Author： 杨绛 著 Yang Jiang
Translator: 梅珠迪 Judith Marmory, 史耀华 Shi Yaohua
Publisher： 人民文学出版社 The People’s Literature Publishing House
Date of publication： 2007-12-1
Date of imprint： 2007/12/01
Number of characters： 400’000
Number of pages： 561
Dimensions： 16 x 23 cm
About the novel
The characters in this vivid, witty, and engrossing novel, set in a Beijing literary institute right after the revolution, are a group of intellectuals from the old society adjusting to a new reality. There is a love story, intrigue, back-biting, and deception: familiar circumstances of academic life. But in the end, all must undergo the harrowing ordeal of public confession in the first great purge of the 1950s. As each responds with subterfuge, terror, or humility, they reveal more about their souls than about their politics.
Baptism has wide appeal for general readers, especially those with an interest in China. Written in a direct and fast-moving style with vivid characters and universal plot motifs, it will also be a welcome addition to university courses in modem Chinese literature or Chinese history and politics.
Baptism is the only novel written by the distinguished Chinese woman playwright, essayist, and translator, Yang Jiang. Born in 1911, she has experienced the entire sweep of Chinas turbulent twentieth-century history. Passages from this novel have already been quoted, in English, in books about the period. Her memoir of life during the Cultural Revolution
has been translated twice and widely read.
About the author
Yang Jiang, bom in 1911, is one of China's most eminent playwrights, essayists, memoirists and translators. She studied at Oxford and the Sorbonne during the 1930s, then returned to China where for many years she was a member of the Literary Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In recent years she has published a translation of Plato's Phaedo and a memoir of her family, We Three. Baptism is her only novel. It was published in China in 1986, when she was 75, and has been in print ever since.
About the translators
Judith Amory is a retired Harvard University librarian. She lives in New York and catalogs Chinese language materials for the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Yaohua Shi teaches Chinese, Chinese literature, and Chinese film at Wake Forest University and has published articles on The Dream of the Red Chamber, The Scholars, the representations of the police in recent Chinese films, and Chinese modernist architecture.
Xizao is not a novel constructed around a single main character. Rather, it offers a cross-section of every variety of intellectual, in the setting of a government campaign. It has neither an epic-type plot, nor a principal character.
Part One describes how New China recruited talents from every quarter. The characters come on stage one by one. Part Two shows how these people really were in need of "washing." Part Three relates how the characters conducted themselves during the campaign. The "washing" does not have the anticipated effect, because none of them submits to it voluntarily.
If human beings are animals that possess intelligence and conscience, then life is nothing but self-discovery and self-refinement — voluntary self-refinement, unless one is content with being like the birds and beasts. But that is easier said than done. In this novel, only one or two people voluntarily try to transcend themselves. Readers, because they like them, tend to see them as the main characters.
I am adding these words as a preface to the new edition.
October 15, 2003
This novel describes how intellectuals faced the first wave of ideological reform after Liberation, "The Three Anti Campaign." It was also called "Pull down the pants and cut off the tail." These intellectuals had delicate ears and weren' t used to hearing about "pulling down pants," so instead the name was changed to "washing," rather like what westerners call "brainwashing."
In order to show how the intellectuals were reformed, I must first describe what they were like before reformation. What did they change from? Why did they have to be changed? And were they really changed, or not?
I once saw a traditionally bound, woodblock-printed book with illustrations. The pictures showed many immaculately dressed people dragging long, hairy tails as they mingled with others. Perhaps mortal eyes couldn't see the tails, so others seemed not to notice them. Whenever I thought of the movement to "pull down the pants, cut off the tails," those tailbearing people came to mind. If the tails grew only out of education or ideology, then it should be possible to wash them off. But if they grew on people's bodies, they were joined to the spine and the skin. Even with the harshest chemicals, can you really wash off a tail? Of
course, if you are going to wash in public you have to take your clothes off in public, but the tail will not necessarily be visible to everyone. No one will know whose tail got washed or cut off, or even who had one in the first place.
The organizations and place names in the novel are all pure fiction, but the characters and plot have been modeled after life. I have collected some commonly seen features, skin, hair, teeth, nails, and beards, and even tails. But I have not arbitrarily used anything that can be found "only at this shop, beware of imitations." Hence this disclaimer.
November 9, 1987
Order No.: 48.0361