文化 Culture

A homage to China's grasslands

As tourism and development in western China grows, one writer pays homage to its grasslands.

Article image

My Passion for the Grasslands
Shu Ni
Intellectual Property Right Press, August 2011 (Chinese only)

In 2010, writer Shu Ni quit her middle management job with an Internet company to concentrate on writing about the grasslands. She threw herself into studying the regions, visiting herding families and helping herd and milk their flocks. Her stories, which have appeared in National Geographic’s Chinese edition and Deep, the magazine of the China Association for Scientific Expedition, are drawn from authentic grasslands experiences.

A Beijinger born and bred, she says herself that “my background has nothing to do with Mongolia.” But despite growing up in a Han Chinese family in Beijing, she has always been fascinated by the grasslands. She wrote a 400,000-character novel about a Chinese woman’s love affair with a Mongolian man as if she was recalling a past life, and she has travelled the length and breadth of the Mongolian grasslands in search of her dream.

For years she has been recording her experiences with the grasslands, herders and nomadic culture. In her writings these vast lands, “as warm as the mountains, as strong as the water,” are home to the horsehead fiddle, which can “smooth over worries and hurt as it resonates with your heart,” and thirteen year old boys who “in the dawn reverently prepare their father’s saddle.” The Mongolians, these “mysterious, serious and taciturn people,” and their land and culture are portrayed exquisitely in her writing. 

The book records how Shu came to know, love, understand and care for the grasslands. Initially there is the amazement of first contact: “The green land was endless. There were no people or animals, only the grassland. But what looks empty is actually home to the herders.” Then she moves from the visual impact of the grasslands to the culture and feelings: “Every Mongolian who can sing has a heart full of love: The blue skies and the land deserve love; the people and all living things deserve love; the goshawks deserve love; the mice deserve love; the wolves deserve love; the lambs deserve love, a flower deserves love; a blade of grass deserves love.”

She comes to know the Mongolians themselves, and listens to herders and singers tell stories of their lives and their concerns for the future. Finally she looks at developing and protecting the grasslands and the tensions between the traditional and the modern. Her writings, like the grasslands themselves, are bold and warm, but also worried for the future.

Over the last decade or two, the public have been more aware of the grasslands, as tourism and the economy develop in the west of China. Meanwhile the annual spring sandstorms mean the grasslands are a focus for environmental policy. Industry, led by mining, is bringing huge changes to Inner Mongolia. As the region’s grasslands are closer to more developed areas, they are first to feel political and economic changes.

In popular magazine articles on grasslands travel, this is a land of novelty and beauty. In academic and political meetings on developing the grasslands, the herders are rarely mentioned and it is unusual to hear a Mongolian accent.

For the ordinary reader, Shu provides a bridge. She stands between the grasslands’ tradition and our modern lives and brings us vivid and authentic tales. Her writings echo the melancholy of Mongolian music, as Inner Mongolia’s beautiful grasslands and its people are now the last of their type.

Some say nomadic herding is backward, and that nostalgia for tradition means opposing development. But the millennia of harmony between the herders and the grasslands, and the damage done by recent development, warn us of the dangers of blindly developing the economy. What future is there for the grasslands? Shu Ni lets us hear what the herders would say. 

Now more than ever…

chinadialogue is at the heart of the battle for truth on climate change and its challenges at this critical time.

Our readers are valued by us and now, for the first time, we are asking for your support to help maintain the rigorous, honest reporting and analysis on climate change that you value in a 'post-truth' era.

Support chinadialogue

发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200.

评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

期待中

期待这本书的英文版。感谢中外对话发布这书的信息。

Awaiting...

awaiting for the English version of the book, thank you CD for posting the information, Cheers..TNT

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

Everyone has its own grassland deep down

Grassland is the oasis in the desert. Though equally vast, it's full of life. I hope that our country can soon become "beautiful China", in which our civilisation and eco-system are based on green lands, not deserted islands or deserts. Deserted islands and deserts are horrible words.

每个人心里留有一片草原

草原意味着沙地上的绿色,虽然同样的广袤,但是她有生命,希望我们的国家及早建成“美丽中国”,让我们的生态和人文建立在绿色生命之上,而不要再出现孤岛、荒漠……这些可怕的词汇了。

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

翻译的不好

"one writer pays homage to its grasslands" = 草原越来越走进公众的视野。我不认同这个翻译。

Very poor translation

"one writer pays homage to its grasslands" = 草原越来越走进公众的视野. I don't think so.

Default thumb avatar Reply arrow
lushan.huang

感谢您的关注

您好,感谢您对中外对话的关注。由于中英文读者阅读习惯和阅读喜好的不同,我们的题目和摘要有时并不是一一对应的翻译。

Thank you for your attention

Thank you for your close attention. Due to different reading habits between Chinese and English readers, we don't always translate our headlines and standfirsts word for word.