Baren was born Wang Renshu (Chinese: 王任叔; pinyin: Wáng Rènshū) to a needy family in Fenghua, Zhejiang. He went to elementary school when he was 8, and entered the Fourth Normal School of Zhejiang in 1915. After graduating from normal school in 1920, he became a grade school teacher. In 1923 he started to write short stories and poems, and joined the Literature Research Society. One year later, Baren became a member of the Communist Party of China. In 1930, he joined the League of the Left-Wing Writers. When the anti-Japanese War broke out, Baren stayed in Shanghai to publicize anti-war culture at first. In 1941, he went to Indonesia, pursuing the anti-war movement. He returned to China in 1948.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, he served as Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia and the director of the People's Literature Publishing House. Baren was persecuted to death during the Cultural Revolution.
Baren preferred fiction writing. He created collections of short stories Jail, Shack, In the Decline, Martyrdom, novellas Vagrant Life of Ah Quei, Badge, the novel Rebellion of Mang Xiucai and so on. His work on literary theory On Literature was heavily influenced by the ideals of U.S.S.R. critics.