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Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

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Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit.

About the Newman Prize:

  • Any living author writing in Chinese (residing anywhere) is eligible. 
  • The Prize consists of $10,000 and a plaque, and may serve to crown a lifetime’s achievement or to direct attention to a developing body of work.
  • An international jury of distinguished experts will both nominate the candidates and select the winner based on a transparent voting process.


The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature is part of the Institute for US-China Issues mission to advance mutual trust in US-China relations. Literature and other cultural products can promote understanding through their celebration of our common humanity. The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment for a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues.

2021 Newman Prize Winner: Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke

“Yan’s writing does for the Chinese heartland what John Steinbeck did for the American West, or Thomas Hardy for Southwest England…he remains vitally invested in the ethical responsibility of the author. Though it has been demonstrated to him again and again that his explorations of China’s historical trauma are not welcome, he seems not to take the hint, and persists in laying bare what he sees as the original sins of modern Chinese society…His stubbornness, and the perpetual freshness of his sorrow over historical tragedy, are worthy of respect.”

– Eric Abrahamsen, Yan Lianke's nominator (Paper Republic)

Past Winners

"Hong Kong literature has for too long been relegated to a secondary position, or even worse — it is as though the city is incapable of producing significant literary works and writers of note. Hong Kong poetry is to many perhaps an even more abstract and chimerical concept. Xi Xi’s poetry, at times whimsical and at times serious, speaks to the character of the city and its people. Her poems also demonstrate how stories of a city can be told through narratives that are at first glance insignificant, allegories and fairy tales instead of grand statements. Feminine, tender, witty, observant, and capable of tugging at the heartstrings, Xi Xi’s poetry reminds us Hong Kong poetry should not be ignored in any discussion." 

– Dr. Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Xi Xi’s nominator (Hong Kong Baptist University)

2017 Winner Wang Anyi

“Over the past thirty or more years, Wang Anyi has continuously transformed her writing and altered her literary directions to produce a spectacular array of works, through which she has created a sort of reality of Chinese-language literature, a city in literature, or even a nation in literature.”

– Dai Jinhua, Wang Anyi’s nominator (戴锦华, Peking University),

Wang won for her novel Reality and Fiction which, according to her nominator Dai Jinhua, is a work that represents “one means of creating the world”: “It is not only literary writing, but also mega-writing of literature. It is a majestic experiment of literature and genre, and a demonstration and substantiation of theory: from the family to the nation-state, and from literary imagination to the history of ‘imagined community.’”

Wang Anyi (b. 1954) was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province and grew up in Shanghai. Like her mother, writer Ru Zhijuan (1925–1998), Ms. Wang pursued a literary career and in the early 1980s emerged on the Chinese literary scene. Wang is prolific and innovative: she writes consistently about the history intimately intertwined with her personal memories, and she writes profusely about Shanghai. David Der-wei Wang regards Wang Anyi as the successor of haipai (Shanghai-style) literature after the stellar Eileen Chang (张爱玲).

Wang’s seminal works are exclusively narratives of Shanghai. Her novel Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Changhenge, 1996) won the Fifth Mao Dun Literature Prize and has been translated into many languages. Her other award-winning novels include Reality and Fiction (Jishi yu xugou, 1993), Fuping (2000), Fierce Heroes Everywhere (Biandi xiaoxiong, 2005), The Age of Enlightenment (Qimeng Shidai, 2007), and Scent of Heaven (Tianxiang, 2011).

2015 Winner Chu T'ien-wen

"As a writer of short fiction, Chu is prodigiously talented. Texture, fragrance, color, and taste leap out from her uncommonly crafted prose with such force that they suck the reader into the text in ways not usually associated with the short-story form — a genre which is supposedly too fleeting to be immersive. Chu T’ien-wen’s writing refutes this received wisdom. This is partly because Fin-de-siecle Splendor pays homage to Taipei, the city of Chu’s birth, over eight fluidly conjoined tales which speak to each other as much as they live vividly in their own right. Yet it also because of her flair for carving crystal-cut literary moments, in which the constituent elements of a scene — air, light, mood, character — are each summoned up so precisely that they coalesce into a tableau that sears itself on the reader’s eye.”

– Margaret Hillenbrand, Chu T'ien-wen's nominator (Oxford University)

Chu T’ien-wen was awarded for her short story collection Fin-de-Siecle Splendor. Rooted in the vibrant particulars of Taiwan, her short stories reveal how and why short fiction may be the genre most suited for our times. 

Chu was born in 1956 Taipei into one of Taiwan’s most prominent literary families. Her writing career began in the mid-1970s, with whimsical and sentimental pieces that led critics to dub her a latterday acolyte of Eileen Chang. Her literary stock rose steadily throughout the 1980s, boosted by the appearance of harder-hitting works such as Yanxia zhi du (City of Hot Summer, 1987), until the publication of Shijimo de huali (Fin-de-siècleSplendor) in 1990 caused it to soar rather more spectacularly. Fin-de-siècle Splendor was her breakthrough work, trading romanticism for decadence, and crafting a full-blown, mature style that melds classical grace with street slang, and bears the imprints of Taiwan’s fraught linguistic past. That style found its apotheosis in Chu’s award-winning novel Huangren shouji (Notes of a Desolate Man, 1994).

After a period of literary reclusion, Chu reinvented herself again in 2007 with Wuyan (Words of a Witch), a work which probes still more insistently into the nature of writing itself. Chu T’ien-wen’s career as a screenwriter has been no less illustrious. Her collaborations with Hou Hsiao-hsien have yielded many of the landmark films – from Beiqing chengshi (City of Sadness, 1988) through Ximeng rensheng (The Puppetmaster, 1993) to Qianxi manbo (Millennium Mambo, 2001), and several more besides — which helped to turn Taiwan’s New Cinema movement into a global brand.

2013 Winner Yang Mu

“Yang Mu is an innovator, a supreme craftsman. His deep engagement in world literature, cultures, and history has given his work a versatility and profundity that is unparalleled among Chinese poets today, perhaps even in the entire history of modern Chinese poetry. He has created a language that is densely lyrical and charged with a diction that runs the spectrum from the colloquial to the archaic, a syntax that is supple and complex, and a tone that ranges from playfulness to passion, and to despair. He moves easily from the world of tangibles to the world of abstraction, with images rich and precise. His poetic world is cosmopolitan and global on the one hand, and decidedly native and local on the other. Some of his most powerful poems reveal an unwavering love for and identity with Taiwan. . . . The reader thinks with him, inside the poem and inside his mind and emotions, and emerges more aware of the world and what it means to be human.”

– Michelle Yeh, Yang Mu's nominator (University of California at Davis)

Born in 1940 in Hualian on the east coast of Taiwan, Yang Mu has produced an extraordinary corpus of poetry and prose over the past five decades. After graduating from college, he earned an MFA from the University of Iowa and went on to earn a PhD in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. He has taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for many years, and as a visiting professor at Princeton and National Taiwan University, among others. He has also served as the dean of humanities at National Dong Hwa University in his hometown Hualian, and as the founding director of the Institute of Literature and Philosophy at Academia Sinica, Taiwan.

Yang Mu started writing poetry in 1956 and has published 14 original books of poetry to date, most of which are gathered in the three volume Collected Works of Yang Mu

2011 Winner Han Shaogong

“Han Shaogong is a Chinese writer who intertwines, with exceptional artistry and originality, human perspectives of the local and the global, and whose career exemplifies the creative revolution that has taken place in Chinese writing since 1976. Blending fiction, memoir and essay, A Dictionary of Maqiao is an astonishing book: for the humour and humanity of its story-telling; for its unsentimental dedication to recounting the lives of impoverished farmers; for the light-handed skill with which it narrates the tragedies of modern China; and for its experimental form and sophisticated insights into Chinese culture, language and society.”

– Julia Lovell, Han Shaogong's nominator (University of London)

Born in 1953 in Hunan, south China, Han Shaogong has produced an extraordinary corpus of literary work over the past three decades. After spending six years planting rice and tea in northern Hunan during the Cultural Revolution, in the late 1970s he began a second career as a novelist. In the 1980s, he became a leading member of the “Roots-Seeking Movement” — a pioneering group of writers committed to exploring the fantastical local roots of Chinese culture, and to creating a darkly modernist type of fiction capable of articulating the macabre violence of Maoism.

A decade later, Han’s fascination with south China and with the political calamities of the 20th century culminated in his 1996 masterpiece, A Dictionary of Maqiao: a fictional biography of the village to which Han was sent down during the Cultural Revolution. He was nominated by the prominent translator and scholar Julia Lovell, whose translation of A Dictionary was published in 2003 by Columbia University Press.

Inaugaural 2009 Winner Mo Yan

“Of all the facets of Mo Yan’s oeuvre that have made him one of China’s foremost novelists and an internationally renowned figure — from diverse writing styles to his remarkable imagery and brilliant use of language — for me it is his historical imagination, an ability to create an alternative human history, that sets him apart from his peers. Artistry and humanity blend seamlessly in novels and stories that will be read and enjoyed well into the future."

– Howard Goldblatt, Mo Yan's nominator (University of Notre Dame)

Mo Yan has had a remarkable career producing a brilliant corpus of literary work. He was nominated by the prominent translator Howard Goldblatt, who also translated Mo Yan’s latest and winning novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.