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[People] Man moved by history writing to move others
Latest Updated by 2007-04-19 15:16:33

MEI YI, senior manager with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, calls himself an "extreme nationalist" advocating traditional Chinese values and wishing China a prosperous future.

He is better known by his nickname "King Helianbobo" on the Internet, an amateur writer who has published 10 history books in less than three years. He will soon publish another book on Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (Taipingtianguo).

"I base my writing on the large number of history books I read and try to be objective. In the new book, I also include excerpts from diaries kept by people living in that era. Generals like Shi Dakai and Chen Yucheng were noble figures, while leader Hong Xiuquan had a keener interest in women rather than politics. Of the 500 poems he wrote, 490 were to teach concubines to give him fun. Reading the facts, people can make their own judgment about historical figures," Mei said in an interview Tuesday.

"I've often asked myself: Can literature and history move people, reveal to them some kind of truth, and change the way they live and think? Or, is writing an individual behavior that at best arouses their curiosity and sympathy?"

Anyway, Mei said that as a writer he has to shoulder the responsibility to act as "social conscience" and try to show people right and wrong from history.

"French historian Marc Bloch said, 'people tend to forget, but they've got a rich imagination.' History textbooks can be boring, but they are better than some contemporary biographies that distort facts and judge historical figures and events by their outcome. For some, victory is everything and the basic moral judgment is missing," he said.

The writer presents history by bringing out people's humanity, so that readers are not bored. Yet, his baseline is to respect history and obey the facts.

"I've often been moved by ancient heroes." Mei drove to Futian Village, Jiangxi Province during the May Day holiday last year to pay respect to Ming general Wen Tianxiang buried there.

"While the whole nation rushed to scenic spots, only five or six people went to the hero's memorial the day I visited. I was the only one to visit his tomb. I don't understand why some companies and wealthy people donate millions to build Buddhist temples, rather than do something to repair his tomb or build schools."

The writer believes many Chinese people were willing to give their lives to fight the Japanese invaders in the 1930s and 1940s because they had been inspired by the patriotism and heroism passed down by people like Wen Tianxiang.

"I believed in Western democracy when I was young. I majored in English literature, but that is not a spirit that can boost our nation. When the whole nation is paying tribute to Wen Tianxiang and our traditional values, the day will come for China to be really strong."

Mei first began to write about history in late 2003, much earlier than professor Yi Zhongtian who spoke about the Three Kingdoms (220-280) on TV. At that time, history was not a hot topic among the general public, unlike today. Mei wrote about the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), a chaotic period difficult to deal with.

"To me, it's a hobby reading classic Chinese texts and learning about history. Some people like mahjong, some like angling, and I take joy in reading and writing. I can read ancient books quite quickly thanks to my classical Chinese language skills. Some people write history based on books written by modern writers, who can easily misunderstand the original text and miss the basic facts. Those people cannot be trusted, like professors of comparative literature who cannot read the original text in English or French."

The writer said those who study history need to read a lot to pin down every detail, and make their own judgment.

"I first began to write history books in the hope that I could help readers make their own judgment about history. I didn't expect publishers to come to me and pay me for my work, since writing online is a sheer hobby," he said.

"Writing history is not translating classical Chinese texts into modern words. It is neither showing off of one's own knowledge. I observe the historical figures from the original texts and come up with my own way of explaining them."

But Mei is definitely not writing historical novels. "You can write 30,000 characters about how Emperor Qinshihuang went to bed using your imagination, however, there's no sense doing that. I love details, but they have to be interesting and significant details."

Before making his fame writing about history, Mei wrote short stories and novels, which he said was more about literature than history.

"Fiction is more literary certainly Shenzhen, which has given me the best memory of my youth, taught me a lot about life."

Sharing a 10-square-meter dorm room with a colleague, he spends many evenings chatting with friends in the dark, accompanying the conversation with peanuts.

"When I graduated from university and came to Shenzhen in 1993, my most precious properties were my translations of 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl.' I was happy then, because I had youth, innocence and a passion for literature. It's a time I miss."

After the book about Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, Mei will finish a novel set in Shenzhen.

"I will continue to write about Chinese history, since it's a rich mine with numerous topics to write about," he said.

Editor: Wing

By:Li Dan Source:Szdaily web edition
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