Bingxin, the distinguished writer, poet, translator, and social activist, was born Xie Wanying on Oct.5, 1900, in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, to the family of a patriotic naval officer. During the May Fourth Movement, a patriotic student movement against foreign aggression and for new culture, she was a student at Yanjing University, was elected secretary of the Students’ Union, and took an active part in publicity work for the Beijing Federation of Women Students. Greatly inspired by the movement, she began contributing to the newspaper Chenbao (Morning Paper). After she graduated from Yanjing University in 1923 with a Bachelor’s Degree, she went to the United States to further her study in literature at Wellesley College and finished her postgraduate study with a Master’s Degree. Her M.A. Thesis was An English Translation and Edition of the Poems of Lady Li I-an (1926), a distinguished woman poet of the Sung Dynasty. In 1926, Bingxin returned to China to teach Chinese Literature at Yanjing University, a post she held until 1936. In 1929, she married Wu Wenzao, one of the founders of anthropology in China and widely respected in that field.
Bingxin never stopped writing. Her essays and journals on her life experience were collected and published in 1920s under the title of “Letters to Young Readers,” followed by “More Letters to Young Readers” in the 1950s and “Still More Letters to Young Readers” in the 1970s. Her works were very influential and became the foundation of modern children’s literature in China. In 1947, Bingxin, with her husband, traveled to Japan with an invitation from Tokyo University, where she taught New Chinese Literature as the first foreign female professor. She returned to China in 1951 and made a few more trips to Europe, America, and Africa to promote international cultural exchange.
In 1980, Bingxin was diagnosed with cerebral thrombosis and later bone fracture, which caused her to be paralyzed. Yet under the spirit of “Life Begins at 80,” she relearned how to walk, talk, and write and she was extremely prolific in this period. She died on Feb 28th, 1999, in the hospital in Beijing, and was honored as “the century-old lady.”[source: bingxin.org]
How to paint it?
Deep deep down in the heart,
Deep deep down in the universe,
The resting place after all glory.
Look into it face-to-face,
Actually feels awkward,
Isn’t flipping it better?
The boundless mystery,
Where to find it?
Here is the boundless mystery.
The white flower eclipses the green leaf,
Strong wine doesn’t beat light tea.
The flower in the corner!
When you appreciate yourself alone,
The world becomes smaller.
5, 6, 11, and 155 are from A Myriad of Stars. 33 is from Spring Water. Both of them are miscellaneous collections of Bingxin’s poems.
A note on the photos: Wang Binggen is a nationally prominent writer, the president of Bingxin Literature Research Center, and the founder of Bingxin Literature Museum. Graduated from Nanjing University with a major in Chinese, he has devoted most of his time studying Bingxin and her work.
Translator and photographer Miranda Jingqiong Yang, a student at Wellesley College, is from Ningbo, China.