imagination, but it must certainly have its feet firmly on the ground. There are hundreds, thousands of ways to create literature and art, but the most fundamental, most crucial and most reliable method is to lay a basis among the people and lay a basis in life. If Cao Xueqin hadn’t conducted a panoramic observation and microscopic analysis of social life at that time, he wouldn’t have been able to complete such a huge, encyclopaedia-scale writing project such as the “Dream of the Red Chamber”. If Lu Xun hadn’t been well versed in the plight and mood of the lower-class masses before and after the Xinhai Revolution, he wouldn’t have been able to create such lifelike characters as Xiang Linsao, Run Tu, Ah Q, Kong Yiji, etc.
Locked up in an ivory tower, it is impossible to have long-lasting literature and art inspiration and creative fervour. A Soviet poet described the embarrassing state of writers sat in their rooms racking their brains, unable to write out the things in their heart, as “drawing lines in the water with their fingernails”. We must plumb the depths of life, understand the essence of life among the people, and gain a through understanding of the true reality of life. Only if we thoroughly ruminate over life, and completely digest it, will we be able to change it into profound stories and moving images, will the words we create be able to touch people’s hearts. As it is said: “Seeking a telling line with a closed door is not a way to write poetry, only through the journey can poetry arise.” All creative techniques and methods, in the end, serve content, they are in order to talk about people, events and ideas more clearly, more uniquely and more incisively. If this principle is violated, techniques and methods have no more value, and it may even be the case that negative effects result.
Naturally, is isn’t the case that prosperous scenes and colourful images await at every juncture of life, there are still many aspects of society that are not as one would wish, and some vile phenomena exist. It is not the case that we must not reflect these phenomena, but we must resolve well the question of how to reflect them. The ancients said, “joy without wantonness, sorrow without injury” and “beginning with emotions, ending with ritual and virtue”. If literature and art creation is only pure recording and description of the status quo, and the first-hand display of hideousness, there would be no eulogising of the light, not expression of ideals, no guidance of morality, and so it would be impossible to inspire the people to progress. We should use a realist spirit and romantic feelings to shine light on real life, use the light to dispel darkness, use the beautiful and good to vanquish the ugly and the bad, let people see beauty, see hope, and see that their dreams are ahead.
A good work should be a work that can stand up to evaluation by the people, evaluation by experts and testing by the market, it should put social effect first, and should at the same time also organically integrate social effect and economic effect. Under the conditions of developing a Socialist market economy, many cultural products must realize their value through the market, and naturally, we cannot completely ignore economic effect. Even so, in comparison with social effect, economic effect is of secondary importance, when a contradiction arises between the two effects, between the two kinds of value, economic effect must give way to social effect, and market value must give way to social value. Literature and art cannot be a slave of the market, they must not be tarred with the stink of money. Excellent literature and art works, at best are able to gain success ideologically and artistically, as well as to become welcomed in the marketplace. We must hold fast to the aesthetic ideals of literature and art and maintain the unique values of literature and art, we must rationally set up quantitative indicators that reflect the extent of market acceptance including circulation volumes, viewing rates, click rates, box office income, etc., we can neither overlook or deny these indicators, nor can we absolutize these indicators, and be led by the nose of the market.
Some comrades say that heaven is the heaven of the world, but the earth is the earth of China, only if we keep our eyes on the most advanced aspects of humankind, and at the same time sincerely face up to the lived reality of the Chinese people at present, will we be able to provide China’s experience to humankind, and will our literature and art be able to contribute a distinctive voice and colour to the world. What they say makes sense. The progress of the civilization of the Chinese national across 5000 years, the bloody struggle of national independence and the people’s liberation of the Chinese people since the advent of modernity, the magnificent process of revolution, construction and reform that the Chinese people underwent under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the profound changes of ancient China and the extremely rich production and life of the 1.3 billion Chinese people provide an extremely fertile soil for literature and art creation, and there are too many things that merit being written about. As long as we remain together with the people, we will certainly be able to obtain infinite strength from the mother that is our homeland.
The fourth issue: the Chinese spirit is the soil of Socialist literature and art
Recently, I have focused on stressing the issue of fostering and practicing the Socialist core value view. In February of this year, the Central Committee Politburo dedicated a collective study session especially to fostering and carrying forward the Socialist core value view, I gave a speech, which put forward demands to all of society. On May Fourth, Youth Day, I went to Peking University, to discuss this issue with university teachers and students. At the end of may, I was in Shanghai to inspect work, and put forward demands to leading cadres concerning carrying forward and practicing the Socialist core value view. On the eve of the 1 June Children’s Day, I was at a conference in the Nationalities Primary School in Beijing’s Haidian District, where I talked about this issue. In the beginning of June, I also put forward demands in this area to the academicians at the Two Academies Conference. In September, the day before Teacher’s Day, I went to Beijing Normal University to talk with teachers and students, and again stressed this issue. Today, I also want to put forward demands on this matter to the literature and art circles, because literature and art has a unique role in fostering and carrying forward the Socialist core value view.
Every era has its spirit of the times. I have already said that to realize the Chinese Dream, we must march a Chinese path, carry forward a Chinese spirit and concentrate Chinese forces. A core value view is a spiritual link on which a national depends for its cohesion, and is a country’s common ideological and moral basis. Without a common core value view, a nation or a country will have an indeterminate soul, and nothing to rely on in its actions. Why has the Chinese national been able to proliferate across generations, pass the torch and develop indomitably for thousands of years? One very important reason is that the Chinese nation has a spiritual pursuit, spiritual characteristics and spiritual veins that all draw back to the same root.
Since reform and opening up, our country’s economy has developed rapidly, and people’s living standards have also risen rapidly. At the same time, our country’s society is in an era of great ideological leaps, great collisions of ideas, and a great mingling of culture, and quite a few issues have emerged. One relatively prominent problem among them is that some people have lost their value views, they don’t have a sense of right and wrong, they don’t have behavioural baselines, they dare do all kinds of things that violate Party discipline and national law, they dare do all kinds of unscrupulous misdeeds, they don’t have a sense about the country, a sense about the collective or a sense about the household, they don’t concern themselves with right and wrong, they don’t consider good and bad, they don’t know the beautiful from the ugly, they don’t distinguish fragrance from stink, they are muddleheaded and indulge in wanton extravagance. All kinds of problems that emerge in present society have this as their root cause. If the problems in this area are not effectively resolved, it will be difficult to progress smoothly with reform, opening up and Socialist modernization construction.
We have stressed throughout that only if the two civilizations are done well will we have Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Comrade Deng Xiaoping admonished us: if the atmosphere gets worse, what good is having economic success? It will get worse in a different area! Because of this, we must forcefully carry forward and practice the Socialist core value view in all of society, ensure that, like air, there is no place it doesn’t penetrate, and no time at which it does not apply, that it becomes a common value pursuit for all of the people, becomes a unique spiritual pillar for us to live as Chinese people, and becomes a behavioural norm that the common people use daily without being conscious. We must call all of society to action, and ensure that the Socialist core value view is internalized by the people as a value pursuit, and externalized into conscious action, through education and guidance, public opinion propaganda, cultural influence, cultivation in practice, institutional guarantees, etc.
Literature and art are projects to engineer souls, literature and art workers are engineers of the soul. Good literature and art works should be like the sun on a blue day, or a crisp spring breeze, they should be able to stimulate ideas, warm hearts and souls, and mould people’s lives, they should be able to clear away winds of dispiritedness and listlessness. “All texts handed down from ancient times, must first have a soul that can be handed down.” The broad literature and art workers must hold high the banner of the Socialist core value view, fully understand the responsibility on their shoulders, reflect the vivid dynamism and liveliness of the Socialist core value view in literature and art creation, use lifelike works and images to tell people what should be affirmed and praised, and what should be opposed and denied, like a fresh spring rain, that soundlessly moistens everything. At the same time, literature and art circles contain many well-known individuals, with considerable social influence, everyone must not only pursue brilliance in literature and art creation, they must also pursue excellence in ideological and moral cultivation, and must certainly personally practice the Socialist core value view, striving to ensure that they are models in words and examples in deeds.
In the Socialist core value view, the most profound, fundamental and eternal matter is patriotism. Patriotism is a topic that is often written about and often is renewed. Works that contain the feelings of a country are most able to call the sons and daughters of China to unite in struggle. Fan Zhongyan’s “fear first the things the Empire fears, be joyful when the Empire is joyful”, Lu You’s “when the Emperor’s troops seize the central plains, don’t forget to tell your father at the family funeral”, “even though one’s own position is humble, one should never forget the responsibility of concern for the country and its people”, and “in the dead of night, I am lying on my bed and hear the sound of the wind and the rain, and dream that I am riding an armoured horse across a frozen river to go and do battle on the Northern Border”, Wen Tianxiang’s “Who in history has lived but not died? I seek to leave a history of loyalty and patriotism”, Lin Zexu’s “If my life or death would be to the benefit of the country, I would not flee for fear of the harm that might befall me”, Yue Fei’s “Whole Red River”, Fang Zhimin’s “Beloved China”, etc., all sing loudly of their passion for the motherland. Our contemporary literature and art must ever more make patriotism into the main melody of literature and art creation, guide the people in establishing and upholding correct view of history, views of the nation, views of the country and views of culture, and strengthen the backbone and confidence of the Chinese people.
The pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful is the eternal value of literature and art. The highest plane of literature and art is to move people, to let the people’s souls be baptized, to let people discover the beauty of nature, the beauty of life and the beauty of their souls. The reason why the short poem “Traveller’s Song” has been handed down or a millennium, lies in the fact that it vividly celebrates the magnificence of a mother’s love. When Su Dongpo praised Han Yu: “His prose stirred up the weakness of the previous eight generations, the way he upheld relieved the weakness of the Empire”, he meant to say that from Sima Qian until Han Yu, writing had declined across eight generations. Why did Han Yu’s writing emerge? Because of his “Way”, writing served to convey the true path. We must transmit the true, the good and the beautiful through literature and art works, transmit upwards and benevolent value views, guide the people in strengthening their ability for moral judgment and their sense of moral honour, to seek and pursue virtue, respect virtue, live in observance of virtue. As long as the Chinese nation pursues the moral plane of the true, the good and the beautiful generation after generation, our nation will forever be healthy, upward and brimming with hope.
Literature and art creation must not only bring the reality of contemporary life, it must also contain the blood vessels of cultural tradition. “Those who would seek to grow a tree, must firm up its roots; those who wish to lengthen a stream, must dredge open its source.” China’s excellent traditional culture is the spiritual lifeblood of the Chinese nation, it is an important source to nourish the Socialist core value view, and it is the firm bases for us to stand firm in the surge of global culture. Strengthening cultural self-consciousness and self-confidence is a necessary matter in order to strengthen self-confidence in the path, self-confidence in theory, and self-confidence in the system. If we “respect things if they are foreign”, “find things beautiful if their are founding” or “only find the foreign worth following”, make the winning of foreign prizes into the highest pursuit, and slavishly imitate others by walking behind them in a ludicrous attempt at copying, if we hanker after “de-ideologization”, “de-valuization”, “de-historification”, “de-Sinification”, and “de-mainstreaming”, we will have absolutely have no future! In fact, foreigners have also run to us in search of material, in search of inspiration, aren’t Hollywood films such as “Kung Fu Panda” and Mu Lan” sourced from our cultural resources?
The Chine nation has fostered and shaped unique ideological ideas and moral norms over a long period of practice, there are ideas on worshipping love and benevolence, valuing the values of people, upholding sincerity and honesty, stressing dialectics, holding harmony in great esteem, pursuing the Grand Harmony and other such ideas, there are traditional virtues such as continuous self-strengthening, respecting work and enjoying the masses’ company, upholding justice and carrying forth the good, helping those in difficulty, being ready to battle for justice, respecting the old and loving family, etc. China’s excellent traditional culture contains many ideological ideas and moral norms, regardless of whether they come from the past or the present, they all have value that will never fade. We must integrate the conditions of the new age with inheriting and carrying forward China’s excellent traditional culture, and inheriting and carrying forward the spirit of Chinese aesthetics. Chinese aesthetics stress expressing ideas through the description of things, letting sentiment reside within reason, stress conciseness, comprehensiveness and moderation, stress the combination of body and mind and a profound state of mind, and stress the integration of knowledge, sentiment, thought and action. We must hold fast to the standpoint of Chinese culture, inherit China’s cultural genes, and display China’s aesthetic bearing.
Inheriting Chinese culture absolutely does not mean a simplistic return to the past, nor does it mean blind parochialism, rather it means using the past to serve the present, using the foreign to serve China, discriminately accepting and rejecting things, weeding out the old to bring forth the new, abandoning negative factors, inheriting positive thoughts, “using the norms of the ancients to initiate a new creative dimension for oneself, and realizing the creative transformation and innovative development of Chinese culture.
Even so, as we stress carrying forward the Socialist core value view, inheriting and carrying forward the excellent traditional culture of the Chinese nation, and persisting in and carrying forward the Chinese spirit, we do not reject studying and learning from excellent global cultural achievements. For our Socialist literature and art to flourish and develop, we must earnestly study and learn from the excellent literature and art created by the people of all countries in the world. Only by persisting in using the foreign for China’s benefit, pioneering and innovation, combining Chinese and western content, and mastering this through comprehensive study will it be possible for our country’s literature and art to flourish and develop. In fact, since modernity, the exchange and mutual earning between our country’s literature and art and global literature and art has advanced continuously. Vernacular writing, ballet, orchestral music, oil painting, film, theatre, modern novels, modern music, etc., are all achievements created by learning from the outside world and national creation. Mr Lu Xun and other progressive writers translated a large amount of works introducing foreign progressive literature back in the day. After the establishment of the New China, we studied and learned from Soviet Union literature and art, such as Plekhanov’s artistic theory and Stanislavsky’s performance system, as well as Soviet ballet and film, the famous Soviet dancer Ulanova as well as some famous Soviet actors and directors came to visit China. This sort of study and learning has played a major stimulating role for our country’s Socialist literature and art development in the early period after the foundation of the country. After reform and open up, our country’s literature and art studied and learned from global literature and art ever more broadly. Now, the situation is the same, many artistic forms originate from abroad, such as rap music and street dance, but as long as the popular masses like it, we should have it, and endow it with healthy and upward content.
The world of today is an open world, art must also compete in international markets, without competition, there can be no vitality. For instance in the area of film, through market competition, foreign films have not defeated our domestically produced films, instead, they have stimulated an increase in the quality of domestic films, which have developed through market competition and have even stronger competitiveness.
The fifth issue: strengthening and improving Party leadership over literature and art
Party leadership is the fundamental guarantee for the development of Socialist literature and art. The Party’s fundamental purpose is to serve the people wholeheartedly, the fundamental purpose of literature and art is also to create for the people. Having grasped this starting point, the relationship between the Party and literature and art can be correctly handled, and it is possible to correctly grasp the relationship between the Party nature and the people’s nature, and the relationship between political standpoints and creative freedom.
To strengthen and improve Party leadership over literature and art work, we must grasp two matters: first, we must firmly rely on the broad literature and art workers, second, we must respect and abide by the laws of literature and art. All levels’ Party Committees must, from the height of building a strong Socialist culture country, strengthen their cultural consciousness and cultural self-confidence, bring literature and art work into the important matters agenda, implement the Party’s literature and art principles and policies well, and grasp the correct orientation of literature and art development. They must choose and allocate leading cadres in literature and art work units well, and put those cadres that have both virtue and ability, who can be on the same page as literature and art workers in leading positions in literature and art works. They must respect the creative individuality and creative labour of literature and art workers, have full trust in them politically, enthusiastically support them creatively, and create a conducive environment for literature and art creation. They must sincerely and honestly make friends with literature and art workers, have concern for their work and life, listen to their voices and desires. They must give high regard to the construction and management of the literature and art battlefield, strengthen their responsibility to protect the territory, and absolutely not provide dissemination channels for harmful literature and art. All levels’ propaganda and culture departments must, under the leadership of Party Committees, realistically strengthen guidance over and support for literature and art work, strengthen guidance and unity for literature and art workers, and make vigorous contributions to promoting the flourishing and development of literature and art. The Cultural Federation and the Writers’ Association must fully give rein to their strengths, strengthen sectoral service, sectoral management and sectoral self-discipline, and truly become homes for literature and art workers.
Now, the targets, methods, means and mechanisms of literature and art work are encountering many new circumstances and characteristics, great changes are occurring in the styles of literature and art creation and production, as well as the aesthetic demands of the popular masses, literature and art product dissemination methods and mass acceptance and appreciation habits have also seen great change. With regard to traditional literature and art creation, production and dissemination, we have a set of mature systems, mechanisms and management methods, but we lack effective management means and methods for new literature and art forms. In this area, we must keep pace with the rhythm, and work hard to research and resolve the matter. We must, through deepening reform, perfecting policies and completing mechanisms, create a vivid dimension for the incessant production of excellent works and emergence of talent.
We must give high regard to and realistically strengthen literature and art criticism work. Literature and art criticism is a mirror, and a good medicine for literature and art creation, it is an important force for guiding creation, producing more excellent works, raising aesthetics and guiding fashions. Literature and art criticism must be criticism, it cannot all be braise or even vulgar flattery and fawning, we cannot mechanically apply Western theory to prune Chinese people’s aestheticism, and we can certainly not use simple commercial standards to replace artistic standards, completely equate literature and art works to commercial products, and believe that “the thickness of a red envelope is equal to the height of praise”. If the role of literature and art criticism in distinguishing good and bad weakens, and if there is a lack of fighting strength and persuasiveness, it will not benefit the healthy development of literature and art.
The more truth is debated, the more it becomes clear. If there isn’t one whit of a critical spirit, if there is only praise and self-praise, flattery and self-flattery, spin and self-spin, there is no literature and art criticism! Gold cannot be pure, man cannot be perfect, where is there a completely perfect thing under heaven? Good medicine tastes bitter but cures illness, true words grate the ear but benefit actions. Only if there is true criticism, it will be possible for our literature and art works become ever better. Literature and art criticism requires praise for the good and castigation of the bad, eliminating the bad and exalting the good, it is as Lu Xun said, critics must do the work of “scooping out a rotten apple”, “scooping out the rot and keeping the good part to eat”. It cannot be the case that because of friendship, because we see each other regularly, we feel embarrassed, and don’t dare to criticise. Writers and artists must dare to face critics criticizing the shortcomings in their works, deal with them in a respectful manner, and be happy to receive criticism. They must take the Marxist theory of literature and art as guidance, inherit and innovate the outstanding heritage of critical theory concerning classical Chinese literature and art, critically learn from modern Western literature and art theories, polish well this “scalpel” of criticism, keep the steering wheel of literature and art criticism well, use historical, popular, artistic and aesthetic viewpoints to criticize and praise works, dare to seek truth from facts concerning artistic qualities and levels, dare to declare their stand with regard to all kinds of harmful literature and art works, phenomena and thinking trends, dare to make their position clear on great questions of right and wrong, speak the truth, speak reason, and create a conducive atmosphere for the launch of literature and art criticism.
Comrades! “One must know when the East wind comes, spring turns into a dazzling display of colours.” The Party Centre has placed great hopes on literature and art work and literature and art workers. We hope that the literature and art front and the broad literature and art workers do not let down the summon of the times ad do not let down the expectations of the people, that they create ever better and ever more excellent literature and art works, and make new and even greater contributions to promoting the grand development and flourishing of culture, and constructing a strong Socialist culture country!