Ba Jin 1904–2005

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Ba Jin 1904–2005

(Li Fei-kan, Li Yaotang, Pa Chin)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 25, 1904 (one source says November 24), in Chengtu, Szechwan, China; died of cancer, October 17, 2005, in Shanghai, China. Author. Widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of twentieth-century China, Ba was a prolific author of novels, short stories, and nonfiction who was often praised for his critical social examinations of pre-communist China. Born Li Yaotang to an aristocratic family in which he enjoyed a number of privileges, including a good education, Ba nevertheless bristled under what he considered an unjust feudal system and the influence of the West. He became interested in leftist writings and began producing them himself under his adopted pen name, Ba Jin. He began to travel as well, including to Paris, where in 1927 he wrote Destruction, his first novel. Returning to China, he then produced a trilogy of novels, beginning with Chia (1931), which was later translated as The Family (1958) and became his most famous book. With the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Ba spent much of his writing efforts on his work as a foreign correspondent covering Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. He also was a committee member of the China Association of Literary Workers and the Cultural and Educational Commission, as well as vice chair of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and chair of the China People's Union of Chinese Writers. Despite his loyalty to the government, even Ba was not immune to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when Chinese intellectuals and others were rounded up and sent to labor camps. While enduring forced labor at one such camp, Ba lost his wife when she became sick and was denied medical treatment. Nevertheless, even after leaving the camp he never overtly criticized his government. In the 1980s, however, he told interviewers that he planned to write a novel about the Cultural Revolution, although it was never published. Ba continued to write into the early 1990s; he was named chair of the Chinese Writers Association in 1981 and by the mid-1980s began to call for more freedom of speech for writers. Awarded the Special Fukuoka Asian Commemorative Prize in 1990, Ba never won the Nobel Prize many felt he deserved, although he was twice nominated. His works continue to remain a prominent part of Chinese literary history.



Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2005, p. B9.

New York Times, October 18, 2005, p. C19.

Washington Post, October 18, 2005, p. B6.