As a representative work of Root-Seeking Literature, Pa Pa Pa was published in the sixth issue of People’s Literature in 1986. By recounting the legends of Jitou Village’s events and historical figures, the novel uses this closed and backward place to reveal the foolish, stagnated and unbending nature of their conventional culture, doing so in the style of a fable. Different from the personages featured in traditional realistic novels, the dull and silly Bing Zai was actually a boy with a defective body and soul. He was only ever as tall as a basket carried on the back, and could only say “Papa” and “F*** mom”, which became regarded as the two diagrams of Yin and Yang; at the same time, he was worshipped as “God Bing”. Finally, after the Jitou Villagers were defeated by those from Jiwei, according to custom, the young migrated to the remote mountain while the weak and elderly suicided together by taking poison; however, Bing Zai, who also had taken the poison, miraculously survived. His character was highly representative of the deformity and incurable nature of traditional culture, despite his unique trait of vitality. In the end, the crying out of “Papapa” to an unknown place may symbolize the appeal to modern civilization to save this grotesque traditional culture.
Born in Changsha, Hunan Province in 1953, Han Shaogong currently lives in Hainan Province. In 1982, he got his bachelor's degree from Hunan Normal University. Three years later, he finished further studies in the English Department of Wuhan University. Not much later, he was appointed chairperson of the Hunan Writers Association. In 1998, Han was transferred to Hainan Province, successively serving as director of the Chronique de Hainan, proprietor of the Frontier, chairperson of the Hainan Writers Association, president of the Hainan Federation of Literary and Art Circles, member of the fourth committee of the Chinese Writers Association, as well as of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth CWA bureau. Now, he holds the posts of honorary chairman to the Hainan Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Hainan University and Shenzhen University visiting professor, and senior researcher of the Contemporary Literature and Cultural Studies Academic Committee at Tsinghua University.
In 1974, he began to publish his works, with Yue Lan (The Orchid) and Seeing the Thatch in the West being his breakthrough collections. He also collaborated with other authors to complete a biography titled Ren Bishi, after a famous Chinese Communist Party leader. In 1985, he published a celebrated article The Root of Literature advocating “Root-Seeking Literature”, which he also practiced in his own writing. His representative works of this style were Pa Pa Pa, The Homecoming and Femme, femme, femme. In addition, his A Dictionary of Maqiao published in 1996 stirred up much controversy among readers. Since the turn of the century, he has published novels such as A Hint, Books of Days and Nights, and South of the Mountain, North of the Water. He has also worked as a translator, his works including The Unbearable Lightness of Being (by Milan Kundera) and The Book of Disquiet (by Fernando Pessoa).
He has won many awards both home and abroad, which include the 1980 and 1981 National Short Story Awards, the 2002 French Theatrical Knight Medal conferred by the French Cultural Ministry; The 5th Chinese Literature and Media’s Distinguished Writer Award, 4th Lu Xun Literature Prize, and the 2nd American Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. Over thirty of his works were published abroad, spanning a dozen languages.
Born an idiot, Bing Zai could only say two lines after growing up — “Papa” and “F*** mom”, which were always filled with emotions. To be accurate, he would say “papa” if he was in a good mood, and “F*** mom” if he was angry. And to add to this dilemma was the fact that Bing Zai had never seen his real father, and it was never clear whether he even had one to begin with.
As a midwife, Bing Zai’s mother had a habit of rolling her amber eyes, which showed a resemblance to her son. And the Jitou Village (literally, Rooster Head Village) where Bing Zai lived was ancient and isolated, an air of antiquity filling the place, the village having rough-sounding words and different terms to address people by. For example, fathers would be called “uncle”, uncles “father”, sisters “brother”, and sisters-in-law “sister”. The word “father” was passed down from the Thousand House Village located at the foot of the hill. A villager by the name of Delong (Virtuous Dragon) could sing ancient songs praising their ancestors such as Jiang Liang, or even about topics as far back as Fu Fang, Huo Niu, You Nai and finally to Xing Tian. As a hero that created the world, Xing Tian migrated his descendants to the river bank at the suggestion of the phoenix when they had become too numerous. It seemed that Delong could possibly be Bing Zai’s father.
Due crop failures lasting several years, it became necessary to sacrifice someone to the Grain God, with Bing Zai becoming the first choice. But just before he was executed, the executioner was scared out of his wits by a thunderbolt. Since then, people began viewing Bing Zai as an extraordinary boy, kowtowing to him in an instant and calling him “God Bing”. His two pet phrases of “Papa” and “F*** mom” also became the two diagrams of Yin and Yang.
Failing to sacrifice to the Grain God, the geomancer then ordered the residents of Jitou Village to bomb the head of Mount Jitou, which resulted in fierce fighting between the Jitou and Jiwei (literally “Rooster Tail”) villages. And though the Jitou combatants received an auspicious divination from God Bing, they couldn’t escape their impending and crushing defeat. According to an old maxim, the defeated must withdraw to a remote mountain, the winner leaving them a road out. The Jitou clan leader picked poisonous herbs from the mountain and told the old, weak, ill and disabled to eat them, so as to ease the younger generation’s burden as they took to the road. And so, they set off singing their ancient songs which did not bear one hint of cruely, the weak and vulnerable people having already passed away. But Bing Zai didn’t die, instead, the scabby scars on his head became cured. At this time, people found that this little old man with eternal youth was crying “Papa” to an unknown place. And children drew all round him in imitation, calling “Papapa”…