Eileen Chang

From New World Encyclopedia

Eileen Chang
Born September 30 1920(1920-09-30)
Shanghai, China
Died September 8 1995 (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Pen name Liang Jing
Occupation novelist, essayist, screenwriter
Writing period 1932-1995
Genres Literary fiction
Spouse(s) Hu Lancheng (1944-1947)
Ferdinand Reyer (1956-1967)
Influences Cao Xueqin
Influenced Yuan Qiongqiong

Eileen Chang (Traditional Chinese: 張愛玲; Simplified Chinese: 张爱玲; pinyin: zhāng ài líng) (September 30, 1920–September 8, 1995) was a Chinese writer. She also used the pseudonym Liang Jing (梁京), though very rarely. Her works frequently deal with the tensions between men and women in love, and are considered by some scholars to be among the best Chinese literature of the period. Chang's work describing life in 1940s Shanghai and occupied Hong Kong is remarkable in its focus on everyday life and the absence of the political subtext which characterized many other writers of the period. Yuan Qiongqiong was one of authors in Taiwan that styled her literature exposing feminism after Eileen Chang's.

Upon the formation of the People's Republic of China, her works were "forbidden" in mainland China. Her works were considered to represent bourgeois life and culture and some of her writings had criticism against Mao's "Three-anti/five-anti campaigns." While her works were banned in mainland China, they became popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Deng Xiaoping's Economic Reform in 1978 allowed banned works including Chang's to circulate and she soon became one of the most popular writers. Chang wrote movie scripts, prose, literary theory as well as novels, and a number of her works became films and television dramas. Taiwanese director Ang Lee won his second Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival with the film, Lust, Caution which was based upon Chang's novel with the same title.


Early life

Born in Shanghai on September 30, 1920 to a renowned family, Eileen Chang's paternal grandfather Zhang Peilun was a son-in-law to Li Hongzhang, an influential Qing court official. Chang was named Zhang Ying (张瑛) at birth. Her family moved to Tianjin in 1922, where she started school at the age of four.

When Chang was five, her birth mother left for the United Kingdom after her father took in a concubine and later became addicted to opium. Although Chang's mother did return four years later following her husband's promise to quit the drug and split with the concubine, a divorce could not be averted. Chang's unhappy childhood in the broken family was what likely gave her later works their pessimistic overtone.

The family moved back to Shanghai in 1928, and two years later, her parents divorced, and she was renamed Eileen (her Chinese first name, Ailing, was actually a transliteration of Eileen) in preparation for her entry into the Saint Maria Girls' School. By now, Chang had started to read Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. In 1932, she wrote her debut short novel.

Even in secondary school, Chang already displayed great talent in literature. Her writings were published in the school magazine. After a fight with her stepmother and her father, she ran away from home to stay with her mother in 1938. In 1939, Chang received a scholarship to study in the University of London, though the opportunity had to be given up due to the ongoing war in China. She then went on to study literature at University of Hong Kong where she meets her life-long friend Fatima Mohideen (炎樱). Just one semester short of earning her degree, Hong Kong fell to the Empire of Japan on December 25, 1941. The Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong would last until 1945.

Chang had left occupied Hong Kong for her native Shanghai. Her original plan was to finish her degree at Saint John's University, Shanghai, but it lasted for only two months. Lack of funds did not allow her to continue her studies. She refused to get a teaching job or to be an editor, but was determined to do what she was best at—writing. In the spring of 1943, Chang made a fateful trip to meet the editor Shoujuan Zhou (周瘦鹃) to give him her writings—the rest was history, as Chang then became the hottest writer in Shanghai in 1943-1944. It was during this period when her most acclaimed works, including Qing Cheng Zhi Lian (倾城之恋) and Jin Suo Ji (金锁记), were penned. Her literary maturity was beyond her age.

First marriage

Chang met her first husband Hu Lancheng (胡兰成) in the winter of 1943 and married him in the following year in a secret ceremony. Fatima Mohideen was the witness. Chang loved him dearly despite the fact that Hu Lancheng was still married to his third wife, as well as being labeled a traitor for collaborating with the Japanese.

After the marriage, Hu Lancheng went to Wuhan to work for a newspaper. When he stayed at a hospital in Wuhan, he seduced a 17-year-old nurse, Zhou Xunde (周训德), who soon moved in with him. When Japan was defeated in 1945, Hu used a fake name and hid in Wenzhou, where he fell in love with yet another countryside woman, Fan Xiumei (范秀美). When Chang traced him to his refuge, she realized she could not salvage the marriage. They finally divorced in 1947.

Life in the United States

In the spring of 1952, Chang migrated back to Hong Kong, where she worked as a translator for the American News Agency for three years. She then left for the United States in the fall of 1955, never to return to Mainland China again.

Second marriage

In MacDowell Colony, Chang met her second husband, the American scriptwriter Ferdinand Reyher, whom she married on August 14, 1956. While they were briefly apart (Chang in New York City, Reyher in Saratoga, New York), Chang wrote that she was pregnant with Reyher's child. Reyher wrote back to propose. Chang did not receive the letter, but she called the next day telling Reyher she was coming over to Saratoga, New York. Reyher got a chance to propose to her in person, but insisted that he did not want the child.

After their marriage, they stayed in New York City until October 1956 before moving back to MacDowell Colony. Chang became a United States citizen in July 1960, then went to Taiwan to look for more opportunities (October 1961 - March 1962). Reyher had been hit by strokes from time to time, and eventually became paralyzed. Reyher died on October 8, 1967. After Reyher's death, Chang held short-term jobs at Radcliffe College (1967) and UC Berkeley (1969-1972).

Translation work

Chang relocated to Los Angeles in 1972. Three years later, she completed the English translation of The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai (海上花列傳, literally Biographies of Shanghai Flowers, or Courtesans), a celebrated Qing novel in the Wu dialect by Han Bangqing (韓邦慶), (1856-1894). The translated English version was found after her death, among her papers in the University of Southern California, and published. Chang became increasingly reclusive in her later years.


Chang was found dead in her apartment on Rochester Avenue in Westwood, California on September 8, 1995 by her landlord. The fact that she was only found a few days after her death is a testament to her seclusion. Her death certificate states the immediate cause of her death to be Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD). She was survived by her brother Zhang Zijing (张子静) (December 11, 1921 - October 12, 1997). Neither Chang nor her brother had any children. Chang's life-long friend Fatima Mohideen died a few month earlier, in June 1995 in New York. According to her will, she was cremated without any open funeral and her ashes were released to the Pacific Ocean.

She asked in her will to give all of her possessions to Stephen Soong (who died December 3, 1996) and his wife Mae Fong Soong in Hong Kong, but copyright was not mentioned in the will. [1]

Select works

Eighteen Spring

Eighteen Spring (Aka Half Life Fate ) (Traditional Chinese: 半生緣; pinyin: Ban Sheng Yuan) is a love tragedy. In 2002, this production led as the first re-adapted Zhang Ailing novel to be brought onscreen. The set takes place in 1930s tumultuous Shanghai, portraying 14 years of the Gu Manzhen’s poignant life from merriment to abysmal forlornness. With the cooperation of Ruby Lin, Patrick Tam, Jiang Qinqin, and Li Liqun, this drama became an influential phenomena, breaking the record of having the most channels broadcasted in China simultaneously during the summer of 2004.

Plot summary

A college graduate with a friendly and strong character, Manzhen finds true love with one of her colleagues, Shen Shijun (Patrick Tam). Meanwhile, Manlu, the oldest of four children and Manzhen's sister, supports the entire family. At the age of 17, Manlu sacrificed her pride and reputation to become a "wu nu." This work paid well for Manlu's family, but others found her work disgraceful and looked down on Manlu. Even her own grandmother did not like Manlu's job. Originally, before she took up her work as a "wu nu," Manlu was to marry a respected doctor named Yu Jing.

At the nightclub where she works, Manlu meets a man named Zhu Hongcai, who seems to be a pretty nice man. While his financial situation is not stable, he is kind towards Manlu and helps her through her problems. Initially, Manlu likes Hongcai, but is not completely interested in him. After Hongcai is shot in an effort to help Manlu, and the two decide to marry.

Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution (Chinese: 色,戒; pinyin: Sè, Jiè), a novel, was first published in 1979. It is set in Shanghai during World War II. Reportedly, the short story "took Chang more than two decades to complete."[2] Lust, Caution was not published in English until 2007.

Plot summary

In China, during the Japanese occupation in WWII, young woman Mak is a member of a resistance group who plot to kill a Japanese collaborator, Yee. Mak starts a love affair with Yee for this purpose. However, she really falls in love with him, and just before her comrades try to kill him she warns him. He escapes and has the whole group executed, including Mak.


Eileen Chang is one of the most popular women writers in China today. While she established her fame in Shanghai around from 1943 to 1945 under Japanese occupation, her works were "forbidden" after the formation of the People's Republic of China. Her novels were considered to represent "bourgeois" life as well as hostile to communist ideology. Some of her writings had criticism against "Three-anti/five-anti campaigns" led by Mao Zedong. Her first husband, Hu Lancheng, was labeled a traitor for collaborating with the Japanese during war time.

Chang moved into Hong Kong and moved to the United States in 1955 and never returned to China.

While Chang's works were "forbidden" in mainland China, she became popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong, particularly since the late 1950s. Upon Deng Xiaoping's Economic Reform (simplified Chinese: 改革开放; traditional Chinese: 改革開放; pinyin: Găigé kāifàng) in 1978, her works became "free" for publication. Her works soon became bestsellers and she became of one of the most popular women writers in China as well as Taiwan.

Most of the themes of her novels are marriage, family, and love relationships in the social contexts of Shanghai in 1930s and 1940s. She depicted paradoxical human natures, powerlessness, and sorrowful truth in human life in flowing and elegant style. Many readers enjoy the beauty of her writing itself.

Chang also wrote a number of proses, movie scripts, and literary theory. Those works influenced post-war literary circles particularly in Taiwan. A number of films, television dramas, and theatrical plays were produced based upon her works. Taiwanese director Ang Lee, an Academy Award winner, won his second Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival with the film, Lust, Caution based upon Chang's short story of the same title.


Main works

  • 《秧歌》 (The Rice Sprout Song)
  • 《赤地之戀》
  • 《流言》 (Written on Water)
  • 《怨女》 (The Rouge of the North)
  • 《傾城之戀-張愛玲短篇小說集之一》
  • 《第一爐香-張愛玲短篇小說集之二》
  • 《半生緣》(Eighteen Springs)
  • 《張看》
  • 《紅樓夢魘》
  • 《海上花開-國語海上花列傳一》
  • 《海上花落-國語海上花列傳二》
  • 《惘然記》
    • 惘然記
    • 色,戒 (Lust, Caution)
    • 浮花浪蕊
    • 相見歡
    • 多少恨
    • 殷寶艷送花樓會
    • 情場如戰場
  • 《續集》
  • 《餘韻》
  • 《對照記》
  • 《愛默森選集》 (The Selection of Emerson)
  • 《同學少年都不賤》
  • 《沉香》
  • 《封锁》


Chang wrote several film scripts. Some of her works have been filmed and shown on the silver screen as well.

  • Bu Liao Qing (1947) (不了情, modified from novel 多少恨, published as movie script)
  • Tai Tai Wan Sui (1947) (太太万岁)
  • Ai Le Zhong Nian (1949) (哀乐中年)
  • Jin Suo Ji (1950) (金锁记, The Golden Cangue)
  • Qing Chang Ru Zhan Chang (1957) (情场如战场, The Battle Of Love, script written in 1956)
  • Ren Cai Liang De (unknown) (人财两得, script written in 1956)
  • Tao hua yun (1959) (桃花运, The Wayward Husband, script written in 1956)
  • Liu yue xin niang (1960) (六月新娘, The June Bride)
  • Wen Rou Xiang (1960) (温柔乡)
  • Nan Bei Yi Jia Qin (1962) (南北一家亲)
  • Xiao er nu (1963) (小儿女, Father takes a Bride)
  • Nan Bei Xi Xiang Feng (1964) (南北喜相逢)
  • Yi qu nan wang (1964) (一曲难忘, a.k.a. 魂归离恨天)
  • Qing Cheng Zhi Lian (1984) (倾城之恋, Love in a Fallen City)
  • Yuan Nu (1988) (怨女)
  • Gun Gun Hong Chen (1990) (滚滚红尘, Red Dust)
  • Hong Meigui Yu Bai Meigui (1994) (红玫瑰与白玫瑰, The Red Rose and the White Rose)
  • Ban Sheng Yuan (1997) (半生缘, Half Life of Fate, also known as Eighteen Springs)
  • Hai Shang Hua (1998, 海上花, Flowers of Shanghai)
  • Lust, Caution (2007) (色,戒)

See also

  • Chinese literature


  1. 10 October 2007, ""Why pirated Eileen Chang books are everywhere?"", "Southern Metropolis Daily(in Chinese)"  Retrieved December 28, 2008.
  2. Robert Wilonsky, The Spy Who Shagged Yee, OC Weekly (Orange County, California). October 11, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

Works in English translation

  • Chang, Eileen, and Tam Pak Shan. 1996. "Special Issue Eileen Chang." Renditions, 45.
  • Chang, Eileen. The Dana Home of Lexington: A Historic Rest Home Founded on Community. 2000.
  • Chang, Eileen. The Rice-Sprout Song. New York: Scribner, 1955.
  • Chang, Eileen. The Rouge of the North. London: Cassell, 1967.
  • Zhang, Ailing, and Andrew F. Jones. Written on Water. Weatherhead books on Asia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0231131391
  • Zhang, Ailing, and Eva Hung. Traces of Love and Other Stories. Renditions paperbacks. Hong Kong: Research Centre for Translation, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2000. ISBN 978-9627255222
  • Zhang, Ailing, and Karen Kingsbury. Love in a Fallen City. New York Review Books classics. New York: New York Review Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1590171783
  • Zhang, Ailing, Julia Lovell, Ang Lee, and James Schamus. Lust, Caution: The Story. New York: Anchor Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0307387448
  • Zhang, Ailing, James Schamus, and Huiling Wang. Lust, Caution: The Story, the Screenplay, and the Making of the Film. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0375425240
  • Zhang, Ailing, Michelle M. Miller, Ailing Zhang, and Ailing Zhang. Love in a fallen city: two short stories by Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang). The translator's thesis (A.B., East Asian Studies)—Harvard University, 1985.
  • Zhang, Ailing. Love in a fallen city and other stories. Modern classics. London: Penguin, 2007. ISBN 978-0141189369
  • Zhang, Ailing. Naked Earth. Hong Kong: Union Press, 1956.
  • Zhang, Ailing. The Rice Sprout Song: A Novel of Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0520210882
  • Zhang, Ailing. The Rice Sprout Song: A Novel of Modern China. Hong Kong: Dragonfly Books, 1963.
  • Zhang, Ailing. The Rouge of the North. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0520210875

Secondary sources

  • Chow, Rey. Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory Reimagining a Field. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0822380160
  • Hsia, Chih-tsing. A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971. ISBN 978-0300014617
  • Hsia, Chih-tsing. Twentieth-Century Chinese Stories. Companions to Asian studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971. ISBN 978-0231035903
  • Hung, Eva. Eileen Chang. [Hong Kong]: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1996.
  • Lee, Leo Ou-fan. Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930-1945. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0674805514
  • Trudeau, Lawrence J. Asian American Literature: Reviews and Criticism of Works by American Writers of Asian Descent. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999. ISBN 978-0787602963

External links

All links retrieved February 12, 2024.


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