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(en) Yeman, Media, Yemen Times, Pa Chin: A literary and revolutionary Chinese anarchist

Date Mon, 31 Dec 2007 23:20:33 +0200

Li Yaotang, whose courtesy name was Li Feigan, was a Chinese novelist, short
story writer, essayist, translator and intellectual who wrote under the
pseudonym Pa Chin (also Ba Jin) taken from the Chinese transliterations of the
first syllable of Mikhail A. Bakunin and the last of Peter A. Kropotkin, both
Russian anarchists he admired. ---- Pa Chin was born in 1904 into a wealthy
family in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Szechuan province. After his
parents died when he was 12, family authority passed to his despotic
grandfather, who forbade him from entering a modern school. ---- Family feuding
broke out in 1917 when Pa Chin’s grandfather died and authority transferred to
an elder uncle. ---- Known as the May Fourth Movement, the 1915-1922 New Culture
Movement reached Chengdu and the new literature came into Pa Chin’s hands at age
15. Affected by the popular anarchic publications of Kropotkin and Emma Goldman,
as well as seeking an escape from his patriarchal and feudalistic family home,
he joined local anarchist group, the Equality Society.

In 1920, Pa Chin enrolled in the Chengdu Foreign Language Specialist School to
study English and engaged in organizing the Crescent literary journal.

Pa Chin left Chengdu in 1923 to study, moving to Nanjing and Shanghai, where he
entered a prep school affiliated with Southeast China University, after which he
attended Dongnan University, mastering Esperanto and vehemently continuing his
anarchist activism.

In January 1927, Pa Chin left China for further studies in France, where he
joined a group of young Chinese anarchists and other exiles of various
nationalities. He spent the next 22 months in Paris in the small town of
Château-Thierry on the Marne River.

Except for studying French language, Pa Chin didn’t pursue much formal
education, but he read widely on philosophy and social problems, as well as
Western fiction.

Upon returning to Shanghai in 1928, Pa Chin continued writing and working on
translations and found himself an acclaimed writer.

He spent the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in China, moving to a
succession of wartime capitals before finally returning to Chengdu. Actively
involved in propaganda against the Japanese invasion, he worked on the
publication, Nahan (Outcries), and was one of the leaders of the All-China
Association of Artists and Writers for Resistance.

Pa Chin served as editor-in-chief of Shanghai’s Cultural Life and Pingming
publishing houses in 1944. Choosing to remain in China following the 1949
Communist takeover, he also was chief editor of the Shanghai-based Literary and
Art Monthly, as well as Harvest and Shanghai Literature.

Additionally, Pa Chin was a foreign correspondent in Korea for seven months in
1952 before being elected vice chairman of the China Writers’ Association in
1953. As a correspondent, he also visited Japan in 1961 and was elected chairman
of the Shanghai Federation of Literary and Arts Circles in 1962.

Branded a counterrevolutionary during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, Pa Chin
therefore was purged an
d didn’t reappear until 1977, after he had been rehabilitated considerably.
Consequently, he was elected a deputy to the 1978 National People’s Congress,
followed by chairman of the China Writers Association in 1983.

Pa Chin’s literary works have been translated into and published in numerous
foreign languages. He also has received prizes and medals from Italy and the
former Soviet Union for his contributions in translating and introducing foreign
literary works to the Chinese people.

In the two decades before the late 1950s, Pa Chin wrote nearly 20 novels and
translated just as many foreign works, as well as more than 70 short stories.
While studying in France in 1927, he began writing his first novel, “Mieh-wang”
(Destruction), about the life of a young Shanghai revolutionary anarchist.

Pa Chin is most acclaimed for his autobiographical “Turbulent Stream” trilogy,
including his masterpiece, “Chia” (Family, 1931), and the trilogy’s other two
novels, “Spring” (1938) and “Autumn” (1940). Describing the struggle between
young intellectuals and their family traditions, the trilogy became a classic in
modern Chinese literature.

In 1934, Pa Chin completed his Love trilogy, consisting of the novels “Fog”
(1931), “Rain” (1933) and “Lightning” (1935), in addition to a novelette,
“Thunder.” His Love trilogy describes the life of revolutionary intellectuals
and other vital problems as the purpose of human life, friendship and love.

Beginning with the battle for Shanghai, Pa Chin’s three-volume novel, “Fires”
(1941-1945), tells the story of this new, often heroic, generation. Among his
other works from the postwar period are the short novels, “A Garden of Repose”
(1944) and “Ward No. 4” (1946), while another of Pa Chin’s masterpieces,
“Han-yeh” (Cold Nights, 1947), tells the story of a couple whose dreams are
shattered by the war and the tragic loss of their idealism.

Between 1978 and 1986, Pa Chin penned a series of 150 essays entitled, “Suixiang
Lu” (Random Thoughts), largely dealing with China’s Cultural Revolution. He also
translated literary works by Russian and French writers, winning him the 1982
Dante International Prize and being nominated for the 2001 Nobel Prize in

In his later years, Pa Chin was stricken with a form of Parkinson’s disease in
1983 before dying at the ripe old age of 101 in Shanghai on Oct. 17, 2005. His
death marked the end of an era in Chinese literature, as he was the last major
writer alive during the May Fourth Movement.
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