LIU BANNONG (1891—1934)
LIU BANNONG (1891—1934). Poet and linguist. The son of a teacher, Liu Bannong was born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu Province. In 1912, he went to Shanghai to work as an editor and began publishing poetry and essays in newspapers and magazines. In 1916, his work debuted in New Youth, the most influential journal of the May Fourth New Culture Movement. His essay “My Views on the Change of Written Chinese,” published in the May 1917 issue, was a significant piece in promoting modern Chinese language and literature. The same year, Liu took a teaching post at Beijing University, where he began his experimentations with using colloquial expressions and folk songs in his poetry. Under his urging, the Beijing University Monthly published folk ballads collected from all over the country, including the 20 “Boat Songs” Liu gathered from his native Jiangyin. In 1920, Liu went to London to study and in the following year moved to Paris where he majored in linguistics at the University of Paris. Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 1925, Liu went back to China to continue his research on Chinese language and popular literature. In 1934, while on a research trip to the northwest, Liu fell ill and died a few months later in Beijing.
Liu is credited with elevating folk literature to the mainstream. Through his research, his translations, and his own creative endeavors, Liu introduced lowbrow forms to institutions of higher learning. His campaign to bring down the ivory tower became part of the agenda of the New Culture Movement and helped establish his prominent role in modern Chinese intellectual development.