Winners Unveiled for the 6th Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize

Celebrating Literary Excellence: Young Author Yang Zhihan Triumphs with Her Masterpiece

BEIJING, Nov. 23, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On October 24, 2023, the award ceremony for the 6th Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize was held in Beijing. Yang Zhihan won first prize for her work Yituan Jianbing (literally, “a block of solid ice”). The prize, co-sponsored by Swiss luxury watch brand Blancpain and China’s most influential cultural brand Imaginist, aims to create a literary accolade that is impartial, authoritative, professional and enduring while honoring a work that is likely to stimulate international dialogue. The co-sponsors, Blancpain and the Imaginist, continue on their quest to convey a simple but meaningful message to the public: “Reading makes time more valuable”.

The theme of this year’s prize is “Stand up for Complexity”. In an age where everything tends toward simplification and uniformity, we encourage every young creator who loves literature to courageously defend complex structures, narratives, emotions, and perspectives, ultimately arriving at truth. The judging panel, comprising Yiyun Li, Ma Boyong, Tang Nuo, and Ye Zhaoyan (in alphabetical order), arrived at their decision after intense deliberations during the jury meeting. Jack Liao, Blancpain China’s vice president and member of the Swatch Group China Management Committee, joined Ma Boyong in presenting the trophy to the winner. The recipient of the first prize received a cash award of 300,000 yuan (approx. US$41,900, provided by Blancpain) and a Blancpain Villeret collection watch.

From left to right: Leung Man-tao, Yang Zhihan, Jack Liao and Ma Boyong

The five finalists, Fei Ying, Ning Buyuan, Shao Dong, Wang Ruoxu, and Yang Zhihan, all received the Young Friend of Blancpain award and a finalist’s certificate from Mr. Liao and Imaginist founder Liu Ruilin. The other four finalists each received a bonus of 20,000 yuan (approx. US$2,790, provided by Blancpain) to support their creative endeavors and inspire them to continue their literary work. Young Friend of Blancpain award symbolizes both Blancpain’s appreciation and encouragement of young talent, as well as the young talents’ alignment with Blancpain’s brand values.

Ma Boyong, one of this year’s five judges, shared the jury’s thoughts on the winning entry during the award ceremony: “Yituan Jianbing is like snow falling on the edge of a knife blade, or the sensation of licking an icy door. She ‘freezes’ her hometown with a cold, incisive brush stroke, then takes a step back and lightly touches it with her tongue. The warm flesh sticks to the cold surface, leaving an indelible impact that is both profoundly moving and poignant.”

The 29-yeat old Yang Zhihan expressed her astonishment at winning the first prize. “I truly didn’t expect to win, and right now, my feelings are quite complex. I might need to take some time to think about it. After all, ‘complexity’ is something that must be defended.”

Mr Liao, the Blancpain China vice president, said in his speech that “the Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize possesses certain unique aspects. It is China’s first literary award jointly initiated by a commercial entity and a book publisher, exclusively targeting authors under 45 years old and embracing a diverse array of forms and themes within the realm of fiction.

This year’s theme, ‘Stand up for Complexity’ is a call to action in an era increasingly leaning towards simplification, homogenization, trendiness, and symbolism. However, simplicity and complexity are not inherently contradictory, they can coexist and complement each other. Much like Blancpain mechanical timepieces, which do not pursue complexity for complexity’s sake or flaunt their prowess gratuitously but instead prioritize the wearer’s experience. As an all-encompassing luxury watch brand, Blancpain achieves remarkable complexity in mechanical watches. Yet, the more intricate the functions crafted within these timepieces, the more they remain ‘simple’ for the wearer. These super-complex watches often feature straightforward time reading, convenient long power reserves, and effortless adjustment steps. Blancpain also offers elegantly simple three-hand or two-hand watches. They exude an appearance of utter simplicity and purity on the surface, but upon opening the case and peering inside, one discovers the hidden complexity. Within a single component, intricate procedures and complex craftsmanship unfold, often requiring dozens of hours of painstaking polishing — an endeavor dedicated to preserving the hallmark of high-end watchmaking in the finest details.”

Jury of the 2023 Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize (in alphabetical order)

Yiyun Li, writer and professor of the School of Creative Writing at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. She is the author of Must I Go, The Book of Goose and Tolstoy Together.

Ma Boyong, writer. He is the author of Da Yi, The Litchi Road, Two Capitals, Fifteen Days, The Great Ming Under the Microscope, The Longest Day in Chang’an, Antiques and Intrigue, and The Wind Blows from Longxi.

Tang Nuo, literary critic, writer, and member of the jury of the first Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize. He is the author of Time of Readers, At the End, The Story of Chinese Characters, and The Story of Reading.

Pema Tseden, Tibetan filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. His films include The Silent Holy Stones, Tharlo, and Balloon. He is the author of several novels in both Tibetan and Chinese, including Wujin’s Teeth and Enticement.

Ye Zhaoyan, writer. His major works include Nanjing 1937: A Love Story, Nanjing Flower Demon, How Stubborn Our Hearts, Other People’s Love, Evening Moor on the Qinhuai, Tale of the Date Tree, and the historical essay Nanjing: The Story of a Chinese City.

About the Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize

The Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize, co-founded by Swiss luxury watch brand Blancpain and China’s most influential cultural brand Imaginist, was created to uncover new and promising literary stars, support talented young authors and encourage the creation of Chinese-language novels.

Engagement of the members of the latest generation just entering adulthood is always a key indicator that determines the future of the world of literature. In the field of literary creation, talented young authors are always seeking an opportunity, while publishing platforms are looking for potential authors, and, at the same time, seek to attract more attention and garner more engagement. Many contemporary classical authors were discovered and recognized in their youth, as literary awards specifically designated for up and coming authors were available to them. For example, Naipaul, Coetzee and new Nobel Prize in Literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro all won the Man Booker Prize in their youth, and went on to earn the Nobel Prize in Literature at a later stage in their writing careers. Renowned Japanese authors, among them, Shusaku Endo, Kenzaburo Oe and Ryu Murakami, were each recipients of the Akutagawa Prize in their youth. In today’s world, literary creation is a lonely and long road for young authors. The literary prize is designed to create a future that gives authors the space to focus on the creation of their works just as calligraphers are given the space and time to practice their craft.

Imaginist, the most influential publisher in China, has been dedicated to discovering the best authors who write in Chinese, offering an opportunity for thoughtful words to be published, while imagining another possibility for books. Works by Mu Xin, Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung, among others, have become even more valuable with the passage of time, nourishing the emotional life for generations of readers. Imaginist has, for a long time, been focused on publishing both the literary classics alongside the works of some of the most dynamic and thoughtful young authors who care about the human condition through the diverse collection of works that they have created with their open-minded insights.

Founded in 1735, Blancpain, the fine watchmaking brand from Switzerland, can pride itself in a long history going back 288 years. This creator of classic timepieces understands that the keepers of time that it creates are devices that go well beyond the material and physical, and that they speak to the faith, the feeling for aesthetics and the humanity that resides in each and every one of us. When one talks about the act of creation, it means the perseverance that must be maintained over an extended period of time, while bringing together the inspiration, skills, devotion and patience to create the structure, details and theme for each watch, which often calls for endless iterations of design while rethinking new ones to deliver true excellence in quality. Such an approach is very much in line with the essence that led to the creation of our literary classics. Literature is the extension of time. Blancpain, hand-in-hand with Imaginist, represent the literature penned by members of today’s youngest generation who love literary creation and remain committed to making their contribution. 


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