Born: Guan Moye in Gaomi County, Shandong Province, China, 5 March, 1956. Education: Attended Jiefangjun wenyi xueyuan [PLA College of Arts], Beijing, 1984-86; Beijing shifan daxue Lu Xun wenxueyuan [Lu Xun Literary Institute, Beijing Normal University], Beijing, 1989-91, M.A. degree, 1991. Military Service: Served between 1976-84. Family: Married in 1974; one daughter. Career: Worked in the County Cotton Oil Plant, 1973; served in People’s Liberation Army, 1976-79; staff, instructor and librarian, Headquarters of the General-Staff of PLA, 1979-; writing staff, Headquarters of the General-Staff of PLA, 1986-89, 1991-97; Jiancha ribao [Daily Procuratorial], 1997-present. Lives in Beijing, China. Awards: 1985-86 Quanguo zhongpianxiaoshuo jiang [1985-86 National award in Novellas] (for the novella Hong Gaoliang), 1986; Dajia wenxue jiang [Dajia prize in literature] (for the novel Fengru feitun), 1997.



Mo Yan wenji (included Hong gaoliang, Mingding guo, Zai baozha, Xian nuren, and Dao shenpiao). 5 vols. 1995.

Bingxue meiren (included short stories and a play, Bawang bieji). 2001.


Touming de hongluobo. 1986.

Hong gaoliang jiazu. 1987; as Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, translated by Howard Goldblatt, 1993.

Tiantang suantai zhi ge. 1988; as The Garlic Ballads, translated by Howard Goldblatt, 1995.

Baozha. 1988; as Explosions and Other Stories, edited by Janice Wickeri, 1991.

Huanle shisan zhang. 1989.

Shisan bu. 1989.

Bai mianhua. 1991.

Jiuguo. 1992; as The Republic of Wine, translated by Howard Goldblatt, 2000.

Fennu de suantai. 1993.

Huaibao xianhua de nuren. 1993.

Jinfa ying’er. 1993.

Shenliao. 1993.

Shicao jiazu. 1993.

Maoshi huicui. 1994.

Mengjing yu zazhong. 1994.

Fengru feitun. 1995; as Big Breasts and Wide Hips, translated by Howard Goldblatt, 2002.

Chuanqi Mo Yan. 1998.

Hong erduo. 1998.

Chang’an dadao shang de qilu meiren. 1999.

Hong shulin. 1999.

Weiqing qiyue. 1999.

Cangying menya. 2000.

Chulian shenpiao. 2000.

Laoqiang baodao. 2000.

Shifu yuelaiyue youmo. 2000; as Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh, translated by Howard Goldblatt, 2002.

Lengao de qingren. 2001.

Sheng pu de zuxian men. 2001.

Tan xiang xing. 2001.

Zhanyou chongfeng. 2001.


Hui changge de qiang. 1998.

Mo Yan sanwen. 2000.


Hong gaoliang. 1987.

Meng duan qinglou. 1994.

Taiyang you er. 1994.

Gege men de qingchun wangshi. 1997.

Hong shulin. 1998.

Critical Studies:

Mo Yan lun by Zhang Zhizhong, 1990; Guaicai Mo Yan by He Lihua, 1992; Mo Yan yanjiu ziliao, edited by He Lihua and Yang Shousen, 1992; Mo Yan xiaoshuo: "Lishi" de chonggou by Zhong Yiwen, 1997.

Mo Yan is one of the leading novelists and short story writers in post-Maoist China, highly acclaimed by both critics and readers. His earliest fame arose from his 1985 short novella Touming de hong luobo [A Translucent Carrot], a narrative built upon extraordinarily rich and often anomalous sensibilities of a village boy. It is perceivable that Garcia Marquez, or magic realism in general, was an immense influence on Mo Yan’s writing, which is distinguished by unsurpassable imaginations and vagaries. Mo Yan’s stylistic peculiarity developed in the short novella Hong gaoliang [Red Sorghum], which immediately became controversial, not exclusively for its glorification of wild passion and love, but more for its unconstrained and at times barbarous descriptions of the atrocities in the Sino-Japanese War. Its popularity reached a peak after being adapted into the Zhang Yimou film with the same title (Mo Yan co-authored the screenplay) that won the Golden Bear award at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival.

Although it is easy to categorize Hong gaoliang within the ”root-seeking” movement in the mid-1980s that endorses primitive vigor and native culture, its contribution to the history of modern Chinese literature lies also in rewriting modern history from a sensualistic and thus morally ambivalent perspective, which challenges the mainstream historiography.

Based on a real event, Tiantang suantai zhi ge (The Garlic Ballads) is unique among Mo Yan’s works for its nearly documentary exposure of a corruptive world and the social opposition to it. Beyond the level of social critique, the novel shows the power of a blind minstrel’s ballads that tie together all chapters. Mo Yan’s enduring interest in folk literature/performance is reflected also in his early short story ”Minjian yinyue” [''Folk Music''] through his novel Tanxiang xing [Sandalwood Torture].

A central theme that runs throughout Mo Yan’s oeuvre is the contrast between the violent/potent past and the troubled/effete present. Inspired by Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha series, Mo Yan sets almost all his stories in his hometown, Northeast Gaomi Village. Hong gaoliang later expanded into the novel Hong gaoliang jiazu (Red Sorghum), initiated Mo Yan’s legendary account of the grandparental generation. His Shicao jiazu [The Herbivorous Family] was assembled from a series of short stories and novellas, including Honghuang [Red Locusts] and Meigui meigui xiangqi pubi [Rose, Rose, Pungent Aroma], all unfolding surreal events about the miraculous and defiant deeds of grandparents, uncles and aunts decades ago.

In the late 1980s, Mo Yan’s exploration of new modes of writing is exemplified by his Shisan bu [Thirteen Steps], which marked not a departure from his outrageously extravagant style in the mid-1980s but a radical development of that style into ironic and farcical sophistication.

Mo Yan is one of the few writers who continued to develop narrative innovation after 1989. Jiuguo (The Republic of Wine), a masterpiece that was ignored within the first few years of its publication, touches again upon the theme of social corruption (excessive eating to the extent of cannibalism), but within a narrative framework that at the same time questions the narrator himself. A social critique that involves self-deconstruction marks Mo Yan’s transition from modernism (Red Sorghum being a model) to postmodernism.

Mo Yan’s latest novels, however, invalidate any categorization, even though magic realism remains a dominant influence. Both Fengru feitun (Big Breasts and Wide Hips) and Sandalwood Torture deal partly with a postcolonial theme, and partly with a post-traditional theme, in which resistance to the historical oppression involves more complexities than has been imagined. To a great extent, his later works undermine the idealistic vision of elan vital by exposing the infantile mentality in primitivism and the multifarious and heterogeneous features—inhumanity, carnality, aestheticism, heroism, ignorance—in native Chinese culture.

Exemplified by Shifu yuelaiyue youmo (Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh), which became popular for being adapted into another Zhang Yimou film, Mo Yan’s recent short stories provide comical critique of contemporary Chinese society. Mo Yan is in every sense the most prolific, creative and powerful novelist of China today. He has also established his international reputation with his works widely translated into different languages in recent years.

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