Published first in 1987, Stick Out Your Tongue (CHINESE NAME) has been an example of Chinese literature explaining about the Tibetan culture, how nomadic life has changed while progress has been imported to the province.

Also interesting the Chinese way of seen this communities and environments.



The Story tells about a Chinese Han writer, who after he divorced from his wife, decides to travel around the Tibetan Platou. This travel will mark his brake from the Eastern China valleys provinces and his research with the local Tibetans.

The area he decides to explore are remote, inhabited by nomads and by Han Chinese settlers that left their provinces a few decades earlier.

Brief Stories:

The book tells about 5 short stories:

–  The Woman and The Blu Sky;

–  The Smile od Lake Dromula;

–  The Eight-Fanged Roach;

–  The Golden Crown;

–  The Final Initiation

All the stories in the little book are based on the encounters the writer is doing during his travel.

All his subjects are describing a crude image of the populations of the Tibetan plateau, about its habits and traditions. The story The Woman and The Blu Sky, is about the celestial burial of a young woman married to two brothers. ( About celestial burial see previous article )

The hardships of life, sentiments and passion, vulgarity and incest are all elements to show that also in Tibet, far from the rush of cities development, people faces the same problems and sins.

Picturing the crude elements of today society is typical of Chinese modern literature.

In other books as Brothers, Spaghetti cinesi, etc. vulgarity and misfit are often used by the characters to describe the sense of failure of society perceived by the writers grown during the 80s-90s.


The message of Ma Jian was really clear: show to the world that Tibetan are humans, with their own sentiments etc. , different from the pure, simple and friendly way are usually described.

Though his stories Ma Jian wants to express the confusion for a Chinese person encounter when facing another culture, and the losses we get from civilization, but also his respect for another culture.

After all the title, Stick Out Your Tongue, recalls to another age and society. Sticking out the tongue is an old Tibetan way to great friends and strangers.


A 9th century Tibetan king, Lang Darma, known for his cruelty, had a black tongue. As Buddhists, Tibetans believe in reincarnation, and they feared that this mean king would be reincarnated. Consequently, for centuries Tibetans have greeted one another by sticking out their tongues demonstrating that they do not have black tongues, that they are not guilty of evil deeds, that they are not incarnations of the malevolent king.

According to the tradition, XXX. specifically

Sticking out the tongue is to show that the person is not the reincarnation of the spirit.


Author schedule

Ma Jian ()

Left Beijing in 1987 to go to HongKong, and later to German, and finally London.

Ma Jian was born in Qingdao, China, in 1953. He worked as a watch-mender’s apprentice, a painter of propaganda boards, and a photojournalist. At the age of thirty, he left his job and traveled for three years across China. In 1987 he completed Stick Out Your Tongue, which prompted the Chinese government to ban his future work. Ma Jian left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987 as a dissident, but he continued to travel to China, and he supported the pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989. After the handover of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives. (MACMILLAN




2 thoughts on “STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE – Ma Jian

  1. Pingback: The Unblog
  2. Kim Yong-seok says:

    Hello there? I’m an editor. I want to use your “sticking out your tongue photo” in the elementary English book. I want to introduce how Tibetians greet each other. Can I use your photo who wears red monk garment?

    Liked by 1 person

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