Ding Ling 1904–86

BBC History Magazine - - Great Lives Of China -

In 1927, China’s lit­er­ary scene was struck by a sen­sa­tional new char­ac­ter. Her name was So­phie, a young woman wracked by sex­ual long­ing, and de­ter­mined to tor­ment her re­li­able and rather dull boyfriend while lust­ing af­ter a tall, hand­some man she couldn’t have. So­phie broke a whole range of ta­boos about young Chi­nese women and how they should be­have – and she be­came a lit­er­ary phe­nom­e­non as a re­sult.

So­phie was the cre­ation of Jiang Bingzhi, who be­came known un­der her pen name of Ding Ling. She ap­peared dur­ing a brief flow­er­ing of lib­eral cul­ture in China’s cities, known as the New Cul­ture move­ment, which al­lowed for dar­ing new thought about fem­i­nism and so­cial change.

Ding Ling be­came in­volved with the left­wing lit­er­ary scene in Shang­hai and Bei­jing, but soon found her­self on the run from the na­tion­al­ist po­lit­i­cal author­i­ties, who re­garded peo­ple like her as dan­ger­ous sub­ver­sives. By the 1940s, she had joined the com­mu­nists un­der Mao Ze­dong, but even that didn’t spell an end to her trou­bles. Af­ter Mao’s vic­tory in 1949, Ding Ling found her­self in in­ter­nal ex­ile, forced to live in the re­mote coun­try­side for decades be­cause her views were con­sid­ered ‘bour­geois’, dan­ger­ously in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic and ‘right­ist’.

Yet from the 1970s, Ding Ling was fi­nally re­ha­bil­i­tated, and is re­mem­bered today as one of China’s most im­por­tant fem­i­nist au­thors.

Ding Ling’s ex­plo­sive brand of fem­i­nist lit­er­a­ture pro­voked the ire of na­tion­al­ists and com­mu­nists alike

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