The southwest Chinese city of Chengdu has commissioned science fiction writers to create stories reflecting its ancient civilization, hoping their works can bolster the image of the capital of Sichuan Province.
A senior executive with a local sci-fi magazine said on Monday that the municipal government of Chengdu asked a group of authors to write science fiction tales about Jinsha, an archaeological site of a mysterious civilization dating back to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.
The local government hoped that the stories could arouse interest in the civilization, as the local government has long mulled over making the civilization a world-recognized symbol for Chengdu, said Yao Haijun, deputy editor-in-chief with the popular Science Fiction World magazine.
Yao believed Chengdu was the first city to use science fiction to brand its culture, although many other Chinese cities have also planned to spread their cultures through literature.
Wang Jinkang, a well-known sci-fi writer in China, has been asked to write a novel set in the mysterious site, Yao said, adding that the government also invited other writers to compose short stories.
Ye Lang, deputy director with the city's publicity department, said the initiative was part of Chengdu's move to boost cultural prosperity.
"The government puts much more expectations on science fiction than on other art forms," Ye said. "We now have many works looking back into history, but few casting their sights on the future. In a country like China, there must be some people caring about the future."
Meanwhile, Wang has visited the Jinsha Site Museum, Sanxingdui Site Museum, and two Qiang People-inhabited counties at the invitation of Chengdu government.
"Jinsha stunned me with its beauty, and its unsolved mysteries propelled me to write," Wang said.
About 3,000 years ago, the aboriginal Sichuan residents started holding fetes around today's Jinsha archaeological site, and for the next 500 years, the ancient residents buried numerous pieces of delicately-made gold wares, jade objects and ivories there, according to the Jinsha Site Museum.
Wang Yi, president of the museum, said many unearthed Jinsha antiques had never been documented in history, thus presenting a swathe of unsolved mysteries for writing science fiction tales.
The Jinsha relics suggested that ancient Sichuan residents had yearned for exploring the unknown world with their imagination, a trait that compliments the essence of science fiction, Wang added.
According to the project coordinator Tan Kai, the idea of creating science fiction on Jinsha was inspired by British writer Neil Gaiman, who visited Jinsha in 2007 when he was invited to attend a world science fiction conference held in Chengdu.
Gaiman said the antiques were like objects dropped from the heavens and full of elements fitting science fiction. At that time, we decided to invite sci-fi authors to write about Jinsha, Tan said.