Geling Yan

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Yan Geling
Yan at Frankfurt bookfair 2014
Yan at Frankfurt bookfair 2014
(1958-11-16) 16 November 1958 (age 63)
Shanghai, China
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter
Alma materWuhan University
Columbia College Chicago
Notable worksA Woman's Epic
SpouseLi Kewei
Lawrence Walker

Geling Yan (simplified Chinese: 严歌苓; traditional Chinese: 嚴歌苓; pinyin: Yán Gēlíng; born 16 November 1958[1]) is a Chinese-American author and screenwriter.[2]

Early life[edit]

Yan was born in Shanghai, China in 1958. She is the second child of Yan Dunxun and Jia Lin. She has an elder brother Yan Geping (严歌平).[3] Her father is an alumnus of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University.[4]

Yan began performing as a dancer at age 12. She served in the People's Liberation Army in Chengdu, during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet and later as a journalist in the Sino-Vietnamese War, achieving a rank equivalent to lieutenant colonel.[5]

Yan holds a bachelor's degree in literature from Wuhan University, and a Master's in Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago.



Her first novel was published in 1985. She is the author of such novels as The Banquet Bug (published as The Uninvited in the UK) and The Lost Daughter of Happiness, as well as a story collection entitled White Snake and Other Stories. Several of Yan's works have been adapted for film, including Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, which was directed by Joan Chen, and Siao Yu, directed by Sylvia Chang and screenplay co-written by Ang Lee. Zhang Yimou, the Chinese director of To Live and Raise the Red Lantern adapted her novella 13 Flowers of Nanjing to the screen as The Flowers of War, and his movie Coming Home was based on Yan's novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi.[6] She has worked on other scripts including a biography of Mei Lanfang, the Peking opera star, for Chinese director Chen Kaige.

Novels in English[edit]

  • The Banquet Bug (written in English, published as The Uninvited in the UK)[7]
  • The Lost Daughter of Happiness (tr. Cathy Silber, Chinese title Fusang 《扶桑》)[8]
  • The Flowers of War (tr. Nicky Harman, Chinese title Jinling shisan chai 《金陵十三钗》)[9]
  • Little Aunt Crane (tr. Esther Tyldesley, Chinese title Xiaoyi Duohe 《小姨多鶴》)
  • The Criminal Lu Yanshi (adapted into a movie, titled Coming Home)《陆犯焉识》
  • ‘’The Secret Talker’’ [10]

Novels in Chinese[edit]

  • 芳华(Youth) [11]

Short stories in English[edit]

  • The Landlady (tr. Lawrence A. Walker)[12]
  • Disappointing Returns (tr. David Haysom)[13]
  • White Snake and Other Stories (tr. Lawrence A. Walker)[14]


She is a member of the Hollywood Writer's Guild of America, the Writer's Association of China, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Censorship in China[edit]

As of 11 February 2022, Yan was censored on China's internet after commenting on the atrocity and government cover-ups in the Xuzhou chained woman incident and agreeing with Zhou Xiaozheng's assessment that Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is a "human trafficker" who imposed a large sum of money for "donation" on foreign families who adopt Chinese orphans.[15][16] Baidu Baike showed "Sorry, the page you're visiting no longer exists" for Yan's entry. The search results for Yan's name on Sina Weibo became unavailable.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Yan's ex-husband is Li Kewei; they divorced in the 1990s. In 1992, Yan married her second husband Lawrence Walker in San Bruno, California. Walker is a diplomat. They have no biological children together, but have adopted a Chinese girl, Yanyan.[18]


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
  2. ^ Hille, Kathrin (January 19, 2012). "Novelist threatens Apple with US lawsuit". Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  3. ^ 严歌苓: 翻手苍凉 覆手繁华 Retrieved 2017-01-14
  4. ^ “家”系列之严歌苓 Retrieved 2017-01-14
  5. ^ Ng, I-ching (October 31, 2004). "Yan Geling". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Writing China: Yan Geling, 'The Criminal Lu Yanshi'". Wall Street Journal. 7 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Review: The Uninvited by Geling Yan". 9 December 2006.
  8. ^ "The Lost Daughter of Happiness". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Nanjing Requiem, by Ha JinThe Flowers of War, by Geling Yan". 19 January 2012.
  10. ^ "The Secret Talker".
  11. ^ Kenny, Glenn (14 December 2017). "Review: In 'Youth,' the People's Dance Troupe, in Love and War". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "The Landlady". 21 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Read Paper Republic: Disappointing Returns".
  14. ^ "White Snake". Archived from the original on 2015-09-03. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  15. ^ "Weibo censored a famous novelist who voiced her anger over China's inhumanity to women". QUARTZ. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  16. ^ "China claims arrests of human traffickers in chained woman case". BBC News. 11 February 2022. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  17. ^ "Weibo censored a famous novelist who voiced her anger over China's inhumanity to women". Quartz. 2022-02-14.
  18. ^ 严歌苓:做一个在美国畅销的中国作家 Retrieved 2017-01-14

External links[edit]