Tortuous Developments: A Literary Odyssey

By Zhenzhong, Wang; Qi, Wang | Connexions, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Tortuous Developments: A Literary Odyssey


Zhenzhong, Wang, Qi, Wang, Connexions


China

Author Shi Nan never had any formal schooling, but she caught the attention of millions of Chinese with her first writing effort, a biography of the celebrated woman artist Zhang Yuliang.

The book was published in 1983 and soon became a best seller, with sales of more than 300,000 copies. The book is being filmed jointly by the Shanghai Film Studio and the Taiwan Jinding Film Corporation, and is being translated into English, French, and Japanese.

From being a librarian in the small city of Anqing in East China's Anhui province, Ms. Shi herself has become a celebrated author of nearly 100 novels, biographies and short stories portraying women artists, teachers, workers and prostituted women, in modern and ancient times. But artist Zhang's biography, seen by the author as an expression of her "own aspirations and outlook," remains Ms. Shi's favourite.

An orphan from an impoverished family, Ms. Zhang worked in a brothel and was married as a concubine. Later, she turned to painting, and her work was so good that she was appointed a university professor. As a sculptor, she became the first Chinese artist to be recognised by the Gallery of Modern Art in Paris.

Ms. Shi, who was 45 when she completed the book, shared Ms. Zhang's experiences of struggling to rise from the bottom of society. Rejected by her parents for being a girl, Ms. Shi earned her keep as a cowherd in a small Anhui village. She became literate when already a teenager, after joining a literacy class. Then she worked in a factory for more than 20 years. Having developed an interest in literature, she spent her noon breaks reading Tolstoy, Balzac and Hugo as well as Chinese classics.

Ms. Shi was 41 when she joined the Anquing Municipal Library in 1979. Finding parallels of her own experience with that of Zhang Yuliang, Ms. Shi decided to do the biography. But soon the differences loomed large to almost overwhelm her.

Whereas librarian Shi had lived all her life in Anhui, artist Zhang "saw much of life--from Yangzhou City in East China's Jiangsu province, to Wuhu in Anhui, then to Shanghai and abroad to Paris and Rome." Ms. Zhang also lived through various historic eras, from the 1911 Revolution through to the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). She underwent "tortuous developments of self" as she went from one vocation to another.

Another difficulty was that Ms. Shi never met the artist, who died five years before the biography was started. Ms. Shi had to work with second-hand information that only roughly outlined her subject's life. Neither could Ms. Shi tour the country and abroad to follow Ms. Zhang's tracks. What she did was to "travel in books," reading up history, travel notes, folklore, Roman architecture and paintings and sculpture by Renaissance artists. "Even if the biography needed only a single reference to them, I would browse among the large amount of material at hand," says Ms. Shi. For example, to familiarise herself with the layout of urban Paris in the 1930s, Ms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tortuous Developments: A Literary Odyssey
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.