Chinese science fiction

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Chinese science fiction (traditional Chinese: 科學幻想, simplified Chinese: 科学幻想, pinyin: kēxué huànxiǎng, commonly abbreviated to 科幻 kēhuàn, literally scientific fantasy) is genre of literature that concerns itself with hypothetical future social and technological developments in the Sinosphere.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.


Chinese-speaking world or Sinophone or sinophone is a neologism that fundamentally means "Chinese-speaking", typically referring to a person who speaks at least one variety of Chinese. Academic writers use Sinophone "Chinese-speaking regions" in two ambiguous meanings: either specifically "Chinese-speaking areas where it is a minority language, excluding China and Taiwan" or generally "Chinese-speaking areas, including where it is an official language". Many authors use the collocation Sinophone world to mean the regions of Chinese diaspora outside of Greater China, and some for the entire Chinese-speaking world. Mandarin Chinese is the most commonly spoken language today, with over one billion people, approximately 20% of the world population, speaking it.


Mainland China

Late-Qing Dynasty

Science fiction in China was initially popularized through translations of Western authors during the late-Qing dynasty by proponents of Western-style modernization such as Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei as a tool to spur technological innovation and scientific progress.

Qing dynasty Former empire in Eastern Asia, last imperial regime of China

The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing, was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled from 1644 to 1911. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming Jianzhou Guard vassal, began organizing "Banners", military-social units that included Manchu, Han, and Mongol elements. Nurhaci formed the Manchu clans into a unified entity and officially proclaimed the Later Jin in 1616. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of the Liaodong Peninsula and declared a new dynasty, the Qing.

Liang Qichao Chinese historian, philosopher and reformist

Liang Qichao, courtesy name Zhuoru, art name Rengong, was a Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher, and reformist who lived during the late Qing dynasty and the early Republic of China. He inspired Chinese scholars with his writings and reform movements.

Kang Youwei Chinese politician and scholar

Kang Youwei was a Chinese scholar, noted calligrapher and prominent political thinker and reformer of the late Qing dynasty. Through his connections, he became close to the young Guangxu Emperor and fervently encouraged him to promote his friends and consequently soured the relationship between the emperor and his adoptive mother, the powerful Empress Dowager Cixi. His ideas inspired a reformation movement. Although he continued to advocate a constitutional monarchy after the founding of the Republic, Kang's political theory was never put into practice as he was forced to flee China for repeated attempts to assassinate the empress dowager. He was an ardent Chinese nationalist and internationalist.

With his translation of Jules Verne's A Two-Year Vacation into Classical Chinese (as Fifteen Little Heroes), Liang Qichao became one of the first and most influential advocates of science fiction in Chinese.

In 1903, Lu Xun, who later became famous for his darkly satirical essays and short stories, translated Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and Journey to the Centre of the Earth from Japanese into Classical Chinese (rendering it in the traditional zhang wei ban style and adding expository notes) while studying medicine at the Kobun Institute (弘文學院 Kobun Gakuin) in Japan. He would continue to translate many of Verne's and H.G. Wells' classic stories, nationally popularizing these through periodical publication.

Lu Xun Chinese novelist and essayist

Lu Xun was the pen name of Zhou Shuren, a Chinese writer, essayist, poet, and literary critic. He was a leading figure of modern Chinese literature. Writing in Vernacular Chinese and Classical Chinese, he was a short story writer, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, poet, and designer. In the 1930s, he became the titular head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai.

<i>From the Earth to the Moon</i> science fantasy novel by Jules Verne

From the Earth to the Moon is an 1865 novel by Jules Verne. It tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build an enormous Columbiad space gun and launch three people—the Gun Club's president, his Philadelphian armor-making rival, and a French poet—in a projectile with the goal of a Moon landing.

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

The earliest work of original science fiction in Chinese is believed to be the unfinished novel Lunar Colony (月球殖民地小說), published in 1904 by an unknown author under the pen name Old Fisherman of the Secluded River (荒江釣叟). [1] The story concerns Long Menghua, who flees China with his wife after killing a government official who was harassing his wife's family. The ship they escape on is accidentally sunk and Long's wife disappears. However, Long is rescued by Otoro Tama, the Japanese inventor of a dirigible who helps him travel to Southeast Asia searching for his wife. They join with a group of anti-Qing martial artists to rescue her from bandits. Deciding that the nations of the world are too corrupt, they all travel to the moon and establish a new colony. [2]

Republican Era

Following the collapse of the Qing-dynasty in 1911, China went through a series of dramatic social and political changes which affected the genre of science fiction tremendously. Following the May Fourth Movement in 1919 written vernacular Chinese began to replace Classical Chinese as the written language of the Chinese mainland in addition to Chinese-speaking communities around the world. China's earliest purely literary periodical, Story Forest (小說林), founded by Xu Nianci, not only published translated science fiction, but also original science fiction such as New Conch Shell Mr. Tan (新法螺先生譚). Meanwhile, Lao She employed science fiction for the purpose of social criticism in his science fiction novel Cat Country which was also published during this time period.

May Fourth Movement 1919 Chinese protests against the countrys concessions in the Treaty of Versailles

The May Fourth Movement was an anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing on 4 May 1919.

Written vernacular Chinese, also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese based on the varieties of Chinese spoken throughout China, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written standard used during imperial China up to the early twentieth century. A written vernacular based on Mandarin Chinese was used in novels in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and later refined by intellectuals associated with the May Fourth Movement. Since the early 1920s, this modern vernacular form has been the standard style of writing for speakers of all varieties of Chinese throughout mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore as the written form of Modern Standard Chinese. This is commonly called Standard Written Chinese or Modern Written Chinese to avoid ambiguity with spoken vernaculars, with the written vernaculars of earlier eras, and with other written vernaculars such as written Cantonese or written Hokkien.

Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese, is the language of the classic literature from the end of the Spring and Autumn period through to the end of the Han dynasty, a written form of Old Chinese. Classical Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese that evolved from the classical language, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. Literary Chinese was used for almost all formal writing in China until the early 20th century, and also, during various periods, in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Among Chinese speakers, Literary Chinese has been largely replaced by written vernacular Chinese, a style of writing that is similar to modern spoken Mandarin Chinese, while speakers of non-Chinese languages have largely abandoned Literary Chinese in favor of local vernaculars.

People's Republic of China


Following the Chinese civil war (1945–49) and the establishment of the People's Republic of China on the Chinese mainland, works with an ethos of socialist realism inspired by Soviet science fiction became more common while others works were suppressed. Still, many original works were created during this time, particularly ones with "popular science" approach aim to popularize science among younger readers and promote the country's "wonderful socialist future." Zheng Wenguang in particular is known as the ‘father of Chinese science fiction’ for his writings in during this period up until the beginning of Cultural Revolution (1966–76) when the printing of non-revolutionary literature was suspended.


During the Cultural Revolution, very little literature was printed and science fiction essentially disappeared in mainland China. However, following the March 1978 National Science Congress convened by the Central Committee and the State Council and its proclamation that "science's spring has come," a greater enthusiasm for popular science (and thus science fiction) followed, with the publication of the children’s novel Ye Yonglie's Xiao Lingtong's Travels in the Future (《小灵通漫游未来》) in the same year as the 1978 National Science Congress marked a revival of science fiction literature in China. [3]

In 1979, the newly founded magazine Scientific Literature (《科学文艺》) began publishing translations and original science fiction and Zheng Wenguang again devoted himself to writing science fiction during this period. Tong Enzheng wrote Death Ray on a Coral Island , which was later adapted into China's first science fiction movie. [4] Other important writers from this time period include Liu Xingshi, Wang Xiaoda, and Hong Kong author Ni Kuang. In his monograph, Rudolf G. Wagner argues during this brief rebirth of science fiction in China scientists used the genre to symbolically describe the political and social standing to which the scientific community desired following its own rehabilitation. [5]

This rehabilitation suffered a setback during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign (1983–1984), when Biao Qian labelled science fiction as "spiritual pollution." This led to authors such as Ye Yonglie, Tong Enzheng, Liu Xingshi, and Xiao Jianheng being condemned for slander and the publication of science-fiction in mainland China once again being prohibited indefinitely. [6]


In 1991, Yang Xiao, then the director of the magazine Scientific Art and Literature which had survived the ban on science fiction during the 1980s by changing their name to Strange Tales and publishing non-fiction works, decided to run a science fiction convention in Chengdu, Sichuan. Not only was this the first-ever international science fiction convention to be held in mainland China, [7] it was also the first international event to be hosted in China since the student protests of 1989. [8] Scientific Literature changed its name to Science Fiction World (《科幻世界》), and by the mid-1990s, had reached a peak circulation of about 400,000. [8] Authors who came to prominence during the 1990s include Liu Cixin, Han Song, Wang Jinkang, Xing He, Qian Lifang, and He Xi. In particular, Liu, Han and Wang became popularly known as the 'Three Generals of Chinese Sci-fi'. [9] As a genre, science fiction came to the fore when the 1999 national college entrance exam included the science fiction question, “What if memories could be transplanted?” [10]

Wang Jinkang is the most prolific of the three, having published over 50 short stories and 10 novels. While working as a chassis engineer for oil rigs, he began writing short stories as a way to entertain his son and teach him scientific concepts, a focus he has maintained throughout his writing career. In an article published in the Commercial Press's bi-monthly magazine on Chinese culture, The World of Chinese , Echo Zhao (赵蕾) describes his writing as being pervaded with "a sense of heroic morality" that avoids the "grim finality" of an apocalyptic future, citing examples of clones with bumps on their fingers to distinguish them from non-clones and robots whose hearts explode when they desire life. [9]

Liu Cixin's work has been especially well-received, with his Three Bodies (三体) trilogy selling over 500,000 copies in China (as of the end of 2012). [9] The books, which describe an alien civilization that invades earth over a vast span of time, have drawn comparisons to the works of Arthur C. Clarke by fellow science fiction author Fei Dao, [11] while Echo Zhao describes Liu Cixin's writing as "lush and imaginative" with a particular interest in military technology. [9]

Han Song, a journalist, writes darkly satirical novels and short stories which lampoon modern social problems. His novel 2066: Red Star Over America which describes a Chinese invasion and takeover of the United States, and his short story collection Subway which features alien abductions and cannibalism on a never-ending train ride, have been lauded for their sense of social justice. [12] He has been quoted as saying, "“It’s not easy for foreigners to understand China and the Chinese. They need to develop a dialectical understanding, see all sides, just as we appreciate the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang.’ I hope to prevent tragedy in China, and in the world, with my writing. I don’t think humans have rid themselves of their innate evil. It’s just suppressed by technology. If there is a spark of chaos, the worst will happen. That goes for all people, whether Chinese or Western. We should keep thinking back to why terrible things have happened in history and not allow those things to happen again.” [9]

Hao Jingfang won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for Folding Beijing in 2016.

Meanwhile in the area of film and television, works such as the science fiction comedy Magic Cellphone (魔幻手机) explored themes of time travel and advanced technology. On March 31, 2011, however the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) issued guidelines that strongly discouraged television storylines including "fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking" [13] indicating that in the near future science fiction shows will likely not be allowed to be aired on mainland Chinese television.


Following the defeat of the Qing Dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the island of Taiwan came under the sovereign rule to the Empire of Japan who eventually instituted a policy of 'Japanization' that discouraged the use of Chinese language and scripts in Taiwan. When the island was ceded to the Republic of China after the end of World War II in 1945, the majority of Japanese colonialists were repatriated to Japan and the KMT, the ruling party of the RoC, quickly established control of the island. This was to prove key to the survival of the RoC government, who were forced to move their capital to the island after their defeat by the communists in the Chinese Civil War. The KMT pursued a policy of rapid sinification which, in combination with an influx of mainland intellectuals, spurred the development of Chinese-language literature in Taiwan and along with it, science fiction.

Taiwanese science fiction authors include Wu Mingyi (吳明益), Zhang Xiaofeng (張曉風), Zhang Ziguo (张系国), Huang Hai (黃海), Huang Fan (黃凡), Ye Yandou (葉言都), Lin Yaode (林燿德), Zhang Dachun (張大春), Su Yiping (蘇逸平), Chi Ta-wei (紀大偉), Hong Ling (洪凌), Ye Xuan (葉軒), Mo Handu (漠寒渡), Yu Wo (御我), and Mo Ren (莫仁).

Hong Kong

In Chinese, Hong Kong's best known science fiction author is the prolific Ni Kuang, creator of the Wisely Series (衛斯理). More recently, Chan Koonchung's dystopian novel The Fat Years about a near future mainland China has been compared to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World . [14] Huang Yi is another well known Wuxia and science fiction author whose time travel novel Xun Qin Ji (Chinese :尋秦記) was adapted into a popular TV drama called A Step into the Past by TVB.


Zhang Cao (張草) is a Malaysian-Chinese science fiction author who has published several novels in Chinese.

Chinese language and culture in science fiction works from other countries

English translations and academic studies

Joel Martinsen, a translator who works for the website, has promoted Chinese science fiction in English for a number of years, both on his blog Twelve Hours Later: Literature from the other side of the globe — Chinese SF, fantasy, and mainstream fiction [17] and also on various websites around the Internet, often posting under the username 'zhwj'. [18] Along with Ken Liu and Eric Abrahamsen, Martinesen translated Liu Cixin's "Three Body" trilogy for China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation (CEPIT), with print and digital editions of the first two novels released in the first half of 2013 and the third in 2014. [19]

The second issue of the literary monthly Chutzpah! edited by Ou Ning contains a in-depth history of Chinese fiction compiled by Kun Kun entitled Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars, and translations of Chinese science fiction authors Han Song, Fei Dao, Chen Qiufan, Yang Ping into English, in addition to translations of English-language science fiction authors such as William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Paolo Bagicalupi and Jeff Noon into Chinese. [20]

In 2012, the Hong Kong journal Renditions: A Chinese-English Translation Magazine issued a special double issue (Renditions No. 77 & 78) with a focus on science fiction, including works from both the early 20th century and the early 21st century. In March 2013, the peer-reviewed journal Science Fiction Studies released a special issue on Chinese Science Fiction, edited by Yan Wu and Veronica Hollinger. [21]

Tor Books publishes most of the English translated novels in the United States, including the entire Three Body series.


Nebula Awards

The World Chinese Science Fiction Association, based in Chengdu, established the Nebula Awards (Chinese :星云奖; pinyin :xingyun jiang) – not to be confused with the U.S. Nebula Awards – in 2010. They are awarded yearly for Chinese-language works of science fiction published in any country. The winners are selected by a jury from a list nominees determined by public voting; in 2013, more than 30,000 votes were cast for 40 nominees. [22] [23]

Past winners include:

Best novel
Best novella
Best short story

Galaxy Awards

Another award for Chinese-language works of science fiction and science fantasy. The award was first set up in 1985, and was exclusively organized by the Science Fiction World Magazine after its first session. Before 1991 the award was awarded intermittently, and it became an annual event since 1991. The 27th Galaxy Award was given out and the winner list was published in public.

Past winners include:

Best novel
Best novella
Best Short Story

Related Research Articles

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. It often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.

The history of Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature vernacular fiction novels that arose during the Ming dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese. The introduction of widespread woodblock printing during the Tang dynasty (618–907) and the invention of movable type printing by Bi Sheng (990–1051) during the Song dynasty (960–1279) rapidly spread written knowledge throughout China. In more modern times, the author Lu Xun (1881–1936) is considered the founder of baihua literature in China.

<i>Science Fiction World</i> magazine

Science Fiction World, began in 1979, is a monthly science fiction magazine published in the People's Republic of China, headquartered in Chengdu, Sichuan. It dominates the Chinese science fiction magazine market, at one time claiming a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue, with an estimate of 3-5 readers per copy therefore making it the world's most popular science fiction periodical.

Science fiction and fantasy in Poland

Science fiction and fantasy in Poland dates to the late 18th century. During the later years of the People's Republic of Poland, social science fiction was a very popular genre of science fiction. Afterwards, many others gained prominence. Currently there are many science fiction writers in Poland. Internationally, the best known Polish science fiction writer is Stanisław Lem. As elsewhere, Polish science fiction is closely related to the genres of fantasy, horror and others. Although many English language writers have been translated into Polish, relatively few Polish language science fiction has been translated into English.

Liu Cixin Chinese science fiction writer

Liu Cixin is a Chinese science fiction writer. He is a nine-time winner of the Galaxy Award, winner of the 2015 Hugo Award and the 2017 Locus Award as well as a nominee for the Nebula Award. In English translations of his works, his name is given in the form Cixin Liu.

<i>The Three-Body Problem</i> (novel) 2008 science fiction novel by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem is a hard science fiction novel by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin. It is the first novel of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, but Chinese readers generally refer to the whole series by the title of this first novel. The second and third novels in the trilogy are titled The Dark Forest and Death's End. The title of the first novel refers to the three-body problem in orbital mechanics.

Ken Liu Chinese-American writer

Ken Liu is an American author of science-fiction and fantasy, as well as a translator, lawyer, and computer programmer. His epic fantasy series The Dandelion Dynasty, the first work in the "silkpunk" genre, is published by Simon & Schuster. His short stories have appeared in F&SF, Asimov's, Analog, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and multiple "Year's Best" anthologies.

The Fiction Monthly was a Chinese literary journal published by the Commercial Press in Shanghai. First published in July 1910, its original editors were Yun Tieqiao (恽铁樵) and Wang Chunnong (王莼农). In January 1921, Mao Dun became its chief editor beginning with Volume 10, Issue 1. Fiction Monthly closed its doors in 1932 after the Japanese invasion of Shanghai with their naval and air bombardment. Altogether there were 22 volumes or 262 issues, including four specials.

The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century is a 1980 book edited by Milena Doleželová-Velingerová, published by the University of Toronto Press. It was the first book that had been written in a Western language that chronicled fiction published in the final 15 years of the Qing Dynasty, from 1897 to 1910.

<i>Remembrance of Earths Past</i> science fiction trilogy by Liu Cixin

Remembrance of Earth's Past is a science fiction trilogy by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, but Chinese readers generally refer to the series by the title of its first novel,The Three Body Problem(Chinese: 三体; pinyin: Sān Tǐ; literally: 'Three-Body').

Yao Haijun (姚海军) is the editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World (科幻世界,SFW). Yao has been editor of SFW since 1998. He has also served as the chief editor of 《世界科幻大师丛书》, which is a book series of sci-fi.

Xia Jia Chinese science fiction writer

Wang Yao, born June 4 1984, known by the pen name Xia Jia, is a Chinese science-fiction and fantasy writer. After receiving her Ph.D. in comparative literature and world literature at Department of Chinese, Peking University in 2014, she is currently a lecturer of Chinese literature at Xi'an Jiaotong University.

Li Jun, known by the pen name Baoshu (宝树), is a Chinese science fiction and fantasy writer. One of his main works, Three Body X, is a sequel to the 2015 Hugo Award winner, The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. After receiving his Master of Philosophy in Peking University, Baoshu continued to study at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and got a second master there, and finally became a full-time science fiction writer in 2012.

The Soong Ching-ling Children’s Literature Prize 宋庆龄儿童文学奖 (pinyin: Song Qingling ertong wenxue jiang) is a prize for children’s literature in China. It is sponsored by the Soong Ching-ling Foundation, and is awarded every two years, with a different genre specified each time. It is one of the four main prizes for children's literature in China (the other three are the Bing Xin Children's Literature Award, the Chen Bochui Children's Literature Award, and the National Outstanding Children's Literature Award.

The Galaxy Award is China's most prestigious science fiction award, which was started in 1986 by the magazines Zhihui Shu and Kexue Shijie. The award is now organized solely by the magazine Kehuan Shijie, a rebranding Kexue Shijie.

Francesco Verso Italian writer

Francesco Verso is an Italian science fiction writer and translator of science fiction from English into Italian. Born in Bologna, Italy, he lives and works in Rome.

Chen Qiufan Chinese science fiction author

Chen Qiufan, also known as Stanley Chan, is a Chinese science fiction writer, columnist, and scriptwriter. His first novel was The Waste Tide, which "combines realism with allegory to present the hybridity of humans and machines". Chen Qiufan's short fiction works have won three Galaxy Awards for Chinese Science Fiction, twelve Nebula Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chinese. "The Fish of Lijiang" received the Best Short Form Award for the 2012 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. His stories have been published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, MIT Technology Review, Clarkesworld, Year's Best SF, Interzone, and Lightspeed, as well as influential Chinese science fiction magazine Science Fiction World. His works have been translated into German, French, Finnish, Korean, Czech, Italian, Japanese and Polish and other languages.

<i>Ball Lightning</i> (novel) book by Liu Cixin

Ball Lightning is a hard science fiction novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin. The original Chinese version was published in 2004. In 2018 the English version, translated by Joel Martinsen, was published in the US by Tor Books.

<i>The Wandering Earth</i> 2019 science fiction film directed by Frant Gwo

The Wandering Earth is a 2019 Chinese science fiction film directed by Frant Gwo, loosely based on the 2000 novella of the same name by multi-award-winning author Liu Cixin. It stars Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing and Qu Jingjing. Set in the far future, The Wandering Earth follows a group of astronauts and rescue workers guiding the Earth away from an expanding Sun, while attempting to prevent a collision with Jupiter. The film was theatrically released in China on 5 February 2019, by China Film Group Corporation, followed by North America and Australia on 8 February 2019.

Zhao Haihong is a Chinese science fiction writer.


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Further reading