THIS year's Nobel literature laureate chose his pen name Mo Yan, which means "Don't speak," as a reminder to himself that he should talk less and write more.
Mo, whose real name is Guan Moye, said he had "brought the family a lot of trouble" for his talkativeness when he was young.
"My mother felt so anguished and persuaded me to keep my mouth shut. I was so moved by her painful expression and swore to be silent since then," he said. "That's why I gave myself such a pen name when I started writing in 1981."
That was the year his novella, "Drizzle on a Spring Night," was published.
Mo said several years ago that his literature dream stemmed from his crave for dumplings in the late 1950s when China was in economic difficulty.
He recalled that a writer became his new neighbor in Jinan, capital of his native Shandong Province, and had dumplings for three meals a day, a luxury for a common Chinese then.
"At that time, my family couldn't afford such a meal in one year," Mo said in a speech in Open University of Hong Kong.
Mo said he began to nurse a dream of becoming a writer, with three dumpling meals every day.
His early education was cut short at the age of 12 by the "cultural revolution," a decade of political chaos when many of China's schools closed down.
Instead of avoiding memories of his poverty-stricken childhood, Mo valued it so much he said in a speech at Stanford University in California that "loneliness and hunger were my fortunes of creation."
"When I was five or six, the whole nation was hungry. I had a deep love for food. Even now I feel tears in my eyes when I touch the rice in supermarkets," he said.
When he joined the army in 1976, he once filled his stomach with 18 buns.
Mo has applied his experiences as well as relatives' stories to his works.
He created the figure "rural doctor" based on his aunt in his novel "Frogs," and described a typical Chinese intellectual called Shangguan Jintong to reflect his spirit in the book "Big Breasts and Wide Hips."
"The folk arts and folk culture accompanied my growth and I was influenced by the cultural elements I witnessed through my childhood in the rural areas. When I picked up the pen for the creation of literature, the folk cultural elements inevitably entered my novels and affected and even determined the artistic styles of my works," he said.
Though Mo is intellectually sharp, he is an ordinary man in daily life. He married a factory co-worker about 30 years ago.