Ai Wu was born Tang Daogeng on June 20, 1904 in Xinfan, Sichuan Province. In 1921, he was admitted to Sichuan No. 1 Normal School in Chengdu. In 1925, he went to Yunnan Province and worked as a shop assistant. Two years later, he went first to Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma (now Myanmar), and then to Singapore. During this time, he worked various jobs, such as stable hand, proofreader, and primary school teacher. In 1931, he returned to China.
Ai Wu began to write while he was wandering from place to place. Soon after setting down in Shanghai, he, together with Sha Ting, wrote to Lu Xun to consult the famous writer on the issue of subject matter in fiction writing. The following year, Ai Wu joined the China League of Left-Wing Writers and published his short story "The First Lesson of Life" in Literature Monthly. Dealing with the experiences of a young man wandering in foreign countries, it soon brought Ai Wu to the attention of literary circles.
From 1931 to the eve of the War of Resistance Against Japan, Ai Wu published in in quick order three anthologies of short stories which won him immediate recognition as a promising writer in this genre. Of his early works, the most representative is Southern Journeys.
In 1936, Ai Wu joined the Association of Artists and Writers. The following year he went to Guilin, serving as a council member of the Guilin branch of the All-China Resist-the-Enemy Federation of Writers and Artists. Seven years later, he went to Chongqing and taught Chinese literature at Chongqing University. During this time, Ai Wu wrote a dozen volumes of fiction, including The Night in the South Land, The Night View, and Homeland. Written simply but sensitively, most of these works reflect the miserable plight of laboring people in the rural areas. Later, his style turned from romanticism to realism.
After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Ai Wu continued writing, and had new works published one after anther. In 1957, he wrote the novel Steeled and Tempered. With the Anshan Steel Works as its background, the novel describes the industrial life of New China in colorful detail. Soon after the novel's publication, Ai Wu joined the Party. Four years later, he journeyed to the south again. Upon his return, he finished a number of sketches and stories which reflected the great changes taking place there.
In 1981, the veteran writer made a third trip to south China and based on these experiences published A Sequel to Southern Journeys. His new novel The Fog in Spring was published in 1985. Devoted to capturing the life and characters he came to know so well, it retains his plain but persuasive style.
Ai Wu was chairman of the Sichuan branch of the Chinese Writers' Association and the honorable chairman of the Sichuan branch of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
His main works include "The First Lesson of Life" (ss, 1932), "Mrs. Shi Qing" (ss, 1947; MMCF), Mountain wilderness (n, 1948), "Rain" (ss, 1955, BSR), "A New Home" (ss, 1955; NHOS), "Return by Night" (ss, 1955; LPRC), Steeled and Tempered (n, 1957; PLP, 1961), and "Wild Bull Village" (ss, 1962; WBV).
Ai Wu died on December 5, 1992 at 88.