RU ZHIJUAN (1925—1998) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

RU ZHIJUAN (1925—1998)
The Dictionary

RU ZHIJUAN (1925—1998). Fiction writer. Ru Zhijuan belonged to the generation of writers who were nurtured by the Communist revolution. Born into a poor family in Shanghai, Ru lost her parents at a young age. She received some schooling in Christian missionary schools until her elder brother took her with him to join the Communist army in 1944. She was a performer and a playwright in the army’s art troupe and worked as a nurse during battles. After she left the army in 1955, she was an editor for a literary journal in Shanghai until 1960, when she became a professional writer. She was the party secretary of the Shanghai Writers’ Association before her death at the age of 73.

Ru is best remembered for her short story “Baihe hua” (Lilies on the Quilt) published in 1958. The story is based on the author’s experience in the late 1940s when the Communists were fighting the Civil War with the Nationalists. Instead of the battlefield, the story focuses on what happens in the background. The simple plot involves a young soldier going to a village to borrow quilts for the wounded solders and meeting a family’s young bride. It is an innocent romantic story, with its subtle juxtaposition of a beautiful young woman enjoying the sweet love of her new marriage and a naive 19-year-old man ignorant of sexual matters. Treating a war story in such a fashion is uncharacteristic of Communist literature and it is no surprise that the story was singled out in the 1960s as an indication of the author’s bourgeois sentimentality. Ru wrote other stories but none captured the same kind of attention as “Baihe hua.”

Among Ru’s works published after the Cultural Revolution, the best known is “Jianji cuole de gushi” (The Incorrectly Edited Story), an exposé of the mismanagement of rural economy during the Mao era, focusing on two characters in an agricultural commune who represent the opposing forces within the party between the self-serving ideologues and the truth-seeking realists. Ru’s writings tend to pay more attention to characterization than plot development. She is a writer of subtle emotions and her language is straightforward but vivid and fresh. See also WOMEN.