Ding Ling was born into a formerly wealthy gentry family in Hunan province. Her father's health was poor, and he passed away when Ding was three. Ding Ling's mother, who raised her children alone while becoming a well-known educator, was Ding's role model, and she would later write an unfinished novel, titled Mother, which described her mother's experiences. Following her mother's example, Ding Ling became an activist at an early age. Ding Ling early repudiated traditional Chinese family practices by refusing to marry her cousin who had been chosen to become her husband. She rejected the commonly accepted view that parents as the source of the child's body are its owners, and she ardently asserted that she owned and controlled her own body. She joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1932, a year after her husband, Hu Yepin, an impoverished worker, poet and Communist activist, had been executed in jail by the Kuomintang. By then, Ding Ling had become well known as the author of Miss Sophie's Diary (莎菲女士的日記, Shāfēi Nüshì de Rìjì), published in 1927, in which a young woman describes her unhappiness with her life and confused romantic and sexual feelings, therefore shocking a multitude of the Chinese audience which preponderantly held semifeudal attitudes.
Deeply committed to the Communist revolutionary cause, she was placed under house arrest in Shanghai by the Kuomintang for a three year period from 1933-1936. Ironically, long after the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist government she suffered even harsher treatment throughout her literary career because of the shifting Communist Party politics and power struggles. Always a political activist, in 1957 she was denounced as a "Rightist" and her fiction and essays were banned. She spent five years in jail during the "Cultural Revolution" and was sentenced to do manual labor on a farm for twelve years before being "rehabilitated" in 1978. In her introduction to Miss Sophie's Diary And Other Stories, Ding Ling explains her indebtedness to the writers of other cultures:
A few years before her death, she was allowed to travel to the United States where she was a guest at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. In spite of the years she spent as a farm laborer and those in solitary confinement, she authored more than three-hundred works. After her "rehabilitation" many of her previously banned books such as her novel The Sun Shines Over The Sangan River were republished and translated into numerous languages. Some of her short works, spanning a fifty year period, are collected in I Myself Am A Woman: Selected Writings Of Ding Ling.
A Mentor Book, March 1992
Embracing the Lie: Ding Ling and the Politics of Literature in the People's Republic of China.(Brief Article)(Book Review)
Sep 22, 2005; Ling, Ding Embracing the Lie: Ding Ling and the Politics of Literature in the People's Republic of China. Charles J. Alber....