Selected Modern Chinese Essays: On the Need for More Young Essayists

By Liao Mosha

In recent years, I have seldom written essays. During the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, however, I wrote more. In those days, as a newspaper editor, I often worked on the night shift and wrote a great many essays, so that, later, when compiling a collection of my works, I was astonished to find myself to have authored so many essays, some of which I could not even remember. I have, therefore, come to realize that working on a newspaper or a magazine could make a prolific writer of yourself. The same was true of Lu Xun. It was not until he became editor of the magazine The Tatler that he started writing essays. Nowadays, as the editorial departments of newspapers and periodicals are generally well staffed, the people there should be in a position to write more. Some newspapers and magazines are so starved of contributions that they have to send out people to various places like Beijing and Shanghai to canvass for support. That is no answer to the problem at all. The best way is for the editorial staff to do the writing themselves and turn out more. The former Xinhua Daily, where we used to work, had a staff of about 20. Everyone of us wrote, including not only the reporters and editors, but also the typesetters, proofreaders and reference-library people.

On the other hand, emphasis should be placed on arousing young people’s enthusiasm for writing. Instead of rashly rejecting manuscripts, editors should go over them carefully. Manuscripts which are acceptable but in need of improvement should be allowed publication after they have been revised and polished by the editorial department. Young contributors could thus be spurred on to ever greater efforts to write. That is the way to bring up new writers. It is inadvisable to rely solely on a handful of veteran writers. Many of our writers owe their success to the help and encouragement of their predecessors. Most young writers today go in for fiction or drama, but practically none engage in essay writing. That is no good. Let more young essayists come to the fore!