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Opening a New Chapter in Chinese New Zealand Relations

Huo Yan:  "Auckland is a more international city than Beijing"
Huo Yan: “Auckland is a more international city than Beijing”

Our first Rewi Alley Scholar, Huo Yan, has returned to Beijing after what the Michael King Writers Centre in Auckland’s Devonport declared was “a most successful residency”. 

During her eight-week stay as their first overseas writer in residence she completed a new murder story set in China as well as a story about the experience of Chinese migrants living in New Zealand 

Ms Huo’s residency was among projects funded in the first round of the RAFE fund. She began writing at the age of fourteen and has had eight novels published. In Beijing she is studying for her doctoral degree in literature at Beijing Normal University. 

Huo Yan turned 27 just before she returned home, and wrote a total of 50,000 characters in Mandarin during her stay. She will rework her material in Beijing and hopes to have final manuscripts by September. 

Huo Yan also found time to travel around New Zealand. Courtesy of NZCFS, she home-stayed in Christchurch where she addressed the National AGM and attended the banquet, in Wellington where she visited Te Papa, and in Tauranga, where branch President John Hodgson arranged for her to be hosted by a local writers’ group. 

Among the topics were the evolution of Chinese writing style (the 80s generation), translation and publication opportunities for exchange of New Zealand and Chinese literature, government impact on freedom of expression in China, development of electronic media, as well as general questions about Huo Yan’s current project, her life in China, her perceptions of New Zealand, and her personal goals. There was even a question about how Huo Yan deals with writer’s block, to which she replied ‘Shopping!’ 

She attended a branch meeting at Auckland soon after she arrived and was farewelled at a dinner that President Dave Bromwich also attended. 

Huo Yan: a sharp eye for sheepy souvenirs
Huo Yan: a sharp eye for sheepy souvenirs

Huo Yan stayed an extra week to go sightseeing in Queenstown where she went skiing and skydiving, and made a whistle-stop visit to Rotorua. 

Hou Yan says she hopes to return to New Zealand. The visit “opened her eyes”. She said that because of the number of Chinese, Maori as well as Europeans living in the city, she found Auckland a more international city than Beijing. 

Huo’s 2013 Fellowship will be matched next year by a Shanghai Writers’ Association invitation for a New Zealand writer to visit that city. So long as funding continues from both countries, the Fellowship is then expected to develop into a reciprocal opportunity for Chinese and New Zealand writers to alternate with visits to each other’s country, year by year. 

George Andrews, July 2013