In his talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art in 1942, Mao Zedong
insisted on the importance of literature aimed at a mass audience, which
would use the popular idiom and describe the positive aspects of the
lives of peasants and proletarians. The purpose of art was to serve the
people and the revolution; the artistic beauty of literature was subordinated
to its political content. The Yenan talks served as the basic guide to
writing after the success of the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949,
except for the brief "Hundred Flowers" interlude (1956-57)
when public debate over the problems and limitations of the regime were
temporarily tolerated. However, the flood of criticism during the "Hundred
Flowers" period became too threatening and it was stopped. The principles
of the Yenan talks then constituted the reigning ideology for writers
and artists at least until the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976.
About the Author
Hao Ran, whose real name is Liang Jinguang, is greatly admired because of his
class background. He was born in 1932 to a poor peasant family in Hebei, about
thirty miles east of Beijing. He received only three and a half years of education
in a local village school, but he learned to read and write. His father died when
Hao Ran was seven, and his mother died when he was twelve. As an orphan, Hao took
care of himself by running errands for the Eighth Route Army. He passed long winter
evenings listening to stories told by old peasants and soldiers. When he was fifteen,
his relatives arranged a marriage for him; he eventually had four sons. A member
of the Children's Corps, Hao Ran joined the Chinese Communist Party at the age
of sixteen. In 1949, he was asked to write a short play as local propaganda material
for the movement to increase production and suppress anti-revolutionaries; the
skit was a success and Hao Ran's literary career was initiated. He claims he did
not choose to write, but found this his best means of supporting the revolution.
During the 1950s, Hao Ran worked as a newspaper correspondent for the Hebei
Assigned to describe peasants and village life, he visited collective farms, participated
in agricultural work, and developed close ties with the local peasants. He also
continued to write plays, sketches, and songs. Gradually he specialized in short
stories based on his experiences in the land reform movement. His stories praise
heroic working people for the sacrifices they make for the revolution. His first
volume of short stories was published in 1958, followed by the second volume in
1959, and the third in 1960.
Hao Ran was among the first party cadres sent to live on the farms to do collective
labor, in 1960-1961. In the introduction to Pearls, one of his collections of short
stories, Hao Ran wrote:
I shall never forget how some of these stories were written. It was harvest
time and we cadres took turns watching over the threshing ground at night with
the commune members. In the deep of night, I paced round the quiet square covered
with grain and bathed in moonlight. As the cool breeze wafted over the fragrance
of new rice, countless stirring events sprang to my mind all crying out for utterance.
I turned a manure crate upside-down and spread a sack over it. Then by the light
of my storm lantern I started scribbling on this makeshift "desk." 
In 1961, Hao Ran went to Beijing to serve as a literary editor of the Party journal
Red Flag, and to study Marxist theory. After six more volumes of collected stories
and some children's fiction, he began to work on his first novel, Bright Sunny
Sky, the first volume of which was finished in 1964, followed by two more volumes
in 1966. The novel shows the triumph of Party policy which allowed poor peasants,
who have worked hard on collective farms, to share equally in profits with the
middle-class peasants who contributed private plots of land to the collective.
Directly confronting class privilege, which was a major obstacle to land reform,
Hao Ran idealizes the peasants and young cadres who struggle for a new classless
During the Cultural Revolution, Hao Ran again lived and worked on an agricultural
commune, then wrote his second novel, The Broad Road in Golden Light, which
concerns the change from individual labor on farms to mutual-aid teams. As part
of the general movement against individualism, he had not only his colleagues in
the Peking Writers Association, but also actual peasants and workers, review the
rough draft of the first volume and suggest revisions before it was published in
1972. For example, one peasant reader was troubled with an incident in the novel
in which a former landlord criticizes a poor peasant for fighting to plant his
crop without mechanized help because he cannot afford it: Hao Ran had made the
poor peasant respond meekly, but the reader suggested he should be more courageous,
so in the revision he becomes enraged at the landlord. "Such concern over
the perfection of the work, not just the success of any individual in the process
of creating a novel, moved me to tears," Hao Ran said. "The peasant readers
have no desire to make me a famous writer; they only want their true story told,
which is a story of the glory of revolution and the need for continuing vigilance
to protect the glory." 
In the early 1970s, Hao Ran also served the revolution by conducting writers'
workshops for the Bureau of Cultural Affairs to assist young talented writers.
He remains a prolific writer, producing at the rate of about half a million
words per year. Though not the most popular writer in China after the fall of the
Gang of Four because of the rise of Dissent Literature, Hao Ran still continues
to be an influential figure. He is respected for his brilliant descriptive passages,
if not for his stereotyped characters. He does not refer to himself as a professional
writer, but as a "full-time worker in the field of literature and art."
 Reprinted with permission from Chao Chin, "Introducing Hao Ran," Chinese
Literature, vol. 4 (April 1974): 98-99.
 From Hsu Kai-yu, The Chinese Literary Scene, (New York: Penguin,
Acknowledgment: The consultant for this unit
was Dr. Marsha Wagner, Columbia University.