Renowned Chinese Women Writers: Different Choices, Different Fates
(Minghui.org) Eileen Chang (also known as Zhang Ailing, 1920 – 1995) was one of the most famous Chinese-born American writers. But her wisdom was well beyond writing.
Like Chang, several other women were also known for their writing talent in the 1940s, including Su Qing (1914 – 1982) and Guan Lu (1907 – 1982). Unlike Chang, neither Su nor Guan produced major writings after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949. Furthermore, both suffered tremendously for decades before their miserable death.
What caused their paths to be so different?
Clarity on the Red Terror
Chang was born in a prestigious family. Her grandfather was Zhang Peilun, a senior naval commander in the Qing Dynasty, and her grandmother was Li Ju’ou, eldest daughter of Li Hongzhang, one of the most powerful officials in the Qing Dynasty.
Educated bilingually in Shanghai, Chang became famous in China in the 1940s. In the meantime, she was wary of the emerging communism in intellectuals. When describing the May Fourth Movement, an incident in 1919 that triggered the birth of the CCP, Chang said it “changed everyone’s voice to its voice.”
Due to her affection for the land and its people, Chang did not leave China immediately after the CCP took power in 1949. As requested by CCP officials, she wrote two novels in 1950 that fit the Party’s narratives. Nonetheless, she declared in her books, “Politics determines everything. Even if you run away, politics will find you.”
Also in that year, Chang was arranged to participate in two months of the Land Reform movement. That experience turned out to be painful. She found herself unable to keep writing “heroic” stories for the CCP. “Those ‘monumental’ types of writing are not my style. And I don’t want to try,” she wrote.
Unable to to tolerate the CCP’s self-criticism sessions and “thought transformation,” she fled to Hong Kong in July 1952 at age 32.
While in Hong Kong, Chang wrote two novels, The Rice Sprout Song: a Novel of Modern China and Naked Earth. Both were published after she moved to the U.S., and they are still banned in China today.
In these two novels, Chang describes the brutal Land Reform, Three-Anti Campaign, and Korean War. The stories depicted how the CCP tortured people and controlled their minds. They also revealed the totalitarian regime’s destruction of mankind. “We are living in a hasty era–the damage has started and more is coming,” she wrote.
Later on, Chang’s works became even more famous in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and many other regions. The CCP invited her for a visit, but she declined.
Communism: A Toxic Regimen for “Happiness”
Chang’s best friend, Su Qing, had a quite different story. Unlike Chang, who longed for a traditional life, Su was heavily influenced by communist ideas. She downplayed marriage and promoted cohabitation. But this pill of pursuing happiness turned out to be a seed for endless bitterness and pain.
With that thought of sexual freedom, Su divorced her husband and had extramarital relationships with several men. She documented these affairs in her semi-autobiography, first Ten Years of Marriage published in 1943 and then Continuation of Ten Years of Marriage published in 1947. Although these books became best-sellers at the time, her advocacy for sexual freedom and explicit description of psychology on sexual relations nonetheless stunned intellectuals and society in general.
Because of that, Su broke off her friendship with Chang and pushed many people away from traditional values of family and marriage. Moreover, the books became a target in major political campaigns. She was jailed in 1955 and again attacked in the Cultural Revolution. These experiences also affected her children, leaving them poorly educated and discriminated against. In her final years, Su could not afford her medical bills. “I just want to die sooner,” she once told her friend. Her son, a street vendor, returned home in December 1982 and found that she had died.
Jailed for 11 Years
If Su was a victim of communist ideology, Guan Lu can be considered a piece of cannon fodder of the CCP’s ruthless political system.
Guan first studied philosophy at Nation Central University and then switched to language studies. At the time, she was already famous for writing. In early 1932, she joined the CCP. In 1937, top CCP leaders instructed her to contact Pan Hannian, a key CCP intelligence officer. Pan told Guan to work as a spy together with underground CCP member Li Shiqun.
“If someone says you are a traitor [of the CCP], you cannot defend yourself. Otherwise, it will not work,” Pan said. Guan agreed and played as a traitor.
Several years later, the CCP sent another spy to work with Li and turned down Guan’s request to end her spying activities. Instead, Guan was instructed to work with invading Japanese officials and intellectuals for intelligence. Once again, Guan unconditionally obeyed the order and sacrificed her reputation. She worked as an editor for a Japanese magazine as a celebrity traitor. Guan repeatedly asked to reveal her identify as an underground CCP member, but her requests were always denied.
After the invading Japanese surrendered in 1945, the situation did not improve. Many people condemned her as a traitor, and the CCP did not provide clarification. Furthermore, top CCP leaders told her boyfriend Wang Bingnan to end his relationship with Guan because of her reputation. After receiving a breakup letter from Wang in 1946, the then-39-year-old Guan had her heart broken.
In 1955, Guan was jailed to explain her history as a Chinese traitor. She wasn’t released until three years later. In 1967, she was jailed again. This time she was imprisoned for eight years. It was not until March 1980 that top CCP leadership redressed her reputation. Guan finished her memoir several months later and committed suicide in December.
A Daughter Who Betrayed Her Father
The CCP emphasizes dang xing (Party characteristics). When personal values or interests conflict with the Party’s interests, one should yield to the Party unconditionally. This occurred to nearly all CCP members including Guan. Another example is Fu Dongju (1924 – 2007), who betrayed her father, senior Kuomintang (KMT) military leader Fu Zuoyi.
In summer 1946, Fu Dongju graduated from college and began to work as an editor in Tianjin. She transferred a large amount KMT military intelligence to the CCP without her father’s knowledge. She also joined the CCP the following year.
In fall 1948, CCP leaders instructed Fu, then 24, to join her father in Beijing as an undercover agent. This was because the CCP would attack the city soon and Fu’s father was in charge of the defense. Fu followed the order and stayed next to her father as a spy in the name of looking after him.
Fu obtained the KMT’s top secrets by taking pictures of confidential files locked in a safe. The safe was in her father’s bedroom and Fu knew the password, but her father kept the key with him at all times. Fu used chocolate to trick her five-year-old brother for the key. Her younger brother asked for a hug from their father and begged him to tell him a story. After getting the key, Fu went to the safe and took pictures of the files when her father was having meetings. The key would then be returned by her brother to their father. CCP officials later said the intelligence obtained this way was the most valuable information at the time.
Fu’s father did not like the CCP, and he debated whether to negotiatiate with the CCP. In the final days, out of frustration, sometimes he slapped himself in the face and even hit his head against the wall. Fu frequently reported her father’s words and actions to Cui Yueli, another undercover CCP spy. Cui then sent the information to top CCP leaders through telegraphs. This intelligence allowed the CCP to maintain a strategic advantage.
It was not until the last minute that her father learned of Fu’s betrayal. He called her “disloyal, unrighteous, a despicable servant.”
Like Guan, Fu’s devotion to the CCP ended only in misery. During the Cultural Revolution, she was targeted as an anti-CCP class enemy. When she visited her father, who could hardly protect himself, Fu was told, “You do not need to come anymore.” Her father died in April 1974.
Fu also had a difficult life in her later years. Her small stipend was not enough to cover her medical expenses. During the CCP’s housing reform, existing owners could pay a small amount of money to become real owners. But she could not even afford that. Her father had turned in many private properties in the past, but CCP officials simply ignored that period of history.
In her final years, Fu said she gradually came to understand her father’s thoughts about the CCP, but it was too late. She died in 2007.
The tragedy was not limited to the father and daughter. Fu Zuoyi’s brother, Fu Zuogong, was a Ph.D. student at Columbia University. Following his brother’s advice, Fu Zuogong returned to China and was targeted as a rightist. He died of hunger in Jiabiangou in 1960, the peak of China’s Great Famine.
In traditional Chinese culture, people strove to live in harmony with heaven and earth. By embracing the merits of mutual honesty, loyalty, and respect, they were blessed for thousands of years.
There were also many well-known women in Chinese history such as Mulan and Mu Guiying. Their stories inspired Chinese people, men and women alike, to help other people and serve the greater society. But when the CCP came with its ideology of class struggle, hatred, and lies, everything changed.
Wei Junyi, Chinese editor and short-story writer, once told her daughter in regret, “When I joined the CCP, I was ready to devote myself to the Party. But I did not know I had to sacrifice my conscience.”
How many people will learn from the lessons of Chang, Su, Guan, and Fu? Only time will tell.