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Chen Youhua
Native name 陈佑华
Born (1930-11-20)November 20, 1930
Xinyang, Henan, China
Died January 15, 2019(2019-01-15) (aged 88)
Shanghai, China
Nationality Chinese
Education Henan Huangchuan High School
Occupation Novelist, playwright and poet
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Bai Hua
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Bai Hua (simplified Chinese: 白桦; traditional Chinese: 白樺; pinyin: Bái Huà; Xinyang 20 November 1930 – Shanghai15 January 2019) was a Chinese novelist, playwright and poet. He gained national fame for his plays based on uncompromising historical criticism.[1]


Bai Hua was born Chen Youhua (陈佑华) in Xinyang, Henan in 1930. His mother was illiterate but able to sing folk songs, which became a lifelong interest for her son.[2] His father, an anti-Japanese activist, was executed by the Japanese by burying him alive in 1938.[3] Chen Youhua had a twin brother, Ye Nan (1930–2003), who became a successful movie scriptwiter in the 1980s.[2]

Chen Youhia started publishing poems at the age of fifteen. In 1946, he adopted the name Bai Hua ("White Birch"), taking it from a Russian poem.[2] Many of his poems appeared in the Southern Henan Daily. Subsequently, he joined the People's Liberation Army in 1947 and the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. He worked for the Party as a writer specialized in Chinese ethnic minorities, and visited the areas where they lived. From 1952, he was employed by the People's Liberation Army as head of a creative writing group based in Kunming.,[3] and worked as secretary of Marshal He Long.[2]

In the mid-1950s, his support of disgraced art critic Hu Feng led him to be investigated and detained for eight months, during which he attented to commit suicide. Charges against him were dropped in 1956.[2]

He was labeled a "rightist" in 1957, and expelled from the Army and the Party in 1958. He had to work in a factory before being hired as a scriptwriter by Haiyian Film Studios in Shanghai and come back to the army in 1964. He was further marginalized during the Cultural Revolution. After 1976, he was able to publish dramas and novels that were mildly critical of the Cultural Revolution.[3]

He produced several influential dramas and films in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From 1985 to the mid 1990s he was a member of the zh (Shanghai Writers' Association). He was the first intellectual to be denounced again as "rightist" after the Cultural Revolution. He lived in retirement in Shanghai with his wife.[2] His most recent poetry, following a long silence, was published in 2009.

Bai died on 15 January 2019.[4]

Unrequited Love

Some of his plays were banned because they dealt with the political purges and murders in the Red Army that took place in the 1930s and offered a critical view of traditional patriotic values. Among these the most famous was the film script Unrequited Love (1979), which became a movie by director Peng Ning, The Sun and the People (苦戀, 1980) that was never shown to the public. In 1982, the script was used for the Taiwanese movie Portrait of a Fanatic. In his script, Bai depicted an overseas Chinese painter who returned to China in order to devote his life to his motherland but ended up suffering political persecution and death. The painter's daughter asked her father a highly sensitive question in the film: "You love your motherland, but does the motherland love you?"[1] The paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was annoyed by Peng Ning's film and personally organized the old guards to launch a political campaign against Bai in the national media for his violation of Deng's political dogma (specifically the leadership of the party). The criticism threatened to become another wave of political prosecution until the General Secretary of the party Hu Yaobang interfered on his behalf. The significance of this episode is that it effectively split the party into two camps. Bai was later allowed to visit Japan and Southeast Asia and delivered public speeches, but his works were generally suppressed. His late epic poem "From Qiu Jin to Lin Zhao" was never published.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Leung, Laifong (2011). "Bai Hua". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. EdwART. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Leung, Laifong (2016). "Bai Hua". Contemporary Chinese Fiction Writers: Biography, Bibliography, and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 17–21. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dillon, Michael (2011). "Bai Hua". China, a Historical and Cultural Dictionary. Curzon Press. p. 18. 
  4. "曝《苦恋》《曙光》剧作家白桦去世 享寿89岁" (in zh). 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019. 
  5. Richard Baum (1994). Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping - Updated Edition. Princeton University Press. pp. 127–129. ISBN 0-691-03639-X. 

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