FENG JICAI (1942— )
FENG JICAI (1942— ). Novelist and painter. Multitalented, Feng Jicai has tried his hand at professional basketball, painting, the study of folk art, and a successful writing career launched in the 1970s with historical novels. Driven by a desire to preserve the memory of the Cultural Revolution, the most important historical event in his lifetime, Feng wrote fictional accounts of the tumultuous era, including Pu hua de qi lu (A Strayed Path Covered with Flowers), Ah! (Ah!), and Ganxie shenghuo (Thanks to Life), exposing the devastating effect of blind political idealism on human relationships. He also collected real stories of people who suffered in the Cultural Revolution and published their experiences in Yibaige ren de shi nian (Ten Years of Madness: Oral Histories of China’s Cultural Revolution).
Driven by the same historical impulse but writing in a completely new narrative style, Feng created Shen bian (The Miraculous Pigtail), a story about a legendary hero at the turn of the 20th century, and Sancun jinlian (The Three-Inch Golden Lotus), a tragic tale of a woman whose life reflects the contradictions and conflicts involved in the practice of foot-binding. Shen bian is a mixture of the picaresque and the realist modes and it has the characteristics of the classical Chinese historical novels with a Robin Hood—type hero. It is also a symbolic novel, with the hero’s pigtail representing both the backwardness and the tenacity of the Chinese. Sancun jinlian, by focusing on foot-binding, explores the complexity of tradition in society. The bound feet represent both suffering and pride in the lives of women who have internalized male-centered aesthetics and values. Feng writes in a seemingly effortless style that appeals to popular taste but also wins critical acclaim. See also ROOT-SEEKING.