FENG YUANJUN (1900—1974)
FENG YUANJUN (1900—1974). Fiction writer. Born in rural Henan, Feng Yuanjun learned classical Chinese literature at a young age from her brother Feng Youlan, who would become one of the most influential philosophers in 20th century China. After graduating from Beijing Normal University in 1923, Feng went on to receive her postgraduate degree from Beijing University two years later and her Ph.D. in literary studies from the University of Paris in 1935. She taught Chinese literature at several prestigious Chinese universities, including Jinling University for Women, Fudan University, Sun Yat-sen University, and Wuhan University, and from 1949 to her death she worked at Shandong University.
Feng began writing fiction in 1923, resulting in the publication of three collections of short stories, Juan shi (Xanthiums), Chun hen (Traces of Spring), and Jie hui (Destruction). These romantic tales decry traditional values and advocate rights for women to seek their freedom in love and marriage. The central conflict of these stories is usually between the young educated female protagonist who desires romantic love and personal liberty and her conventional parents. “Gejue” (Separation) is representative of such tales. On one side of the clash stands the heroine determined to rebel against an arranged marriage and pursue personal happiness at all costs and on the other is the collective will of her family equally determined to uphold traditional values. The heroine is forced to choose between her lover and her family, a conflict beyond any hope of compromise. The description of the sufferings inflicted upon her by this irresolvable clash forms the core of the narrative. Like most of Feng’s stories, “Gejue” is written in the form of letters, a convenient tool to directly express the feelings of the narrator/protagonist. The first-person narrative is Feng’s preferred form and as such the focus of her stories is not on plot development but on the feelings and thoughts of the characters, often triggered by scenes that surround them, a common feature found in classical Chinese poetry and plays.
An accomplished scholar in classical Chinese literature, Feng turned completely away from creative writing to focus on her academic work after the publication of Chun hen in 1929 and made a significant contribution to the study of traditional Chinese theater. Her scholarly publications include Zhongguo wenxue shi (History of Chinese Literature) and Gu ju shuo hui (On Classical Chinese Plays).