A Chair to Liu Xiaobo via Mo Yan

In March 2011, the German-based Chinese artist Meng Huang (孟煌) shipped a chair via DHL to Liu Xiaobo, recipient of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize serving an 11-year term in Jinzhou Prison in China. According to online tracking, the chair disappeared after it had entered China. Meng believes the Chinese authorities impounded it.

This year Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In October when the prize was announced, Mo Yan told the world press that he hoped Liu Xiaobo would be free soon. That gave Meng Huang another idea: He will ask Mo Yan for help.

On December 5, Meng Huang sent another chair, this time to the Swedish Academy of Letters, asking the Academy to pass the chair on to Mo Yan, ask him to take it back to China, and give it to fellow Nobelist Liu Xiaobo.

The chair Meng Huang sent to Sweden.

The chair Meng Huang sent to Sweden.

With the shipping, Meng Huang attached a note. It reads:

“Dear Mr. Mo Yan, I’m a Chinese artist. In March 2011, I shipped a chair to Mr. Liu Xiaobo in China. Unfortunately it disappeared after entering China. Will you please take this chair back to China and give it to Mr. Liu Xiaobo? Many thanks.  — Meng Huang, December 4, 2012, Berlin.”

Meng Huang's note to Mo Yan.

Meng Huang’s note to Mo Yan.

On December 7, Meng Huang received shipping confirmation that the chair has been delivered to its recipient—the Swedish Academy of Letters. Meng Huang will be in Stockholm on the 9th and the 10th to track down the chair and make sure it will be passed on to Mo Yan.


8 responses to “A Chair to Liu Xiaobo via Mo Yan”

  1. Zhewen says:

    LOL. I think Mo Yan wishes he could receive the prize by direct shipment to China. Unlike the chair, it wouldn’t get lost at the border.

  2. Yaxue Cao says:

    Swedish TV reports Meng Huang’s nake run today in Stockholm. He told me earlier that he didn’t care about Mo Yan, nor the Nobel Prize for Literature. He just want to ask Mo Yan to bring a chair back to Liu Xiaobo. He made the nake run to remind people of his chair: svt.se/nyheter/sverige/naken-man-greps-utanfor-nobelfesten …

  3. kingtubby1 says:

    A bit of lit theory:

    Mo’s work embodies the complexity of an artist symbiotically linked to an authoritarian system, despite his frequent claims of the separation of literary and political spheres. (An argument taken up by Pankaj Mishra in relation to Western writers) Mo was a child of the post-Mao literary thaw – a generation that embraced both traditional and avant-garde aesthetics. The shattering of sexual taboo in his novel Red Sorghum was typical of his “hallucinatory realism”.
    But while Mo frequently focuses on China’s trouble, these were often criticisms of local exploitation and bureaucracy. His voice is aligned to a state strategy of apportioning blame away from the political centre.
    The sinologist Julia Lovell has noticed that “hysterical realism”, the term coined by the literary critic James Wood to describe the chaotic language in some modern fiction, could be readily applied to Mo Yan. Instead of meaningfully engaging with moments of deep national trauma, whether the Great Leap Famine or the Cultural Revolution, Mo seeks refuge in a manic, ironic voice, that dances round open dissent.


    • Yaxue Cao says:

      @kingtubby1 , thank you for bringing the link here. I haven’t read this one, and could have missed it out. It takes a while for more considered criticism of Mo Yan like this piece to emerge, but it is emerging. If you ask me, I think this one really hits the target.

  4. kingtubby1 says:

    At least you recognised the lit crit point. I posted it elsewhere to back up my rejection of magic realism (and I’ve covered quite a bit of South American reading in that mould), but was ignored.

    Couldn’t be bothered reiterating the exact point, since I am about to sin binned.

    I suppose that is part and part of posting life. Quite simply, I’ve had a gut full of most sites as they don’t beyond the usual US-China fur fight axis.

    A strong attachment to the anarchy of expression on the net doesn’t help either.

    • Yaxue Cao says:

      “His voice is aligned to a state strategy of apportioning blame away from the political centre.” Liao Yiwu, in his letter to the Nobel Committee which I translated and was published in the largest newspaper in Sweden the day Mo Yan arrived, said exactly the same thing.

      “Instead of meaningfully engaging with moments of deep national trauma…” In my own essay Mo Yan According to You, Part 2, I deliberated quite a bit along this line. My point was that, Mo Yan’s criticality, touted by many in the west, including the Nobel Committee, doesn’t really engage the root of the social and political ills that define human conditions in China in any meaningfu way. He is harmless, and the Party knows it the best. For all his prolificness, his work has never focused people on anything essential; instead, it shifts you away from that gaze.


    • Yaxue Cao says:

      Oh I do have a graduate degree in literature. Not a stranger to literary theories 🙂

  5. kingtubby1 says:

    I was venting at another site. My comments about lit theory were not directed at you.

    In fact, since you have been the predominant writer on the site, I have been visiting and posting on it quite often.

    Best, and I look forward to your next.


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