OUYANG SHAN, PEN NAME OF YANG FENGQI (1908—2000) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

OUYANG SHAN, PEN NAME OF YANG FENGQI (1908—2000). Novelist. Ouyang Shan is often compared with Lao She, for they began their literary careers at about the same time, with Ouyang writing about urban life in the southern city of Guangzhou and Lao She, the northern city of Beijing. This is, however, where the similarities end. Ouyang Shan, because of his membership in the Left-wing Association of Chinese Writers, had strong Marxist leanings and his writings clearly reflect his political orientation. Most of the fictional works he published in the 1920s and early 1930s were romantic tales with a revolutionary theme.

Ouyang’s first novel, Meigui can le (The Roses Have Faded), a sentimental tale influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, tells of the tragic love between a university student and a young woman, interspersed with indignant outcries against imperialism. Ai zhi benliu (The Current of Love) shows greater artistic merit in depicting a young man’s entanglement with two women, one poor and the other rich. This tragic story exposes the cruelty of high society and shows sympathy for the lower class, an ideological preoccupation that continues into his later works, such as Gao Ganda (Gao Ganda) and Yidai fengliu (A Whole Generation of Heroes). Gao Ganda, which records the agricultural cooperative movement in the Communist-controlled northwest, was his first novel written in response to the directives issued by Mao Zedong at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art in 1942. The voluminous Yidai fengliu, consisting of five parts, is his most ambitious project. It portrays the complicated relations among three families during the period from 1919 to 1949. San jia xiang (The Three-Family Lane), the first volume of the series, is generally considered the best of Ouyang’s work for its panoramic view of Chinese society at the beginning of the 20th century and its successful portrayal of distinctive characters.

Ouyang considered his writings after the mid-1930s, when he joined the Left-wing Association of Chinese Writers, “new realism,” and those published after 1942, when he attended the Forum on Literature and Art, “revolutionary realism.” Both advocate a seemingly self-contradictory principle: “Characters must not be separated from reality and they must be made to stand higher than they really are.” This approach, taken by many other Communist writers, dominates much of Ouyang’s work. See also SOCIALIST REALISM.