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Living legend: Ba Jin
Latest Updated by 2003-11-26 10:37:20

China's most famous living author turned 100 yesterday. Ba Jin's influence and impact on the country's literary  community will be studied for centuries.

Born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Ba Jin (his real name is Li Yaotang ) has become one of the most revered Chinese authors of the 20th century, along with Lu Xun, Mao Dun and Guo Moruo.

With his ability to walk and speak lost due to Parkinson's disease  and lung complications , Ba Jin has never given up hope of becoming a centenarian . Of all the major writers active in the first half of the 20th century, Ba Jin is probably the only one still living. His irreplaceable position in China's literary pantheon  makes his survival highly symbolic.

"He's a great writer, but he's also a writer-celebrity," says Qi Ming, 71, a former television cameraman and Ba Jin's friend for more than 20 years.

Born into an official's family, Ba Jin received a good education with a private tutor, He was a high-spirited youth who rebelled against the restrictions of family life.

The May 4th Movement in 1919 imbued  him with democratic ideals. He went to France in 1927 to study. From France he released his debut book Destruction. It expressed his sadness over China's status in the world at that time and his hope for revolution.

Though Ba Jin has said he never intended to be a writer, words empowered  him to fight the enemy. But upon returning Returning to China, Ba Jin still found no way to realize his dream.

"I am a person always full of contradictions," he once said. "It was hard to choose whether to devote myself to revolution as a soldier or as a writer."

But finally he picked up his pen again. From 1929 to 1937, he was so productive that Lu Xun, the "Father of Modern Chinese Literature," praised Ba Jin as "a writer with passion and progressive thinking."

His collection of writing includes numerous novels, short stories and essays --- totaling more than 6 million words. His famous works include the 14-volume Works of Ba Jin and the Select Works of Ba Jin with the stories Family, Spring , Autumn , The Trilogy of Love,  A Dream of Sea and Autumn in Spring.

The novel Family is semi-autobiographical and tells the history of a big family's rise and fall in the early 20th century.

Ba Jin's wife, Xiao Shan, passed away in 1972. Following their father, both their daughter, Li Xiaolin, and son, Li Xiaotang, devoted themselves to literature.

Ba Jin is one of the few writers in China who live not on government pay, but on royalties from his writing. On his 80th birthday, he said, "I've lived on royalties all my life. It is the readers who have supported me."

His humble unassuming personality makes Ba Jin beloved and respected by his readers. Zhao Lanying, 53, a senior reporter with Xinhua News Agency, is an avid reader of Ba Jin's works. She also established a close relationship with the writer which eventually inspired her to write a book, her newly published Close to Ba Jin.

Drawing on private conversations, diaries and letters, Zhao has written an account of a unique literary figure in China's history.

When asked why she wrote the book, Zhao said, "I have made this book as true to his spirit as possible, as inspiring, as loving. Over the last few years I've taken time to reflect on what I have witnessed."

"The Ba Jin we know," Zhao says, "with all his ups and downs, is more than anything, a true human being."

"Loving truth and living honestly is my attitude to life. Be true to yourself and be true to others, thus you can be the judge of your behavior." --- Ba Jin

Editor: Wings

By: Source:szdaily
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