Ding LingDing Ling (October 12, 1904 – March 4, 1986), formerly romanized as Ting Ling, was the pen name of Jiang Bingzhi, also known as Bin Zhi, one of the most celebrated 20th-century Chinese women authors.[1] She was awarded the Soviet Union's Stalin second prize for Literature in 1951. An alternative scenario to life after school appears in “Summer Break,” by May Fourth writer, Ding Ling. In that story, two women teachers who had spent their days in school seeking girlfriends, sending love letters, kissing, and embracing find themselves uninterested in their chosen careers. Although they regret not marrying, they continue their same-sex romance, doing “with each other whatever newlyweds do.”

Ding Ling was born into a gentry family in Linli, Hunan province. Her father died when Ding was three. Ding Ling's mother, who raised her children alone while becoming an educator, was Ding's role model, and she would later write an unfinished novel, titled Mother, which described her mother's experiences. Following her mother's example, Ding Ling became an activist at an early age.[2] Ding Ling fled to Shanghai in 1920 in repudiation of traditional Chinese family practices by refusing to marry her cousin who had been chosen to become her husband. She rejected the commonly accepted view that parents as the source of the child's body are its owners, and she ardently asserted that she owned and controlled her own body. Ding Ling was influenced by progressive teachers at the People's Girls School, and by her association with modern writers such as Shen Congwen and the left-wing poet Hu Yepin, whom she married in 1925. She began writing stories around this time, most famously Miss Sophia's Diary, published in 1927, in which a young woman describes her unhappiness with her life and confused romantic and sexual feelings. Miss Sophia's Diary highlights Ding Ling's close association and belief in the New Woman movement which was occurring in China during the 1920's. In 1931, Hu Yepin was executed in Shanghai by the Kuomintang government for his association with the Communists. In March 1932 she joined the Chinese Communist Party, and almost all of her fiction after this time was in support of its goals.[3] She was active in the League of Left-Wing Writers.

Active in the Communist revolutionary cause, she was placed under house arrest in Shanghai by the Kuomintang for a three-year period from 1933 to 1936. She escaped, and made her way to the Communist base of Yan'an. There she became one of the most influential figures in Yan'an cultural circles, serving as director of the Chinese Literature and Arts Association and editing a newspaper literary supplement. Ding Ling struggled with the idea that revolutionary needs, defined by the party, should come before art. She objected to the gender standards at work in Yan'an. In 1942 she wrote an article in a party newspaper, titled Thoughts on March 8, questioning the party's commitment to change popular attitudes towards women. She satirized male double standards concerning women, saying they were ridiculed if they focused on household duties, but also became the target of gossip and rumors if they remained unmarried and worked in the public sphere. She also criticized male cadres use of divorce provisions to rid themselves of unwanted wives. Her article was condemned by Mao Zedong and the party leadership, and she was forced to retract her views and undergo a public self-confession. Her main work in these years was the novel The Sun Shines Over Sanggan River, which she completed in 1948. It followed the complex results of land reform on a rural village. It was awarded the Stalin prize for Literature in 1951, and is considered one of the best examples of socialist-realist fiction. It did not, however, address gender issues. Always a political activist, in 1957 she was denounced as a "rightist", purged from the party, and her fiction and essays were banned. She spent five years in jail during the Cultural Revolution and was sentenced to do manual labor on a farm for twelve years before being "rehabilitated" in 1978. In her introduction to Miss Sophie's Diary And Other Stories, Ding Ling explains her indebtedness to the writers of other cultures: I can say that if I had not been influenced by Western literature I would probably not have been able to write fiction, or at any rate not the kind of fiction in this collection. It is obvious that my earliest stories followed the path of Western realism... A little later, as the Chinese revolution developed, my fiction changed with the needs of the age and of the Chinese people... Literature ought to join minds together... turning ignorance into mutual understanding. Time, place and institutions cannot separate it from the friends it wins... And in 1957, a time of spiritual suffering for me, I found consolation in reading much Latin American and African literature.

A few years before her death, she was allowed to travel to the United States where she was a guest at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. Ding Ling and her husband Chen Ming visited Canada in 1981 for 10 days, meeting with Canadian writers Margaret Laurence, Adele Wiseman,[4] and Geoff Hancock; and even Canada's first female Lieutenant Governor, Pearl McGonigal for the province of Manitoba. Ding Ling died in Beijing on March 4, 1986. She authored more than three hundred works. After her "rehabilitation" many of her previously banned books such as her novel The Sun Shines Over The Sanggan River were republished and translated into numerous languages. Some of her short works, spanning a fifty-year period, are collected in I Myself Am A Woman: Selected Writings Of Ding Ling.[5]

My published books:

See my published books