Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes

By Li Yu-Ning | Go to book overview

21
Why I Parted with T'ang Na

Chiang Ch'ing

CHIANG CH'ING ( 1914-1991) is probably the best-known woman in modern Chinese history. She is included here not in any of her later roles as the wife of Mao Tse-tung, leader in the Cultural Revolution, or member of the "Gang of Four" denounced by the new leadership after Mao's death, but as an example of the kinds of conflicts that occurred between men and women who professed little or no allegiance to the past.

Chiang Ch'ing was born Li Yun-ho in a poor family in the city of Chu-ch'eng, Shantung Province. Her brutal father died when she was a child, and she was brought up by her mother, who worked as a servant to put her through junior high school. Drawn to the glamour and fame of the theatrical world, she became a film actress in the early 1930s, with the professional name Lan P'ing. In 1935 she began an affair with the film actor, writer, and leftist critic T'ang Na, and in April 1936 they were married. Her explanation of the failure of the marriage is the subject of "Why I Parted with T'ang Na, " which was published in 1937 in Lien-hua hua-pao (United China pictorial), Shanghai, 9, 4 ( June 5, 1937). (Reprinted in Ming-pao yueh-k' an, Hong Kong, no. 166 [ October 1979], pp. 41- 48.) Written as a response to the publication of T'ang Na's version of the same events, the essay is noteworthy for its remarkably frank account of the relationship between a husband and wife, rare in China even in modern times. It is also a valuable source for understanding the most influential woman in modern Chinese politics before prominence placed her behind the veil of official

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