Mo Yan receives honorary degree from City College of New York

Updated: 2014-11-11 14:45

By AMY HE in New York(

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Mo Yan receives honorary degree from City College of New York

Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan delivering a lecture at the City College of New York in upper Manhattan on Monday, where he received an honorary degree for his contributions to literature. Mo won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2012, becoming the first resident of mainland China to receive the award. AMY HE / CHINA DAILY

Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan received an honorary degree from the City College of New York on Monday evening for his contributions to literature.

Mo delivered the 2014 Samuel Rudin Distinguished Visiting Scholar Lecture at the school in Upper Manhattan, its first foreign-language lecture since the program began in 1996.

"It's been 30 years since the beginning of my writing career, and the last three decades has also been a time when China has seen massive reform and transformation, and my creations are highly interconnected with the changes that the country has gone through," Mo said through a translator. "My fiction illustrates China, combining history with reality, imagination with fact."

Mo, 59, whose real name is Guan Moye, gave a short lecture titled My Story after he received the honorary degree. He spoke about how as a child he was always more interested in mythology than he was in science and reality, something that contributed to his pursuit of fiction.

Mo said his stories came from three sources: listening to others' tales; experiencing something in his life; or making it up entirely.

"For a lot of writers, those are the origins of their stories, too," he said. "In our daily lives, we cannot live without science, but in our spiritual lives, we cannot live without literature."

"Your writing depicts the great sweep of history," Eric Weitz, dean of humanities and the arts at the City College of New York (CCNY), told Mo. "For you, of course, that history is China's 20th century, crisscrossed by war and revolution, enormous social and political transformation, great tragedies, but also, great accomplishments."

Previous Rudin Scholars include American TV news anchors Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw, as well as former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder.

Mo, born in 1955 in Shandong province to a farmer family, dropped out of elementary school to work as a farmer and factory worker before enlisting as a solider. Mo began writing professionally in the early 1980s, graduating from the People's Liberation Army Art College in 1986. He earned a master's degree in literature from Beijing Normal University in 1991. Mo's pen name means "do not speak" in Chinese.

In 2012, Mo became the first from Chinese mainland to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He has written novels, short stories, plays and other prose and is best known for works such as Red Sorghum Clan, The Republic of Wine, and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

"Mo Yan is a poet who tears down stereotypical propaganda posters, elevating the individual from an anonymous human mass," Per Wästberg, Nobel Committee chairman, said at the ceremony in 2012. "Using ridicule and sarcasm, Mo Yan attacks history and its falsifications as well as deprivation and political hypocrisy."