Ba Jin

/bah" jin"/, (Li Feigan)
born 1904, Chinese writer and novelist.

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▪ 2006
Li Yaotang 
      Chinese writer (b. Nov. 25, 1904, Chengdu, Sichuan province, China—d. Oct. 17, 2005, Shanghai, China), was one of the most critically acclaimed and widely read Chinese authors of the 20th century. He was best known for his novels and short stories of the 1930s and '40s, which first brought him international recognition; in these insightful works Ba Jin addressed social concerns and attacked the brutality of feudal life in prerevolutionary China. Born to a large and wealthy family, he received a traditional Confucian education as well as training in foreign languages. He developed an admiration for socialist and anarchist ideas before moving in 1927 to Paris to continue his studies. Ba Jin returned to China two years later, settling in Shanghai and publishing his first novel, Miewang (“Extinction”), to great success. He allegedly derived the pseudonym Ba Jin from the names of two Russian anarchists, Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin. Ba Jin published perhaps his most famous novel, Jia (“Family”), in 1933. The work was the first volume of an autobiographical trilogy, Jiliu (“Torrent”), which also included Chun (1938; “Spring”) and Qiu (1940; “Autumn”). Important novels of the 1940s included Qiyuan (1944; “Pleasure Garden”) and Hanye (1946; “Cold Nights”). After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Ba Jin threw his support behind the communist government and was elected to important literary and cultural organizations. He never fully adapted to the new society, however, and his literary output dwindled for a time. Ba Jin later complained that the cultural bureaucracy severely limited what he could write. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), he was labeled a counterrevolutionary. He was forced to work menial jobs, and his cancer-stricken wife was denied necessary medical treatment before she died in 1972. Rehabilitated after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Ba Jin became a prolific essayist and was elected (1983) a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chairman (1981) of the Chinese Writers' Association. Some 150 of his essays were collected in the five-volume Suixiang lu (1979–86; “Random Thoughts”).

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▪ Chinese author
Wade-Giles romanization  Pa Chin , original name  Li Yaotang , courtesy name (zi)  Feigan 
born November 25, 1904, Chengdu, Sichuan province, China
died October 17, 2005, Shanghai

      Chinese anarchist writer whose novels and short stories achieved widespread popularity in the 1930s and '40s.

      Having been born to a wealthy gentry family, Li Yaotang received a traditional Confucian education as well as training in modern foreign languages and literatures. While in school, he developed socialist convictions and an interest in writing. He became an anarchist in the mid-1920s. After two years of study in France, he moved to Shanghai, where he wrote his first novel, Miewang (“Extinction”), which appeared with great success in 1929. He signed his work with the pen name Ba Jin, the last character of which is the Chinese equivalent of the last syllables of Peter Kropotkin (Kropotkin, Peter Alekseyevich), a Russian anarchist whom he admired.

      During the next four years Ba Jin published seven novels, most of them dealing with social concerns and attacking the traditional family system. Most famous of these was the novel Jia (1933; Family). It was the first volume of the autobiographical trilogy Jiliu (“Torrent”), which was completed in 1940 with the publication of the second and third volumes, Chun (“Spring”) and Qiu (“Autumn”). In the 1940s his writing became more pessimistic and less radical, and there was more truthful insight in his descriptions of human relationships; his most important novels of this period are Qiyuan (1944; “Pleasure Garden”) and Hanye (1947; Cold Nights).

      Ba Jin's work was frequently attacked by the communists for both its content and its style, even though his numerous magazine articles and political activities on behalf of the left helped to create the emotional climate that allowed intellectuals to accept the communist revolution. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Ba Jin was judged politically reliable and was elected to important literary and cultural organizations. Although he formally renounced his anarchist ideas in the late 1950s, he never fully adapted himself to the new society, and he stopped writing fiction. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), he was labeled a counterrevolutionary and was sharply criticized. Ba Jin did not make a public appearance again until 1977, when he was rehabilitated. He was elected the vice-chairman of the National Political Consultative Conference in 1983 and the chairman of the Chinese Writers Association in 1985.

      Later translations of his works include Living Amongst Heroes (1954), Autumn in Spring and Other Stories (1981), and Ward Four: A Novel of Wartime China (1999).

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Universalium. 2010.

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