BAJIN (1904-2005) XINGJIAN, Gao (Ganzhou, Chine 04/01/1940-....)

From: Dana Ward

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Death of writer who dared speak the truth

Chronic disease kills Ba Jin after decades as a symbol of intellectual conscience



Ba Jin: Nobel hope

Ba Jin, one of China’s most famous writers, died in Shanghai last night after a battle with chronic disease. He was 101.

Xinhua reported he died at a local hospital at about 7pm after suffering malignant mesothelium cell tumours and other diseases.

Ba Jin’s blunt language and his courage in opposing the feudal system made him a symbol of intellectual conscience since he was involved in the May Fourth cultural movement in the early 1920s. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution, but made a comeback as a voice of reason after those turbulent years.

The report said he had been struggling with ill health since suffering a high fever caused by influenza six years ago. While it did not mention other diseases, earlier reports said Ba Jin had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years.

Xinhua was quick to report his death last night, although details of his funeral arrangements were not announced.

Born in Chengdu on November 25, 1904, his parents named him Li Yaotang and gave him the name Li Feigan when he became an adult. He later used Ba Jin as his penname, taking the first syllable in Chinese of the surname of Mikhail Bakunin and the last syllable of Kropotkin, both Russian anarchists.

The authorities held a massive celebration of his 100th birthday in late 2003 - according to Chinese tradition, which counts birthdays a year earlier - although at that time the writer was already seriously ill.

Ba Jin is most acclaimed for his autobiographical trilogy - Family (1937), Spring (1938) and Autumn (1940) - which became classics of modern Chinese literature with their descriptions of the struggle between young intellectuals and their family traditions.

He had long been seen as China’s hope for a Nobel literature prize until Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese writer to receive the honour.

Ba Jin lived in Paris from 1927 to 1928. He chose to stay in China after the communist takeover in 1949, but could not escape the fate of many other intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution and was purged by the Red Guards during the late 1960s. It was not until 1977 that he reappeared.

Liu Xinwu , another renowned mainland writer, lamented the passing of Ba Jin. Liu praised him for "speaking the truth" soon after the Cultural Revolution.

"He was able to give the revolution a new identity. [He said] instead of being cruel, revolution should be humane. He also said we should not have personality cults or deify our leaders."

Mr Liu said it required "great courage" to make such comments just after the Cultural Revolution had ended.

Ba Jin received many honorary titles in his later years, including becoming a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the China Writers Association.

Bibliography of his works in English