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Revered Chinese Author Ba Jin Dies at 100

Revered Chinese Author Ba Jin Dies at 100

Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Ba Jin, one of China's most revered
communist-era writers who attacked the evils of the
pre-revolutionary era in novels, short stories and essays,
died Monday of cancer in Shanghai, the official Xinhua News
Agency said. He was 100.

Best known for his 1931 novel "Family," the story of a
disintegrating feudal household, Ba Jin also translated the
Russian writers Ivan Turgenev and Pyotr Kropotkin.

Ba Jin worked well into his later years writing essays and
compiling anthologies of his work.

He was part of the young intelligentsia in the early 20th
century that looked to Western philosophies — Marxism,
anarchism, and liberalism — for solutions to China's
backwardness and social inequality.Born Li Yaotang on Nov. 25, 1904, in the western city of
Chengdu, he later changed his name to Ba Jin, taking the
first syllable in Chinese of the surname of Mikhail Bakunin
and the last syllable of Kropotkin, both Russian anarchists.

No information on survivors or funeral plans was immediately

"Never for a moment will I put down my pen. It is kindling a
fire within me," he wrote. "Even after I have been turned
into ashes, my love, my feeling will not disappear from this

Born to a landlord's family, Ba Jin joined the Chinese
anarchists as a teenager.

Ba Jin spent his early adulthood writing fiction and editing
anarchist publications, and in 1936 joined the Literary Work
Society, an organization of progressive young writers headed
by Lu Xun. Most of Ba Jin's heroes were rebels.

In "Family," his favorite work, he portrayed tensions
between feudal, patriarchal controls and rebellious youth
fighting for personal and social goals.

Another of his well-known novels, "Cold Night," published
not long after World War II, told the story of a couple
whose dreams are shattered by the war and who become
estranged amid disease and discord.

His biographer, Olga Lang, said his works were successful as
much for their social importance as their literary
significance. He wrote about the restrictions he knew from
his upper-class upbringing and examined the plight of
workers and peasants.

Ba Jin said he wrote "to expose enemies. They include all
the old traditional concepts, the irrational systems that
obstruct progress, all the forces that destroy human nature."

"Since I'm not good at speaking, I have to turn to writing
to express my feelings, my love and hatred, and to let out
the fire within me," he said.

Ba Jin was branded a counterrevolutionary and purged during
the 1966-76 "Cultural Revolution," during which many writers
and artists were persecuted and art was completely
subordinated to politics. He was labeled a class enemy,
banned from writing and forced to clean drains.

He did not reappear until 1977.

Later, at a time when writers were just beginning to take
chances again and feel some security about their status, he
complained, "Why is it that our writing cannot be at the
forefront of world literature?"

"Where else have authors in the world throughout history
gone through something so terrifying and ridiculous, so
bizarre and agonizing?" he asked.

Ba Jin proposed that the government create a museum to the
Cultural Revolution so that later generations could learn
from its horrors and avoid a repetition. The suggestion was

In his later years, Ba Jin suffered from a form of
Parkinson's disease but still took on several honorary posts
such as chairman of the Chinese Writers' Association and a
vice chairman of a top government advisory group.

In 1984, he was a guest of honor at the International P.E.N.
Congress in Tokyo, and delivered an address entitled,
"Literature in the Nuclear Age: Why do We Write?"

Ba Jin's wife, Xiao Shan, a translator of Turgenev and poet
Alexander Pushkin whom he married in 1944, died of cancer in