News / Asia

China's Mo Yan Wins Nobel Literature Prize

Chinese writer Mo Yan smiles during an interview at his house in Beijing December 24, 2009. Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel prize for literature on October 11, 2012 for works which the awarding committee said had qualities of
Chinese writer Mo Yan smiles during an interview at his house in Beijing December 24, 2009. Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel prize for literature on October 11, 2012 for works which the awarding committee said had qualities of "hallucinatory realism".
VOA News
Chinese author Mo Yan has won the Nobel Prize in Literature for work that the prize committee says has qualities of "hallucinatory realism."

The Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday announced the winner of the prestigious prize, which is worth $1.2 million.

"The Nobel Prize in literature for 2012 is awarded to the Chinese writer Mo Yan, who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary,'' said Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund.

Englund said the academy contacted Mo before the prize was announced.

"He said he was overjoyed and scared," Englund said.

Mo is the first Chinese national to win the Nobel literature prize, but he is not the first Chinese-language writer to do so.  A Chinese emigre to France, Gao Xingjian, won in 2000.  His works criticize China's communist government and have been banned in China.   

Premier Chinese author

Mo is one of China's top contemporary authors.  His writings draw on his youthful experiences and on settings in the region where he was born - Shandong province in northeastern China.

2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

Mo Yan


  • Born in 1955, grew up in Shandong province in northeastern China.
  • First short story published in a literary journal in 1981.
  • Breakthrough work was Touming de hong loubo, first published in Chinese in 1986.
  • Seen as one of the foremost contemporary authors in China.
  • The Royal Swedish Academy said his work "with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."
This is apparent in his 1987 novel, Hong Gaoliang Jiazu, which was published in English as Red Sorghum in 1993.  The book is about the brutal violence that plagued the eastern China countryside during China's Communist Revolution in the 1920s and 1930s.  It includes depictions of bandit culture, Japanese occupation and the harsh conditions endured by farm workers. 

That story was later made into an acclaimed movie by leading Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

His other significant works include Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Republic of Wine and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.

The Royal Swedish Academy compared him to two other notable authors of the 20th century, American William Faulkner and Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition," the academy said in a statement.  "In addition to his novels, Mo Yan has published many short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors."

Mo Yan is a pen name that means "Don't Speak."

Studied literature in 1970s

The 57-year-old author, whose real name is Guan Moye, was born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in Shandong province.  His parents were farmers.  As a 12-year-old during China's Cultural Revolution, he left school to work, first in agriculture and later in a factory.

In 1976, he joined China's People's Liberation Army and began to study literature and write.

His first short story was published in a literary journal in 1981.  His breakthrough came in 1986 with the novella Touming de Hong Luobo, published in French as Le Radis de Cristal in 1993.

Nobel prize announcements began on Monday, with the medicine award going to stem cell researchers John Gurdon of Britain and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka. Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the physics prize on Tuesday for work on quantum particles.

Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka won the chemistry prize on Wednesday.

The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Fake, Substandard Medicines Pose Global Challenge

So-called 'fake drugs' include expired medicines, those with manufacturing defects, and bogus tablets More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs