ZHANG TIANYI (1906—1985)
ZHANG TIANYI (1906—1985). Fiction writer. Best known for his satirical short stories and children’s literature, Zhang Tianyi was a key figure among the left-wing writers of the 1930s and 1940s. At the beginning of his career, he wrote chiefly comic and detective stories, some of which were published in Saturday, the stronghold of the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies school, devoted to entertaining literature. Influenced by Marxism and Lu Xun’s stories, Zhang Tianyi underwent a profound ideological transformation and began to devote himself to the cause of the Left-wing Association of Chinese Writers.
Zhang Tianyi drew inspiration for his satire from The Scholars by Wu Jingzhi, a Qing dynasty writer, satirical stories by Lu Xun, and works by Russian writers Nicholai Gogol and Anton Chekhov. His characters are often caricatures drawn in precise detail through vivid images. He is an expert at employing sharp, witty, and at times, whimsical language to create these sketches.
When Zhang began writing for children, the field was flooded with reproductions of old fairy tales or stories copied from ancient Chinese books. Following the footsteps of Ye Shengtao, whose “Scarecrow,” published 10 years earlier, was the first story in modern Chinese children’s literature, Zhang believed that stories for children should change to keep up with the changing society. True to his leftist identity, he taught lessons of class struggle in tales such as “Dalin he Xiaolin” (Big Lin and Little Lin), describing the conflicts between the oppressed and the oppressors, singing the praises of the strength and wisdom of the working people, and exposing the avarice and cruelty of the exploiting upper class. With his sharp and humorous language, Zhang sought to inspire his young readers to distinguish right from wrong and to know what to love and what to hate.