Eileen Chang, or Zhang Ailing, (Sept. 30, 1920 – Sept. 8, 1995) is a famous Chinese writer. She also used the pseudonym Liang Jing. Chang first made her literary name known in the 1940s “island” Shanghai , when it was occupied by invading Japanese forces. Her work is known for its unique feminine elegance and classic beauty. Her amazing grasp of people’s psychology and her particular attitude towards life were seldom seen at the time. Her works frequently deal with the tensions in love between men and women.
Born in Shanghai to a renowned family, Eileen Chang’s paternal grandfather Zhang Peilun was son-in-law to Li Hongzhang, an influential Qing court official. Chang was named Zhang Ying 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 Britain after her father took a concubine and became an opium addict. Although she returned four years later, following her father’s promise to quit the drug and split with the concubine, a divorce could not be averted. Chang’s unhappy childhood in a broken family probably gave her later works their pessimistic overtone.
The family moved back to Shanghai in 1928. Two years later, Chang 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.
During her secondary education, Chang was already deemed a literary genius, and her writings were published in the school magazine. In 1939, she was accepted into the University of Hong Kong to study literature. She also received a scholarship to study in the University of London, though the opportunity had to be given up when Hong Kong fell to the Japanese in 1941.
Chang then returned to Shanghai. She fed herself with what she did best — writing. It was during this period when some of her most acclaimed works, including Qing Cheng Zhi Lian and Jin Suo Ji , were penned.
Chang met her first husband Hu Lancheng in 1943 and married in the following year. She loved him dearly, despite the fact that he was already married as well as having been labeled a traitor to the Japanese. When Japan was defeated in 1945, Hu escaped to Wenzhou, where he fell in love with yet another woman. When Chang traced him to his refuge, she realized she could not salvage their marriage. They finally divorced in 1947.
In 1952, Chang migrated 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 the mainland again.
In New York, Chang met her second husband, the American scriptwriter Ferdinand Reyer, whom she married in August 1956. Reyer was paralyzed after he suffered from strokes in 1961, while Chang was on a trip to Taiwan , and he eventually died in 1967. After Lai’s death, Chang held short-term jobs at Radcliffe College and UC Berkeley.
Chang relocated to Los Angeles in 1973. Two years later, she completed an English translation of The Biography of Hai Shang Hua (Hai Shang Hua Lie Zhuan ), a celebrated Qing novel written in the Wu dialect.
Chang was discovered dead in her apartment on Sept. 8, 1995. According to a will, she was to be cremated without a funeral. Her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Chang’s main works :
Tao Hua Yun (The Wayward Husband )
Liu Yue Xin Niang (The June Bride )
Xiao Er Nu (Father takes a Bride )
Yi Qu Nan Wang
Qing Cheng Zhi Lian (Love in a Fallen City )
Hong Meigui Yu Bai Meigui (The Red Rose and the White Rose )
Ban Sheng Yuan (Yuan of Half a Life, also known as Eighteen Springs )
Jin Suo Ji (Record of a Golden Lock )