Shanghai Writers Association Holds “Post 80s Generation” Writers Workshop

Writers Born & Raised In China’s Post-Economic Reform Period Seen As More Business Savvy, Less Traditional

Han Han, China's most popular blogger, is one of the country's most well-known "post-80s writers."

Han Han, China's most popular blogger, is one of the country's most well-known "post-80s writers."

China’s “post-80s generation” — individuals who were born and raised in the 1980s and have no personal recollection of the days before Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms of the late ’70s and early ’80s — is a frequent topic on English- and Chinese-language news sites and blogs.As these individuals come of (consumer) age and join the workforce en masse, this discussion has only increased. Jing Daily has looked at the “post-80s generation” (80后代) before, discussing their growing love of lavish weddings, and interest in street art and avant-garde fashion, but this week the Chinese press pointed out another unique aspect of the Chinese post-80s generation: their literature.

People with an interest in contemporary Chinese literature have likely heard of popular post-80s writers like Han Han — whose blog is the most widely read in the world, though virtually all of his regular readers are based in China (or can, at least, read Chinese) — but there are thousands of aspiring writers in the country looking to further hone their craft. However, unlike in countries like the United States, writing workshops are currently few and far between in China. This week in Shanghai, some of these post-80s writers got a chance to take part in a unique writing workshop organized by the Shanghai Writers Association and Shanghai Literature News, giving them a chance to learn from experienced writers and publishers.

From the Oriental Morning Post (translation by Jing Daily team):

10 years ago new concepts at a writing competition spelled the creation of a new young writers’ group, the “post-80s writers.” Today, the post-80s generation is no longer a bunch of youngsters, and the works they’re writing nowadays are completely different from those they wrote back then, but the impressions and criticism of the the outside world about the post-80s writers remains stuck in the past. So what can we say about the post-80s writers?

Yesterday, the Shanghai Writers Association and Shanghai Literary News co-sponsored the “post-80s writers workshop” at Wen Xin Tower, in an attempt to better understand this group of writers. Although literary scholars want to redefine their impressions of the post-80s writers, the writers themselves just want others to see them as a valid literary group. In this way, their situation isn’t that different from previous generations of writers.

“Melancholy,” “narcissistic,” “decadent,” “immature,” “whiny,” “nonsensical” — these are some of the labels others have given to the work of post-80s writers. What really surprises many post-80s writers is that criticism about their work by others seems to be stuck in the past, [when they were still young writers.] They’re not young anymore, and they’re no longer writing about their youth or school days. Their work has matured greatly. However, the criticism has not changed.

Nonetheless, as this group has grown and matured, it has shown itself to be quite different from previous generations…As Beijing University professor Zhang Yisu said, “The development of post-80s writers depends greatly on the commercial print market and the Internet.”

The rise of the consumer market for literature is, to a certain extent, separated from the social consciousness of post-80s writers, something that sets them apart from previous generations of writers and something that represents an about-face from the [traditional] Chinese literary structure. As professor Yang — one of the judges of the “New Concept Composition Content” at East China Normal University — said, “Literature organized by the will of the state, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be after the 1970s, but this doesn’t mean the literary structure in itself has come to an end. The support that they (post-80s writers) have gotten from the market has been growing. And having a market is the most potent symbol — Han Han is a good example of this, so is Guo Jingming. It’s hard to gauge literary achievement, but they have a very symbolic thing — a market.”

Actually, the number of people who can become rich and famous through their writing is minuscule. As a post-80s writer recently said, “Someone will ask, are you guys completely disconnected from tradition? I feel that this isn’t the kind of question someone in our generation world ask. From my viewpoint, as writers who write in the Chinese language we can never truly break from tradition. To us, having a best-seller is the most important issue.” For the vast majority of post-80s writers, if they’ve got readers and a market, the situation for themselves and their works isn’t that different from writers of previous generations.

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Art & Design, Market Analysis