Ba Jin and His 'Torrent Trilogy'

    Written by: Yao Dan
    Posted on: April 01, 2015 | Post your comment here Comments | 中文

    Chinese Writer Ba Jin - Chinese Literature Writer Ba Jin and His 'Torrent Trilogy'

    Chinese Writer Ba Jin

    Anti-feudalism is a key topic in modern Chinese literature. Since the coming of Lu Xun, the anti-feudalism subject has captured the attention of the new vernacular literature writers. But the work that has expanded the subject of anti-feudalism in breadth and depth is Ba Jin’s "Torrent Trilogy". Ba Jin (1904-2005), formerly known as Li Yaotang, was born into a bureaucratic landlord's family in Chengdu, Sichuan. He witnessed the conflict of interest within an extended feudal family, and saw his elder brother become a victim of it. Ba Jin's early life experiences as well as his anarchist and humanistic thoughts prompted him to be critical of feudalism. While studying in France in 1927, Ba Jin wrote his first novelette Destruction, and started his literary career as a writer. Ba Jin's major works include "Torrent Trilogy”, “Love Trilogy" (Mist, Rain, Lightening), “Garden of Repose”, “Ward No. 4”, and “Cold Night”, among others.

    "Torrent Trilogy" is about the rise and fall of an extended feudal family. It includes three novels, Family (1931), Spring (1938) and Autumn (1940). It completely pulls apart the hypocritical mask of feudal autocracy and the feudal family system, proves the actual facts of bloody slaughter and sins behind the mask, and calls on all the young people to rise up in rebellion. Of the three novels, Family is the one that has attained the highest literary achievement. Family depicts the love tragedies in the Gao’s family. Juexin, the eldest son in the Gao’s family, and Qian Meifen (Cousin Mei) have been in love since childhood. But due to a dispute with Juexin's stepmother over the game table, Cousin Mei's mother turns down Juexin's marriage proposal, and gets her married to another man without giving it much thought. A year after her marriage, Cousin Mei becomes a widow, and before long she dies in loneliness. Juexin, after losing Cousin Mei, regains some emotional comfort from his wife Ruijue; yet this comfort does not last long. When Ruijue is about to go into labor, the old master of the Gao’s drives her out of the house and sends her to the countryside for delivery. This eventually causes her death due to a lack of health resources in the countryside. The love affair of Juehui, the third young master of the Gao's, and the servant girl Mingfeng is also a tragic love story with an inevitably sad ending. Upon learning that she will be made a concubine of Feng Leshan, a sixty-year-old official, Mingfeng commits suicide by throwing herself into a lake. The story ends with Juehui leaving his home with indignation. Spring and Autumn are the continuation of the Gao's story, depicting the struggles and tragedies of the younger generation, which has contributed to the fall of this big feudal family.

    Ba Jin and His 'Torrent Trilogy'

    The 'Torrent Trilogy'

    The characterization of Juexin, the eldest son of this feudal family, has been a great success. Juexin has become a classical figure in the history of modern Chinese literature. Juexin is the outcome of the alternation of old and new societies. He has acquired the ideal personality of a faithful follower of feudal ethical codes and has also gone through the baptism of the "May 4th"Movement. After the death of his father, he assumes responsibility of the big feudal family. Though he is fully aware that the feudal family and feudal ethical codes have ruined his youth and happiness, and feels much sympathy for his brothers' rebellion, his filial duty and responsibility for the feudal family have shackled him up in the depth of his soul. In order to hold together the superficial harmony in the big family, he has to make up to the seniors and juniors, make concessions, and even hold the bag, which ultimately results in his cowardly character. But his backing down fails to bring harmony in the family, and instead, results in the death of Ruijue. Juexin is both the victim of the old family system and the vindicator of old family ethics. This agrees with Lu Xun's view expressed in his book A Madman's Diary, that the ones that get eaten by people also eat people. Juexin has acquired a good knowledge about this point. Clear-headedness and cowardice in action get him into severe anguish and confession, but he is incapable of rising up in rebellion.

    The third brother, Juehui, is completely different from Juexin. Juehui is an idealistic and passionate young man. Fearless and rebellious, he dares to go back on his feudal parents' authority and detests all injustices and oppressions, but at the same time he is timid, weak-willed and naive, and the future is just an indistinct vision in his mind. Juehui’s character is relatable. He is not only a real individual, but also a symbol of the "May 4th"youths. He embodies the dauntless courage and passion of the youths of that time. In this sense, Family is an important story that reflects the "May 4th" spirit of the time.

    The rebellious acts and pursuits of the "May 4th" youths have eventually awakened thousands upon thousands of Juehui's and inspired them to move forward boldly for the sake of ideals and freedom.

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