Peking University, April 5, 2016: Peking University professor Cao Wenxuan has become the first ever Chinese author to win the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to children’s literature.
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards are biennial awards given by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to one living author and one living illustrator “whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature”. It is considered the most prestigious recognition in the field, often called the “Little Nobel Prize for Literature”. Professor Cao Wenxuan and German illustrator Rotraut Susanne Berner share this year’s award.
In a full press release by IBBY, Cao is described as “a unanimous choice of the jury”, because he “writes beautifully about the complex lives of children facing great challenges”. Cao was brought up in extreme poverty in the 1950s, against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution. This experience had a significant influence on his literature, which often reflected the life of rural children during the latter half of the 20th century. One of his typical works, Bronze and Sunflower, which was translated into English for the first time last year, dealt with the unusual encounter of a village boy and a city girl who was sent to the countryside due to the political upheavals at the time. The jury at IBBY notes that Cao’s books “don’t lie about the human condition; they acknowledge that life can often be tragic and that children can suffer”, but “at the same time, they can love and be redeemed by their human qualities and the kindness they sometimes find when they are most in need.” In a powerful remark, the IBBY says “his childhood, though materially poor, was emotionally and aesthetically rich.”
The language style of Cao’s work is described as “lyrical” and “beautiful”. His “wonderful prose” and "telling stories” has attracted “a very wide and committed child readership as well as helping to shape a literary tradition in China that honors the realities of children’s worlds”. His meaningful stories and brilliant prose style have obviously impressed the jury.
Cao has deep connections with Peking University. He studied at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature from 1974 to 1977. He has been a faculty member at the same department since 1985. He became an advisor for Ph.D. candidates in 1996, and also started serving on the academic committee from the same year.
The Chinese public reacted positively to the news. Many people feel that Cao’s achievement is well-deserved, and indicates that the Chinese culture is starting to be understood and accepted by the world.
Reported by: Xu Liangdi
Edited by: Zhang Jiang