Bio of Cao ShuiCao Shui（Chinese: 曹谁;pinyin: Cáo Shuí), also Shawn Cao (born in Jun 5, 1982), is a Chinese poet, novelist, screenwriter and translator. He is a representative figure of Chinese Contemporary Literature. He leads “the Greatpoeticism” movement. In his “Manifesto of Greatpoem”, he aims to integrate sacred and secular cultures, oriental and occidental cultures, ancient and modern cultures in Chinese literature. In 2008, he resigned from a newspaper and traveled around Tibet and Xinjiang, which is the center of Eurasia or the World in his view. His novels Secret of Heaven trilogy tells the whole developing history of human civilization. His most notable works includes Epic of Eurasia, the already mentioned trilogy and King Peacock (TV series). In his works, he extracts elements of various ancient human civilizations, from Babylon to the west to Judea, Egypt, Greece, to the east to Persia, India, China, and uses these elements to reconstruct a new Utopian human homeland, which always described as Eurasia, the Top of the Tower of Babel or Kunlun Mountains (Heaven Mountains). So far twenty books of Cao Shui have been published, including five poem collections, three essay collections, ten novels, three translations and one hundred episodes TV series and films. His works have been translated into English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Danish, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Croatian, Slovenian, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Nepali, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, etc. He has been invited to participate in the 30th Medellin International Poetry Festival, the 26th Havana International Poetry Festival, the 14th Kritya International Poetry Festival in India and the 4th Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival. He is a member of China Writers Association, China Film Association and China Poetry Society. He is also chief editor of Great Poetry, deputy editor in chief of World Poetry, secretary general of Boao International Poetry Festival and vice president of the Silk Road International Poetry Festival. Currently he lives in Beijing, and works as a professional writer and screenwriter.
Italian Media Interview With Cao Shui: Integration Of Eastern And Western Civilizations Will Surely Establish The Great Harmony World
Maria Cristina Buoso：
Hello, today we will meet a representative figure of contemporary Chinese literature also known by the name of Shawn Cao.
Let’s get comfortable and … happy readingJ
1 – Where do you prefer that we sit to chat with our cup of herbal tea and why you have chosen this place? (If you want to share a photo…)
Cao Shui: If we could sit together and cross the border created by COVID-19, I would hope to have a cup of tea with you in the cafe opposite the Roman Pantheon. My pen name is Cao Shui. Cao is an ancient oriental surname, representing a long tradition of the East. Shui means Who, which is in a sense a theme of Western philosophy — consider the words on the pillars of Delphi temple in Greece which say: know yourself. The combination of these Eastern and Western references in my name represents my ambition to integrate Eastern and Western civilizations. In my mind, Rome is one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. I want to sit in front of the Pantheon of Rome, because many Western civilizations originate from the gods of Rome. So far, the names of our planets, months and weeks all come from the gods of Rome. I want to understand western civilization from here.
I would like to share a photo of me at the first Boao International Poetry Festival of me and Türkiye poet Nurduran Duman speaking together at the award ceremony. It was she who led me to join the World Poetry Movement, and ever since I have communicated with poets from all over the world and established a global literary circle.
2 – What herbal tea did you choose and why this one?
Cao Shui: If we could sit together and drink tea, I would choose chamomile. You know, tea originated in China. There are many kinds of tea in China, but I choose chamomile tea, which Italians drink every day. My ambition is to integrate Eastern and Western cultures, so as part of my effort to understand various civilizations, I hope to learn about Italian culture from the tea that Italians drink most often — enter a culture through their food and drink.
3 – If I come to your room, what books would I find on your bedside table?
Cao Shui: If you come to my room, you would find six books at the bedside: the Bible, the Historical Records by Sima Qian（司马迁的《史记》）, the Indian epic Mahabharata, the Greek epic Iliad, Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and the Sun by Hai Zi（海子的《太阳》七部书）. I read these books over and over again. My house is called “the Tower of Babel”, from the Tower of Babel in the Bible.
4 – And in your bag or backpack?
Cao Shui: I like reading books as I travel along the way, usually the books that I am paying attention to at any particular time. For example, during my long-distance trip to Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008, I put the Bible and the Classic of Mountains and Rivers（《山海经》） in my bag. Recently, I have been reading George Orwell’s 1984 and George Martin’s Game of Thrones. I am also reading and translating the American poet George Wallace’s anthology American Flyer.
5-Why did you choose to name your house Tower of Babel?
Cao Shui：Ancient Chinese writers would name their own houses or place of study. Every Chinese writer would name their study. Du Fu named his Washing Flower Thatched Cottage, Su Shi named his Grain Forest Hall. Cao Xueqin named his Mourning Red Pavilion. Lu Xun named his Green Forest Study, Hu Shi named his Hiding Light Room, and Jia Pingwa named it Upper Study. Every writer would have a study name, like that. Western writers have also engaged in this phenomenon. Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer, named his study “Confucius Temple” and chose for his pen name “master of Confucius Temple”, all indicative of his high praise for Chinese Confucian culture. Houses are like an outer layer of clothes to us, they affect our hearts and aspirations.
My house in Qinghai is called “The Spire of the Tower of Babel”. This allusion comes from the Bible. Human beings were not successful in building the “The Tower of Babel” because of God’s intervention. Because I hope to integrate the cultures of all famous ethnic groups in the world and establish a common home of mankind, I named my home “Babel Tower / The Tower of Babel”. This is also the name of my first novel. In the book, I imagined a country called the “State of Babel”, located in the center of the Eurasia. It is an absurd country ruled by a dictator, echoing the paradox in the novel Catch-22 – which exists everywhere. The protagonist hopes to carry out democratic reform and establish an ideal country in that country, but ultimately fails, and escapes. This novel is the matrix of all my novels, later novels are all influenced by it.
My house in Beijing is called “Home of Eurafrasia”, in recognition of my idea that the oldest civilizations of mankind are distributed in ancient Eurafrasia, that is, Asia, Europe and Africa. It is the cradle of mankind. From Babylon to Canaan, Egypt and Greece in the west, to Persia, India and China in the east. In today’s era of globalization, I hope that through international exchanges, mankind can move towards an ideal common world again. I should also mention that my son’s name is Cao Eurafrasia, which also has the same meaning.
6 – Do you prefer to read paper-book or E-book?
Cao Shui: I prefer paper books. This comes from my reading habits since childhood. I feel the beauty of literature better in paper books. Of course, nowadays I also read e-books on mobile phones and computers. Due to the convenience, this is probably a trend. Although the change from paper books to e-books is only a change of media, just like the change from parchment in the West and bamboo in the East to paper, the move to e-books will cause a change of content. I am already observing and experiencing that.
7 – Have you ever read comics? If so, which ones? Do you have one that remains in your memory?
Cao Shui: Of course! Reading comics was one of my favorite activities when I was young. There were The Romance of the Three Kingdoms（《三国演义》）, Journey to the West（《西游记》）, All Men Are Brothers（《水浒传》）, and Dream of Red Mansions（《红楼梦》）, adapted from Chinese classics; as well as the comics Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Mermaid, Snow White and Pinocchio, which were adapted from western fairy tales. In my memory, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi will jump out immediately. Because my nose is relatively large. Besides, Pinocchio（匹诺曹） is translated into Chines with the same surname as mine — Cao（曹）In fact I was called Pinocchio by some children at that time. These days I watch many of the American Marvel comics.
8 – Do you like going to the cinema, to the theater? What do you prefer to see? What is the last movie you saw? Did you like it? And at the theater? How are Chinese theater and cinema different from Italian?
Cao Shui: I like to go to cinema and theatre. I like all kinds of drama. Movies are also a kind of drama. Of course, because there are more cinemas, I go to more movies. I think the general development of literature has led us to this situation — from the Lyric Literature Era, represented by poetry in agricultural society, to the Narrative Literature Era, represented by novels in the industrial society, and on to the current era of Dramatic Literature represented by movies in the information society. This is an era for drama! And I also write screenplays myself.
The latest movie I saw was the American film Dune, which was adapted from the novel of the same name by the Frank Herbert. The most recent play I saw was War Horse, adapted from the novel of the same name by writer Michael Morpurgo. I like these two works very much and they are both classic adaptations, though I will not analyze the details here. I also cross over literature and film. I think literature should become the engine of the film industry.
The difference between Chinese and Italian dramas and films is a big topic. Italy is the origin of Western opera. Chinese opera has been fully mature since the Yuan Dynasty. But when it comes to features in common, it is the dramatic elements of the two countries where I see this in effect. Both engage in poetic dramas and can be sung; The difference between them, I think, is that Italian drama focuses on structure, while Chinese drama focuses on formula. In fact, I may pay more attention to film than to drama, and Italian films have always been my focus. I have watched neorealistic films repeatedly, such as Rome, Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini and Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica. I pay a lot of attention to New Wave directors such as Pierre Paolo Pasolini, who directed The Thousand And One Nights, the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales, as well as his forbidden film Salò or the 120 days of Sodom. Recently, I have paid attention to Sicilian director Giuseppe Tornatore, who shot Malèna and Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. I have watched those repeatedly. Among Chinese directors, I have paid close attention to Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum（张艺谋的《红高粱》）, Jiang Wen’s Let The Bullets Fly（姜文的《让子弹飞》）, Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine（陈凯歌的《霸王别姬》） and other works. China Hong Kong directors Wong Kar Wai’s Chongqing Forest（王家卫的《重庆森林》）, Tsui Hark’s New Dragon Gate Inn（徐克的《新龙门客栈》）, Zhou Xingchi’s Mermaid（周星驰的《美人鱼》）, China Taiwan Ang Lee’s Crouching tiger（李安的《卧虎藏龙》）, Hidden Dragon, Hou Xiaoxian’s The Assassin（侯孝贤的《刺客聂隐娘》）, and Yang Dechang’s A Brighter Summer Day（杨德昌的《牯岭街少年杀人事件》）. The essence of film is drama, film originated in drama. The biggest difference between film and drama is the medium. Therefore, comparing Chinese and Italian films, one must look at origin and essence. The biggest difference is that Chinese films follow the formula of Chinese drama, while Italian films have the structure of Italian opera. We can discuss this topic another day.
9 – Do you watch TV? Are there any TV series you follow? A TV series that you saw when you were younger and that has remained in your heart.
What kind of television do you watch in China and how has it changed in recent years?
Cao Shui: When I was young, I had very little entertainment. I just waited for two episodes of TV serials in the evening. These days I not only watch TV serials, but also write TV screenplays. I have written the TV serials Kunlun Myth and King Peacock. TV serials are more popular than movies. Among the TV serials I have seen, the most impressive one is the Game of Thrones in the United States. I have watched all eight seasons. The Chinese TV serials Nirvana in Fire（《琅琊榜》） is also excellent, but the sequel is not very good. I prefer to watch historical dramas, war dramas and comedies. As we all know, TV serials came into being later than film. To some extent, it is an extended film. The relationship between film and TV serials is similar to the relationship between short stories and novels in literary classification. Many people think that TV dramas are artistically weaker than that of movies. In my opinion, the artistry of TV dramas is constantly improving. TV serials are a popular art, they have a great relationship with the market. In the golden age of Chinese TV serials we witnessed 30 years of rapid economic development in China. More recently, however, with the slowdown of the global economy, China’s economic growth has also slowed down, and Chinese TV serials have entered a bottleneck period. I think this moment is a great opportunity for improvement and adjustment.
10 – When did you start writing and why? In China, what does a young writer have to do today to make himself known? Is it the same for a woman who wants to write?
Cao Shui: I started to write in middle school. I started to keep a diary in 1997. My diary was the earliest form of literary writing. Now I have completed 100 books, probably tens of millions of words. Strict literary writing began in 1999, when I began to write poems. At that time, I wrote to give a kind of order to the world, at least this was my initial impulse. Later I thought it should be the pursuit of light – you see, I was afraid of the dark when I was young, and even the shadow of people. At night, there had to be a person holding me. Now, I don’t worry about such things when I write. I think literature illuminates my life.
In China, there are probably two ways for a young writer to become famous. The traditional way is to publish in a literary magazine and then win some literary awards; The newer way is to publish works that achieve success in the market. Most of the famous post-80s writers are successful in the market. Of course, the way that the magazines are published is growing to be more reflective of this of these two ways. I am probably a combination of the two ways. I am a cross-border writer, I have published a large number of poems in literary magazines and won many literary awards. At the same time, the trilogy ofThe Secret History of Kunlun written by me is a best-selling book and has been recognized in the market. I should add that there is a third way, that is, the promotion of literary events. I was once immersed in the “Cao Shui and Yi Sha Controversy”（2018-2020） in Chinese poetry circles. This was a three-year debate between the Great Poetry Movement, which I advocated, and the Post-Oral Poetry School advocated by the old poet Yi Sha. This debate helped to make the two of us famous. As for feminism, it is not particularly influential in China. I think conditions are the same for male and female writers — that is, attempt to get your works to attract more people’s attention. Of course, the premise is that your works are unique to our times. Perhaps because of traditional reasons, there are far more male writers than female writers in China, which may be several times that of female writers. I think this may change in the future.
11where did the dispute with Yi Sha take place? On social media? On TV?
Cao Shui: The debate between Yi Sha and I began on the Internet social media. On August 26, 2018, I criticized the “Oral Poetry” advocated by Yi Sha on Tiktok (similar to YouTube in the West), which resonated with countless Chinese online poets. Yi Sha accepted an interview to respond with criticism of the “Great Poetry Movement” advocated by me, and before long the whole Chinese poetry circle began to participate in the discussion. By the end of March 28, 2020, there were more than 500 papers written by hundreds of poets. I compiled these articles into a book named The Complete Review Of Cao Shui And Yi Sha Controversy, I hope to find a chance to publish this book. This controversy, which was later called the “Cao Shui And Yi Shui Controversy”, occurred at a key moment in the development of Modern Chinese Poetry – the most pivotal moment in 100 years, and likely affect the development of Chinese poetry well into the future. Recently, there has been a nationwide criticism of Jia Qianqian’s “Shit Urine Fart” Style Poetry in China, a kind of poetry writing actually rooted in Yi Sha. If you are familiar with the history of modern Chinese literature, you will notice that Hu Shi once wrote an important article “Preliminary Opinions On Literary Reform”（《文学改良刍议》） in the “New Culture Movement” in 1917, which led the revolution of modern Chinese literature. I also want to write an article “New Opinions On The Literary Reform: The Ten Major Drawbacks Of Chinese Literature”（《文学改良再议：中国文坛的十大弊端》）. I believe that in today’s globalized world, the “Great Poetry Movement”, which I advocate, should be the developmental direction for poetry.
12 – You write different literary genres… How and when did you approach them for the first time? Would you like to let us know all of them by talking about them briefly? Among these, which one do you prefer and why?
Cao Shui: I write poems, essays, novels, screenplays, as well as fairy tales and translations. I started writing poetry in 1999. At that time, I read a large number of literary works, including Hai Zi’s Asian Bronze(亚洲铜）, and began to write myself. I wrote a poem “Broken Straw Hat“（《破草帽》》）: “I / wearing a broken straw hat / peeping into the world”, so I was called “Straw Hat Poet” by my classmates. We also set up a literary society called “Soaring Society”. In 2007, I published this society’s first book of poetry, Who Is The Symbol Of Depression（《谁在苦闷中象征》）. Later, I published 10 books of poetry, including Epic of Eurasia（《亚欧大陆地史诗》）. I wrote prose at the same time as poetry. In 2009, I published my first collection of essays, Notes On The Top Of The Tower Of Babel（《巴别塔尖手记》）. Later, I successively published four collections of essays, including Great Poetics（《大诗学》）. I started to write novels from The Spire Of The Tower Of Babel（《巴别塔尖》） in 2005, taking the absurd life on the campus as a prototype. This book was published in 2007, and later 10 novels such as The Secret History Of Kunlun（《昆仑秘史》） were successively published. I started to write film and television scripts from the 2012 TV serials Kunlun Myth（《昆仑神话》）, the story for which came from my novel The Secret History Of Kunlun. From then on, I crossed over to film and television script writing. Later, I successively created more than 100 episodes, including the TV serials King Peacock（《孔雀王》）, the film Sun City（《太阳城》）, and the drama Prince Snow Leopard（《雪豹王子》）. I started to write fairy tales from the Prince Snow Leopard in 2016. This book was adapted into the stage play Prince Snow Leopard . Later, I created 12 fairy tales such as the Hoh Xili Animal Kingdom（《可可西里动物王国》）. I have been engaged in translation since 2017, when the Chinese Writers Association held an international writers exchange program in Beijing, where I met poets from all over the world, including Nurduran Duman and Fiori Picco, a famous Italian Sinologist. I started with a translation of the book of poems by Nurduran Dumen, the footsteps of Istanbul. Later, I translated and published The Song Of The Dream Land (2022) by Colombian poet Fernando Rendon, The Golden Bird In The Sun (2022) by Russian poet Vadim Terekhin, and now I am translating American Flyer by American poet George Wallace.
13-You lead the movement of Great Poemism, do you want to tell us about it?
Medal of the Great Poetry Movement, obverse and reverse, 2022
Cao Shui: In 2007, I wrote the Declaration Of Great Poeticism（《大诗主义宣言》） and launched the Great Poetry Movement（大诗主义运动）. Now it has become one of the three major trends of poetic aesthetic thought in China. The core idea of Great Poeticism is to create a great poem by integrating the Eastern and the Western cultures, integrating ancient and modern cultures, and integrating spiritual and secular cultures. This year, we designed a silver medal with my head on the front and the oldest world map of Asia, Europe and Africa on the back. The words on the medal represent the three key propositions of the movement, and the medal is specially awarded to poets, critics and translators who have made contributions to the Great Poetry Movement around the world.
Literature is constantly developing, from lyric literature represented by poetry in agricultural society to narrative literature represented by novels in the industrial age, and then to dramatic literature represented by film and television scripts in the information age. Yes I advocate “Great Poetics”. But I like all the literary types. I think they are all expressions of my heart, and they are all there to give order to the world.
14-You have won literary awards in Italy, would you like to tell us about them? Do you know Italian literature? You are very active internationally, and not only in your country. Would you like to talk briefly about your experience? Do you have a dream that you would like to see come true?
Cao Shui and Fiori Picco at “The Lyric Of The Tower Of Babel” seminar in Beijing, 2018
My Flowers Of The Empire（《帝国之花》） was translated into Italian by the famous Italian Sinologist and writer Fiori Picco and published by the Italian Fiori d’Asia Publishing House. Later, I won three international literary awards in Italy, namely: “Apollo Dionysus Award” of the 8th Italian Roman International Academic Prize for Poetry and Contemporary Art (il Premio Accademico Internazionale di Poesia e Arte Contemporanea “Apollo dionisiaco”) , the 8th Italian Giovanni Bertacchi International Poetry Award, the 27th Italian International Squid Bone (Ossi di Seppia) Poetry Award. I also won the Silver Award of the First Toronto International Poetry and Art Festival in Canada, and the 2021 Top Ten Chinese Poetry Collections Award. Fiori Picco and I met in Beijing, just as Chinese literature and Italian literature was meeting. It was she who translated my poems into Italian, and facilitated the spread of my poems from Italy into the western world. She is a great bridge between Chinese literature and Italian literature.
I have a systematic understanding of Western literature, from the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer in Greek to the Aeneas by Virgil, the Art of Poetry by Horatiusin Latin, to the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, the Gadfly by Ethel Lilian Voynich, the Baron on the tree by Italo Calvino, and the Squid Bone by Eugenio Montale in Italian. Virgil’s Aeneas and Dante’s Divine Comedy are very important for me as I put forward the “Great Poetry Movement”.
When I was a child, I read a painted Bible. The stories in it deeply attracted me, especially the story of the Tower of Babel. Later, it became one of the themes of my literary writing. My first novel was The Spire Of The Tower Of Babel（《巴别塔尖》）, and my poetry collection included The Lyric Of The Tower Of Babel（《通天塔之歌》）. My translation project was the “The Project Of Tower Of Babel”, and my house was called The Top Of Tower Of Babel. Putting aside the meaning of God’s punishment in the Bible, my dream is to let people of all nationalities in the world rebuild the tower through literature and communicating freely together. In 2017, I participated in the International Writing Program of the Chinese Writers Association and met many international poets. Later, I successively participated in the 30th Medellin International Poetry Festival, the 26th Havana International Poetry Festival, the 14th Indian Kritya International Poetry Festival, the 4th Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival and other international poetry festivals. My works have been translated into more than 20 languages such as English, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Greece, India, Italy, Spain, Türkiye, and Arabia. There are more than 30 famous poets in the international poetry world who have written comments. I have been called the representative poet of the “young generation leading the new world” by the outstanding Indian poet Rati Saxena. Now he also serves as the editor in chief and deputy editor in chief of the Great Poetry, World Poetry, Global Poets and World Poetry Circle, and communicates with poets from all over the world. This is another underlying idea of Great Poeticism: human beings come from the same place and will surely go to the same place. I hope that in the future we can establish a world republic for all mankind.
15 – Do you have a genre that you prefer to read when you want to relax? An author you prefer in particular?
Cao Shui: When I want to relax, I like reading humorous works. I like Catch-22 by American writer Joseph Heller, the Decameron by Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio, the Good Soldier Svejk by Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek, and the Tales of Confucianism（《儒林外史》） by Chinese writer Wu Jingzi. Of course, I also like to read serious works, such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Czech writer Milan Kundera, Norwegian Forest by Japanese writer Murakami Haruki, Soul Mountain（《灵山》） by Chinese French writer Gao Xingjian, Red Sorghum（《红高粱》） by Chinese writer Mo Yan, and The Deserted City（《废都》） by Chinese writer Jia Pingwa, The Satanic Verses by English writer Salman Rushdie, and The Game Of Thrones by American writer George Martin. The works of these writers have deeply affected me, and I especially like to read them during my break time.
- If you had to write a fourhanded novel with a female writer, who would you choose and why?
Cao Shui：I think literature can only be created by one person. Just as there are no two identical leaves in the world, it is difficult for two people to create together. However, when it comes to the creation of film and television scripts, they are often co-created, so I do co-write with others. If I had to write a novel with a female writer, I would choose J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. I like reading her novels very much, though magic is much more interesting to me in ancient Chinese culture. There are many magical animals and magic in the Book Of Mountains And Seas(《山海经》）. I think she and I could write a novel series about Chinese magic, maybe called The Mountain And Sea Elves. I think readers all over the world would like it. I think your idea is very creative. I think that, to a certain extent, there is an insurmountable gap between male writers and female writers. In addition there is the question of the difference between eastern and western civilizations. Any such cooperative effort would be very interesting and yield very unique results.
17Have you ever thought about writing thrillers, detective stories or romance? Which genre appeals to you the most and why?
Cao Shui：Both Eastern and Western writers, when talking about literature, tend to sneer at popular literature, although they also read all day, or watch movies and TV dramas adapted from these literatures. Why do we enjoy them every day but think they are not art? This is unfair to popular literature. In fact, in the past most literary classics were popular literature, William Shakespeare’s plays were watched by Londoners every day, and China’s “Four Classic Novels” were all read by ordinary people. Dating back to the epic era, Homer’s epic and the Indian epic were also listened to by ordinary people. It is undeniable that some popular stories lack depth, but if a work is not popular during its own time, it can hardly become a classic for future generations. The best approach is to combine the pursuit of elegance with secular aesthetics. Therefore, I have been writing novels for the public. For example, The Secret History Of Kunlun (《昆仑秘史》)trilogy is a best seller. I call it a “Great Novel” because my aim for it is to be as inclusive as my “Great Poetry” is. The Secret History Of Kunlun contains elements of detective stories. In the process of the protagonist Long Hao’s exploration of the time axis, he explores the civilizations of various countries in the world, including of course the Chinese and Roman civilizations. This is suggested in the title, The Secret History Of Kunlun II: The Chinese Imperial Seal And The Roman Crown（《昆仑秘史II：传国玉玺与罗马皇冠》）. Human beings are always full of curiosity, so I am willing to write a “cultural detective novel”. There are also three types or novels — historical novels, mythological novels and fairy tales — which attract me and which I am writing now.
18 – Let’s imagine that tonight you can go and attend a meeting with an author of your choice, who may be living or not, in Italy or anywhere in the world. Who would you like to meet and why? Who is the woman in your heart since childhood?
Cao Shui: If I could meet a writer tonight, I would choose Dante Alighieri, the great Italian poet. I once wrote a poem “The Night Banquet Of Cao And Dante Alighieri“（《但丁和曹谁的夜宴》）. We were born on the same day, June 5, and I imagined our having a banquet on the Pamir Plateau in the center of Eurasia. In my advocacy of the Great Poetry Movement, Dante’s Divine Comedy has had the greatest impact on me, and my Epic of Eurasia has been deeply influenced by him. I would like to discuss with him the creation of “Great Poetry”. Finally, I would like to ask him about his past with Beatrice. We all have a woman who has been imprinted in our hearts since childhood. In my writing, I named this imaginary woman Princess Lin, as described in my poem The Bride Of Pamirsburg. just like Beatrice in the Divine Comedy, she guided my literary creation. Every male writer or man has an image of a perfect woman in his heart, whose ideal nature is founded in a real woman.
19 – Let’s imagine now that you could invite someone here with us for a cup of herbal tea. Who would you invite and why?
Cao Shui: If I could invite someone for tea, I would invite Christopher Nolan, the director of Inception. I have watched almost all his works, and I have several good stories that I want to collaborate on with him. That includes my Secret History of Kunlun trilogy（《昆仑秘史》三部曲）, King Peacock trilogy （《孔雀王》三部曲）and Golden Empire trilogy（《黄金帝国》三部曲. We could also collaborate on The Secret History of Kunlun, which has been completed, the King Peacock, currently being written, and the Golden Empire the outline of which has also been completed.
20 – Let’s imagine you are at a themed party. Which dress or mask would you like to wear and who would you like to invite you and what dance would you like to do with him or her?
Cao Shui: If I was at a theme party, I would want to wear the clothes of the emperor Cao Cao (155-220) （曹操）of the Chinese Wei Dynasty, and wear a dragon head mask. I would dance a waltz with Emilia Clarke, who plays the Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones. Because Cao Cao is my ancestor, one of the greatest emperors in China, one of the greatest poets in Chinese history, and the protagonist of China’s greatest novel The Romance Of The Three Kingdoms（《三国演义》）, I would hope to inherit his great dream of “Great Unification”. The Dragon Queen is an elegant and noble woman I like. She is also committed to unifying the seven kingdoms. I dream of meeting her, in a dramatic scene of meeting between Eastern and Western civilizations.
21 – Do you love animals? Do you have one? Do you want to post its picture? Who is the boss?
Cao Shui: I like animals very much. I think people are half animals. I once had several dogs, one of which was called Babylon. At the most critical moment in my life, he always accompanied me. I wrote The Bone Flute Of Babylon for him. I also like snow leopards, I think they are the kings of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. I once wrote the novel Prince Snow Leopard. I know a snow leopard named Princess Pride Snow. She was artificially bred by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Wildlife Park. She was bred and fed by the zoologist Qi Xinzhang, who is also my friend.
Princess Pride Snow in Qinghai Tibet Plateau Wildlife Park, 2019
22 – Let’s talk about grandparents. What relationship do you have with them? Are they still alive? If not, what would you like to be able to tell them if you had the opportunity to have 5 minutes with them? If, on the other hand, you are lucky and they are still alive… Where would you like to take them on a trip and why?
Cao Shui: My grandfather’s name is Cao Shengsuo, and my grandmother’s name is Li Fengxian. My grandmother died when my father was 9 years old, and my grandfather died when I was in college. I think they have met in heaven. My grandfather’s greatest legacy to me is the stories he told me when I was a child. I would add details and retell them to my classmates. They were fascinated by them and the whole classroom would be silent. I was famous for being good at telling stories when I was young — it is my earliest act of literary creation, just like the earliest literature of mankind, oral literature. Another influence from my grandfather me is the family name – Cao, which has a history of 3000 years and represents a long Oriental tradition. My pen name always retains this surname.
If I have five minutes to meet them, I would carefully look at what my grandmother looks like and what characteristics she has passed on to me. Because no picture of her has been handed down, people sometimes say that some part of me may look like her. When I was born, my grandfather was not good to me, but later I studied well and always became first in my class. As a result he began to be good to me and hoped that I would become famous and make my ancestor’s surname illustrious in the future. I want to tell them both about my current life, my wife Duo Mi and my son Cao Eurafrasia, my house “The Tower of Babel” and “Home of Eurafrasia”, and tell them about the books and scripts I have written so that they can be happy. If you could give me three extra days, I would take them to three places, Beijing, Rome and New York, and show them how vast the world is.
23 – Same question but addressed to your parents.
Cao Shui: Luckily, my father Cao Jiangang and my mother Guo Aihua are still very healthy. My parents not only brought me up, but also gave me stories, perhaps their greatest legacy. When I was young, my family was not rich. My parents would insure that my priority was to study, they would buy me luxury picture books, — because in rural China, going to college is the best way to change one’s fate. Later, I became a master of arts at Beijing Normal University, and my sister Cao Xi became a doctor of chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We changed our fate by studying. I have already taken my parents to Beijing for a trip and similarly, I want to take them to Rome and New York in the future. I want them to feel the world.
24 – What do you think about male and female friendship? Do you have a friend or close friend?
Cao Shui: Many people think that the relationship between men and women is either a love relationship or one that is strange. I think friendship can exist between men and women. I have several female friends in the literary world. We often get together to talk about literature and life. I think of them as close friends.
25 – If you could choose an era to go with the time machine, where would you like to go? And why?
Cao Shui: If I had a time machine, I would like to travel to China’s Ming Dynasty. Perhaps, as the Chinese American historian Huang Renyu wrote in 1587，A Year of No Significance:The Ming Dynasty in Decline. 1587 is the year when China began to lag behind the West. I want to talk to Emperor Wanli about the democratic revolution and scientific discoveries that were being carried out in the West, and help him to lead China’s reform. In that way, China would also have entered modernization early, rather than lag behind the West. I would also urge the emperor to send envoys to the Indian Mughal Empire to meet Akbar the Great, the Ottoman Turkey Empire to meet Murat III, the Safavid Dynasty of Iran to meet Abbas I, and the Holy Roman Empire to meet Maximilian II to tell them the same thing, so that the whole world could consciously reform and innovate, enter the World Republic early on, and avoid World War I, The Second World War and the Russian Ukrainian war. Mankind originates from the same place, and it is bound to establish a common World Republic.
26 – Which book would you like to write tomorrow?
Cao Shui: I will write the trilogy of the Golden Empire（《黄金帝国》） tomorrow. It is a novel that integrates Eastern and Western civilizations, and will integrate the history of the Roman Empire and the Chinese Empire. There are many amazing similarities between Eastern and Western history. For example, Caesar’s assassination led to the establishment of the Roman Empire, and Xiang Yu’s failure led to the establishment of the Han Empire. Both the Roman Empire and the Han Empire perished due to the invasion of northern barbarians. I want to construct a story about the development of human history, which is the inspiration of The Game Of Thrones.
27 – If you can give a gift to your readers, what would you give them and why?
Cao Shui: If I could give my readers a gift, I would give them houses. You see in China, most people struggle for a house all their lives, they are called “house slaves”（房奴）. I would give them houses, so that they could be liberated, do what they like to do, and read books freely in the house. This may also be the future of Great Common World（大同世界） prompted by Confucius.
28 – If tomorrow someone offers you a trip to do immediately, where would you like to go and why?
Cao Shui: If I could travel tomorrow, I would take the Silk Road. Zhang Qian of China or Marco Polo of Italy gave me enlightenment. I would start from Xi’an in China, pass through New Delhi in India, Tehran in Iran, Baghdad in Iraq, Jerusalem in Israel, Cairo in Egypt, Athens in Greece, and finally arrive at Rome in Italy. The Silk Road connects the seven ancient civilizations. Many people in China talk about cultural self-confidence — I want them to know that only by understanding world civilization can we build cultural self-confidence. The biggest theme of all my works is to integrate these civilizations and build a new civilization for all mankind.
29 – Finally, what do you think of our conversation and what would you have wanted me to ask you?
Cao Shui: I have received many interviews in China. In comparison, I think this interview was interesting, innovative, systematic and specific. I spent two whole days answering and translating your questions, because every question was enlightening, as if we were drinking tea in the cafe in front of the Pantheon in Rome. Your questions were far beyond my expectations, and shows my life in a comprehensive way. I think both Chinese and Italian readers will like it. I send you my best regards.
30 – If you want to leave the link of your book and cover, if you want to add something to let Italian readers know you a little more, you can do it.
Cao Shui: Although I have published 30 books in China, only Flowers of Empire（《帝国之花》） is translated into Italian, so I can provide the cover and link of it. At the same time, I will list the titles of my poems, anthologies, novels, fairy tales and translations, and provide a cover for each category: poetry colletions Epic of Eurasia，essays Great Poetics, novel Secret History of Kunlun, fairy tale Prince Snow Leopard , and translation Footsteps Of Istanbul.
List Of Cao Shui‘s Works
Poetry Collections: “Who Symbolizes In The Depression” （《谁在苦闷中象征》）(2007), “Cold Lyric”（《冷抒情》） (2007), “The Great Yin And Yang Map Of Eurasia”（《亚欧大陆地大阴阳图》） (2009), ” Epic Of Eurasia”（《亚欧大陆地史诗》） (2010), “The Bride Of Pamirsberg” （《帕米尔堡的新娘》）(2018), “The Lyric Of The Tower Of Babel”（《通天塔之歌》） (2018), “Flowers Of The Empire”（《帝国之花》） (2021), And “The Great Sadness Dance” （《大悲舞》）(2022).
Essays: Notes On The Tower Of Babel（《巴别塔尖手记》） (2009), Animal Kingdom Of Hoh Xili（《可可西里动物王国》） (2018), Great Poetics（《大诗学》） (2022), Kunlun Tour（《昆仑游》） (2022), Walking Around The Great West （《环大西部行走》）(2022).
Novels:The Spire Of The Tower Of Babel（《巴别塔尖》） (2007), Secret History Of Kunlun I: Time Axis（《昆仑秘史I：时间地轴》） (2011), Secret History Of Kunlun Ii: The Imperial Seal And The Roman Crown（《昆仑秘史Ii：传国玉玺与罗马皇冠》） (2011), Secret History Of Kunlun Iii: The Tower Of Babel （《昆仑秘史Iii：通天塔》）(2017), Secret History Of Kunlun Prequel: The Spire Of The Tower Of Babel（《昆仑秘史前传：巴别塔尖》）(2012), Lonely Star In Troubled Times: The Legend Of The Prince Hutai（《乱世孤星：虎台太子传奇》） (2013), Prince Snow Leopard （《雪豹王子》）(2016), Great Hero Of Wei Dynasty: Biography Of Yuan He（《北魏风云：源贺传》） (2017), King Peacock （《孔雀王》）(2022).
Fairy Tales: Prince Snow Leopard（《雪豹王子》） (2016), Three Sisters Of Wild Yak（《野牦牛三姐妹》） (2022), Tibetan Antelope Guard（《藏羚羊护卫队》） (2022), Prince Snow Leopard （《雪豹王子》）(2022), Tibetan Wild Donkey Father（《藏野驴爸爸》） (2022), The Beauty Bear（《熊美人》） (2022), Marmot Bar （《旱獭酒吧》）(2022). Where Is The Home Of The River（《大河的家在哪儿》） (2022), The Snow Mountain Where Eagles Can’t Fly （《鹰飞不过的雪山》）(2022), Run! Tibetan Antelope（《奔跑吧！藏羚羊》） (2022), The Hidden Art Of Tibetan Wild Donkey（《藏野驴的隐身术》） (2022), I Am Not a Vulture （《我不是兀鹫》）(2022), And The Snow Lotus Suba Is Not Afraid Of Cold （《苏巴不怕冷》）(2022).
Translations: The Footsteps Of Istanbul By Nurduran Duman（《伊斯坦布尔的脚步》，纽都然·杜门）(2019), The Song Of The Dream Land By Fernando Rendon（《理想国的歌声》，费尔南多·伦德）(2022), The Golden Bird In The Sun By Vadim Terekhin（《太阳中的黄金鸟》，瓦迪姆·特里金） (2022), The Horn Of Metatron（《梅塔特隆的号角》） (2022), And The American Flying Man By George Wallace（《美国飞人》，乔治·华莱士）(2022).
Italian translated by Fiori Picco
English translated by Cao Shui， Proofed by George Wallace
（Portrait of Cao Shui by Song Zuifa）
Biography of Cao Shui
Cao Shui（Chinese: 曹谁;pinyin: Cáo Shuí), also Shawn Cao (born in Jun 5, 1982), is a Chinese poet, novelist, screenwriter and translator. He is a representative figure of Chinese Contemporary Literature. He leads “the Greatpoeticism” movement. In his “Manifesto of Greatpoem”, he aims to integrate sacred and secular cultures, oriental and occidental cultures, ancient and modern cultures in Chinese literature. In 2008, he resigned from a newspaper and traveled around Tibet and Xinjiang, which is the center of Eurasia or the World in his view. His novels Secret of Heaven trilogy tells the whole developing history of human civilization. His most notable works includes Epic of Eurasia, the already mentioned trilogy and King Peacock (TV series). In his works, he extracts elements of various ancient human civilizations, from Babylon to the west to Judea, Egypt, Greece, to the east to Persia, India, China, and uses these elements to reconstruct a new Utopian human homeland, which always described as Eurasia, the Top of the Tower of Babel or Kunlun Mountains (Heaven Mountains). So far twenty books of Cao Shui have been published, including five poem collections, three essay collections, ten novels, three translations and one hundred episodes TV series and films. He has won more than 50 literary awards worldwide, including the 1st Chinese Young Poet Award, the 4th Cao Yu Cup Drama Award, the Apollo Dionysus Award of the 8th Italian Rome International Academy of Contemporary Poetry and Art Award, the 12th Russian Golden Knight Award, and the Top Ten Public Figures of the 5th Chinese Poetry Spring Festival Gala, etc.His works have been translated into English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Portuguese, Danish, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Croatian, Slovenian, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Nepali, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, etc. He has been invited to participate in the 30th Medellin International Poetry Festival, the 26th Havana International Poetry Festival, the 14th Kritya International Poetry Festival in India and the 4th Qinghai Lake International Poetry Festival. He is a member of China Writers Association, China Film Association and China Poetry Society. He is also chief editor of Great Poetry, deputy editor in chief of World Poetry, secretary general of Boao International Poetry Festival and vice president of the Silk Road International Poetry Festival. Currently he lives in Beijing, and works as a professional writer and screenwriter.
MARIA CRISTINA BUOSO
She wrote her first works when she was very young, starting with fairy tales, poems, screenplays and short stories, then moving on to novels and detective stories. The poem “Help me” was included in the Multimedia Anthology “A poem for Telethon”, for charity (2004). The poem “Peace at War” in the competition held by ALIAS (Melbourne – Australia), received an Honorable Mention. The poem “Bugie” (Stones of Angles ) was included in Vol. 6 – In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself – Edited by Marlow Perse Weaver USA (2005). She won the third prize in the Literary Competition “ Joutes Alpines ”of the Associantion Rencontres Italie Annecy (France) for the Sect. Prose (Italy) with the short story “The old album” (1997). These are just some of the various awards she has received, as well as numerous awards in Italy. She has published several poetic anthologies and novels. She is a famous literary blogger and actively participates in numerous clubs and events. She collaborates with Fiori Picco promoting oriental culture and Chinese authors on her blog.