Yan Lianke: Censorship and Self-Censorship

Despite Yan Lianke’s self-proclaimed efforts to have heavily self-censored his own book as an attempt to evade censorship and reach out to the wider Chinese population, “Dream of Ding Village” was soon banned after it was first published in Hong Kong in 2006 by the Chinese government. As the Washington Post quotes, Lianke claims to have “crafted [Dream of Ding Village] as a fantasy and so clearly fictitious that he hopes it will escape the censor’s veto.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Lianke expresses his apprehension towards his own self-sensorship, stating that “[his] greatest worry is that self-censorship has drained [his] passion and dulled [his] sharpness.”

Lianke perceives his book to be a social commentary on the rapid development of China and its toil on the wellbeing of the Chinese people, a tradeoff the people have made in the name of progress.

“Dream of Ding Village” has caused other problems for Lianke, such a legal dispute between him and his publisher “for failing to pay a promised advance on his royalties and a donation to the village where the book was researched.”

It’s a loaded book with a history of its own, and what we’re reading may be the regrets of Lianke of his failed efforts to self-censor himself for the sake of avoiding censorship. Ultimately, he implies to have lost both the quality he could’ve offered with his detail in writing, let alone a wider reach to the public.

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