The Germans have a saying that all good things come in threes. That was undeniably the case for us at the British Library last summer when we were treated to a visit by not one, not two…but three great Chinese writers: Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, accompanied by Yu Hua, and Su Tong.
The three writers had been invited over by Regent's Park College, University of Oxford, and had asked for a visit to London to look round our Grade I-listed St Pancras building, and see some of our most precious collections of both British and Chinese literature. Although different in their style and background, all three must surely rank as amongst the most important, and internationally fêted, living Chinese writers, and we were all thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the day with them (as, apparently, were the ever-increasing gaggle of Chinese tourists who attached themselves to our group, not quite believing their luck in chancing sight of the three writers during their visit to the Library).
In this short film, see the three writers tour the British Library (or see our weibo post), and further video Q+A content with each of the three writers will follow.
And if you want to find out more about their work, you could do worse than start with: the five volumes collected in Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum, a hard-hitting, sometimes fantastical, multi-generational epic that follows a family through the struggles of Chinese history from the 1920s to the 1970s (and was filmed by Zhang Yimou); or the part-rollicking, part-ruthlessly spare (one part Henry Fielding to one part Samuel Beckett?) family chronicle of Yu Hua’s Brothers that takes in generations subsequent to those depicted in Red Sorghum; or Su Tong’s Wives and Concubines, which looks back to earlier pre-War Chinese social history, and is known for its lush cinematic adaptation (again by Zhang Yimou) under the title Raise the Red Lantern.
To find out more about some of the Library collections of British literary writers that the three Chinese authors admired, see our Chinese and English language Discovering Literature Learning website .
Jamie Andrews, British Library