TAI JINGNONG (1903—1990)
TAI JINGNONG (1903—1990). Essayist, fiction writer, and calligrapher. While studying literature at Beijing University, Tai Jingnong published his first collection of short stories, Di zhi zi (Son of the Earth), about the tragic lives of the peasants, which placed him among the pioneers of the so-called rural writers (xiangtu zuojia), although he was by then a member of the intelligentsia. Friends with Lu Xun, with whom he shared a penchant for ironic detachment and for the use of imageries, Tai devoted a good portion of his professional career to assessing Lu’s contribution to Chinese literature. In 1946, he accepted a position at National Taiwan University. When the Nationalist government retreated to the island in 1949, he found himself unable to return to the mainland and consequently spent the rest of his life in Taipei. His friendship with Lu Xun, whose works were banned in Taiwan, and his association with progressive forces in the 1930s and early 1940s compromised Tai’s sense of security, resulting in his decision to shift his creative energy to calligraphy, which led to impressive successes and public recognition. In the final years of his life, Tai resumed his writing career, producing mostly essays that record his thoughts on history and friendships, among other matters.