Wang Shiwei

Wang Shiwei

Wang Shiwei (Wade-Giles: Wang Shih-wei) (王實味) (March 12, 1906-July 1, 1947), originally named Wang Sidao (王思禱), was a journalist and literary writer. He became famous for his contribution to the Chinese history of modern revolution and to Chinese modern literature. Several controversial articles were written by him in the 20th century, for which he was persecuted and finally executed in 1947.



Wang Shiwei was born in a small town in Yunan (豫南), China on March 12 1906. His courtesy name ("zi" 字) was "Shuhan" (叔翰). His father was a scholar who worked as a teacher in a local school. Wang was the third eldest child in a family of eight brothers and sisters. His father's income as a teacher was not enough to sustain the large family; the financial hardship of Wang's family made him aware of the social injustice in China.


Wang received his initial education in Chinese classics from his father, strengthening his knowledge of Chinese literature. In 1914, he entered Huangchuan Second Higher Elementary school (潢川第二高等小學) for Primary three education. Later, he went to Huangchuan Seventh Middle School (潢川第七中學). He eventually left his hometown and entered the Fundamental School of Europe. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave this school a year later, as his family could no longer afford the expensive school fees. With a strong will to further his studies, he worked in a post office to save money. At the age of 17, he joined the "American Exchange Studies program in Henan Province" (河南省留學歐美預備學校).

In 1925, Wang got a chance to study Arts at Beijing University, there he actively participated in the University's student campaigns. However, he was once again forced to quit in 1927, but was again able to start studying during the late 1920s and early 1930s, this time at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

Involvement in politics

Wang actively participated in politics. In 1919, Wang and his fellow classmates joined the May Fourth Movement demonstrations in support of patriotic Beijing students. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1926. Leaving a year later, for the criticism of his love affair with Li Fan (李芬), who was also a communist member. However, he rejoined the party when Mao Zedong (毛澤東) became the chairman. During his studies in Moscow, Wang formed the Twenty-Eight Bolsheviks together with other Chinese students such as Wang Ming (王明) and Ding Ling (丁玲).

Wang as a journalist

"Wild Lilies"

By 1942 Wang was working for the "Liberation Daily" (解放日報) where he wrote an article called "Wild Lilies" (野百合花). This criticized Mao Zedong's taste for beautiful women , as well as the unjustified privileges enjoyed by the Communist Party. It also discussed the "ugliness and indifference" in Yan'an; also criticizing some "big men", whom Wang thought were responsible for the growth of darkness in the country.

This article caused him many woes. On 27 May 1942, the Central Committee held a seminar to discuss whether Wang was guilty. On 23 October, under the orders of Mao [Robert Service (2007), Comrades, Communism: A World History, Pan P193] , Wang was expelled from the Communist Party, on the charge that he was one of the "anti-party" Trotskyites (托派份子). Wang's defence was that he was not involved in any Trotskyist activities, except for helping his friends Wang Wen-yuan (王文元) and Chen Qing-chen (陳清晨) to translate two prose pieces in "Autobiography of Leon Trotsky" (《托洛茨基自傳》), activities which he had already informed the Party. However, the Party did not believe him and he was arrested at the end of 1942.

Wang tried his best to explain during his imprisonment , but all his attempts failed.

How well did Wang do as a journalist (Wild Lilies)

Wang demonstrated two basic elements of journalism in "Wild Lilies":

1. "Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience"

One day Wang overheard two girls criticizing the inconsiderate behavior of senior leaders towards the public. He wrote it down and used it to express his concern over the country. He wrote that he was shocked after overhearing the dialogue and he finally realized what was lacking in everybody's life at that time. Therefore, he tried to uncover the complaints and criticisms of the commoners instead of blindly following the stream of corruption in China. He understood what went wrong. To choose to include this on a newspaper showed that he exercised his personal conscience.

2. "It must provide a forum for public criticism"

Wang explained that his piece of work was called "Wild Lilies" because wild lilies had a higher medical value than other lilies. He hoped to criticize the unhealthy phenomenon in the country so that people could find remedies for the country. His work aroused criticisms from others. From April to May 1942, passages criticizing "Wild Lilies" were posted on the newspapers. There were also criticisms to Wang's ideas of 'hierarchy system'. Therefore, Wang's work initiated and motivated people's criticisms. It provided a chance for others to discuss and criticize. Based on this, it fulfilled the element mentioned.

"Arrow and Target"

"Arrow and Target" (矢与的) was a wall poster newspaper series. The articles were posted outside the southern gate of Yan'an City.

How well did Wang do as a journalist (Arrow and Target)

Wang demonstrated one element of journalism in "Arrow and Target" too:

1. "Its first loyalty is to citizens."

Wang uses the spaces provided in the newspaper series to attack Luo Mai (羅邁)/Li Weihan (別名李维漢), the director of the Central research Institute. He told every citizen that injustices were present. This act certainly destroyed the image of the institute. Instead of defending the institute, which he was quite closely connected with, in his column, he alleged to tell the citizens things that they wanted to know, things that were beneficial to them. He is loyal to citizens more than the business owners and advertisers. Therefore, Wang's first loyalty was to citizens.

Wang as a writer

He began writing at the age of 19 when he was studying at the Beijing University. He used "Shiwei" (實味) as his pen name. His talent was greatly appreciated by Xu Zhimo (徐志摩), who was a modern Chinese poet. Xu always posted Wang's writings in the Features page when he was the editor-in-chief of that page of the Morning Post.

From 1930 onwards, he started to use some new pen names such as ShiWei (詩薇/石巍). His novella "Xiuxi"(Rest) (休息), which talked about how young people should fight against the darkness of a country, was published in Xu Zhimo's "New literary collection" in 1930. His work shows the framework of what an ideal society should be liked. Equality of opportunity was emphasized. The western idea of Marxism in his work gave people a new insight.

Contributions to literature

Wang's works helped citizens of Yunnan get a better understanding on different concepts, for example, the relationship between politics and literature.

After Wang's works were published, people began to notice that the education on the rules of the Party was not practical. There were lots of subjective Chinese literature focusing too much on the rules of the Party in the 1940s. Wang was the first writer in Yunnan who really tried reflecting the reality theoretically in literature. For example, in "Wild Lilies", the bureaucracy and hierarchy system of Yunnan were vividly described.

Apart from that, literature in that period emphasized on the skills of writing. There was little concern about the reality. Western literatures were very much appreciated. However, because of the successful and interesting reflection of reality in Wang's works, people started to appreciate Chinese literature. Many Chinese writers also began to write more about the reality, examining on the local arts and the Marxist ideas.

Wang's eagerness to voice out the inequalies and his critical mind attributed his success as one of the most representative writers in the period. He also stimulated other writers to think about what they should write about from that onwards.

Famous publications

Most of Wang’s literary works were published in the late 20th century. His style of writing was described as "having the energy and power to enrich the humanity" (有著蓬勃人性之熱與力).

His works reflected his sincerity and love towards his home country and native homeland. He felt sorry for the suppressed weak people in the society. He always hoped that he would change the society through revolution. That is why his works were full of criticism.


On 1 July 1947, he was chopped to pieces on the orders of Mao and the Social Section of the Communist Party in Shanxi-Suiyuan (晉綏) and his remains were thrown down a dry well [Robert Service (2007), Comrades, Communism: A World History, Pan P193] [P Short (2007), Mao, a life, Pan P383-9] . He died at the age of 41.



* 文藝民族形式問题上的錯誤舆新偏向, 1941
* 野百合花 ("Ye Baihehua") / ("Wild Lilies"), 1942, "People's Liberation Army Daily"
* 政治家·藝術家, 1942 ("Zhengzhijia, Yishujia") / ("Politicians, Artists"), Journal of Yan'an's Literacy Resistance Association, "Spring Rain (Gu Yu)", Vol. 1:4
* 零感两則, 1942, "Arrow and Target"
* 我對羅邁(別名李维漢)同志在整風檢工動員大會上發言的批評, 1942, "Arrow and Target"
* 答李宇超、梅洛兩同志, 1942, "Arrow and Target"


* 楊五奶奶, 1926 ("Yang Wu Nainai")
* 毀滅的精神, 1926 ("Huimie de Jingshen")
* 陳老四的故事, 1929 ("Chenlaoshi de Gushi")
* 小長兒與罐頭荔枝, 1929 ("Xiao Zhanger Yu Guantou Lizhi" )
* 休息, 1930 ("Xiuxi")/("Rest")
* 鬥爭日記, 1942 ("Douzheng Riji")

Translated works

Wang translated many works, including those of Karl Marx and Eugene O'Neill.

* The Heretic of Soana <<珊拿的邪教徒>> by Gerhart Hauptmann, 1930
* Sapho<<薩芙>> by Alphonse Daudet, 1933
* The Man of Property <<資產家>> by John Galsworthy, 1936
* Strange interlude <<奇異的插曲>> by O'Neill Eugene, 1936
* The Return of the Native <<還鄉記>> by Thomas Hardy, 1937
* Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany <<德國的革命與反革命>> by Friedrich Engels, 1937
* Value, Price and Profit <<价格、价值和利潤>> by Karl Marx, 1937
* The Water Babies <<水孩子>> by Charles Kingsley


*1906 March 12 - Born in Yunan, Henan (豫南, 河南).
*1914 - Entered Primary 3 at Huangchuan Second Higher Elementary schoo (潢川第二高等小學)
*1920 - Studied at Huangchuan Seventh Middle School (潢川第七中學)
*1923 - Admitted into Henan's Europe and America Preparatory School (河南省留學歐美預備學校) (Henan University predecessor), majored in English.
*1924 - Worked at the Henan Province Postal Service Administrative Bureau as a postal officer
*1925 - Admitted into Beijing University Literary Academy Preparatory course. Finished his short novel, "Xiuxi" (休息)
**January - Joined the Communist Party of China.
**February 27 - Wrote a short novel, "Yang wu nainai"(楊五奶奶) published in "Chenbao Fukan" (晨報副刊)
**July - Another publication, "Hui mie de jing shen"(毀滅的精神) in "The Modern Critics" (現代評論).
*1927 - Separated from the party organization because he was in love with a communist member, Li Fan (李芬). Then he went to places such as Nanjing (南京), Shandong Tai'an (山東泰安), worked as a copy clerk and teacher.
**January - Went to Shanghai, engaged in the translation of literary works. And he met his first wife, Liu ying (劉瑩). Wrote the novel "The Story of Chenlaosi" (陳老四的故事).
**February - Another novel of his "The Little Tall Boy and Canned Lychee" (小長兒與罐頭荔枝) was published in "The Crescent" (新月).
**January - Married Liuying.
**April - His novel, "Xiuxi" (休息) and his first translation work "The Heretic of Soana"(珊拿的邪教徒) were published in Xu Zhimo's (徐志摩) "New literary collection".
*1931 January - Daughter, Wang Chingfeng (王勁楓) was born.
*1933 - Translation work "Sapho" (薩芙) was published.
*1935 July - Son, Wang Hsufeng (王旭楓) was born. Returned to Henan Kaifeng (河南開封) and was an English teacher at Province Female Middle School (省立女子中學).
*1936 - Translation work "Strange interlude" (奇異的插曲) and "The Man of Property" (資產家) were published in "The World's Literary Collections" (世界文學全集)
*1937 - Rejoined the Communist Party of China. Translation work "The Return of the Native" (還鄉記) was published in "The World's Literary Collections".
*1938 October - Due to Changsha Siege(長沙淪陷), he lost contact with his wife who was in Xiang Xi (湘西)
*1939 - Married his second wife, Baoping (薄平)
*1941 August - Assigned as a special researcher at Central Research Institute (中央研究院)
**March - Published his work, "Ye bai he hua"(野百合花) in People's Liberation Army Daily (解放日報) and "Zheng zhi jia, Yi Shu jia" (政治家·藝術家).
**April - Mao criticized his work as anti-Communist. He was then asked to attend the Symposium about his "anti-Communist" work in "Yen'an" (延安).
**October - He was expelled from the communist party.
*1943 April 1 - Kang Sheng (康生) gave an order to arrest him. He was claimed as the "Counter-revolutionary anti-Communist spy"(反革命托派奸细分子), "Undercover agent of Kuomintang"(暗藏的國民黨特務) and "Five-people anti-party group"(五人反黨集團).
*1947 July 1 - Wang Shiwei was secretly executed. Died at the age of 41.

External links

#Publications of Wang Shiwei 王實味作品集 ( inactive as of 2008-05-07)
# [ Biography of Wang Shiwei (楚漢狂人王實味)]
# [ Biography of Wang Shiwei (說說王實味)]
# [ Wang Shiwei and the Strange interlude (王實味與<<奇異的插曲>>)]
# [ Wang Shiwei and Hu shi (王實味與胡適)]
# [ The sacrifice of the early Rectification Movement period (王實味:前文革時代的祭品)]
# [ Wild Lilies (野百合花)]

Further Reading

*Burgh, Hugo de (2003) The Chinese Journalist: Meditating information in the world's most populous country, London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-30573-X

*Dai, Qing (1989) Liang Shuming, Wang Shiwei, Chu Anping <<梁漱溟, 王實味, 儲安平>> Nanjing: Jiangsu wen yi chu ban she (江蘇文藝出版社). ISBN 7-5399-0136-5

*Dai, Qing (1941) Wang Shiwei and "Wild Lilies" / Wang Shi Wei yu "Yeh Pai Ho Hua" (王實味與野百合花). New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc. ISBN 1-56324-256-7

*Huang, Changyong (1998) Yan’an si guai <<廷安四怪>>Beijing: Zhongguo qing nian chu ban she (中國青年出版). ISBN 7-5006-2852-8

*Wang, Shiwei (1992) Ye bai he hua <<野百合花>> Guangzhou shi: Hua cheng chu ban she (花城出版社). ISBN 7-5360-1309-4

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