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Ba Jin

Ba Jin or Pa Chin (both: bäˈ jĭnˈ) [key], pseud. of Li Yaotang (also Li Feigan), 1904–2005, one of China's most acclaimed modern novelists, b. Chengdu. Born into a wealthy family, he received a broad education in China, graduating in 1925, and traveling to France in 1927–28. Early in life he became a committed anarchist and socialist, and in France wrote his first novel, Miewang [destruction] (1929), a tale of romance and revolution. Ba is best known for his trilogy Jiliu [torrent] (1931–40); its first volume, Jia, was translated into English as Family (1958). Enormously popular with China's young readers at the time, these semiautobiographical novels attack the traditional Chinese family structure, pitting age against youth and Confucian orthodoxy against individualism in a saga of familial decline. His other works include two other trilogies (1931–33; 1941–45), many single novels, e.g., Han ye (1947, tr. Cold Nights, 1978), short stories, essays, translations, and his memoirs (1979, partially tr. Random Thoughts, 1984).

Ba Jin's reputation and fortunes, like those of many other Chinese intellectuals, rose and fell with the fluctuations in the government. As a critic of the socioeconomic ways of old China he was lauded by the new Communist regime in the 1950s (during which he renounced anarchism) and early 60s. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), he was condemned as a counterrevolutionary and publicly humiliated, but was rehabilitated in 1977. Subsequently Ba became a fixture of China's literary establishment, and was elected (1981) head of the Chinese Writer's Association, a post he held until his death, even though by then he was hospitalized and unable to move or speak.

See S. Shapiro and W. Mingjie, tr., Selected Works of Ba Jin (1988); biography by N. K. Mao (1978); study by O. Lang (1965); H. Martin and J. Kinkley, ed., Modern Chinese Writers (1992); Return from Silence (documentary film, 1982).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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