Online Chinese Literature Sees Skyrocketing Readership
More than two decades ago, few discerning readers in China took online literature seriously because the bar for online publishing was so low that anyone could be a writer, let alone popular melodramatic genres such as romance, fantasy and time travel.
However, given the current number of writers and readers and its influence, online literature has become an important part of Chinese people’s cultural life. It also takes on increasing responsibilities to create good stories, encourage more people to read and help achieve the goal of building a ‘strong culture’ by 2035, according to a 2021 online literature study published earlier. this month by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Sciences.
Based on data collected from platforms including China Literature Group, the country’s largest online fiction provider, the study analyzed the development and trends of Chinese literature online from five aspects, including genres, reading and the creative environment.
By the end of 2021, users of online literature platforms across China reached 502 million, accounting for 48.6 percent of total internet users, an increase of over 4 million from 2020.
Statistics from the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association released in October showed that in 2020, the market value of Chinese literature online was nearly 25 billion yuan (3.92 billion) and that more than 21 million online writers had created approximately 29 million works.
As more people from different walks of life create online fiction with their professional knowledge and work experience, online Chinese literature takes on a more realistic color, according to the study by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences .
Statistics from China Literature Group show that realistic works grew at a compound annual growth rate of 34% from 2016 to 2021, becoming the second fastest growing category on its platforms during this period. For example, in 2021, the fifth online fiction competition on realistic themes attracted nearly 20,000 authors who submitted more than 21,000 works, representing a year-on-year increase of 40.6% and 42.4% respectively. , setting records for this annual contest launched in 2016.
As the influence of realistic works increases, more and more writers appear, creating multi-dimensional novels, with professional knowledge based on their professional experience.
Among the most popular writers in the China Literature Group, more than 75% have had higher education, of which more than 60% studied science or engineering. Teachers, lawyers, judges, military, doctors, screenwriters or white collar workers are becoming online literature writers. They’ve created roles in over 188 professions, and doctors, sportspeople, and programmers are the most popular professions.
An outstanding trend for online realistic novels is that writers tend to set stories in the context of particular industries and combine the professional development of protagonists with changing times and national rejuvenation, according to the study.
Laobing Xinjing, or Veteran Turned Policeman, by Zhuo Muxian, places the day-to-day work of drug enforcement in the context of national security. Writer Mei Shiniang’s debut work Benteng Niandai－Xiangnan Xiangbei or A Racing Time－To the South and North focuses on the struggles and growth of a generation of young people since reform and opening up in 1978, recording the struggles of Mei’s father’s generation in the island province of Hainan. Beidou Xingchen or The Big Dipper by Fei Jia tells the patriotic story of the searchers for navigational satellites, and Tayishijian Weiming or In the name of time by Yin Xun tells the story of the professionals who restore the wall paintings of the caves of Dunhuang, in the Gansu Province.
This “professional fiction” has long been a common category in online literature and has attracted a large readership base. According to the study, these works, which often include rich professional knowledge, are effective in taking readers into the world of unknown realms with intriguing stories that have become the best vehicles to record and reflect society and social mentality in various aspects.
Despite new media and the shift towards reality, online Chinese literature is rooted in ancient popular literature and fiction from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, according to the study.
Online Chinese literature has inherited elements of traditional ghost stories, folklore, fiction from the Ming and Qing eras, Mandarin Duck and Butterfly school novels in the early 20th century, and melodramatic novels from Hong Kong and of Taiwan over the past decades.
However, it has a broader vision, as it married elements of Japanese anime, Hollywood fantasy, and mystery novels from Europe and Japan, researchers claim in an article published in Modern Chinese Literature Studies in 2015.
Popular online novels in 2021 display a trendy combination of traditional culture and modern spirit. For example, Zhenyao Bowuguan or The Museum Where the Devils Are Sealed incorporates demons and ghosts from Soushenji or In Search of Supernatural, Shanhaijing or The Classic of Mountains and Seas and Liaozhaizhiyi or Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, while telling the stories in a modern style. the context.
Another trend is the combination of personal struggles with nation building. For example, Dizhangnyu Ta Youmei Yousa or The Eldest Daughter Is Beautiful and High-spirited features a group of tough, accomplished women in a family and patriotic characters, calling on young readers to care about the fate of the country.
While many online writers look to lore and reality, others look to the future like science fiction, which has become one of the five fastest growing genres in 2021. During the past five years, science fiction writers on China Literature Group websites increased by 189%. In addition to the rapidly growing quantity, the overall quality of online science fiction has improved markedly. In 2021, 22% of the group’s most popular writers created science fiction, and many science fiction works entered the monthly lists of most popular works.
The rise of science fiction online is obviously the result of the popularity of the best-selling trilogy The Three-body Problem and the blockbuster movie The Wandering Earth, the study says, adding that science fiction is actually closely linked to reality.
Commenting on the development of online Chinese literature, Liu Yuhong from the Institute of Chinese Literature of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, “Online Chinese literature has paid unprecedented attention to reality.
“With the changing era and social development, the social and cultural roles of online Chinese literature have also changed. With topics on reality, the genre of science fiction for the future and fantasies that incorporate traditional elements and a modern spirit, online Chinese literature has become an important vehicle for Chinese stories and is an essential part of the reading content in China.
CHINA DAILY / Asian News Network