Ding Ling

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Date: 1904-1986

Region: Asia

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Ding Ling.jpg

Artist: Ding Ling

Confronting Bodies: The Chinese communist government

Dates of Action: 1942,1957

Location: China

Description of Artwork: By the time Mao came to power in China Ding Ling had established herself as the top female author in China. She was also a renowned feminist. She wrote various essays and edited numerous literary journals that were part of the communist party propaganda machine.

The Incident: Ding Ling became popular in the communist party for her propaganda work that won her the position of literary editor of the official party newspaper in Yan'an. In 1941 and 42 Mao called for a movement to eradicate bureaucratic tendencies. In response to this Ling wrote a couple of essays intended as constructive criticism of the party. The first one focuses on the lack of individuality allowed in communist society and the second one focuses on gender inequality. Mao and the Communist Party began a drive against Ding Ling. Ling was forced to attend daily ideological meetings. She then published a self-criticism, denouncing her own work. She was then removed from her position at the newspaper and forced to "study" in villages and factories. In a move to save her career she gave in to the party line and published a novel Sun over the Sanggan River that was awarded the Stalin Literary Prize. She was appointed to various official posts in the coming years. Her rivalry with other writers led to her being the focus of the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign. Ling's optimism about the literary scene at the time led to her reiterating her old belief that literature should be guided by writers rather than party bureaucrats. In June of 1957 meetings were being convened daily to enumerate her crimes. In October the journal that she had been the editor of for a number of years asked that she acknowledge her mistakes. She refused to recant and was sent to jail and labor camps until the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Results of Incident: At the end of the Cultural Revolution she was sent to rehabilitation and Ling was so grateful for the treatment she received that she enthusiastically supported the views she had once been at odds with, even after Mao's death. This made her unpopular with other writers. Shortly before her death in 1986 Ding Ling became the editor of a literary journal which published experimental poetry and fiction.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia