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Ding Ling, China’s Leading Woman Writer, Dies at 82

March 4, 1986

PEKING (AP) _ Ding Ling, China’s leading woman writer, died today in a Peking hospital of an unspecified illness, the official media reported. She was 82.

The writer, a member of the Communist Party since 1932, tried in her approximately 300 novels, short stories, plays and essays to reveal the human struggles behind the Communist Party’s revolutionary victory, even daring to portray fictional Communist Party members as sometimes confused and flawed.

Her most famous novels include ″Miss Shafei’s Diary″ and ″Mother,″ both about the harsh lot of women in traditional China; and ″The Sun Shines Over the Sanggan River,″ about land reform under the Communist Party in northern China.

In reporting her death, neither the official Xinhua news agency nor state television disclosed the nature of her illness.

After the Communist Party came to power in 1949, she was named editor of the influential magazine Literary Gazette and given numerous posts on official literary and women’s committees.

When she died, she was vice chairman of the Chinese Writers’ Association and a member of the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

However, the author’s art several times caused her to fall from favor with the Communist Party leadership under Mao Tse-tung.

She was censored in the 1940s for complaining that the party did not give women equal treatment, and was expelled from her party posts and sent to work on a farm in northeast China in 1957 during Mao’s anti-rightist campaign.

During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, she was imprisoned for five years, and then sent back to a labor farm. Her books were banned from 1958-78.

In 1979, she was summoned to Peking and cleared of all charges.

″Most of those who were struck down during the Great Cultural Revolution were good people, as everyone knows full well,″ she said in a speech at a Writers’ and Artists’ National Congress in the fall of 1979.

She told the meeting she could not be silent about her time in prison, because ″I know that those who claim to be spurning the vanities of life are the truly selfish people.″

Ding Ling said feudalism had been blamed for most of China’s ills since she was a 15-year-old girl, but said the fault actually lay with a system that permitted power to fall into the hands of a few people who served their own interests.

She expressed regret that an entire generation of Chinese students had not been able to read her works.

The Xinhua obituary noted her 1979 rehabilitation and said she ″kept her unfailing confidence in the Communist Party and the people″ even though she was wrongly criticized.

Ding Ling was born in 1904, in Linli County in Hunan province. She studied at Peking and Shanghai universities, and became a member of a leftist circle of writers in Shanghai in the 1930s.

She established her reputation as a writer in 1928 with the publication of ″Miss Shafei’s Diary.″

She and fellow Communist He Yupin, although unmarried, had a son in 1930. He was executed by the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek in 1931.

She was imprisoned for three years in Nanjing by the Nationalists, beginning in 1933. After her release, she traveled to Yenan, then the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party.

She married journalist and actor Chen Ming in 1937.

She used her experiences in observing land reform in areas under Communist cotrol as the basis for ″The Sun Shines Over the Sanggan River,″ published in 1948. The book won the Stalin Prize in 1951.

Many of her works are included in the six-volume ″Collected Works of Ding Ling,″ published in 1984.

Other well-known works include ″The Diary of a Person Committing Suicide,″ ″Water,″ ″In the Dark″ and ″The Birth of a Person.″

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