Article Title

Lao Sheh: From People's Artist to "An Enemy of the People"


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

A writer who lived through the turmoil that determined China's progress during the first half of the twentieth century, Lao Sheh (1898-1966) could remember the Empress Dowager and the Boxer Rebellion in which his father was killed. He had seen the birth of the Republic and the division of China by warlords; he had felt the growing bitterness between the Communists and the Kuomintang which led to inevitable civil war; he had experienced the terrors of the Japanese occupation of Chinese territory; and he had broadened his views through travel to places far beyond the Middle Kingdom. Throughout these years, he had lived under many governments and observed the successes and failures of many philosophies-political, social, and personal. When he returned to China in October, 1949, after a three year visit in the United States, he was a recognized artist returning not so much to a political philosophy that he agreed with, but to a country and a people he loved. It was this love for his people, particularly the common man, that made him a gifted social playwright. And it was his love of China that drove him to become sufficiently agile, ideologically speaking, that he could maintain a personal and artistic integrity among politicians who demanded that art and literature be subservient to politics. The artistic life that the new political regime in China required of the older generation of writers would cause many of Lao Sheh's colleagues to retreat into the past to write historical works or to write relatively little at all. Lao Sheh was the exception.

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