WANG TONGZHAO (1897—1957)
WANG TONGZHAO (1897—1957). Fiction writer. A Shandong native and graduate of the University of China in Beijing, Wang Tongzhao worked all his life teaching literature and editing magazines and journals. He participated in the May Fourth Movement and was one of the founders of the Literary Research Society. His early stories, mostly romantic and sentimental outpourings, revolve around the theme of love and beauty, describing youthful passion and despair. Yi ye (One Leaf), his first novella published in 1922, features a young man from an old gentry family. Poor health and a sensitive disposition make him acutely aware of social injustice and misery around him. At college he is antisocial, distrustful of his peers. Although a pessimist and fatalist at heart, he eventually discovers love: love for his mother and sisters and the love he and his friends have for one another, which brings him hope and gives him faith in the world. Another novella, Huanghun (At Dusk), is about a college graduate hired by his uncle to run a textile manufacturing company in their hometown where he meets the uncle’s two young concubines. Sympathetic to their predicament, he helps them escape their bondage. One of the women commits suicide upon reading her husband’s search announcement in the newspaper and the other strikes out on her own and eventually becomes an opera star. In many ways, the story reflects the sense of obligation the May Fourth intellectuals felt toward their countrymen, as illustrated through the young man’s effort to liberate the women from an unhappy marriage as well as through the clash between generations in the same family and the pertinacity of traditional practices.
Wang’s later works focus on the sufferings of the working class, reflecting the influence of critical realism on Chinese writers. His 1932 novel Shan yu (Rain in the Mountain), set in rural northern China in the 1920s and 1930s, focuses on the disintegration of the agrarian way of life, as a result of civil unrest, exploitation, and heavy taxation at the hands of the government, and on the awakening of the peasants as they discover the source of their plight. Toward the end of the novel, the protagonist, a destitute farmer, leaves the countryside to seek his fortune in the city where he is faced with more challenges. The protagonist comes to grips with reality by joining the revolution. Another novel, Chun hua (Spring Blossoms), portrays the impact of the May Fourth Movement on the educated youths. In addition to fiction, Wang also published several collections of essays, poems, and plays, including Ye xing ji (Night Travel) and Qu lai xi (Leaving and Returning).
In 1934, Wang went to Europe and spent several months studying literature in London. After he returned to China a year later and through the years of the Sino-Japanese War, Wang worked as an editor and continued to pursue his literary career. When Japan surrendered, Wang returned to his native Shandong and taught Chinese literature at Shandong University. After 1949, he held several official positions, including director of Shandong Provincial Cultural Bureau.