In the face of the ever-changing social life, admiration and not knowing how to go deep into the times is a sentiment that I often hear when communicating with artists recently. When standing on the fully automated container terminal in Qingdao, which can achieve an annual throughput of 794,800 TEUs with only a few staff members remotely monitoring, when faced with the world’s deepest operational manned submersible “Jiaolong” at a depth of 7,000 meters, just admiration is not enough to undertake the creative mission delivered by the times. Today’s literary and artistic workers feel the roar of the train of the times unprecedentedly strongly, and how to not only walk with the times, but also go deep into the times and express the times is a common topic for contemporary literary and artistic creators.

When the storm comes, there are many heroes, and we cannot escape with the excuse of “not knowing the true face of Lushan Mountain, just because we are in this mountain”, but always put ourselves in the present. Feeling the scene of life with all your heart is the prerequisite for creators to obtain the pass of the times. It is not enough to be “on the spot”, you also need to have the ability to select creative materials and refine life. Local truth is not necessarily representative, and the truth of life cannot be directly translated into the truth of art, and the latter needs to be refined on the basis of the former. “This is all true” may also be using life as a “shield”, a simple and blunt excerpt of superficial life.

The process of constantly identifying life materials and then transforming them into art materials is also a way for creators to gradually unveil life and grasp the spirit of the times. Instead of being afraid of difficulties, detouring or even turning around, creators at this time should feel excited, which shows that we are approaching the essence. As Mao Dun said, “literary and artistic works are not only a mirror – reflecting life, but must be an axe – creating life”, in the hard-to-head contest, we must “burn” ourselves, “burn” the plot, notes, and colors of the pen, until they burn to the depths of the heart, so that the works bloom with dazzling brilliance. When Chen Yan wrote the novel “Protagonist”, he mobilized decades of experience in the academy, and the rich life accumulation brought a huge amount of information, and when he wrote the pen, the writer often felt that many details “came to the face”, and sometimes it was difficult to choose. In the face of heavy memories and emotions, the writer insists on “sticking to the very familiar land, and putting out those deep perceptions and memories, fur adhesion, blood and water”, and finally quenching a “memory of Qin’e”, reflecting the changes of the times over the past 40 years of reform and opening up with the fate of such a typical character.

Once the creator delves into the core of the zeitgeist behind the world, he will also find that no zeitgeist is born out of thin air. “Those who fall into reality think about their trees, and those who drink them cherish their origins”, the spirit of the times is inherently unique, and it is also in line with the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization. Sculptor Wu Weishan has long studied traditional Chinese aesthetics, and put forward the aesthetic concept of Chinese freehand sculpture, which is different from Western realistic sculpture art, believing that sculpture focuses on grasping the spiritual temperament of the object and blending the writing of God and the writing of form. For example, the statue of Fei Xiaotong was conceived by more than 50 contacts between the sculptor and Fei Xiaotong himself. Through long-term observation and understanding, the sculptor became familiar with Fei Xiaotong’s appearance and demeanor, and more grasped the “style of a generation of intellectuals” embodied by him, and created a classic work that Fei Xiaotong considered to be “worthy of his gods” and “swimming in art”, and Yang Zhenning called “Fei Xiaotong more like Fei Xiaotong than the real person”.

More than admiring social change, literary and artistic creators are required to have the spirit of self-innovation and active innovation, the so-called “poetry follows the fortune of the world, and it is becoming new every day”. Specifically, literary and artistic creation should extract the artistic image of “this one” with a distinct imprint of the times, and let more people understand the era and the spirit of the times in which typical characters live through “this one”. In 2018, Shandong Provincial Song and Dance Theater created the national opera “Yimeng Mountain”, facing the existing ballet “Ode to Yimeng”, Peking Opera “Red Wife”, Lu Opera “Bitter Cauliflower” and other excellent literary and artistic works of similar themes, the creative team further vividly and profoundly explained the Yimeng spirit of “water and milk blending, life and death together”. Taking the opening scene of the opera as an example, the creator directly set the wedding of the protagonists Begonia and Lin Sheng at the moment of life and death when “gunsmoke rises, mountains and beams, and ghosts are approaching our village”, village chief Sun Jiulong while lining up troops and organizing the ceremony, accompanied by the sound of the five earth cannons shaking the sky, a couple of newcomers “head cannon worship heaven and earth, second cannon worship high hall, third cannon husband and wife worship into a big gift, do not enter the cave room to go to the battlefield”! Begonia, the handsome daughter-in-law who is the master of the household, Lin Sheng, a heroic and fearless junior son, and Sun Jiulong, a chivalrous martial artist… As soon as the curtain opened, flesh-and-blood characters stood on the stage full, and the scene of the bloody wedding also dyed the bloody heroic nature for everyone to protect their homes and defend the country and sacrifice their lives for righteousness.

China does not lack epic practice, the key is to have the ambition and ability to create epic poetry. Art creators can only devote themselves to the fiery life if they love this vigorous era and the people who are advancing in the era; Only by deeply cultivating life, refining the ability to gain insight into life and grasp the spirit of the times can we dig into the depths of “admiration” and create works that live up to the times and the peak of the people.

People’s Daily (Version 20, 16 August 2019)