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Wang Meng: Forever Reading, Reading Offers Limitless Benefits

Source: Sichuan Daily Date: 2017-04-11


Wang Meng, a prestigious writer and Honorary Vice Chairman of the China Writers Association, gave a lecture on “reading forever” on April 9.
 

On April 9, Wang Meng, a prestigious writer, gave a lecture “reading forever” at the Bashu Lecture hosted by the Sichuan Provincial Library.

Though in his 80s, Wang Meng was in high spirits, with remarkable clarity in thought and characteristic humor. Based on his own experience, the 82-year-old writer encouraged the audience to read more, good books with an inquisitive mind.

A long queue was formed two hours before the lecture room opened. Among the audience, there were teenagers, gray-haired seniors as well as readers who have travelled from other cities.

Reading to Understand Truths

Wang Meng was born in 1934 and wrote his first long novel Long Live Youth at the age of 19. For the 60 years ever since, he has never stopped writing and won many literary awards, including the Maodun Literary Award. His works include Long Live Youth, The Season of Love, The Young Man Joining the Organization Department, among his commentaries, prose, research on classical literature and old and new poetry.

At the start of the lecture, Wang underscored the need to read forever. Literary masters and intellectuals in both ancient and modern times have placed great value on reading, said Wang. And there have been numerous famous lines on encouraging reading.

Some may question the practical value of reading. “In fact, people read to understand truths.” The more you read, the more truths you will come to understand, and the more wisdom you will get on life, said Wang.

Wang believed that reading is also the best way to improve your intellectual capabilities. “You may read for information on your cell phone. But it can hardly compare with reading from books. After all, people improve their intellectual capabilities mainly through language and characters.” Wang argued.

Hard reading is joyful reading.

What benefits can we get from reading? And how to read?

Wang Meng said that one needs to have the ability to analyze, differentiate and choose to become a good reader. “How to read then? We need to read attentively and always ask questions and look for answers to those questions.”

As Wang Meng sees it, reading is delightful. And there are two delights. One is at the superficial level: laughing at light stuff and jokes “like a stupid person”. The other is hard reading, reading that has overcome many difficulties. “We must read with wide open eyes. We need to consult dictionaries and teachers as we read. It is this kind of reading that brings us endless delights.”

Wang Meng believes in tackling difficult reading materials even before one reaches certain levels of comprehension ability. Wang Meng started reading many Chinese classics such as the Four Great Books before he went to primary school. He could even memorize them. “I didn’t understand them though. But as I tried to memorize, I came to understand them bit by bit. To be honest, I don't have many academic credentials, except for a high school diploma. I went to college as a teacher.”

Based on his own experience, he encouraged the audience to read as much as possible and go beyond one’s field of study. He told a story in the 1980s when he was invited by an American university for a visit and had a hard time at the airport for not understanding English. From then on, he made up his mind to memorize 30 English words every day. When he built up 35% of the vocabulary, he started to read English books time and time again with the help of a dictionary. In this way, he becomes proficient in several languages.

Reading, writing and exercising are what delights him in life.

After finishing the lecture, Wang interacted with the audience. Wang said Sichuan is a place of profound cultural heritage and has produced many towering literary figures over the centuries. He himself also has a close bond with Sichuan. He comes to Sichuan often and makes many friends here. “I like Sichuan food. But for health reasons, I can only like it in theory.” This comment on Sichuan food brought forth laughter in the audience.

When answering a question on his lifestyle, Wang jokingly said, “I go to bed and get up early. Overall, I am a sleep lover.” He usually goes to bed at 10 pm and gets up at 5 am. “I lose no opportunity to write and exercise. Look, I wear a wrist band coming here.” He showed the steps recorded on the device. He walked for over 9000 steps for each of the previous two days. Reading, writing and exercising is what delights him in life.

When addressing the question of too many literary works emerging nowadays, Wang said, “It is much easier to become a writer. On the other hand, there are fewer literary giants like in the old times. This is what pains us the most.” That said, Wang was confident that there are always some people who take art and literature as their lifelong pursuits.