Land is my muse
By Tanizaki Yui (China Daily)
This is my second time in China. The first trip was in 1999, when I was a college student.
Back then, I didn't speak a single word of Chinese and spent one-and-a-half months backpacking through the country, communicating with people through gestures.
It was an aimless journey. I traveled to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou; took a three-day train to Chengdu; went to Yunnan province, and then the Tibet autonomous region.
But I didn't want the trip to end and just stayed in Lhasa until my family in Japan urged me to return home.
Five years later, I started to write a novel, which won me the 2007 Bungagukai Prize for New Writers and led me onto the road to become a novelist.
The novel, Maiochiru Mura, tells the story of a fictional village in a matrilineal society, where time lapses differently and people have a unique way to calculate their age.
I wrote the novel from the images in my dreams - it was a mosaic of my childhood memories of growing up in Japan's Fukui prefecture and some scenes were very similar to the villages I had visited in Yunnan - the local market in Xishuangbanna, where women sold batik textiles and handicrafts. Those memories slipped into my novel.
At this year's China-South Korea-Japan Forum of East Asian Literature, I submitted a short story, the idea of which originated from Jiufen, a small town near Taipei. It was the first in a series inspired by my travels to different parts of Asia.
They are mirror images of places in my mind, where reality meets fantasy.
I have finished the stories of Jiufen, Tibet and Kyoto. The one I am working on now is on the Indian port city of Cochin, and my next will be fashioned on Malaysia.
Where will the series lead to? I don't know yet. But land, on which unique local cultures grow and different languages are spoken, pushes me to write one story after another.
During my travels to different places, I always try to use the local languages. Of course, I am far from fluent in many.
I feel like a toddler who is just learning to speak, just like my travel to China 16 years ago, when I was treated kindly by Chinese people as if I were a child. That time brought back my memories of childhood, when I drew colorful pictures with crayons.
When I travel around Asia and write about the continent, such memories come back. For me, the muse of creativity is land.
Xing Yi translated the piece.
(China Daily 06/17/2015 page20)
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