Yenan Literary Opposition

Wild Lily - Wang Shih-wei

Wang Shih-wei

Written in 1942 at the Communist base camp in Yenan, Wang Shih-wei criticises the hierarchical structure and privilege of the nascent Maoist bureaucracy in the camp. The article makes clear that the hierarchy was well established long before the 'Communist' Party came to state power in China in 1949. Wang was the most piercing, outspoken and unrepentant of the several literary critics who wrote articles with similar themes. This sealed his fate; the Maoist regime later executed Wang Shih-wei.

Thoughts on 8 March (Women’s Day) - Ting Ling

Ting Ling (also spelled Ding Ling)

A discussion of Women's Day - written in 1942 in Yenan, China, where the Red Army had settled in cave dwellings at the end of their Long March retreat. This text was one of several that made criticisms of the ruling Maoist elite at Yenan. It was condemned as "narrowly feminist" and Ting Ling and others were successfully pressured to repent and disown their criticisms. Nevertheless - depending on the changing fortunes of competing bureaucratic factions - Ting Ling suffered periodic persecution for decades afterwards as a result of daring to publicly criticise the ruling hierarchy.

Introduction to ‘The Yenan Literary Opposition’ - Gregor Benton

The Yenan caves where the Red Army settled in the 1940s after the Long March

In the spring of 1942 a series of articles appeared in the Yenan press [see two of the texts here and here] which took as their theme the need to expose the ‘dark side’ of life in the Communist base areas of northern China. The authors of these articles saw themselves as upholders of the literary tradition of Lu Hsün, modern China’s best known literary figure, and used the tsa-wen—a laconic and fiercely critical essay form perfected by Lu Hsün—as their literary ‘dagger’.

Bureaucrats - Simon Leys

Despite the claims of the Maoist ruling elite of a complete break with feudal ways, Leys illustrates that the finely graded hierarchies of Maoist officialdom inherited and preserved the earlier bureaucratic structures of privilege.