This courtyard was the former home of Mao Dun and houses the writer's former living quarters as well as a museum with exhibitions of his manuscripts.
Born plain old Shen Dehong in Zhejiang, Mao studied in Hangzhou and published his first work before taking a place at Peking University studying Chinese and Western literature. He couldn’t afford to finish his degree, dropping out to take jobs on a variety of cultural periodicals. Penning the Chinese classics Hong (1930) and Midnight (1933), Shen adopted the pen name Mao Dun, meaning ‘contradiction’, as a reference to the contradictary revolutionary ideology in 1920s China, though his friend Ye Shengtou later made him change the first character so it read ‘thatch’ to protect him from political persecution.
A believer in the Communist cause from the start, he was involved throughout their ascent to power and served as the minister of culture until 1964 when he ended up on the wrong end of a persecution during the Cultural Revolution. He was rehabilitated during the ’70s and went on to edit a children’s magazine.
He died in 1981 before he could finish his memoirs, but leaves a legacy in the Mao Dun Literature Prize, which is awarded to outstanding novelists. His old house was made a key state-preserved relic in 1994.