Jia Pingwa

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Jia Pingwa
BornJia Pingwa (贾平娃)
(1952-02-21) 21 February 1952 (age 70)
Dihua Village, Danfeng County, Shangluo, Shaanxi, China
Pen nameJia Pingwa
EducationNorthwest University (1971-5)
Period1973 – present
Notable worksRuined City,
Qin Opera
SpouseHan Junfang (韩俊芳)
Guo Mei (郭梅)
(1996.12.12– present)
ChildrenJia Qianqian (贾浅浅)
Jia Ruo (贾若)
RelativesJia Yanchun (贾彦春) (father)
Zhou Xiao'e (周小鹅) (mother)

Jia Pingwa (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Jiǎ Píngwá; born 21 February 1952), better known by his penname Jia Pingwa (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Jiǎ Píngwā), is one of China's most popular authors of novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction.[1] His best-known novels include Ruined City, which was banned by the State Publishing Administration for over 17 years for its explicit sexual content, and Qin Opera, winner of the 2009 Mao Dun Literature Prize.[2][3]

Early life and teen years[edit]

Born in Dihua (棣花) Village, Danfeng County, Shangluo, Shaanxi in 1952, only three years after the founding of the People's Republic of China, as the son of a school teacher, Jia Yanchun (贾彦春), Jia had an early role model for his later decision to become a writer. Due to a shortage of qualified teachers in Shaanxi at the time, however, Jia's father was often away from home and so he spent much of his early childhood with his mother, Zhou Xiao'e (周小鹅).[4] With the advent of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Jia Yanchun was accused of being a counter-revolutionary and he spent the next ten years in a labor (laogai) camp. Three years later, with the closing of all schools in China following the excesses of the Red Guards, Jia was dispatched with his classmates to build reservoirs in the countryside.[5]

Pen name[edit]

Jia's given name, (Píngwá), literally means 'ordinary child', a name suggested to Jia's parents by a fortune teller following the death of their first born child.[6] He later chose the pen name (Píngwā), a play on his given name, as the character for 'ordinary' also means 'flat', and in southern Shaanxi dialect the character for 'concave' (and by extension 'uneven') is pronounced , similar to ('child') in his given name. Because 'uneven' is usually pronounced āo in Standard Chinese, however, his name is often misread as "Píng'āo".

Education and early career[edit]

While working on the production brigade, Jia had the good fortune to attract the attention of local party cadres after volunteering to write revolutionary slogans, and thanks to their support he was sent to study literature at Northwest University in Xi'an in 1971.[5] Two years later, Jia's first short story, "A Pair of Socks", appeared in The Xi'an Daily, and was soon followed by many others. After graduating in 1975 Jia found employment at Shaanxi People's Publishing House editing the monthly magazine Chang’an, and in 1978 his short story "Full Moon" won a national award from the China Writers Association. These early were collected in Soldier Boy and Morning Songs. Like many stories published during this period (but quite different from his later work), Jia's early stories feature brave young men and women committed to the cause of Chinese socialism.[7]

Turn towards native-place fiction[edit]

Inspired perhaps by the worsening health of his father, who had fallen into alcoholism, in 1980 Jia published his first collection of rural fiction set in his home province of Shaanxi, Notes from the Highlands, and in 1982, on the strength of his published short stories and essays, Jia was admitted the Xi'an Literary Federation, allowing him to pursue writing full-time. Although he found himself under greater scrutiny, even becoming a target of criticism during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign of late 1983, Jia's sketches of everyday life in Shangzhou (the traditional name for his native region) were published to greater and greater success, with the novellas First Records of Shangzhou, Further Records of Shangzhou and More Records of Shangzhou appearing between 1983 and 1986.[8]

In 1986, Jia published his first novel, Shangzhou, an account of a young fugitive who the police who suspect of having committed a robbery in the city. He decides to hide out in his rural hometown, giving Jia a narrative framework around which to structure his popular descriptions of life in the countryside. This novel was quickly followed by two more: Turbulence in 1987 and Pregnancy in 1988. This flurry of activity was interrupted by the death of Jia's father in 1989. Grief would compel Jia to take a more introspective tone with his next project, conceived as a semi-autobiographical account of a morally depraved author from the countryside who has been corrupted by fame. In the 1993 novel Ruined City, frank depictions of various sexual acts (drawing comparisons to the Ming dynasty vernacular classic the Jin Ping Mei) earned the book both a wide audience and a 17-year ban from the authorities, causing it to become one of the most pirated books in modern Chinese literature.[9]

After Ruined City and present day[edit]

Despite the ban, Jia continued to write, publishing a trilogy of rural novels: White Nights (1995), Earth Gate (1996), and Old Gao Village (1998). This was followed by the modern fable Wolves of Yesterday (2000), about a Wu Song-like hunter chasing a modern-day environmentalist who turns into a wolf, a historical romance and counter-history Heath Report (2002), and Qin Opera (2005), a challenging work incorporating elements of local Shaanxi operas which earned him the 2008 Mao Dun Literature Award. Over the last decade, Jia has completed five additional novels: Happy (2007), Old Kiln (2011), The Lantern Bearer (2013), Lao Sheng (2014), and Jihua (2016).

In 1992 Jia was admitted to the prestigious Chinese Writers Association, later being elected Chairman of Shaanxi branch of the organization and in 2003 he was appointed dean of the School of Humanities and the Dean of the College of Arts at Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology.[10][11] Additionally, he is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference[12] and Xi'an People's Congress, a member of the Presidium of the Chinese Writers' Association, the Xi'an Literary Federation President, an honorary chairman of the Xi'an Writers' Association, the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Essay 《美文》, and writer-in-residence at the Ocean University of China.[13][14][15][16]


Jia Pingwa is known for mixing traditional vernacular story-telling with modern realism in his work, which Carlos Rojas describes as being "explicitly rooted in the breathless modernization of contemporary urban China, while at the same time... [featuring] a nostalgic fascination with the historical tradition which that same modernization process simultaneously threatens to erase."[17]

List of works[edit]


  • Shangzhou (商州, 1986) Shangzhou, currently untranslated.
  • Fuzao (浮躁, 1987) English translation Turbulence by Howard Goldblatt (Louisiana State University Press, 1991, republished by Grove Press, 2003). Winner of the 1991 Pegasus Prize.[19]
  • Renshen (妊娠, 1988) Pregnancy, currently untranslated.
  • Fei Du (废都, 1993) English translation Ruined City by Howard Goldblatt (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).[20] Also known in English as Defunct Capital and Abandoned Capital.
  • Bai Ye (白夜, 1995) White Nights, currently untranslated.
  • Tu Men (土门, 1996) Earth Gate, English translation The Earthen Gate by Hu Longfeng and He Longping.
  • Gao Lao Zhuang (高老庄, 1998) Old Gao Village, currently untranslated.
  • Huainian Lang (怀念狼, 2000) Wolves of Yesterday, currently untranslated.
  • Bingxiang Baogao (病相报告, 2002) Health Report, currently untranslated.
  • Qin Qiang (秦腔, 2005) English translation The Shaanxi Opera (2023), by Nicky Harman and Dylan Levi King. Winner of the 2008 Mao Dun Literature Prize.
  • Gaoxing (高兴, 2007), English translation Happy Dreams by Nicky Harman (AmazonCrossing, 2017) .[21]
  • Gu Lu (古炉, 2011) Short sample translation Old Kiln by Canaan Morse on Paper Republic.[22]
  • Dai Deng (带灯, 2013) English translation The Lantern Bearer (2016) by Carlos Rojas.[23]
  • Lao Sheng (老生, 2014) English translation The Mountain Whisperer by Christopher Payne (Sinoist Books, 2021).[24]
  • Ji Hua (极花, 2016), English translation Broken Wings by Nicky Harman (Sinoist Books, 2019).[25]
  • Shan Ben (山本, 2018) Shan Ben, currently untranslated.
  • Zan Zuo (暂坐, 2020), English translation The Sojourn Teashop by Jun Liu and Nicky Harman (Sinoist Books, 2023).[26]
  • Jiang Dou (酱豆, 2020) Jiang Dou, currently untranslated.

Short story collections:

  • Bing Wa 兵娃 (Boy soldier, 1977)
  • Shandi Biji 山地笔记 (Mountain notes, 1980)
  • Layue, Zhengyue 腊月,正月 (December and January, 1985)
  • Tiangou 天狗 (Heavenly dog, 1986)
  • Heishi 黑氏 (Black clan, 1993)
  • Zhizao Shengyin 制造声音 (Creating sounds, 1998)
  • Jiaozi Guan 饺子馆 (Dumpling restaurant, 2002)
  • Yishujia Han Qixiang 艺术家韩起祥 (The artist Han Qixiang, 2006), etc.
    • a selection from Jia Pingwa's (Chou Shi; 'Ugly Rock'), a short story about a meteorite which he and the local community had thought of for many years as a worthless ugly rock, is one of the potential reading topics for Putonghua Proficiency Test test-takers[27]

Essay collections:

  • Yueji 月迹 (The trace of the moon, 1982),
  • Shangzhou Sanlu 商州三录 (Three chapters about Shangzhou, 1986)
  • Hong Hu 红狐 (Red fox, 1994)
  • Zao Yizuo Fangzi Zhu Meng 造一座房子住梦 (Build a house to live in a dream, 1998)
  • Qiao Men 敲门 (Knock on the door, 1998)
  • Wo Shi Nongmin 我是农民 (I am a peasant, 1998)
  • Lao Xi'an: Feidu Xieyang 老西安:废都斜阳 (Old Xi'an: the deserted capital in sunset, 1999), etc.


  • "Blank", etc.

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 1978, Best Short Story of the Year for Full Moon.[28]
    • This short story was first published in the literary magazine Shanghai Art, 3rd Volume, 1978.
  • 1984, The Best Novel of the Third National Novellas for December and January.[29]
    • This novel was first published in the literary magazine October, 5th Volume, 1984.
  • 1991, the Pegasus prize in literature for Turbulence: A Novel.[30]
  • 1991 August 21, Zhuang Zhongwen Literature Prize.[31]
  • 1997, French Prix Femina étranger for La Capitale déchue, Genevieve Imbot-Bichet's translation of Ruined City into French.[32]
  • 2003, Knight of Arts and Literature by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.[33]
  • 2004, 3rd Lu Xun Literature Prize in excellent prose and Essays for Jia Pingwa’s Lengthy Prose Selection.[34]
    • Published in September 2003 by Shaanxi People's Publishing House.
  • 2006, Hong Kong The Dream of the Red Chamber Award: The World's Distinguished Novel in Chinese" for Shaanxi Opera.[35][36]
  • 2006 June 24, he won the Outstanding Achievement Award from Liu Qing Literature Prize.[37][38]
  • 2007 September 20, 1st Pu Songling Literature Short Story Prize for Dumpling Restaurant.[39]
  • 2008, 7th Mao Dun Literature Prize for Shaanxi Opera.[3]
    • This novel was first published in the literary magazine Harvest, the book was first published by Writers Publishing House.


  1. ^ "Kung fu hustle made Louis Cha top of writer ranking". China Daily. 31 August 2006. Retrieved 27 October 2008.
  2. ^ "《废都》解禁". 163.com. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b "第七届茅盾文学奖获奖篇目(2003—2006)". chinawriter.com.cn. 5 November 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  4. ^ Wang, Yiyan (2006). Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and His Fictional World. Routledge. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-415-32675-3.
  5. ^ a b Wang, Yiyan (2006). Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and His Fictional World. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 0-415-32675-3.
  6. ^ Wang, Yiyan (2006). Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and His Fictional World. Routledge. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-415-32675-3.
  7. ^ Wang, Yiyan (2006). Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and His Fictional World. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 0-415-32675-3.
  8. ^ Wang, Yiyan (2006). Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and His Fictional World. Routledge. pp. 37–38. ISBN 0-415-32675-3.
  9. ^ Martinsen, Joel (4 August 2009). "Jia Pingwa's banned novel returns after 17 years". Danwei.org. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  10. ^ "陕西省作家协会简介". shaanxiwriters.org. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  11. ^ "西安建筑科技大学文学院". xauat.edu.cn. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  12. ^ "贾平凹". cppcc.gov.cn. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  13. ^ "中国作家协会第八届全国委员会主席、副主席、主席团委员名单". chinawriter.com.cn. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  14. ^ "吴克敬新任西安市作协主席 贾平凹担任名誉主席". chinanews.com. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  15. ^ "美文简介". Mei Wen. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  16. ^ "贾平凹受聘中国海洋大学驻校作家". ouc.edu.cn. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  17. ^ Rojas, Carlos (Winter 2006). "Flies' Eyes, Mural Remnants, and Jia Pingwa's Perverse Nostalgia". Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique. Duke University Press. 14 (3): 749–773. doi:10.1215/10679847-2006-020. S2CID 145579260. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  18. ^ For outline summaries of the novels, see Nick Stember's post "Jia Pingwa as Global Literature" https://glli-us.org/2017/02/20/jia-pingwa-as-global-literature-by-nick-stember/
  19. ^ Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature ... 2003 p260 "Jia Pingwa (male, b. 1952) established his reputation as a nativist writer in the 1980s. His novel Fuzao (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1988; translated as Turbulence, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991), which won the 1988 Pegasus Prize"
  20. ^ Orthofer, M.A. (20 March 2016). "The Complete Review: Ruined City - Jia Pingwa". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  21. ^ Flood, Alison (9 December 2015). "How Amazon came to dominate fiction in translation". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  22. ^ Morse, Canaan (14 April 2011). "Old Kiln (古炉)". Paper Republic. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  23. ^ Rojas, Carlos. "Carlos Rojas - CV" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  24. ^ Jia, Pingwa (2021). The Mountain Whisperer. London: Sinoist Books. ISBN 978-1838905255.
  25. ^ Jia, Pingwa (2019). Broken Wings. London: Sinoist Books. ISBN 978-1910760451.
  26. ^ Jia, Pingwa (2023). The Sojourn teashop. London: Sinoist Books. ISBN 978-1838905408.
  27. ^ 普通话水平测试实施纲要. Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi Shishi Gangyao [Putonghua Proficiency Test Guide]. 北京. Beijing: 商务印书馆. The Commercial Press. 2004. pp. 338–339. ISBN 7-100-03996-7.
  28. ^ "1978全国优秀短篇小说获奖作品". chinawriter.com.cn. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  29. ^ "1983—1984年全国优秀中篇小说获奖作品". chinawriter.com.cn. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  30. ^ "Turbulence (Pegasus Prize for Literature)". Grove Press. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  31. ^ "第四届获奖名单(1991年度)". chinawriter.com.cn. 21 August 1991. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  32. ^ Guang, Yang. "In black and white". China Daily. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  33. ^ "Chinese Author Awarded French Medal". china.org.cn. 7 July 2003. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  34. ^ "第三届鲁迅文学奖(2001—2003)". chinawriter.com.cn. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  35. ^ "第一届「红楼梦奖」首奖作品". redchamber.hkbu.edu.hk. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  36. ^ "About the Award". redchamber.hkbu.edu.hk. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  37. ^ "首届柳青文学奖揭晓". chinawriter.com.cn. 24 June 2006. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  38. ^ "陈忠实贾平凹获"突出成就奖"". sina.com.cn. 25 June 2006. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  39. ^ "首届蒲松龄短篇小说奖". people.com.cn. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]