严歌苓小说中的伦理和女权 Ethical and feminist mentality in Geling Yan’s novels

去年底,当电影《芳华》在海内外引起很大反响时,大家再次关注原著及其作者严歌苓。严歌苓是最受华人读者喜爱的当代女性作家之一。她的作品备受大陆著名导演的青睐,被频频搬上荧幕。虽然侨居国外,她作品中的人物贴近大陆各个历史时期现实生活中的普通人。她笔下的女性角色不仅美丽、善良,而且有着深邃的个性和历史的复杂烙印。她在作品中呈现的对伦理和女权的视角往往引起读者对传统道德的思考和争议。

伦理是用于定义一件事在道德上的好坏和正误。对伦理的认知源于人类初期作为社会群体而制定的生存规则。在一个社会,伦理是道德标准的体系。不同的社会有不同的体系。在中国,源于老子的《道德经》和孔子有关君子的教诲形成了最基本的道德规范。古代儒家的《三从四德》对妇女一生的行为、修养和道德进行了要求和规定。近代的“五四”运动在科学和民主的旗帜下,提倡新道德和妇女解放。1949年后,法律保证妇女在政治经济、教育水平和婚姻家庭方面地位的提高,提倡男女平等。从历史的角度来看,关于妇女地位的伦理道德是从夫权到女权的演进。

然而,严歌苓的作品对这些不同时期规范妇女行为的礼教和道德却有其独特的诠释。《小姨多鹤》讲述日本少女多鹤在日本战败投降时作为被遗弃的殖民者被卖到东北一户人家,成了传宗接代的“工具”。她被安排成为自己所生孩子的小姨,以这一尴尬的身份与一位中国女人生活在同一个屋檐下,对同一个男人衍生出爱和依赖。在这部小说中,读者会看到旧道德和新道德在特殊年代下对多鹤命运的驱使和多鹤无选择的畸形爱恋的形成。读者可能会问道:这些伦理道德究竟为女性带来了什么?对这个问题,您可能会在《陆犯焉识》中找到一些答案。这是一部家族史小说。小说描写了主人公陆焉识在民国时留洋回国到文革时期的一生,是以作者祖父严恩春为原型。尽管小说围绕陆焉识的经历展开,其妻子冯婉喻演绎了一位符合传统道德礼教的贤妻良母形象。冯婉喻温婉而坚毅,她没有对包办婚姻的不满和风流倜傥丈夫的责备。尽管世事变迁,她对丈夫的爱恋、忠诚和顺从从未改变。她以三从四德为基准的付出换来了丈夫的浪子回头和爱。但她最终已经不能感知这份爱了。这本书的凄美使读者对传统道德下女性争取爱和被爱权利的方式感到困惑和惋惜。

如果说女权这一概念在多鹤和冯婉喻这样的传统女性形象中若影若现或无踪可寻,严歌苓在另外一些作品中围绕爱和性的道德和不道德,通过其塑造的众多女性角色对女权展开更深入的探寻。《天浴》是一个极端的例子。文革下乡的女知青文秀是一个单纯又充满朝气的女孩,为了回城的利益而出卖自己的身体和灵魂,逐渐迷失和泯灭。这部小说提出了一个尖锐的问题:我们是应该指责文秀用不道德的手段来获取回城的权利,还是那个道德泯灭的时代!《金陵十三钗》中一群做着“不道德”营生的妓女用自己的生命换回了女学生们的安全逃离被日本人占领的南京城。这群女人用最极致的方式在维护着民族的尊严。《花儿与少年》中女主人公晚江为了寻求物质上的幸福,和丈夫离婚并嫁到美国。当读者指责晚江的不道德时也会看到她周围每一个角色的猥琐。当一个女人用婚姻来换取权利而周围的人也坐收渔利时,所有的道德问题可能就不只是她一个人的问题了。《老师好美》讲述了一位36岁单身离异女班主任与两位花样少年在校园中演绎了一场隐秘而炽烈的不伦之恋。这部小说中的女主人公是严歌苓所有小说中备受责难的人物之一。不过,如果从女权主义的道德观来看,读者可能会理解女主人公是怎样地挣扎在关爱自己和关爱他人的矛盾中。这一矛盾是女权主义伦理学Feminist ethics最核心的问题。

严歌苓的小说吸引读者的地方在于她努力在作品中探讨人性的复杂性。如果您对严歌苓的小说感兴趣,在图书馆还可以找到她的其它小说。同时也欢迎您参加Fendalton图书馆的读书会分享您的读后感。我们每月第二个周五晚6.30-7.30在Fendalton图书馆会面。

严歌苓部分小说书目Novels by Contemporary Chinese Author Yan, Geling

Hong Wang
Network Library Assistant

读《茱萸的孩子:余光中传》,忆乡愁诗人余光中 “Nostalgia poet” Yu Guangzhong

每逢佳节倍思亲。在春节探亲访友之际,海外的华人都以各种方式表达对故土和亲人的思恋。朗诵余光中的《乡愁》往往成为人们表达这一情感的一种方式。台湾著名诗人、文学评论家、教育家、翻译家余光中先生以脍炙人口的《乡愁》赢得了“乡愁诗人”的称号。 然而,他对华人社会的贡献远远超出了这一称号冠以他的殊荣。在他的一生中, 余光中先生发表了多部诗集散文翻译作品。每首诗文都得益于他在一定时代背景下真实的情感和体悟。所以,他的作品能牵动亿万华人的心。傅孟丽的《茱萸的孩子:余光中传》是走进这位大师的世界,理解他的诗文的最好导读。

《茱萸的孩子:余光中传》的中文简写本完成于2007年。余光中先生于2017年病逝。因此,这本书记录了余光中先生一生的重大事件,算得上是一本较完整的传记。在书中,作者将余光中先生的一生分成五个阶段,包括大陆时期、台北时期、赴美时期、香港时期和高雄时期。以此为主线,作者也侧写了余光中先生的家庭、亲情、爱情、友情、师生情和个人性格,以达到“横看成岭侧成峰”的效果。

尽管该书各章节之间的连贯性似乎不太明显,作者严谨的写作态度值得称颂。每一事件的资料都来源于详细访谈,经过多方核实。作者很巧妙地避免了写传记时易走的两个误区。既没有将该传记写成“供词”以暴露不必要暴露的隐私;也没有将其写成“颂词”而一味歌功颂德。书中呈现的是一位有七情六欲、经历丰富的文化人—有过儿时对战争的恐惧、青壮年时的壮志凌云、客居他乡时被排挤和最终的功成名就。

这本书的另一个读点就是它将余光中先生的一生不同时期的作品和他的生活境遇有机地结合起来以解读这些作品。读过该书,您会对下面一系列问题有更清晰的答案:为什么余光中先生在散文《从母亲到外遇》中说:“大陆是母亲,台湾是妻子,香港是情人,欧洲是外遇。”?《沙浮投海》《舟子的悲歌》表达了大师怎样的心境?为什么诗集《莲的联想》在台湾诗史的演进中很珍贵?《白玉苦瓜》的音乐性从何而来?余光中先生什么时候写了《三生石》

如果您喜欢读余光中先生的作品,《茱萸的孩子:余光中传》是一本必读的书。建议您首先读这本书,然后通过以上链接欣赏他的作品。这样,您可能对大师的作品会有更深的领悟。同时,也欢迎您加入我们的读书会微信群(微信号:hongwangccl),参加我们的余光中作品在线讨论。

Zhu yu de hai zi

Dragon Springs Road – Janie Chang

Cover of Dragon Springs RoadDragon Springs Road by Janie Chang has as many layers as a Chinese puzzle. This beautifully painted tale is a saga containing a mystery, with elements of romance, fantasy, fairy tale and Chinese spiritualism. The story is set against the dramatic backdrop of the 1911 Chinese Revolution; the last reign of the Xing Dynasty.

Jialing is a young hun xue (mixed breed) girl abandoned by her mother. The other word used to describe her isn’t very nice. Jialing’s mother was Chinese, her father British. Her plight highlights the status of women and those of mixed race in a changing society. Women at this time were regarded as property, with little options for independence.

Grandmother Yang, the Matriarch of a well respected family, takes Jialing in as a Bond Servant. She is property of the family until she can buy her freedom. Unfortunately for Jialing, her options as an adult are limited. Although educated, discrimination against her Eurasian appearance makes her almost unemployable.

When a family finds itself in financial difficulty, even wives can be sold; or as servants, or worse, into brothels. Jialing can only hope to be a mistress or a prostitute, unless she is lucky. Aided and protected by a Fox Spirit, Jialing attempts to find a home, friendship, her mother, independence and love.

Janie Chang is also the author of Three Souls.

This is the perfect book to read during Lunar New Year!

Dragon Springs Road
by Janie Chang
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780062388957

Lunar New Year events

All about China

Podcast – Organ harvesting

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses:

  • Stats on organ transplants in China; why are we talking about organ harvesting now when it has been going on for decades?
  • Differences between organ harvesting practices in China and elsewhere; lack of will from national governments to act; recent roundtable at New Zealand Parliament; need to apply pressure to medical and transplant professionals
  • Current action; possible deterrents; public scepticism
  • Actions worldwide; reasons why people might find it difficult to engage; terminology: ‘organ harvesting’ vs ‘organ pillaging’ vs ‘organ executions’

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, David Kilgour (former Canadian MP who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for investigating organ harvesting crimes in China), undercover journalist for book ‘The Slaughter’ Jaya Mangalam Gibson, and Robin Palmer (previously a specialist prosecutor of international organ harvesting operations and Professor, School of Law, University of Canterbury).

Transcript of the audio file

Websites mentioned in the show

Find out more in our collection

Cover of The slaughter Cover of Bloody harvest

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

The stories of the One Child Policy: An interview with Xinran

XinranThis week I was lucky enough to be able to interview the lovely Xinran, who is in Christchurch for WORD Christchurch’s Autumn Season (her session is on Thursday 14 May), and will be in Auckland for the Auckland Writers Festival later this week. We weren’t able to meet in person, but Xinran graciously offered to answer a few questions through email.

Buy Me The Sky comes out soon, I can’t wait to hear you talk about it when I see you in Auckland. Could you tell us a little about what sets this book apart from your others?

Cover of 'Buy Me The Sky' by Xinran. They are the stories of the first generation of One Child Policy.

In the last three decades, under the One Child Policy, China has prevented 400 million people from coming into this world, buying FOUR years for the world population to reach 6 billion. According to China’s sixth census in Oct 2014, by 2020 there will be 30 million more males than females among the age group of 20 to 45 year olds in China. More than 150,000 Western families have adopted Chinese orphans, mainly girls, since 1991. By 2014 China raised nearly 140 million ‘Suns’ or ‘Little Emperors’ since the 1980s.

‘Buy Me the Sky’ would help readers to see how those Chinese single child families live with those questions:
– ‘Is the mother keeping her child as a pet, or is the child keeping her parents as slaves, to be at her beck and call with every wave of her hand?!
– Is One Child Policy much more powerful than any kind of the beliefs rooted in culture, religion, education, and living environments?
– They all belong to the first generation of the One Child Policy, they have completely different views on China, the world, and the concept of a quality life because of their family backgrounds, living conditions, and their pursuit of different ideals. But is there any point they could agree with their family elders after their long march under One Child Policy?

You’ve dedicated so much to sharing stories of hardship. Would you encourage other people who have lived through very hard times to write down or otherwise share their experiences? Do you have any advice for people who want to do this?

None should forget the past, we also should know how to forgive it if the past has made us suffer a lot as mine. Any kind of past is the roots of our today and future, sharing it with others by our respect mind and honest writing, can be a heartfelt gift to our family and children.

You’ve written a lot of non-fiction, so what made you decide to write your fictional novel Miss Chopsticks?

Cover of 'Miss Chopsticks' by XinranIn fact, three sisters in the book are real, they all have their sisters too, I thought their stories could help my readers to see how China has been transformed from poor to rich by those kind of countryside uneducated women in three generations. Therefore  I ‘made up’ a mother for them, the book become ‘’fiction’’.

Did libraries play a part in your life when you were growing up? How about now?

I grow up in Beijing, the capital of China. It was full of “grandma stories” and over 700 years traditional streets. Now, it has become a very modern city , huge, crowed and very colourful, with its ‘unique pollution’  both by money and air.

You mention Chinese children adopted to New Zealanders a few times, especially in your book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother. Is there any special message you would like to give these children?

 Yes, as always! The first of all, believe me about this, your Chinese mother never forgot you since you started ‘talking’ with her in her tummy. You have a life because of her love and bravery!
Secondly, great thanks to your New Zealand family, they have offered you the most beautiful country to you life, enjoy it with your passion and cars to it for your adoptive family.

The last, I hope you could join my charity ‘The Mothers Bridge of Love’ MBL for helping some poor and disabled kids who are still struggling in rural China. They need books to read and friends to visit them, as we all do! xiexie

 

Xinran and the one child generation in China

Xinran became famous with her first book – the bestselling semi-memoir, The Good Women of China. We have this title as an eBook too.

Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958, and grew up in the Cultural Revolution before migrating to England in 1997. She was a popular broadcaster and journalist in China. She currently resides in London and writes for The Guardian.

Cover of The Good women of China Cover of Miss Chopsticks Cover of China Witness Cover of Buy me the sky

She writes in Chinese and is translated by Esther Tyldesley. Her books include Sky Burial (2004), Miss Chopsticks (2007), China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation (2008) and, more recently, Buy Me the Sky (2015).

Xinran began writing about women’s issues and life stories. More recently, her books cover cultural, economic, and other social issues too – before, during and after the Cultural Revolution. These topics are largely neglected in popular memoirs. She explores apolitical populations, and coming of age in the Cultural Revolution – reflecting thoughtfully on changes, expressions of loss and loneliness.  She aims to reveal the true China.

XinranWORD Christchurch gives me an opportunity to hear Xinran talking about her latest book Buy Me the Sky which focuses on China’s one-child policy’s impact. As a Chinese woman with only one daughter, I am keen to hear her understanding and interpretation about China’s one-child policy – she, like me, is a mother who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and has only one child.

WORD Christchurch recommends

Anna Sun
Upper Riccarton Library

Chinese eMagazines with Dragonsource!

Dragonsource logoDragonsource is the latest electronic offering to our customers – specifically those who can read and understand Chinese!

Dragonsource offers hundreds of free up to date eMagazines covering a wide variety of topics in both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. The eMagazines can be read and searched. You can also download some titles and listen to the audio version.

What you can do with each eMagazine does vary. If you can understand Chinese, have a look today and spread the word.  All you need is your library card number and password/PIN.

也许您正怀念在中国时每期必读的杂志, 也许您一直关心着有关中国的政治, 财经, 文化和时事, 也许您正鼓励您的孩子多读中文以强化他们与中国和中国文化的联系, 那么请登陆Dragonsource (龙源) – 您所有的问题和需要或许都可以在这里得到解决!

龙源数字阅读平台用简体字和繁体字向您提供丰富的综合性人文大众类期刊, 内容涵盖时政 热点, 商业财经, 科学科技, 文学艺术, 教育教学, 健康养生, 娱乐时尚等领域。热门期刊如<读者>, <凤凰周刊>, <支点>, <南方人物周刊>通常与印刷版同步推出, 您既可点击杂志封面又可直接汉字搜索主题或作者查询文章和杂志。您还可根据阅读喜好和需求选择原貌版, 文本版或语音版。原貌版原版原式, 图文并茂, 绚丽多姿;文本版文章可搜索复制,支持单篇阅读; 语音版支持部分期刊在线试听和下载。

New Zealand’s Chinese heritage

When I was a teenager our art teacher used to take us on sketching trips to the museum. The idea was that we would spend our time sketching rather unattractive stuffed animals. It soon became a problem to extract me from the Asian Gallery. The beauty and sophistication of the ceramics and carvings there held my attention long after I left school.

However, they weren’t objects that I associated with New Zealand until many years later. What did Asia have to do with us who were so attached to the British Isles? It wasn’t until the 70s, after Britain cut the economic ties by joining the EEC (EU), that I began to appreciate that our future lay with our neighbours in Polynesia and Asia.

Then in the 1980s books by authors Manying Ip and James Ng again transformed my awareness – this time of the history of Chinese in New Zealand – with their readable and often beautifully illustrated books.

Our growing awareness of our own country’s history over the intervening decades and our understanding of our real geographical place in the world, has made us all a great deal more aware of China and what early Chinese immigrants endured here. This was a place where they hoped to find peace and enough money to help families trapped by poverty, famine and political unrest.Instead they endured lives of great hardship and put up with degrading prejudice. Initially wives generally stayed in China to look after family and later the Poll Tax made it almost impossible to bring them here, so many men remained single. At one time there were 4995 Chinese men in New Zealand but only 9 women. Making a life here wasn’t easy.

New Zealand was the first country to apologise to their Chinese community for the Poll Tax – a representation of decades of unfair immigration policies and prejudice.

SnakeThese days, snippets of the rich culture Chinese immigrants bring with them are beginning to reach the rest of the community, most noticeably in the form on Chinese New Year celebrations. In Christchurch we celebrate with a Lantern Festival  in Hagley Park at the beginning of March. However, New Year celebrations officially begin on 10 February and this one ushers in the year of the snake, apparently signifying a good year for science and research.

LanternsLanternsBeijing Opera masks

What to do after you’ve picked up the pieces

coverWhen I came home from work on February 22, I found my tea cups and my dinner set in small pieces on the dining room floor. I spent ages picking up the pieces; trying to find out what belonged where and what was intact.

The pieces were photographed for the insurance claim, but what was it all worth?

I can’t put a price on a memory, but I can get an idea on how much replacement plates are by looking on Price It! To replace a missing dinner plate, I could try China Matching Service. This is especially useful for tableware made after 1960.

Now that I have found out what my china is worth, what can I do with the broken pieces? If the insurance company don’t want to see the broken bits, I will turn them into a mosaic. The library has a collection of books on making mosaics. I haven’t made a mosaic since I left school, so I’ll check the CINCH database for the location of classes and groups.

Do you have plans for your broken china?

Fiction: The Most Dangerous Thing in the World.

By her own admission, Yiyun Li has an interesting relationship with her mother country – China. She writes (and dreams) in English, has never been published in China, is barely recognised as a writer in her homeland and yet sets all her writing in that country.

This means that she is particularly well placed to compare the two countries that mean so much to her. She summed it up by saying that in America there is always hope for the individual – there is the audacity of hope. Whereas in China this does not exist. People accept that life in China is bleak therefore they are less likely to be devastated by disappointment.

She started writing because her parents were dead set against it and “whatever your parents do not want you to do, you must do.” In fact her parents saw fiction as “the most dangerous thing in the world”. Her first pieces of writing were the fabricated sick notes that she would create for herself in order to get out of school. For such a dimpled, sweet-faced lady, she was an extraordinarily rebellious child.

Her book The Vagrants starts with an execution and ends with one as well. Although this does not sound like a laugh a minute, the novel is really a collection of the love stories of characters who were around at that time. There is sadness, pathos and cruelty, but there is also tenderness and humour and love.

The entire audience was reminded time and again how different life in China was in the 1970’s. It is hard for us to comprehend the cruelty, for example, behind making the family of the executed girl pay for the bullet that was used to kill their only daughter. And that according to Yiyun Li is what really did happen.

I left the room thinking “I will never complain about anything ever again”. Yiyun Lee would have said that was very American of me.