Ba Jin

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Li Fei-kan
Related People

Biography in English

Li Fei-kan (1904-), anarchist writer known as Pa Chin, whose novels and short stories achieved popularity in the 1930's and 1940's. Born in Chengtu, Szechwan, Li Fei-kan came from a wealthy and educated gentry family. His early childhood was spent in Chengtu except for three years in Kuangyuan, where his father was magistrate from 1906 to 1911. Li's mother died when he was ten, and two years later his father died. His life was also darkened by the deaths of an elder sister and of a maid-servant who had been his playmate. The remainder of his childhood and youth were spent in his grandfather's house in Chengtu, an extensive establishment which Li later described as "a despotic kingdom." From his early experiences in this household grew Li's lifelong detestation of the traditional Chinese family system.

After several years of traditional Chinese studies under the supervision of a tutor, Li entered a modern school in Chengtu which emphasized the study of foreign languages. He remained there until 1923 and acquired a knowledge of English and French. He also became aware of social problems. Li's interests in foreign literature and social reform soon led him to explore the radical writings then available to Chinese readers. He was impressed by the anarchist writers Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, by Leopold Kamf's play On the Eve (which depicted Russian revolutionaries of 1905 and which Li and his friends staged several times), and by magazines published by partisans of the May Fourth Movement. Li's socialist convictions began to take form at this time, and he also began to write. He joined a youth group, participated in agitation against the local warlord, and contributed articles to socialist and anarchist publications. This period of Li's life provided the main material for his autobiographical trilogy Chi-liu [turbulent stream]. About this time, he adopted the pen name Pa Chin, in honor of the eminent anarchists 5akunin and KropotA-z«.

In 1923 Pa Chin and his elder brother went to Shanghai and then to Nanking, where he entered the middle school of Southeastern University. He w^as graduated in 1925. His strongest impressions of this period—the Shanghai demonstrations of 30 ^.Iay 1925 and the political developments that followed—were recorded in the novel Ssu-ch'ü-ti fai-yang [the dying sun], published in 1930. From 1925 to 1927 Pa Chin lived in Shanghai as a freelance political writer. At this time, he identified himself with the anarchist movement, writing articles on anarchism and corresponding with Emma Goldman.

Pa Chin left China for France in 1927. His journey from Canton to Marseilles by way of Indo-China, Ceylon, and the Suez Canal is described in his book Hai-hsing tsa-chi [notes of a sea voyage], published in 1932. He spent two years in Paris and its environs, with occasional trips to London. He studied French ('language and literature;, philosophy, economics, political science, Russian literature, and the history of the French Revolution and of the anarchist movement. He also studied the Russian "populist" movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His life and acquaintances in France provided him with the material for a number of short stories. He also continued to correspond with prominent anarchists. The execution, on 23 August 1927, of Sacco and 'anzetti in the United States shocked him deeply. The articles collected in 1929 as Tuan-t'ou Cai-shang [on the scaffold] were written in this period, as were the biographies of several Russian women revolutionaries, a number of theoretical treatises on the ideology of anarchism, and a Chinese translation of Peter Kropotkin"s Ethics. He also wrote a novel based on his experiences in China just before his departure. Mieh-wang [destruction] was completed in 1929 and published the same year in Hsiao-shuo yueh-pao {Short Story Magazine). The novel was a great success, and when Pa Chin returned to China in 1929, he found himself famous.

From 1929 to 1934 Pa Chin lived in Shanghai. He continued to work on translations and to write on social problems for anarchist periodicals, but his main concern was the writing of novels and short stories. During this period his great success w-as the novel Chia [family] of 1931, the first volume of the autobiographical trilogy Chi-liu. He also wrote Ssu-ch' ü-ti faiyang; Hsin-sheng [new life], published in 1931; Hai-ti meng [sea dream], published in 1932; Ch'un-t^ien-li ti ch'iu-Vien [autumn in the midst of spring], published in 1932; and Ai-ti san-pu ch' a [three songs of love]. Most of these works describe the life of the Chinese intelligentsia. During a trip to north China, he had an opportunity to observe the life of Chinese coal miners. In 1933 he published a novel exposing their plight, Hsueh [snow]. It clearly emulated Zola's Germinal; in fact, its original title ^vas Meng-ya [young shoots]. Li wrote a similar novel about the antimony miners of south China, Sha-ting [toilers in the sand]. During this period, he wrote with enthusiasm about his literary work as a mission; he felt ''an inner urge to describe my life, feelings and ideas of Chinese youth and to influence life by my writings." His dedication to his political and social dreams, what he called "something which has a more perennial value than art," led him on more than one occasion to shun the striving for excellence which characterized his contemporary Mao Tun (Shen Yen-ping, q.v.) and to pursue immediate propagandistic ends. Pa Chin refused to acknowledge himself as an artist, depicting his process of creation as a kind of frenzy or daemonic possession in which he figured merely as an instrument through which overmastering passions were channeled. For all his political fervor, he did not align himself with any of the literary groups of the time. Unlike the majority of left-wing writers, who sympathized with the Communists, he continued to belong to the small group of Chinese anarchists.

In January 1932 Pa Chin saw the destruction of his home and property during the looting and burning of Chapei. This experience and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria made him acutely aware of the danger of Japanese aggression and led him to participate in the struggle against the Japanese. Perhaps as a result of renewed Kuomintang pressure on Communists and other left-wing elements in 1933, he found it prudent to leave China. Although he was an outspoken foe of Japanese policy in China, he went to Japan and remained there from October 1934 to July 1935. His impressions vvere reflected in the stories collected under the title Shen, kuei, jen [gods, demons, and men] and in the collection of essays called Tien-ti [drips and drops]. After returning to Shanghai in 1935, Pa Chin devoted most of his time to editorial work and to the writing of essays and book reviews. He was chief editor of the series Wen-hua sheng-huo [culture and life], which published translations of works by foreign writers as well as original Chinese works. He and the novelist Chang Chin-i established the Wen-hsueh yueh-k' an [literary monthly], which was suspended after only seven weeks by government order.

Despite his writings and activities on behalf of the left. Pa Chin was attacked by the Communists and their supporters. His opponents called his works "politically wrong and artistically inadequate," and he was reproached for his "vague humanitarianism" and for his continued adherence to the anarchist movement. His defense of the Spanish anarchists during the Spanish civil war also made him the target of Communist attack. Through all this, he defended his point of view, proclaimed his opposition to historical materialism, and asserted his right to dissent. As early as 1935 he unswervingly supported the united-front movement; and in October 1936, together with Lu Hsün (Chou Shu-jen, q.v.), Mao Tun, Kuo Mo-jo and others, he signed the "Manifesto for Consolidation of the Whole Literary World in Resistance to the External Enemy and for the Freedom of Speech." The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 obliged Pa Chin to leave Shanghai; he spent the next eight years moving from one city to another, visiting Canton, Kunming, Kweilin and Chungking in the course of his wartime travels. In 1941 he visited Chengtu for the first lime in 18 years. On 8 May 1944 he paused from his journeyings long enough to marry Ch'en Yun-chen.

During the war Pa Chin was active as a polemicist and as a creative writer. On 19 October 1937 he wrote an open letter to Yamakawa Hitoshi asserting the Chinese people's determination to resist the Japanese menace. He also was one of the leaders of the All-China Association of Artists and Writers to Resist Aggression and, at one time or another, served as co-editor of the militantly anti-Japanese magazines Na-han [call to arms], Feng-huo [the beacon], and Wen-tsung [literature]. He also continued to edit the Wen-hua sheng-huo series. The novels Ch'un [spring] and Ch/iu [autumn] appeared in 1938 and 1940 respectively, completing the trilogy Chi-liu. He also wrote Huo [fire] a novel in three volumes which appeared in 1940, 1942, and 1945. Chieh-yuan [garden of rest] and Ti-ssu ping-shih [ward four] were published in 1946. He also found time to write short stories and essays and to translate two novels of Turgenev and some of Kropotkin's treatises.

After the war, Pa Chin returned to Shanghai, where he finished Han-yeh [wintry night]. In 1947 he wrote Huai-nien [reminiscences], in which he recalled those of his friends w^ho had fallen in the struggle against Japan. He continued to edit the Wen-hua sheng-huo series.

After the People's Republic of China was established, reprints of Pa Chin's works began to appear, evidence of his good standing with the new Communist regime. Chang Chin-i and he established a magazine called Shou-huo [harvest]. Pa Chin did not join the Chinese Communist party, but he repeatedly expressed his sympathy with its aims. Even before the Central People's Government had been inaugurated, he had been elected a member of the national committee of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. In October 1949 he was made a member of the culture and education committee of the Government Administration Council. In 1953 he became vice chairman of the Union of Chinese Writers and a member of the presidium of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. In 1952-53 he visited Korea as a member of the writers delegation and spent some time at the front. His 1953 collection of stories, Ying-hsiung-ti ku-shih [tales about heroes], is based on his Korean experiences. He was elected a deputy from Szechwan to the first and second sessions of the National People's Congress, which met in 1954 and 1959. After the Hundred Flowers campaign of 1957, Pa Chin was sharply criticized several times for his utterances during this period, but his "deviations" did not appear to injure his standing with the Communist authorities. Pa Chin renounced his anarchist ideas, and, when preparing a new edition of his works in the late 1950's, he deleted every sympathetic reference to anarchism that he had written. Pa Chin owed his generally acknowledged popularity among young Chinese readers in the 1930's and 1940's mainly to the fact that they identified themselves with his heroes. In his novels they saw the reflection of their own lives, sufferings, and struggles. A particular target of attack in his works was the Chinese family system, which deprived the youth of their freedom of action and of their right to love and to marry people of their own choice. The young heroes of his novels and short stories feel their social responsibilities deeply; they fight for freedom, for a better future for humanity. He shared the national aspirations of his people and resented the dominant position of foreigners in China. But, except in times of acute crisis, the struggle for political freedom and social justice figures more prominently in his works than does the national struggle. His simple, emotional, and often poetic language also contributed to Pa Chin's success and helped his readers to disregard the poor organization of many of his novels. An important study. Pa Chin and His Writings, by Olga Lang, was published in 1967. Li Fu-ch'un ^

Biography in Chinese
















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