LIU BAIYU (1916—2005) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

LIU BAIYU (1916—2005)
The Dictionary

LIU BAIYU (1916—2005). Prose and fiction writer. A prominent writer in the Mao era, Liu Baiyu held many important posts within the Chinese Communist Party, including Party secretary of the Chinese Writers Association and deputy minister of culture. He joined the Chinese Communist revolution soon after Japan invaded China and began his lifelong work in the Communist army, with which he fought in the Sino-Japanese War, the Civil War, and the Korean War.

A passionate believer in a utilitarian literature that serves the socialist cause and ideological principles of the Communist Party, Liu devoted his whole life to creating works that aimed to inspire and uplift the national spirit. The lyrical essay “Richu” (Sunrise), a staple of school textbooks in China, is representative of his work. It describes his experience on board an airplane from Moscow to Tashkent, a trip that allowed him to witness sunrise from the sky. From the descriptions of sunrise in nature, Liu moves on to talk about the “sunrise” in the hearts of the Chinese people. The rising sun thus becomes a symbol of a new China, a new society, a new life, and the youthful energy and idealism of the Chinese people, echoing the speech made by Mao Zedong to Chinese students studying in Moscow in which Mao compares the Chinese youths to the morning sun, full of promise and hope. A romanticist at heart, Liu sees the world in black and white contrasts in which good always triumphs over evil.

Other than lyrical prose, Liu also wrote fiction and reportages. His war novel Di’er ge taiyang (The Second Sun) is about the Communist troops crossing the Yangtze and marching down south to take control of Wuhan and Hunan from the hands of the Nationalist army and the personal sacrifices made by several generals to secure the Communist victory. The novel won the 1991 Mao Dun Literature Prize. An admirer of Dante, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ivan Turgenev, and Victor Hugo, Liu favored hyperbole as well as expansive scenes and imageries and is best remembered for his lyrical essays that extol the beauty of the natural world, the value of life, the goodness of human nature, and a harmonious society. See also SOCIALIST REALISM.