Editor's Note: The third SCNU English writing contest, themed "Telling China’s Story", ended with 422 entries from 33 different schools. We congratulate all prize winners on their outstanding performance. Awarded winners have been announced (see results), and all winning entries will be published in this column.


By Zhang Huichen

Literature is an inseparable part of a culture. A splendid Chinese literary classic, whose overseas dissemination impresses readers from other nations, is not only the honour of our nation, but also a great cultural ambassador which promotes China's culture to the world. Zhang Ling, a Canadian Chinese author, is a distinguished exponent to tell China's story well with her novels and prose.

So, who is Zhang Ling? Probably this name is unfamiliar to Chinese people. Nevertheless, she, as well as her works, are quite popular among the readers in many English-speaking countries, including the USA, Canada, the UK, etc. One of her most famous works, Aftershock, was adapted into the movie Tangshan Earthquake, which successfully set the film world on fire.

In 2020, the English version of her latest novel A Single Swallow created a sensation among the readers in English-speaking countries. The novel had been in the "Best Sellers in Chinese Literature" list since its publication, winning considerable popularity. Knowing this, my friends and I immediately decided to read the novel together in order to find out the secret of its success in internationalization.

A Single Swallow depicts a legendary panorama of China and Chinese people during the WWII period, displaying a genuine Chinese nation to the world. Actually, quite a few Westerners, who are familiar with the stories that happened on the battlefields in Europe, know little about China's role in WWII. Not to exaggerate, some even don't realize that China once played an irreplaceable role in this war. The novel courageously disclosed the image of the cooperation between China and the U.S.A.-- the Sino-US Special Technology Cooperation Training Camp, showing the joint effort made by Chinese and Americans in the resistance against Japanese aggression, as well as the author's sincerest respect for the international anti-fascism movement.

The pursuit of peace and harmony conveyed in this novel reflected China's convention of the supreme harmony spirit in ancient society. Confucius, one of the most distinguished philosophers of ancient China, introduced the idea that "within the four seas all men are brothers". In an ideal harmonious society according to Confucius' definition, everyone extends a hand of fraternity when some are in need. There will no longer be any wars or distinctions among various groups. Individuals in such a society can live a wonderful life without the worry of being plundered, abandoned or killed.

A Single Swallow successfully brings marvellous innovations to this spirit-- today's China is in anticipation of cooperating with all the friendly countries in the world. The main characters in the novel come from different cultural backgrounds, resulting in their initial misunderstandings of one another. Later on, as they fought against the Japanese invaders on China's land, they gradually built up the mutual understanding and developed eagerness to learn about various cultures.

It is the amazing fusion of the flowing cultures in their daily communication that raises the novel to a higher level. Ian from America once showed Ah Yan from China an image of a fascinating woman in a bikini. Ah Yan was astonished initially, but on hearing Ian's persuasion, she admitted that the woman's body was charming. Another case is that Ian got hurt during his marching. Feeling painful, he still resisted to apply traditional Chinese herbal medicine to his leg. However, later the Chinese medicine took effect very timely and Ian was completely impressed. These two examples perfectly explain the reasons behind the success of the novel's internationalization-- cultural communication is not a one-man show, but is in fact a bilateral or even multilateral confluence and complementarity.

The advocation of peace is a main melody as well. Recent years have witnessed the growing complexity of the international situation and unstable factors. It's becoming more and more challenging to preserve peace with so many disbeliefs and conflicts. A Single Swallow accurately meets the needs to maintain the peace needed by today's world-- it reflects on the trauma that war may cause and shows the significance of living in harmony to readers by telling the story of the characters from totally different cultural backgrounds.

In addition, the panorama of a fascinating countryside in war-time China is also well-depicted in the novel. Aided by Ian's tongue, Zhang Ling praised China's fields in this way:

"In the spring and summer, their flowering seasons, there are yellow, purple, pink, and green flowers, one after another. It's unreal. I've only seen such bright, pure colours in paintings."

Nature is a pure element without any close relation to politics or other sensitive subjects. A lot of descriptions of China's fantastic scenery can be found everywhere in the novel, providing a visual feast for Chinese readers as well as foreign readers. It breaks down some possible discriminations like "China is a poor and uncomfortable country" and reveals the real life in the countryside.

Admittedly, different civilizations will probably collide with each other when meeting. Nevertheless, an extraordinary national literature as well as its internationalization equips China with the most powerful microphone to tell its story to people all over the world. Therefore, never overlook the importance of literature. Further exploration should be devoted to China's literature and the approach to bringing China's pursuit of peace to the world.

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