【4/19/2021】CAPA-NoVA Distinguished Chinese American Project 

(Written by: Yuyan Zhou)

张爱玲(Eileen Chang)(1920 – 1995), was a Chinese-born American essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. She was born to a prominent family in Shanghai and one of her great-grandfathers was Li Hongzhang.

She went to a prestigious girls’ school in Shanghai, where she changed her name from Chang Ying to Chang Ai-ling to match her English name, Eileen. Afterwards, she attended the University of Hong Kong, but had to go back to Shanghai when Hong Kong fell to Japan during WWII. While in Shanghai, she was briefly married to Hu Lancheng, the notorious Japanese collaborator, but later got a divorce. After WWII ended, she returned to Hong Kong and later immigrated to the United States in 1955. She married a scriptwriter in 1956 and worked as a screenwriter herself for a Hong Kong film studio for a number of years, before her husband’s death in 1967. She moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1972 and became a hermit of sorts during her last years. She passed away alone in her apartment in 1995.

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Chang was a realist and modernist writer.Chang’s most important contribution was her construction of an alternative wartime narrative, one that deviated from the grand accounts of national salvation and revolution. Largely concerned with a society in transition, the backdrop of her stories was often a metropolitan setting of Hong Kong or Shanghai, which as the cities of all cities, they were semi colonized, where foreigners dwell together (租界地) with the local Shanghai people fringe concerns.

As the society in transition, the world and characters in her stories were also in lingo. While the old world was dying, the new world was unsure of its own birth, and people in her writings felt insecure about the future. The old age culture was in destruction, and sense of the greater destruction was still yet to come.  People were trapped in their own egoism, insecurity and schizophrenia, yet often accompanied by flickers of compassion and love, her writing capture her readers from feeling depressed.

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Her novellas, similar to Jane Austen’s work, written in a manner like a genre that abounds in female master heads.  She could simply describe the kind of wistful sorrow, but with a primitive passion that is related to her deep anxiety as a modern subject who caught between the West and Eastern tradition, the modern woman, yet was still very patriotic woman in a patriarchal society.

Some of her well known quotes:

于千百人中,遇到你所要遇到的人,于千百年中,在时间的无垠的荒野中,有两个人,没有早一步,也没有晚一步,就这样相逢了,也没有什么可说的,只有轻轻地道一声:哦,你也在这里吗?

Among thousands and hundreds of people, you met the person who you wanted to meet. Among thousands and hundreds years, in the endless wilderness of time, there were two people. None arrived neither one step earlier nor one step later, and then they met this way. However, they did not have much to say, just lightly uttered: oh, you are also here?

相关阅读:  丁懋英(Me-Iung Ting)

生命是一襲華美的袍,爬滿了蚤子。

Life is a beautiful gown that is crawled all over by fleas.

这世上没有一样感情不是千疮百孔的。

In this world, there is not a kind of feeling that is not riddled with gaping wounds.

因为爱过,所以慈悲;因为懂得,所以宽容。

For we loved before, we know to be compassionate; for we understood, we know how to be tolerant.

For more references:

Eileen Chang at 100:A Celebration of the Chinese American Writer’s Extraordinary Life, Work, and Legacy

https://asiasociety.org/new-york/events/eileen-chang-100

Eileen Chang

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eileen_Chang

A Lifelong Romance: Reflections on Eileen Chang’s life, work, and legacy

A Lifelong Romance: Reflections on Eileen Chang’s life, work, and legacy

【Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us! 】

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