Ba Jin (Chinese: 巴金) was a famous writer in China. Originally named Li Yaotang, also known as Li Fugan, and pennames such as Yu Yi, Wang Wenhui, Ouyang Jingrong, etc., he was born on November 25, 1904 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, into an official's family from Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. He received a good education under private tutorship. The May 4th Movement in 1919, however, imbued him with both anarchic and democratic ideas. The following year, he studied English at Chengdu Foreign Languages School ad helped established The Waxing Moon, a magazine, and the Equality Society, both of which served as a forum for anti-feudalistic activities. In 1922, he made his debut as a writer in vernacular Chinese, one of which was entitled "The Wail of the Oppressed."
Upon graduation from the languages school in 1923, he moved to Shanghai, but very soon left for Nanjing, where he entered the preparatory school affiliated with the Southeast China University. During the two-year course of study he wrote and translated several articles on anarchism.
In 1927, he went to France, where he wrote Destruction, his first short novel that portrays a young anarchist who feels depressed after suffering several setbacks. It appeared in China in 1929 as a serial in The Short Story Monthly and attracted much attention.
Late in 1928, Ba Jin returned to Shanghai and devoted most of his time to writing. In 1930, he published the short novel The Dead Sun, a re-creation of the events of the May 30th Incident in 1925. New Life, a companion piece to Destruction, appeared two years later and, around the same time, he wrote The Antimony Miners and The Sprouts, both based on life in the mines. His trilogy of love, Fog, Rain and Lightning, written between 1931 and 1933, describes the development of a group of young intellectuals who devote themselves to the cause of revolution.
His masterpiece Family, the first book in the trilogy Torrent, was published in 1931 as a serial in the daily Times. Based on the decline and fall of a feudal clan after the May 4th Movement, the novel predicts the inevitable passing of feudalism. The novel is considered not only Ba Jin's best, but also one of the best modern Chinese literature.
In 1934, Ba Jin served on the editorial committee of Literature Quarterly published in Beijing and acted as co-editor with Bian Zhilin of the magazine Mercury. In autumn, he sailed to Japan and returned to Shanghai the following year. he was commissioned to be editor-in-chief of the Cultural Life Press in Shanghai, responsible for publishing the Literary Works series and the Cultural Life series, in addition to an abridged version of the former. In 1936, he set up Literature in Season, a monthly, with the help of Jin Yi. Shortly afterwards, he joined with Lu Xun and others in publicizing both the "Manifesto of Writers and Artists of China" and the "Manifesto of the Literary and Artistic Circles for Freedom of Speech and for Union Against Invasion."
During the War of Resistance Against Japan, Ba Jin moved from place to place, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guilin and Chongqing. While on the move, he continued as a council member of the All-China Resist-the-Enemy Federation of Writers and Artists, and was founder and editor-in-chief of Battle Cry (later renamed Beacon Fire), a weekly, as well as editor of the Belles-letters Library. The other two novels of the Torrent trilogy, Spring and Autumn, were published in 1938 and 1940, respectively. The novel Fire, a trilogy of the War of Resistance Against Japan and his novelettes The Garden of Repose and Ward No. 4 were all published in the 1940s, as was Cold Nights. It describes the tragedies a young couple suffered under the old regime.
After the War of Resistance Against Japan, Ba Jin spent most of his time translating, editing and publishing both classical and modern works, which included The Raining Night-fall, a short story collection by Bi Huanyu, La Grande Revolution and La Conquete du pain, both by P. A. Kropotkin, Fathers and Sons by I. S. Turgenev, and The Happy Prince by O. Wilde.
A versatile writer, Ba Jin also wrote a variety of short stories, including "God, Ghost, and Man" (1935), a satire on worldliness, and "The Soul-reviving Grass" (1942), about the crimes of violence committed by the invading Japanese troops, "The General" (1934), "A Fall from Virtue" (1936), and "Thunderbolt" (1937). In addition, Ba Jin began in 1927 and continued throughout his life to write lucid, simple non-fiction. An enumeration of his prose works suggest the annual rings of his literary career. "A Sketch Dashed Off at Sea" (1932) marks the author's grand tour when he was in his prime. The ensuing agonies of life contributed to the creation of works like "Confessions" (1936), "Dream and Drunkenness" (1938), "No Subject" (1941), "Remembrance" (1945), and "Longing for" (1947), until in 1986 his "A Dream of Ten Years" appeared.
Ba Jin attended the First National Congress of Chinese Literature and Art Workers in 1949 and was elected a member of the permanent committee of the newly established China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. The following year, he became chairman of the Federation's Shanghai branch. During the Korean War, he twice visited the battlefield, and wrote two books based on his experiences, Living Amongst Heroes (1953) and Defenders of Peace (1954).
He was elected vice-chairman of both the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the Chinese Writers' Association in 1960. However, he suffered from cruel persecution during the Cultural Revolution. In 1978, a number of his essays were published in serial form under the title Random Thoughts in L'impartiale, Hong Kong. In 1985, he proposed the Modern Chinese Literary Archives be established.
A man of world renown, Ba Jin won honor for his literary achievements in various fields and many of his works have been translated into foreign languages. He was awarded France's Legion Honor and the Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ba Jin passed away on October 17, 2005.
His main works include Destruction (1929), The Dead Sun (1930), Family (1931), Fog (1931), Rain (1932),Autumn in Spring (1932), The Antimony Miners (1932), New Life (1932), "The General" (1934), Spring (1936), "Star" (1937), Autumn (1939), The Garden of Repose (1944), Cold Nights (1946), Living Amongst Heroes (1954), "A Moonlit Night" (1962), "The Heart of a Slave" (1979), "Rain" (1984), "The Electric Chair"(1984), "Piglet and Chickens", "Sinking Low", "Nanny Yang", and "Mona Lisa" (1987).