YAO XUEYIN (1910—1999)
YAO XUEYIN (1910—1999). Fiction writer. Born into a peasant family in Henan Province, Yao Xueyin began publishing stories in newspapers and literary journals during the 1930s. Most of his writings deal with the struggle of peasants in times of war and national strife. Yao’s best-known work is Li Zicheng (The Legend of Li Zicheng), a historical novel that took him more than 30 years to finish, with the first volume published in 1963 and the last two volumes published in 1999 after the author’s death. The novel is about the rise and fall of the peasant uprising led by Li Zicheng (1606—1645) at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368—1644). Yao paints a sympathetic portrait of the rebel leader while examining the reasons behind Li’s success and failure. The views of Chinese history the book espouses are clearly in line with the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological interpretations. Mao Zedong spoke highly of Yao’s work and ordered his protection at a time when political pressure was mounting against the author during the Cultural Revolution. An important figure in the development of the genre of the historical novel, Yao has left a significant legacy in modern Chinese literature. To celebrate his contribution, the Chinese Ministry of Culture established the Yao Xueyin Historical Novel Prize in 2003, four years after his death.