If you studied Mandarin in Singapore, it’s likely that you’ve come across at least one of 尤今 (You Jin’s) novels, short stories, travelogues or essays. She is an important and influential local writer, having published over 150 Chinese books internationally.
Her writing is well-loved as it often consists of short, beautiful reflections of her everyday experiences.
Writing about her everyday experiences is not something that You Jin came up with randomly. When she was a student, her story of a fisherman’s life was published in a now defunct Chinese newspaper. When she showed it to her father, he told her that the story was a failure (after congratulating her of course!).
Her father told her that to truly understand a fisherman’s life, she should at least live with one, observe his lifestyle and try to understand his thoughts. Only then would she be able to truthfully portray a fisherman.
This lesson was pivotal in You Jin’s attitude towards writing, and would come to influence her writing style—one where the prose is grounded in reality with personal experiences and observations weaved in.
Just like part one of 尤今励志小品选编 (You Jin’s ‘Inspirational Novels’ series), which we are happy to recommend! The series is made up of three volumes, and each volume contains a collection of You Jin’s essays and covers a universal topic: ‘世上人’ (people), ’人间情’ (relationships) and ‘天下事’ (matters). You’ll find that her writings are filled with lessons learnt from her own experiences and observations.
Her work is definitely perfect for on-the-go, feel-good reading and is also short enough for those interested in brushing up on their Mandarin skills. Let’s dive in!
1. 细读世上人 (people)
You Jin has a keen and observing eye, and this is especially apparent with people. In many stories found in this volume, she makes use of familiar objects in our daily lives to illustrate the complexities and unpredictable nature of human behaviour. For example, in one story, she writes about a piggy bank, and relates it to a mother’s empathy and its impact on her child.
2. 悦读人间情 (relationships)
You Jin says that life is like a glass of water: tasteless, dull and monotonous. And that it is up to us to add colour and flavour to this plain glass of water, giving it new life and purpose. These colours/flavours come in the form of family, friendship and love, which is what this volume is all about.
3. 品读天下事 (matters)
In this volume, You Jin encourages us to be more observant and contemplative in our everyday lives. She shares with us stories that have touched her heart, and they consist of thought-provoking events that could happen to anyone. There is meaning in every encounter and it is through this awareness that we will become wiser.
Feel inspired? Borrow the series from a library near you!