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The first Chinese person to win a Nobel Prize was Mo Yan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.

Literary Triumph: Mo Yan Becomes China’s First Nobel Laureate

The Nobel Prize is awarded to people who have done sheer hard work to contribute to humankind. An author is awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for a single piece of work or collective lifetime outstanding contributions. Around 119 Nobel Prizes have been given to the most talented novelists and authors worldwide.

Mo Yan was The first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He is a well-recognized novelist who was born into a family of farmers. His most popular books include Red Sorghum, which the people of Western countries especially loved. The unique thing about this book is that it contains five storylines based on the incidents in the author’s hometown.

Mo Yan (L) of China, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, smiles as he poses next to his wife Du Qinlan after receiving his prize during the Nobel Prize award ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm December 10, 2012.
Mo Yan (L) of China, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, smiles as he poses next to his wife Du Qinlan after receiving his prize during the Nobel Prize award ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm December 10, 2012. (Jonas Ekstromer/Reuters)

Early Life Of Mo Yan

Mo Yan was born into a low-income family of farmers in 1955 in Shandong in northeastern China. Of the four children born in the family, Mo Yan was the youngest. He was just 11 years of age when he left the school in the fifth grade during the Cultural Revolution. After working as a farmer for several years, he joined a cotton factory in 1973. During this period, he only had access to limited novels, mostly based on conflict and class struggle.

In 1976, by the end of the Cultural Revolution, Mo Yan started his writing career. At the time he began writing, he was a soldier. After the revolution era ended, Mo Yan’s work as a writer steadily started gaining attention. PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Magazine awarded a literary award to Mo Yan in 1984. Another good highlight about this year is that Mo started attending the PLA Arts College. It was the first time he had adopted an assumed name Mo Yan instead of his real name.

Career Highlights Of Mo Yan

Mo Yan began studying literature at the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Arts College in 1984. During this duration, he published works like Explosions and Transparent Red Radish. These publications had a great impact on his literature career. After that, he wrote a romantic book called The Red Sorghum in 1986. Mo Yan added some more stories to the same book in 1987, and it was then named Red Sorghum Family. All of his work showed a great emotion of humanism.

In 1989, Mo Yan came up with two novels: ‘Thirteen Steps‘ and ‘The Garlic Ballads‘. His most controversial work included ‘Big Breasts and Wide Hips’. This book came into controversy because of its sexual content. It also failed to showcase the theme of class struggle in it. PLA forced Mo Yan to withdraw this book and even write a self-criticism. But the book remained in the market because of the pirated copies.

After such an embarrassing incident with Mo Yan in 1997, he left the PLA. He began to work as a newspaper editor, but he continued with his fiction writing related to his hometown stories. In 2004, he published a novel called ‘Tanxiangxing that depicts the story of a crumbling Empire. Later, in 2013, the English version of this book came as “Sandalwood Death.”

History Behind The Pen Name

In Chinese, the meaning of the pen name “Mo Yan” is Don’t Speak. Upon asking Mo Yan the reason behind this pen name, he said that his parents always used to warn him about not speaking his mind when he was outside due to the Cultural Revolution situation in which he was bought up. Mo Yan’s books depict Chinese sexual and political history.

Major Works And Achievements

The Red Sorghum Family was one of the most popular books of Mo Yan, written in 1987. It was this book that gave Mo Yan recognition as an author. In the same year, the story of this book was represented in a movie with the same name. The movie was awarded the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. It is an interesting novel that contains around five stories.

Regarding his achievements, Mo Yan has received many awards for his best works in literature. In 2005, he won the Kiriyama Prize for his controversial writing “Big Breasts and Wide Hips”. The University of Hong Kong bestowed Mo Yan with the “Doctors Of Letters” degree. In 2011, his book named “Frog” got the Mao Dun Literature Prize. But out of all the awards, Mo Yan’s greatest achievement was receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.

To Sum Up

Nobel Prize in Literature is given to authors who have done exceptional work in the literature field. Mo Yan was the first proud Chinese to receive this honored award for writing novels with unique storylines. He was born into a low-income family of farmers who lived in northeast China. Scroll above to learn about his early life and greatest achievements in life.


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