Mao Tun

Mao Tun


Mao Dun

(mou do͝on`), pseud. of

She Yen-ping

(shə` yĕn`bĭng`), 1896–1981, Chinese novelist and Minister of Culture (1949–65). His fiction offers a sympathetic portrayal of working-class life and praise of revolution. Midnight (1933, tr. 1957), his most widely read work, is a naturalistic novel exploring in epic detail the commercial world of Shanghai. He is the author of Spring Silk Worms and Other Stories (1956).


See studies by Y. Chen (1986) and D. D. Wang (1992).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mao Tun


(pseudonym of Shen Yenping). Born July 1896, in Ch’ingchen, in the province of Chekiang. Chinese writer and public figure.

Mao Tun studied in the preparatory division of Peking University. In 1916 he went to work in a publishing house in Shanghai. He was editor in chief of the journal Hsiaoshuo yiiehpao (1920-22) and one of the founders of the Literary Research Association (1921). Before 1927 he wrote on public affairs and literary scholarship and criticism. Through his translations, Mao Tun acquainted Chinese readers with Western European and Russian literature; he wrote about the first successes of Soviet literature. He wrote the books The Study of Literary Characters (1925), Chinese Mythology (1925), and Introduction to the Study of Prose (1928).

Mao Tun’s first work of fiction, the trilogy The Eclipse (1927-28), consisting of the novellas Disillusion, Vacillation, and Pursuit, was written shortly after the defeat of the 1925-27 revolution. Most of the trilogy’s heroes are rebellious young intellectuals who quickly become disenchanted with life; only a few continue the struggle. In 1928-29, Mao Tun lived in exile in Japan, where he wrote the collections of short stories Sweet-brier (1929) and Grass of Yesteryear (1929), which are similar in mood to his trilogy, and the unfinished novel Rainbow.

In 1930, Mao Tun returned to China and became one of the leading members of the League of Left-wing Writers of China.

Mao Tun’s Village Trilogy (1932-34), consisting of three long stories, depicted the armed uprising of Chinese peasants under the impact of the economic crisis of 1929. The ruination of small traders was the theme of the novella Lin’s Store (1932); its hero is typical of Mao Tun’s characters: an enterprising, kind person who is indifferent to politics and is incapable of resistance. The first example of a social epic in modern Chinese literature was Mao Tun’s novel Before the Dawn (1933), which describes the position of the national bourgeoisie and the mass struggle of the workers.

During the war with Japan (1937-45), Mao Tun helped organize the literary public to take part in the patriotic struggle. He edited the journal Wenyi chenti and devoted considerable time to documentary fiction, as in Story of the First Stage, dealing with the three month defense of Shanghai, and After the Defeat (1942). In 1941 he published the novel Downfall in Hongkong; it was written in the form of a diary by a young woman who is inveigled into working for Chiang Kai-shek’s secret police. After the Japanese captured Hongkong in 1942, Mao Tun returned to Kuomintang territory and wrote the novel Touched by Frost, The Leaves Turn Scarlet Like Flowers in Spring (1942), the first part of a projected vast canvas portraying the destinies of the Chinese province on the eve of the revolution of 1911-13. In 1945 he wrote the drama Days of Remembrance, dealing with prospects for the recostruction of China.

After the war with Japan, Mao Tun took part in the democratic movement. He translated V. Kataev’s Son of the Regiment and V. Grossman’s The People Are Immortal and worked on a novel, The Tempering (1948, unfinished). In 1946-47 he traveled in the USSR and subsequently published the books What I Saw and Heard in the USSR (1948) and Conversations About the Soviet Union (1949).

From 1949 to 1964, Mao Tun was deputy chairman of the All-China Association of Literary and Art Workers, chairman of the Writers Union of the People’s Republic of China, and minister of culture. He also engaged in literary scholarship and wrote on public affairs, as in his Nocturnal Notes: Thoughts on Socialist Realism (1958), Inspiration (1959), and On History and Historical Drama (1962).


Mao Tun wen chi, vols. 1-10. Peking, 1958-61.
In Russian translation:
Sochineniia, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1956.


Sorokin, V. F. Tvorcheskii put’ Mao Dunia. Moscow, 1962.
Yeh, Tzu-ming. Lun Mao Tun ssushih nien tu wenhsiieh taolu. Shanghai, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
And all readers should read Bell's book in conjunction with Spring Silkworms and Other Stories (second ed., 1979), the novella of the contemporary writer, Mao Tun, which gives a deeply moving account of the ruin of a peasant family caught in the vice that Bell analyzes so well, of one industry, two Chinas.
Mao Dun Mao Tun pseudonym of Shen Yanbing original name Shen Dehong(b.