Ding Ling: The Politics of Love

On the birthday of the 20th-century feminist writer Ding Ling, TWOC celebrates her unapologetic life and unconventional views on love

“Yesterday an intellectual lady/ today a military general (昨天文小姐/ 今日武将军),” wrote Chairman Mao in a poem welcoming the wartime writer Ding Ling (丁玲) to the Red Army base area at Yan’an in 1936.

The first well-known litterateur of her era to join the Communist revolution, Ding Ling is regarded today as the forerunner of Chinese feminist literature for her 1928 masterpiece Miss Sophie’s Diary (《莎菲女士的日记》), a seminal work on the psychology, sexuality, and interior lives of Chinese women.

Due in part to her politics, however, Ding’s social activism and unapologetically adventurous personal life have been rather sidelined, particularly compared to those of contemporaries like Xiao Hong (萧红) and Eileen Chang (张爱玲)—though author Xu Zidong (许子东) once wrote that Ding’s life was better than any biopic.

Want to continue reading?

Log in or register now to read the full story


author Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Tan Yunfei is the editorial director of The World of Chinese. She reports on Chinese language, food, traditions, and society. Having grown up in a rural community and mainly lived in the cities since college, she tries to explore and better understand China's evolving rural and urban life with all readers.

author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

Related Articles