ZHANG JIE (1937— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

ZHANG JIE (1937— )
The Dictionary

ZHANG JIE (1937— ). Fiction writer. Zhang Jie emerged in the post-Mao era as a writer who helped chart a new course for Chinese literature. In the late 1970s, as the country was reversing Mao Zedong’s political and economic policies, scar literature (shanghen wenxue), devoted to the portrayal of suffering during the Cultural Revolution, became a popular trend. Zhang found herself in the middle of the cathartic movement. Although the internal and external scars left by the catastrophic Cultural Revolution are kept in the background of her stories, the main purpose of her writing remains the same: to cleanse Chinese society of the negative influences imposed by the radical ideologies of the Cultural Revolution. While most of scar literature focuses on the sufferings, Zhang chooses to center on the triumph of the good and the noble. She strives to embrace life with enthusiasm, to show the unbending human spirit in the midst of adversities. “Senling li de yinyue” (The Music of the Forests) is typical of Zhang’s early works, representing the author’s belief in love, trust, and perseverance. “Ai shi buneng wangji de” (Love Cannot Be Forgotten), a story that advocates the ideal of love, caused a small whirlwind when it came out in 1980 for its positive portrayal of love outside marriage. Ideals such as truth, kindness, honor, and beauty are important elements in Zhang’s writings. Owing to her dogged pursuit of these ideals, her characters tend to be one-dimensional.

Zhang, a writer with a strong sense of social responsibility, wants her writings to reflect the transformations her country has gone through, and to that end, she tends to cast her characters against the background of grand historical and social events. Chenzhong de chibang (Heavy Wings), her first novel, deals with economic reforms in urban China. Centering on the reform in the Ministry of Heavy Industry and its subsidiary, the Shu Guang Automobile Factory, Zhang exposes the complicated and entangled contradictions that arise in China’s economy, politics, and culture, as they affect family, love, friendship, and marriage. The novel recreates the atmosphere of Chinese society in a time of great change and describes the complex nature of social reforms in the country. Wu zi (No Written Word), a semiautobiographical novel, focuses on the life of a woman writer; through her accounts of the marriages of several generations of women in her family, the novel reflects the turmoil of 20th-century China.