Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010
XIAO JUN, A.K.A. HSIAO CHUN (1907—1988)
XIAO JUN, A.K.A. HSIAO CHUN (1907—1988). Known for his stories about war-torn northeast China under Japanese occupation, Xiao Jun’s name is inextricably linked with another writer from the same area, Xiao Hong. Both considered themselves disciples of Lu Xun, who helped promote their literary careers in the 1930s when the young writers were war refugees in Shanghai. Xiao Jun grew up in Changchun, a city in the northeast. He had some schooling and spent six years in the military before being dismissed for insubordination. While still in the military, Xiao tried his hand at writing short stories. In Harbin, Xiao Jun met and married Xiao Hong. They published at their own expense a joint collection of short stories of which six were written by Xiao Jun, portraying the working class living under the rule of the puppet government controlled by the Japanese. These immature stories contain strong emotions and indignant outbursts, characteristic of Xiao Jun’s sensibility and style.
In the summer of 1934, Xiao Jun and Xiao Hong fled Harbin for Qingdao, where he completed his first major work, Bayue de xiangcun (Village in August), while Xiao Hong finished Shengsi chang (Life and Death), establishing their reputations as a rising literary couple. Xiao’s novel portrays guerrillas fighting the Japanese in the northeast under the leadership of the Communist Party. The novel won the endorsement of Lu Xun for its patriotic theme, intensity of emotions delivered by a blunt and forceful language, and description of the beautiful northeast landscape, which found sympathetic readers in a country bracing itself for war. Xiao was eagerly embraced by the left-wing writers. During the war, Xiao Jun also wrote Di san dai (Generation III), later changed to Guoqu de niandai (The Past Years), a novel describing life in the northeast before the 1911 revolution, with a mountain village in western Liaoning as its backdrop. Xiao Jun attributes the peasants’ suffering to a combination of forces, specifically exploitation by the landlord class and foreign interests, which collude with one another to keep the poor at the bottom of society. To change the lot of the peasants in a fundamental way, Xiao Jun suggests that a radical revolution has to take place. Artistically, Di san dai is a more mature work than Bayue de xiangcun, both of which are Xiao Jun’s defining works. After the Sino-Japanese War was formally declared, Xiao Jun traveled through many cities, including Xi’an, where he and Xiao Hong broke up. After the war, Xiao Jun returned to the northeast and assumed the posts of president of the Lu Xun Art and Literature Institute at Northeastern University, head of the Lu Xun Culture Press, and editor-in-chief of the Literature Newspaper. Like many writers of his generation, Xiao Jun suffered political persecution from the late 1950s through the 1970s. In the midst of adversities, Xiao Jun wrote the novel Wuyue de kuangshan (Coal Mines in May) and another historical novel, Wu Yue chunqiu shihua (The History of the Wu and Yue States), which were published in the 1980s. See also CULTURAL REVOLUTION; LEFT-WING ASSOCIATION OF CHINESE WRITERS.