30 April, 2014
The Liberal Art University in Hong Kong
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Please click HERE for video shots and HERE for the sharing session (in Putonghua).

Su Tong’s best-known novella Wives and Concubines, adapted by director Zhang Yimou to make the film Raising the Red Lantern, had marked a “revolution” in his writing style. At the Lingnan University Writer-in-residence 2014 public seminar “From Raising the Red Lantern to The Oriole” on 10 April, he told the audience that the change had been triggered by some ridicule of a colleague on his editorial team.

Seen as an avant-garde writer for his early works that are distinctively different from traditional Chinese fiction, Mr Su was working as an editor before he wrote Wives and Concubines. “A colleague of mine didn’t really like my novels and teased me one day, ‘How can people call you a good writer when you can’t even tell a story properly?’ Of course I did think I was a pretty good writer (laugh), but I kind of agreed with him that I never meant to tell a story in the traditional manner,” Mr Su recalled. 

“I took his comment seriously, and decided to take a step backward to adopt a simple, straightforward narrative in Wives and Concubines, which seemed more familiar to the reader of traditional Chinese fiction. For me, it was a revolution that opened up a whole new world with more possibilities in my writing. Then I realised that progress doesn’t always mean charging ahead. Taking a step back can also result in some sort of progress.”

Mr Su also discussed his experience of writing full-length and short fiction, including his latest works The Boat to Redemption and The Oriole, his narrative of the Cultural Revolution and portrayal of men and women, with moderators Prof Mary Wong Shuk-han and Prof Vivien Wei Yan of the Department of Chinese, Lingnan University. 

The public seminar was part of Lingnan University’s writer-in-residence programme, which invites renowned Chinese writers to teach creative writing and share writing experience with Lingnan students, staff and members of the public. This year the writer-in-residence programme was sponsored by Drs Richard Charles & Esther Yewpick Lee Charitable Foundation.