Ji Dongliang was born on April 14, 1963, in Changningyi Village, located in Gansu province’s Zhangjiachuan County. Graduating in 1982 from Ningxia Normal University and currently the vice-chairman of the Ningxia Writers Association, Ji’s most representative works include The Shang Village Chronicles, The Jinxiu Chronicles, The Book of Haiyuan, The Night Is Longer Than the Day, The Distance Between Me and the World and Roaring the Night. On several occasions his works have been listed among the rankings of the Chinese Fiction Association, New Works of Chinese Contemporary Literature, and the magazine “Selected Stories”. His works have been awarded prizes from such publications as “Selected Stories”, “Chinese Novelists” and “Beijing Literature”. His works Speaking to Wood and Roaring the Night received, respectively, the 3rd and 5th “Lu Xun Literature Award”. The Shang Village Chronicles was awarded the 2014 “Chinese Good Book” prize, the “Five One Project Award” and the “Beijing Literature and Arts Award”. Ji’s work The Jinxiu Chronicles was listed among the rankings of “Chinese Good Books”, the “Beijing Publishing House Ten Best Reads” and the “Wenyi Lianhe Booklist”.
In the words of Ji himself : “Literature comes from the soul, from your experiences, from the force of your feelings, and from what you have read.” Born in a remote village cut off from the outside world, Ji has always paid great attention to the trials and tribulations of the rural population. With characters and storylines brimming with yearning and struggle, his works focus on the “old way of life”. At the same time, however, the artistry within them is palpable. Speaking of one of the characters in The Shang Village Chronicles, one critic said that the image of the old village chief was such that it “gave him a literary luster similar to that of Zhao Shuli’s ‘middle characters’ and imbued him with the ethical and moral essence of the present day. In this way, the old village chief becomes something of a model character, akin to what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel calls ‘this thing’. Precisely because of this, this character’s special image has become an enriching presence in contemporary literature gallery of characters.”
Ji Dongliang’s “Farmer Trilogy” focuses intimately on the fates of those living in the countryside. The first installment — The Book of Haiyuan — is set against the backdrop of the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake, the third most powerful earthquake ever recorded in human history. The book tells the story of one survivor’s struggle as they shoulder the burden to help continue the lineages of three families. The story’s timeline stretches for almost a century, the fates of its characters rising and falling with the waves of passing eras. The Shang Village Chronicles, the trilogy’s second installment, tells the story of farmers fleeing from — abandoning, even — their hometowns in a time of urbanization. The withering decline of villages and the miserable grief of those that remain fill the panorama of China’s remote and backward countryside. Following the thread that disrupted the “problem literature” of post-May Fourth Movement China, Zhao Shuli-esque concerns and anxieties come and go successively throughout the book. The third installment of the trilogy — The Jinxiu Chronicles — is set in an urban shantytown called Jinxiu, and follows two generations of villagers as they enter the urban world. We read of the psychological states and changing spiritualities that are born of their struggles and survival in the city.
Ji is in the very midst of his most prolific period. An Untied Boat, the more-than 300,000-word novel he is currently writing, tells the story of one intellectual’s desperate, uncertain, and tumultuous life as they navigate the ever-changing currents of time.