Biography in English

Ho Ch'i-fang (1910-), poet, journalist, and literary critic, was a prize-winning poet in his youth and an admirer of Western literature. He later became a leading figure in the Chinese Communist cultural hierarchy and a close associate of Chou Yang (q.v.).

Little is known about Ho Ch'i-fang's family or early life except that he was born in Szechwan. He studied classical Chinese as a child, becoming familiar with the poetry of the Shih-ching [book of poetry] and the Ch'u-tz'u [elegies of Ch'u] and with the romantic mysticism of the Chuang-tzu. At the age of 15, he was sent to a modern middle school in Chengtu. He remained there for about five years, during which time he absorbed the elements of Western learning. He began reading W'estern literature, especially the romantic English poets of the nineteenth century, and he was introduced to the ideas of such Western innovators as Darwin, Kropotkin, Dewey, and Marx. Ho was exposed to the political realities of early republican China when a number of his fellow students were arrested or forced to flee for joining demonstrations sympathetic to the Nationalist cause.

At the age of 20, Ho entered the philosophy department of Peking University, from which he was graduated in 1936. Much of his time, however, seems to have been devoted to literature, and as early as 1931 he was active as a poet. He composed "Yü-yen" [prophecy], an invocation to his personal muse, whose coming had been revealed some time earlier in a moment of prophetic intuition. The poem concludes on a note of anxiety, the fear that the "youthful god with the voice of a silver bell" will desert the poet as suddenly as he had appeared. In organization and imagery the poem is reminiscent of certain sections of the "Chiu-ko" [nine songs] in the Ch'u-tz'u, in which poetpriests draw down gods and goddesses from heaven with a kind' of erotic liturgy, only to lament the brevity of their ecstatic contact with the divine. In tone and feeling, "Yü-yen" has reminded many Western readers of the subdued melancholy of Keats and of his anxiety about his poetic gift. This early poem also evidences Ho Ch'i-fang's major artistic excellence, a smooth vernacular style with much of the grace, elegance, and restraint .of the older classical idiom.

In January 1934 Ho joined such writers as Yeh Sheng-t'ao (Yen Shao-chün), Hsieh Wanying (Ping Hsin), Wan Chia-pao (Ts'ao Yü), Li Shu-hua, and Wu Tsu-hsiang in contributing to the newly founded Literary Quarterly, which was edited by Cheng Chen-to (q.v.) and Chin I. In 1936 Pa Chin (Li Fei-kan, q.v.) replaced Cheng as co-editor. This appointment was providential both politically and professionally for Ho. Pa Chin enjoyed the attention of the Communist literary circles in which Ho was later to move; he also became editor in chief of the Wen-hua sheng-huo ch'u-pan she [cultural life publishing company], which subsequently published a number of Ho's books. W'hile somewhat leftist in sentiment, the Literary Quarterly (known in later issues as Wen-chi yueh-k'an) and Ho Ch'i-fang avoided extremes. As a student at Peking University, Ho befriended and lived with Li Kuang-t'ien and Pien Chih-lin, both of whom were enrolled in the department of W'estern languages. Pien had already acquired a reputation as a translator of Baudelaire and Mallarme and as a streamof-consciousness poet. Li had published a number of poems in a more conventional style which depicted the life and hardships of the peasants in his native Shantung. Pien and Li stimulated Ho's interest in the technical aspects of poetry and deepened his understanding of W^estern literature. In 1936 the three young men published a volume of poetry, Han-yuan chi [the garden of Han], which was acclaimed by the critics.

In 1934 Shen Ts'ung-wen (q.v.) had become editor of the weekly literary supplement of the Ta Kung Pao. He soon made it one of the most respected literary periodicals of the day. Ho Ch'i-fang, Hsiao Ch'ien, Lu Fen, and Li Ni were frequent contributors to the supplement. In 1936 Ho was awarded the Ta Kung Pao poetry prize for a volume of prose poems, Hua-meng lu [dream sketches]. The themes of Hua-meng lu—youthful longing for perfect love, the transience of youth and beauty, and the loneliness of the artist—were not new to Chinese readers, but, embodied in Ho's disciplined yet rich imagery and diction, they made a novel impression.

After graduation, Ho returned to Szechwan, where he taught at a middle school. In 1937 he wrote two more books: K'o-i chi [words to remember] consisted of essays and poems that had appeared in various newspapers and magazines; Huan-hsiang jih-chi [home again], recounted Ho's experiences as a successful writer and Westernized intellectual returning to the narrow provincialism of Chengtu. With its blend of exasperation with an old order still stubbornly clinging to life and unfeigned admiration for the positive strength inherent in the lives of the peasant and the villager, Huan-hsiang jih-chi is reminiscent of such stories by Lu Hsün (Chou Shu-jen, q.v.) as "Ku-hsiang" [my native place] and "Tsai chiu-lou-shang" [in the wineshop]. Ho's shift in allegiance from the quiet humanism of Chou Tso-jen to the trenchant militancy of Chou's older brother marks a break in his development as a writer. He now moved toward realism, social protest, and, ultimately, revolutionary commitment.

Late in 1937, at the urging of his friend Pien Chih-lin, Ho left Chengtu for Yenan, the Chinese Communist capital, where Pien was engaged in propaganda activity. Although Ho's stay there was brief, the Yenan journey had a powerful effect on him. Soon after his return, Ho wrote: "No more clouds! no more moon! no more stars without number! Give me only a room of thatch, and a voice to stir the world!" In 1940 Ho made his way north to Yenan to join the Communists.

Full details of Ho Ch'i-fang's career from 1940 to 1945 are lacking, but it is known that he was welcomed by the Communists and that he, in turn, became a dedicated party member and worker. In 1940 and 1941 Ho spent several months with a guerrilla band as a reporter in a deliberate effort to obtain "experience of life." Though the experience overtaxed him physically and he returned to Yenan with only one story written, his months with the guerrilla fighters completed his conversion to Communism. At Yenan, Ho taught literature in the Lu Hsün i-shu hsuehyuan [Lu Hsün institute of arts] and soon became its head. He also served as chairman of the Yenan branch of the All-China Federation of Writers and Artists and as editor of Ta-chung wen-i [masses' literature and art], the official organ of the federation. As a leading member of the Yenan cultural establishment. Ho played an important role in applying Communist dogma to the creation and evaluation of literature after Mao Tsetung's 1942 Talks at the Yenan Literary Conference. In a "confession" published that year. Ho admitted to intellectual errors ranging from overemphasis on bourgeois Western literature and neglect of the Chinese tradition, especially folk literature and art, to inability to apply a mass viewpoint to the solution of problems of literature and art. Ho's conclusion was that he and all other "culture workers" should perform all tasks in strict conformity with Mao's policy, the gist of which was that the proper role of the artist in revolutionary times was as propagandist to revolutionary action. Mao's Talks and the confessions of Ho and others diminished the freedom of the writer and the artist in Communist-controlled areas and presaged the thought-control policies of the 1950's. Only a few independent men, such as Hu Feng (q.v.), dared to protest. Ho, together with Liu Pai-yü, a reporter and writer of stories, visited Hu in 1944 and attempted to compel him, without success, to conform to the policy set forth in the Talks. By these and similar activities Ho consolidated his position in the new cultural hierarchy and became a close associate of the arch-advocate of the Maoist line, Chou Yang (q.v.).

Shortly after his arrival in the north. Ho Ch'i-fang had begun a series of poems embodying his new experiences and outlook. He completed and published this series in 1945 as Yeh-ko [songs in the night]. Yeh-ko, which focused on the wartime lives of workers, peasants, and soldiers, satisfied the objective criteria set forth by Mao, but, as a whole, failed to carry conviction. Part of the fault lay in Ho's "classic" and Europeanized diction, a carry-over from Han-yuan chi and Hua-meng lu. Ho once again confessed his errors and resolved to learn anew from the masses. Little opportunity was afforded, however, to pursue these new insights, for Ho was sent soon after to Chungking, where he remained until 1947 as editor of the literary page of the Hsin-hua jih-pao [new China daily], the official Communist party organ in Szechwan. After the Communists came to power in 1949, Ho continued to play a leading role in cultural affairs and in the application of party dictates to literature and the arts. Ho participated in the formation of the All-China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles and became a member of its national committee. In December 1951 he published an influential article, "Improve our Work by Means of the Literary and Artistic Theories of Mao Tsetung," which denounced both literary and art workers who still clung to outmoded bourgeois aesthetics and literary and art workers, who, while accepting Marxism, were "confused" about its applications to the special problems of their professions. The "correct" line for any culture worker in any field, according to Ho, was the line set forth by the party. In 1953 Ho became deputy chairman of the classical literature department of the Union of Chinese Writers, and in 1954 he was made a member of the Chinese People's Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. He attended the second national congress of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association in 1954, and in 1955 he was appointed a member of the standing committee of the Philosophy and Social Science Institute of China. Beginning in 1951 he taught at the Marxist-Leninist Institute, and in 1953 he published a series of lectures on literature entitled Kuan-yü hsien-shih chu-i [realism in art]. The capstone of Ho Ch'i-fang's career as a Communist arbiter of the arts was his participation in the so-called Hu Feng affair. Hu, whom Ho had tried to compel to orthodoxy ten years earlier, took occasion in November 1954 to indict the entire Maoist literary establishment, particularly Chou Vang and Ho Ch'i-fang, for what he termed the total abortion of literature since 1949. Blind worship of authority, dogmatic Marxism, and the persecution of young progressive writers were but a few of the charges Hu leveled at Chou and Ho in the two tense days of denunciation. Chou replied to the charges with equal bitterness in an address entitled "We Must Fight," which launched a nation-wide attack on Hu in which Ho Ch'i-fang played a prominent role. Subsequent to Hu's arrest and disappearance in June 1955, Ho continued to attack Hu's position in a series of books, including Kuan-yü hsieh-shih ho tu-shih [writing poetry and reading poetry], published in 1956; Mei-yu p'i-ping chiu mei-yu cK'ien-pu [without criticism there are no steps forward], published in 1958; Shih-ko bsin-shang [the appreciation of poetry], published in 1962; and W'eü-hsueh i-shu ti ch^un-fien [the springtime of literary art], published in 1964.

Ho Ch'i-fang continued to write poetry and essays after 1945. In 1946 he published Hsinghuo chi [star fire], a collection of essays. He published a collection of poems, Yü-yen, in 1947. Hsi-yuan chi [western park], a second collection of essays, appeared in 1952. In 1951 in another attempt at "re-education," Ho traveled extensively in north China, studying folk songs from northern Shansi. Such post1955 poems as "Wo hao-hsiang t'ing-chien-le po-t'ao ti hu-hsiao" [I seem to hear the roar of the waves], which celebrates the success of water conservancy measures at Hankow, have dealt with "correct" themes, but most of them were written in the polished idiom of Ho's early works, a distinctive style which was unaffected by the Maoist line and Ho's own studies in folk poetry.

Biography in Chinese

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