Ding Ling (Jiang Bingzhi) (Writer)


(1904-1986) novelist, short-story and nonfiction writer

Jiang Bingzhi was born on October 12 in Hunan Province’s Linli County in China. After her father’s death, she lived with her uncle in Changde. She was introduced to ideas of revolution and democracy at a young age because Changde was a focal point for the 1911 republican revolution to overthrow the Qing dynasty. At 17, she attended a Communist school in Shanghai and later Shanghai University. In 1923, she left for Beijing, where China’s “new culture” was developing. She could not afford to attend lectures at Beijing University, so she read Western and Eastern writers. She also learned to paint, and in 1925, she married Hu Yepin, a revolutionary writer.

In 1927, Ding Ling published to great acclaim her first short story, “Meng Ke,” based on her own experience at an unsuccessful film audition. Its publication was quickly followed by “Miss Sophie’s Diary,” a story about a girl with tuberculosis and her fruitless desire to find love. The next year, she published her first short-story collection, In the Dark.

In 1930, Ding Ling and her husband joined the proletarian literary movement in Shanghai, where they joined the newly formed League of Left-wing Writers headed by lu Xun. Hu Yepin was executed by the Nationalists for his involvement in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) underground, an event that plunged Ding Ling into the revolution. Ding Ling herself was later kidnapped by the Guomingdang (GMD) Nationalist Party.

Amidst her political activity, Ding Ling was also busy writing. She edited The Dipper, the league’s literary magazine, and published Flood, a major revolutionary work of social realist (see socialist realism) fiction about peasants exploited by local despots during a disaster. In 1933, she also published the first part of the novel Mother, about a spirited heroine during the 1911 revolution, a character based loosely on her own mother.

After her release from Nationalist prison in 1936, Mao Zedong welcomed her with two poems he wrote in her honor at the Yan’an Communist base. She began to work on the Liberation Daily’s literary supplement. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Ding Ling performed field and propaganda work and wrote stories from the front. An outspoken woman yet a loyal servant of both literature and communism, she voiced opinions on inequities within the supposedly egalitarian party, especially in regard to women, at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art in 1942.

During the next decade, Ding Ling continued her literary endeavors, writing, among other pieces, a novel about land reform, The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River (1949), which won the Stalin Prize for literature. She also traveled extensively abroad, lecturing on literature and producing essays, literary criticism, and speeches. She frequently wrote about women, both in her stories and in essays, advocating feminist thought, women’s sexual freedom, and the rights to seek divorce and not to marry. Her writing was frequently considered scandalous, but it also explored the new dimensions of Chinese womanhood under China’s rapidly changing sociopolitical landscape.

In 1955, Ding Ling came under fire from the party leadership. She was accused of heading an antiparty clique and was criticized for the sexual content of her stories. During the brief open period of the Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1956, her plea to make literature independent earned her the label of rightist, as well as party expulsion in 1957. She was “sent down” to do physical labor in a reclamation area in the Great Northern Wilderness in Heilongjiang Province.

When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Ding Ling did not escape persecution. She was imprisoned from 1970 to 1975 in Beijing and then removed to a commune in Shanxi. After the revolution, she was officially restored in a 1979 verdict and again became a respected member of the establishment.

As part of the “scar” literature by writers who survived the Cultural Revolution, Ding Ling published essays and stories about her experiences and those of her friends. In 1981, she and her second husband, Chen Ming, moved to a convalescent home in Fukien. Although she was in poor health, she started the literary magazine China in 1985. She died on March 4.

Another Work by Ding Ling

I Myself Am a Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling. Barlow, Tani E., and Gary J. Bjorge, eds. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.

A Work about Ding Ling

Feuerwerker, Yi-tsi Mei. Ding Ling’s Fiction: Ideology and Narrative in Modern Chinese Literature. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.

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