Ba Jin was Lu Xun’s spiritual heir Ôºç Qin Hui

Qin-1A From Strong Country Forum, thanks to David Kelly for the translation:

Editor’s note:, , China’s great literary master of the present age, “conscience of 20th century China” and “people’s writer” passed away on 17 October 2005 at 7:06 pm in the Shanghai East China hospital. He was 101 years old. On 18 October at 7:30 pm, Professor Qin Hui of Qinghua University’s Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences was a guest on the Qiangguo Forum discussing “what did leave with us fter a century?” with web mates.

[Qin Hui]: Good evening fellow webmates, the famous 100 year-old writer Ba Jin is dead; we take this opportunity today to cherish the memory of this venerable man together with his biography and his intellectual journey.

Ba Jin’s century of life experience is China’s cultural exploration in cameo

Ba Jin was the last of the May Fourth generation of intellectuals to leave us. A mere 15 years old in 1919, Ba may actually be called late-born, but the length of his intellectual and creative lives were in fact extremely rare, not to say unique in that generation. Benefiting from May Fourth, engaging in the enlightened new culture, reconsidering the Cultural Revolution, renewing his critique of the ancient tradition‚Äïthus may we summarize the course this old person’s life.

Students sometimes joke that modern literary history comes down to Lu (Xun) Guo (Moruo), Mao (Dun), Ba (Jin) Lao (She) Cao (Yu). Among these six ’s natural life was quite short, but the others’ creative and intellectual lives (some would include their “moral” lives), were all much shorter than their biological lives. Only Ba Jin had intellectual, creative and moral lives that were all long. Thanks to the May Fourth, he could produce two trilogies. Rethinking the Cultural Revolution, he could produce five volumes of Essays, hence I think his 100 years life course may be called a miniature of our course of cultural exploration in China

Ba Jin’s contribution to history of new vernacular literature is well known. In his rethinking of the Cultural Revolution in his latter years, most important in my view are the three words “tell the truth”. What is called telling the truth? Back in the 80’s there was a discussion in which some said “speaking the truth” means saying what is true, if what you say is not true you are not “telling the truth,” it is right to forbid you to speak. I find this completely wrong. “Telling the truth” means speaking your mind, saying what you think, and is not the same as saying what is true, but people, through their technical exploratory procedures, discover what is true thereby. But if one does not tell the truth it is impossible for anything to be true”Ba is referring the Cultural Revolution period.

A second very important idea was his “sense of repentance.” This again later brought up a widely contested issue: several years ago there was as we know a “debate between the two Yus” (Yu Qiuyu and Yu Jie) about repentance, and when Li Shenzhi passed away last year, people overseas faulted him for not repenting his adherence to certain doctrines in his earlier years. But I feel a person’s intellectual journey is not something to repent, whereas what does deserve repentance are one’s actions. Being a Christian, a Muslim, or even an atheist, does not prevent one from becoming a liberal, one need not repent of these beliefs even if they have changed; but taking part in acts that suppress others’ freedom of belief is something one should repent. Even if one still retains one’s original beliefs, such acts still call for repentance. I think Ba Jin’s promotion of repentance in his latter years refers to repentance in this sense. Ba Jin was an anarchist long ago; I don’t know whether he believed in it in old age, but I don’t think he needed to repent his youthful beliefs. However, he certainly thought that during the decades prior to reform China’s intellectuals committed many acts of self-abasement and mutual slaughter, in which many were at one and the same time victim and villain. All this calls for repentance.

Ba Jin’s life traversed two most important periods of cultural upheaval over the twentieth century in China, namely the “May Fourth” New Culture Movement and the Cultural Revolution. It is now argued that they share a common lineage. To move from denying the Cultural Revolution to denying “May Fourth” is to be a “new conservative.” Some people twist them into two phases: they propose continuing the three traditions, i.e., the ancient tradition and a modern tradition which includes the Cultural Revolution tradition. The one thing they avoid is the tradition standing in the middle, the enlightenment tradition of “May Fourth”.

Meanwhile, Ba Jin, who experienced these two traditions, was in fact the opposite. He participated in the “May Fourth” movement which criticized the two millennia of tradition, and later sounded his own voicein the new Enlightenment [of the 1980s] which reconsidered the Cultural Revolution.

He has passed on, but I think we should uphold his attitude and standpoint regarding these two cultural movements.

“Ba Jin is Lu Xun’s spiritual heir”

[ Du Kang]: Professor Qin, I’ve heard much about you, and read many of your articles. You use the expression “common baseline,” do you place the venerable Ba above this common base line?

[Qin Hui]: In fact, I think it’s very difficult to call Ba Jin left- or right-wing, but he upheld some ethical principles and basic cultural standpoints, he must be said to have embodied the “overlapping consensus” between modern liberalism and social , in other words the common baseline. Long ago Ba Jin was an anarchist, which at that time could be termed ultra-left, while his critique of the Cultural Revolution in old age is thought of by some as fairly right wing. But in fact I think the two come down in the same line: namely, both embody basic principles which cannot be divided into right or left, and which modern thought should uphold

[“Sounds of Victory”]: I’d like to ask Professor Qin, what grounds Ba Jin and Lu Xun have in common in literary terms? Where did they differ? How were these mainly displayed?

[Qin Hui]: Ba Jin and Lu Xun were both of the generation created by the “May Fourth” new culture movement. When Lu Xun passed away, Ba Jin Was among his pallbearers. He thought of himself as Lu Xun’s spiritual heir, and I think he indeed deserves this title. Their basic spirit was consistent. But there were differences of style in their conduct and behaviour. Lu Xun was quite severe with people, but Ba Jin’s repentance was mainly in regard to himself. Because Ba Jin experienced so much more than Lu Xun, who had no opportunity to do the rethinking Ba Jin did in old age.

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