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Telling China's 'small stories' beautifully

By Sun Yixue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-03 07:14


Taishan Mountain gives up no soil, thus it becomes majestic; rivers and seas accept all small streams, thus they achieve their depth. The ancient Chinese poem reflects the ever-changing nature of the world which can be attributed to the subtle elements revolving around humankind. That's why when we share China's stories with the rest of the world, it is the human voice that narrates and the human heart that listens.

China spreads its influence through the enchanting power of "small and beautiful" stories, both in verse and prose. Take for instance, a poet of Tang Dynasty (618-907) Meng Haoran's couplet: This morning of spring in bed I lie. Not waking up till I hear birds cry. Or the lines by another Tang Dynasty poet Yang Wanli: What after a long day's nap can I do with pleasure? I only watch the kids catch willow down at leisure. They capture the essence of spring that is universally felt.

Verses like these touch the heart. They harmonize with the most subtle, the tender-most depths of human spirit. The popularity of ancient Chinese poetry reminds us that words have the power to move souls. It is in the minutiae that the heart truly stirs, entwined in the tender fibers of humanity's core. Poetry encompasses emotions, the dance of the seasons, the ebb and flow of the times, the cycle of life's breath and the tapestry of love and strife.

Poetry transcends borders, race, gender and class. Our aim, as we share China's tales with the rest of the world, is to gather the essence of truth, goodness and beauty from Chinese culture and fuse it with the diverse treasures of global heritage.

Together, we strive to nurture a shared, joyous existence for all of humankind. To realize this noble pursuit, while recounting China's modern narrative, we must accentuate the telling of "small and beautiful" stories from everyday life in China. In the mundane, we see profundity; through simplicity, we reach the depth of meaning. By focusing on details, we illuminate the grand tapestry, silently nurturing the roots and enriching the mind without making a sound.

The essence of the "grand era" resides in the intricately woven tapestry of "small lives". Each epoch dons its unique symbols — attire, melodies, prose structures and more. These symbols are manifested in the people — how they move, how they speak, what they see, what they eat, how they engage in activities and how they travel. Amid the ceaseless flow of life, these mundane details, taken for granted, become the threads of human existence.

Yet hidden within them lies a transformative power. Like a solitary blossom, lost in a kaleidoscope of hues, it may go unnoticed. But when tenderly transplanted into a flowerpot, it becomes a singular spectacle.

By deftly discerning the extraordinary amid the ordinary, unearthing the reasons behind these subtle shifts, we not only elevate the mundane to the sublime, but also satisfy the innate curiosity of foreigners who perceive enchantment in every action of daily life. As their curiosity subsides and they start contemplating, they will embark on a journey akin to that of the Chinese people. It is then that Chinese stories will reverberate across the world, resonating deeper meaning and depth.

Even the grandest saga emerges from humble fragments. Likewise, an era of great magnitude is woven through myriad events. To tell China's "small and beautiful" tales to the world, we must artfully elucidate the origins and repercussions of each fleeting event that graces our lives. The "small lives" of people, akin to tender blades of grass in spring, may seem fragile, yet they are deeply rooted in earth, epitomizing vitality and boundless hope.

The "small and beautiful" narratives we share, like the sprouting blades in the vernal breeze, must emit the fragrance of freshly upturned soil, embodying the righteousness and vigor of the "grand era". It is through this connection that the storyteller and the listener harmonize, their pulses synchronize, their emotions intertwine, and their thoughts converge.

The "small and beautiful" tales of China flow not as stagnant narratives, but as ever-evolving sagas. Time unfurls, the world transforms, yet unyielding remain China's spirit, dreams and original aspirations. It is our perspective and the evolving forms of storytelling that must adapt to the times, and embrace the data-driven empowerment of the era of artificial intelligence in order to better narrate China's stories.

As stories and storytellers evolve, China's narratives may contain errors. However these "small and beautiful" tales can dispel misunderstandings, unravel misconceptions and help lift rigid barriers abroad, and unfold new realms.

Once a solid foundation is laid, China's stories will transcend the confines of time, space and distance to become part of the lives of people across the globe. By adapting to the changing times, while remaining true to their original aspirations and spirit, China's stories embody the wisdom of China, bestowing benefits upon the world.

The author is a professor at, and the dean of, the School of International Cultural Exchange, Tongji University, and the executive deputy director of the National Language and Writing Promotion Base.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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