Chang, Eileen (Zhang, Ailing) (1920–2005) By Shen, Shuang
Eileen Chang was one of the most unique and distinguished voices in early twentieth century China. Focusing mostly on intricate family and romantic relations in the colonial and urban settings, her early works bridge the divide between tradition and modernity by infusing the Chinese vernacular fiction tradition with modern sensibilities. Her bilingual writings in English and Chinese present a fascinating case study for cross-cultural translation in the context of immigration and Chinese diaspora.
Eileen Chang grew up in a distinguished family of prominent politicians and military leaders during the last dynasty of imperial China. Many myths and memories about her famous ancestors would find their way into Chang’s essays, short stories, and novels. But the part of the family history that most affected Chang was the discord between her parents due to the divergent paths they had chosen between tradition and modernity. Her mother, a prototypical New Woman, left China when Eileen was two years old, and sojourned in Europe for a number of years.