Ling Shuhua

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ling Shuhua
Ling shuhua.jpg

Ling Shuhua (Chinese: 凌叔华; 1904–1990),[nb 1] also known as Su-hua Ling Chen after her marriage, was a Chinese modernist writer and painter[3] whose short stories became popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Her work continues to be widely anthologized today.[4]


Ling Shuhua and husband Chen Yuan

Ling Shuhua was born Ling Ruitang in Beijing.[2] Shuhua was the daughter of the fourth wife of a high ranking Qing official from the southern province of Canton, who later served as the mayor of Beijing. Ling never showed her fiction to her father for fear that he would disprove of her use of the vernacular.[5] In 1922 she enrolled, along with fellow female writer Bing Xin, in Yanjing University to pursue a degree in foreign literature. Soon after graduating, she married Chen Yuan, the founder of the important May Fourth Movement journal Contemporary Review. In 1927, the couple moved to Hubei so that Chen could teach at Wuhan University.

While at Wuhan University, Ling met Julian Bell in 1935 when he was temporarily an English teacher in China.[6] During his short stay there until 1937, they had a love affair while Ling was still married.[7] In 1999, Hong Ying published K: The Art of Love, a book based on their relationship that was later banned.

Through her connection with Bell, she was able to start a correspondence with Virginia Woolf, Bell's aunt. The two writers maintained their correspondence between 1938 and 1941. Woolf agreed to read drafts of the memoirs Ling had begun writing. This manuscript was published in 1953, with the name Ancient Melodies. Ling dedicated this work to Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, whom she met in England in the 1940s.

She moved again to London in 1947, where she became a Chinese representative for UNESCO. She mostly remained in London except for 1956 when she taught at Nanyang University in Singapore. She moved back to China shortly before her death.[8]

Shuhua had a daughter named Hsiao-ying Chen.[7]

Ling also practiced calligraphy and was a painter of the scholarly tradition. Some of her Chinese books have been published with her own inked paintings on the cover.[9]

Temple of Flowers[edit]

Published in 1928, Temple of Flowers was Ling's first book of fiction. It includes some of her most famous short stories, including "The Embroidered Pillow" and "On the Eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival".

Writing style and career[edit]

She often wrote on "feminine" themes of domesticity. Because her short stories first appeared in western journals, Shuhua is often associated with the westernized literary aesthetic. Her Chinese critics have called her the "Katherine Mansfield of China".[4] Ling was aware of Mansfield's fiction and cited it as an influence on her work.[10]

Vita Sackville-West, who wrote the introduction for Ling's Ancient Melodies, recommended the book for its "Arabian Nights quality".[11] When the book was published, it received immediate acclaim in the west. J.B. Priestly wrote an essay about Ancient Melodies, calling it "the book of the year".[9]


In her time, Shuhua was called a writer of the Xin guixiu pai (The New Boudoir School), suggesting she was conservative in her choice of subject matter and less defiant in her criticism of tradition.[12]


  • Temple of Flowers (1928)
  • Women (1930)
  • Two Little Brothers (1935)
  • Ancient Melodies (1953)


  1. ^ Some sources cite b. 1904[1][2]


  1. ^ Helen Tierney (1999). Women's Studies Encyclopedia: A-F. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 251–. ISBN 978-0-313-31071-3. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b Lily Xiao Hong Lee; Clara Wing-chung Ho (2003). 中國婦女傳記詞典: The Twentieth Century, 1912-2000. M.E. Sharpe. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-7656-0798-0. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  3. ^ Patricia Ondek Laurence (2003). Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-57003-505-0. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b Professor Amy D Dooling; Kristina M. Torgeson (1998). Writing Women in Modern China: An Anthology of Women's Literature from the Early Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-231-10701-3. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  5. ^ Tani E. Barlow (1993). Gender Politics in Modern China: Writing and Feminism. Duke University Press. pp. 93–. ISBN 978-0-8223-1389-2. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  6. ^ Sasha Su-Ling Welland (1 September 2007). A Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7425-5314-9. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  7. ^ a b Patricia Ondek Laurence (2003). Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-57003-505-0. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  8. ^ Michael Sullivan (2006). Modern Chinese Artists: A Biographical Dictionary. University of California Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-520-24449-8. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  9. ^ a b Shumei Shi (2001). The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937. University of California Press. pp. 219–. ISBN 978-0-520-22064-5. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  10. ^ Bonnie S. McDougall; Kam Louie (1 December 1999). The Literature of China in the Twentieh Century. Columbia University Press. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-0-231-11085-3. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  11. ^ Sasha Su-Ling Welland (1 September 2007). A Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7425-5314-9. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  12. ^ Tze-Lan D. Sang (15 January 2003). The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China. University of Chicago Press. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-0-226-73480-4. Retrieved 31 December 2012.