Zhao Shuli - Representative Novelist of Shanyaodan School
Zhao Shuli (赵树理, 1906-1970) has been the writer most popular with Chinese peasants. He began publishing works in 1931. Enlightened by Chairman Mao's speech at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art, he wrote The Marriage of Young Blacky and The Rhymes of Li Youcai, both novellas embodying the spirit of that well-known speech. Zhao has been famous ever since and became representative of the new type of writer rising after the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art. His works also include the short stories ,"Floor," "Young Manager," "Fu Gui," "Evil Never Prevails over Good," "Heirloom," and "Widow Tian Watches by the Melon Patch";and the novel The Changes in Li Village. After new China was founded, he published the novel San li wan Village, The Lingquan Cave (Part 1), a full-length novel in storytelling style, and more short stories. Recent years have seen the publication of Collected Works of Zhao Shuli and Sequel to the Collected Works of Zhao Shuli.
The Marriage of Young Blacky and The Rhymes of Li Youcai represent Zhao's novels created before the founding of new China. The Marriage of Young Blacky describes a love story in a base area. A pair of youth Xiao Erhei and Xiaoqin, bravely fight against backward patriarchy and feudal traditions, to finally become happily married. The novel vividly portrays two negative characters, Sanxiangu and Erzhuge. Erzhuge is timid, superstitious and stubbornly defends patriarchy- He opposes the love and free marriage of Xiao Erhei, his son, to Xiaoqin. Sanxiangu is lazy and dishonest, envying her daughter's happiness and hoping to make a fortune by marrying Xiaoqin to a rich man. In the strong characterizations of Erzhuge and Sanxiangu, the novel profoundly reveals the small producers' backwardness and alludes to the inevitability of democratic reforms and transformation of social traditions in rural China. Xiao Erhei and Xiaoqin represent the youthful and progressive forces. Their fight for freedom in marriage foreshadows the great historic trend of the new forces' sure triumph over the old. The Marriage of Young Blacky passionately praises the great power of the democratic system and reflects the great changes taking place in the liberated areas. The publication of The Marriage of Young Blacky marked a fundamental change in the established Chinese literary world.
If The Marriage of Young Blacky reflects life and changes only in a limited scope, the content of The Rhymes of Li Youcai covers a broad sweep of society in multiple aspects and from various perspectives, The novel accurately describes political life in the Chinese countryside at a specific stage in history .It vividly and faithfully presents the psychological fluctuations of people from different classes and strata in rural areas. The Rhymes of Li Youcai has been praised as "the greatest work reflecting the struggles in rural areas, and also the representative work of art in liberated areas."
By creating these two marvelous novels and other works, Zhao Shuli made an important contribution to the nation- al popularization of the art of fiction. He broke new ground in characterization, plot structure and use of language, to form a unique creative style of his own. Zhao Shuli's novel is marked with strong Chinese national characteristics, changing the developing landscape of modern Chinese Literature.
San li wan Village, the earliest novel reflecting the agricultural collectivization movement, best marks Zhao Shuli's artistic achievements after the founding of new China. The novel narrates many interesting stories of four families, centering around the harvest, expanding and reorganizing of the commune, and building of an aqueduct. The stories involve struggles inside the Party, family disputes and love disputes. Through describing the intricate relationships, the author points to the inevitability, stability and appeal of the agricultural collectivization movement. The novel also unfolds the great economic, political, ideological, social and ethical changes in rural areas practicing agricultural collectivization, to show the great progress made by Chinese peasants. Zhao Shuli exerts extensive influence in modern Chinese literature, especially in Shanxi Province. In the 1950s and 1960s, many writers from Shanxi, including Ma Feng, Xi Rong, Shu Wei, Sun Qian and Hu Zheng, carried on the style of The Marriage of Young Blacky and The Rhymes of Li Youcai, and published a large number of similar works in journals like Shanxi Art and Sparkle. These writers formed a group nationwide and later were labeled the "Potato School." Zhao Shuli is the acknowledged leader of this school.