Self-portrait of a woman writer
I am a Chinese writer, and for the first sixty years of my life I lived, worked and wrote in the wake of the Chinese people, by whose difficulties I have been guided and inspired. In this way I came to know the world and its contradictions, but at the cost of many trials and tribulations. Today, at the age of seventy-seven, one hope remains--to be able to serve my fellow countrymen until I die.
I was born in 1904, at a time when the Manchu Empire was in its death throes, into a family of notables, a breeding-ground of mandarins such as described in those great classic Chinese novels Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin, and The Scholars, by Wu Jingzi.
My family was a replica in miniature of feudal society in decline and its history was a chequered one. The branch of the family to which my father belonged was impoverished and going rapidly downhill, and when I was four years old my father died completely ruined. My lonely childhood gave me an insight into the miserable lot of the people in Chinese society at the beginning of the twentieth century and opened my eyes to the selfish attitudes which governed relationships between one man and another. I found comfort in, and learned much from, reading the great Chinese classic novels. European Renaissance literature and foreign literature of the nineteenth century was also grist to my mill. And it was this reading that sowed in me the seed of my vocation as a writer. …