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An attempt to present Bing Xin’s spiritual world

Author  :  WANG BINGGEN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-06-20

Bing Xin (1900-99), the pen name of Xie Wanying, was a renowned poet, modern writer, translator and social activist. The Diary Collection of Bing Xin will soon be published by the Writers Publishing House. It is a spiritual history of modern Chinese scholars as well as an authentic record of social transformation. It details many cultural phenomena and reveals Bing Xin’s artistic ideology and artistic attitudes in her late life. It also uncovered Bing Xin’s secrets in her life and works, presenting a sophisticated landscape of a lengthy life.

Five years after Bing Xin’s death, her offspring donated all Bing Xin’s personal effects to the Bing Xin Literature Museum, among which there are considerable unpublished journals, notes, letters and other materials. However, Bing Xin’s journals are not written in just one or several notebooks, but dispersed across 23 notebooks that record inspections, visits, and interviews.

In the diary that records her trip to Europe, her return to China and her residence in the regions south of the Yangtze River, Bing Xin expressed critical views when she attended meetings, paid visits, and participated in various activities as a writer and deputy of the National People’s Congress. For example, she criticized the designs of handicraft that sold poorly after the formation of public-private partnerships in 1956, which resulted in insufficient productivity and bad quality of goods, during her visits to places such as Nanjing, Suzhou and Shanghai. Her visits to Henan, Hebei and Hubei provinces were all in the countryside. Walking through scenic spots, mountains and rivers, as well as villages and fields, she recorded stories of local matters, events and people. Bing Xin took a cautious and honest attitude when writing in her diary, so it is not filled with exaggerated descriptions. In addition, Bing Xin elaborated on every historical place of interest, including informative depictions on architecture, inscribed couplets and prose, as well as special flowers and trees, leaving rich authentic materials for later generations.

Bing Xin’s diary of her later years shows that she read an extraordinary amount at high speed, and often commented on the materials after reading. Sometimes these comments are insightful criticism. With just a sentence or a few words, she was habitually straightforward regardless of the identity of the writer she was appraising. Also, Bing Xin was also generous when giving praise, usually with her artistic intuition.

Bing Xin kept her diary until September 1994, when she was sent into hospital for the last time. She talked about death many times in her diary in the 1990s. Having been tortured by incurable diseases, her words revealed her “wish” for death and her reluctance to become other people’s burden. “I did not get up until 10 in the morning. My oldest daughter is too old to take care of me. I should seek death to give everybody else a release,” she wrote. Despite her physical pain, Bing Xin never slowed down. She kept writing, reading, meeting guests and taking interviews in the daytime, even though at night she had to deal with insomnia, bone aches and her fragile body. Once Bing Xin wrote six letters in the morning and had a conversation with guest: a workload that would even be heavy for a young man.

For my humble reading experience, I have never seen a diary that takes down one’s life story after the age of 90, which is undoubtly worthy of reading. In this case, Bing Xin’s diary is more of a treasure in that she still lived like a fighter in the last days of her life, impressing us with how robust human life can be.

Editor: Yu Hui

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