Ding Ling: Historic Female Writer, Chronicler of China's Land Reform

August 8, 2017  By Xiong Kunjing  Editor: Hewater Liu
Ding Ling: Historic Female Writer, Chronicler of China's Land Reform
Ding Ling [File photo]


The Sun Shines Over Sanggan River, written by Ding Ling, one of modern China's most prominent female authors, comprehensively covered the land reform movement of the 1940s.

The title has enjoyed continual acclaim among readers from both home and abroad since it was completed in 1948 on the basis of the movement led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the north amid the country's Liberation War (1945-1949).

Ding was born into a well-off rural family in Linli County in central China's Hunan Province in October 1904. Her name became known by others in literary circles when she published Mengke and The Diary of Miss Shafei, her first two works, in 1927 and 1928 respectively.

Ding officially became a member of the Chinese League of the Left-Wing Writers, which was sponsored by the CPC and aimed to win support in the publication of literary works against the opposition sympathetic to the Kuomintang.

She joined the CPC in 1932 and was arrested by the Kuomintang government a year later.

Thanks to the CPC's rescue operation four years later, Ding was able to escape from Nanjing and leave for northern Shaanxi, which was the headquarters of the CPC Central Committee from October 1935 to March 1948.

She took up many key positions in charge of literary work and helped the outside world learn more about the CPC, its military forces and local people in the following decade.

After the success of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945) in August 1945, Ding and several other literary figures embarked on a journey to the CPC's strongholds in northeastern China.

However, due to the unilateral declaration of Civil War by the Kuomintang Government in the second half of 1945, they were unable to continue with their tour when they arrived in Zhangjiakou, a city in north China's Hebei Province.

Ding volunteered to engage herself into the land reform movement in Huailai and Zhuolu counties in Zhangjiakou when the CPC Central Committee officially kicked off the campaign in May 1946 to redistribute farmland amongst landless farmers and owners of small plots on the basis of land confiscation from former landlords across the liberated areas of China.

During her stay in Wenquantun, a village in Zhuolu, Ding found that the policy was met with a warm response from local people and she collected rudimentary materials for her future work The Sun Shines Over Sanggan River. After a while, she took part in the land reform movement in Tangxian in Baoding, another city in Hebei, as well.

Ding gained a deeper understanding of the importance of both the ongoing movement and her unfinished literary creation when she had a talk with Chairman Mao in Fuping County in Baoding in April 1948. There, she thought a lot and made several revisions of her work in a span of half a year.

The work received wide recognition and high claims from her colleagues. However, there was also a voice that criticized Ding and her literary writing on the grounds that it was suspected of showing sympathy for "rich" farmers and the daughters of landlords.

Therefore, it was hard for Ding from the beginning to find publication houses willing to publish the controversial work. Nevertheless, Xinhua Bookstore's branch in northeast China agreed to print the book in September of the same year when Ding was making a stopover in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, on a tour to attend an international conference on women in Hungary.

The work became an instant hit amongst domestic readers in a short period of time. It was translated into Russian and published in an official magazine of the former Soviet Union four months later.

Many newspapers and magazines gave heavy coverage of Ding and her literary works in the following three years. Thus she quickly grew into one of the most representative writers in the liberated regions and in New China.

The Embassy of the former Soviet Union in China presented the Stalin Literary Prize to Ding for her achievements in June 1952, further demonstrating her key role in Chinese literary circles. Moreover, People's Daily highly praised Ding and her masterpiece for its vivid representation of the land reform movement.

(Source: dsbczzs.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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