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Literary News in a Chinese Prison
Chinese prisoner spins captivating tales
Beijing, Dec 5 (IANS) Tang Jianyuan may be a nobody in China's
literary world, but to his fellow inmates and wardens his name is
all too familiar.
Tang, 46, has found success as a novelist while serving a 10-year
jail term in the Detention House of north China's Inner Mongolia
region, where he has written eight novels over five years, reports
His works, some of which are based on his personal experiences, have
been published in a collection entitled "Collected Works of China's
Prisoner Author Tang Jianyuan" by the Guangming Daily Publishing
House based in Beijing.
"I owe my success to the prison officers, who have treated me as
human and never hesitated to show me affection and respect," Tang
"In fact, it was the wardens who encouraged me to take up writing."
Tang was a reporter, a published poet and later a businessman in his
native Hebei province in north China before he was convicted of
fraud in 1998.
"For a time I lost hope and thought death was the only way out,"
said Tang. "But the wardens all came to me with friendly words and
Tang remembers a warden named Li, who told him not to give up.
"He said all prisoners were treated as humans, and that I was young
and bright enough to mend my ways and start a new life," Tang
The idea of writing novels first occurred to him after six months in
jail, Tang said.
"I wanted to write down my own experiences for my readerships,
including the joy, sorrow and all the lessons I had learned over the
Tang said his works were mainly written for teenagers and business
people who needed, more than anyone else, to learn his lesson -- be
honest and abide by the law.
Then came news that his wife was suffering from stomach cancer.
When the prison officers heard of the tragedy, they allowed Tang to
pay a visit back to his hometown in the northern Hebei province.
"Tian Congying, director of the detention house, gave me 500 yuan
($60) out of his own pocket and told me to buy some nutritious food
for my wife," he said.
Shortly after his return, Tang submitted a written application for
writing novels in his spare time and soon got the green signal.
"He's the first ever to write books in our jail," said Liu Minggui,
deputy director of the detention house.
The prison officers arranged a workroom for him, offered him ink and
paper and easy access to TV, radio and newspapers.
One would hardly think that Tang's cosy little place was a cell, but
for the bars on the window.
Over the past five years, Tang has finished eight novels, eight
novelettes and four poetry collections.
A film production company under China Central Television has agreed
to shoot a 22-episode TV drama based on his film script entitled "A
Zigzagging Road to Heaven".
The prison authorities have decided to cut Tang's term to eight
years. Many of his inmates have been inspired by his success.
Gao Wenfeng, a painter on a four-year term for larceny, put a number
of his paintings on display at the Inner Mongolia Art Gallery in mid-
Wang Fuyin, with a jail term of seven years for selling counterfeit
goods, is the inventor of a patented electric foot-warming device.
Tang, who had a heart attack in 2002, said: "The wardens have
reminded me time and again not to work too hard lest my health is
"But each time, their kind words would inject a new vitality that
would enable me to work harder still."
It time stopped and the world came crashing to an end I could not be more surprised.
To find out that prisoners are treated with such dignity and compassion there is the biggest shock I am sure of my life.
With all we see on television and hear from dissidents I was always frightened terribly for anyone sent to prison in that cut off mysterious country. And that some of the guards would dig into their pockets to help a man in a humanitarian way, well I can scarce wrap my mind around that. I don't know of such compassion in this country.
Is it that he saw the light as it were and knowing he would affect the others in a great positive way was treated thus or does the government there have a heart that I knew nothing about.
An awesome inspiring story. One I know I will never forget.
"it is a kingly thing to pass over the transgressions of another." scripture.
Last edited by rachel; 09-18-2005 at 11:43 PM.
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