Eileen Chang: Biography

Eileen Chang

30 sep 1920

Eileen Chang was originally from Shanghai, China but she has also lived in Tianjin, Hong Kong and U.S during various periods in her life. Eileen belonged to a prominent family. Her paternal grandmother was the daughter of a high ranking official in China’s last dynasty (the Qing), Li Hongzhang, the 19th century statesman. Eileen had the honour to study English at a private high school, which was a dream for many Chinese girls of her time.

Born as Zhang Ying, she changed her name to Zhang Ailing to rhyme with her English name Eileen. Eileen attended University of Hong Kong for graduation but unfortunately she returned to Shanghai without completing her degree due to the Japan invasion of Hong Kong during World War II.

After her first marriage with Hu Lancheng failed, she moved to U.S and married a scriptwriter in 1956. Eileen started to write many scripts for films. She also worked as a screenwriter for a Hong Kong film studio for a long time. Before coming to U.S, Eileen wrote many film scripts in Hong Kong.

Eileen’s short-story collection, ‘Chuangi (1944: The Legend) and her prose anthology, ‘Liuyan (1944: The Gossip) sold in high numbers and brought huge success. Not only the short stories but also the traditional Chinese novels written by Eileen such as Hongloumeng (Dream of the Red Chamber) and Hai Shang hua lie Zhuan (A Biography of Flower from the Sea) became very popular. One of her novels, ‘Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) was filmed by director Ang Lee in 2007.

Slowly Eileen Chang became a well-known name in China during 1980s. Eileen, who was born in China and established her writing skills wherever she went, passed away on 8 Sep, 1995 all alone in her apartment. Although Eileen has left this world, she still lives immortal through her books.