Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Zhou Qing, China

Journalist, Researcher, Editor * 1965
Min Yihe Shi Wei Tian. Zhongguo Shipin Anquan Xianzhuang Diaocha
[‘What Kind of God.’ A Survey of the Current Safety of China’s Food]

"The traditional Chinese saying that ‘Food is the people’s Heaven’ shows the importance of food in people’s daily lives … In today’s world, in which people have become more and more closely tied to the computer, you only have to type in the words ‘food’ or ‘eat’ in a Chinese search engine, you will find that the words that crop up the most in the list of results are ‘safety’ and ‘poisoning’. This is an ironic state of affairs in a country that has prided itself on its fine cuisine."

Zhou Qing was born in Shanxi Province, China. He studied at the Lu Xun Literary Institute and at Northwest University, Xi’an. In 1989 he was imprisoned for two years, after taking part in the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. His sentence was extended by eight months for refusing to rehabilitate and attempting to escape.

Zhou Qing is a journalist, editor and a researcher into Chinese folk and oral history and has travelled to the United States and Russia as a visiting scholar. He is the former director of the XI’AN Cang Xie Cultural Research Institute, and was chief editor of Folk magazine, Economy & Trade, Shen Zhen edition, and managing editor of the newspaper Legends & Stories. He is currently chief editor of the magazine Oral Museum. Zhou Qing is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Association and of the China Society for the Study of Folk Literature and Art.

Zhou Qing spent two years researching the murky world of Chinese food and in 2004 China’s most important reportage magazine Baogao Wenxue (Reportage Literature) published his long article: Min Yihe Shi Wei Tian. Zhongguo Shipin Anquan Xianzhuang Diaocha [‘What Kind of God’. A Survey of the Current Safety of China’s Food].  In his reportage, Zhou Qing exposes a topic that the authorities have striven to keep hidden. He interviewed food manufacturers and restaurant owners, fish farmers, peasants, traders, doctors, and consumers. He discovered shocking practices such as the use of contraceptive pills to accelerate fish farming, the pesticide DDT to keep pickles from going off, hormones used to replace foodstuffs, salt that is chemically enhanced, industrial oil altered to make cooking oil. The difficulty and danger of carrying out this work was, in the author’s own words, ‘More dangerous than chasing after drug dealers!’

Zhou Qing lives in Beijing.



go to top of the page

"When history reaches up to the present, works in which living human beings play the leading role can emerge from these themes. That gives the work strength, depth and an especially intense humanity. People and their history speak out of it. The author lends them expression. That is where the particular strength of literary reportage lies, and that is where it differs from memoirs and biographies."Pedro Rosa Mendes (jury member 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006)