Xiao Hong

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Xiao Hong
Portrait of Xiao Hong in 1933.
Born(1911-06-02)2 June 1911
Died22 January 1942(1942-01-22) (aged 30)
Nationality Republic of China
Spouse(s)Duanmu Hongliang (m.1938)
Xiao Hong's signature.svg
Xiao Hong
Traditional Chinese蕭紅
Simplified Chinese萧红

Xiao Hong or Hsiao Hung (2 June 1911 – 22 January 1942) was a Chinese writer. Her given name was Zhang Naiying (張廼瑩); she also used the pen name Qiao Yin.


Xiao Hong was born in Hulan County, Heilongjiang Province, on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival to a landowning family. Her mother died when she was young. She attended a girls school in Harbin in 1927, where she encountered the progressive ideas of the May Fourth movement as well as Chinese and foreign literature. In 1930 she ran away to Beijing to avoid a planned marriage, though was eventually followed by her fiance Wang Dianjia. In 1932, after she became pregnant her fiance abandoned her at a hotel in Harbin. She narrowly avoided being sold to a brothel by the hotel's owner by scraping together over six hundred yuan expenses.

Wretched, alone, and pregnant, Xiao Hong looked to the local newspaper publisher for help. The newspaper's editor, Xiao Jun saved Xiao Hong during a flood of the Songhua river. They began to live together, during which time Xiao Hong started writing. In 1933 she wrote short stories "Trek" and "Tornado", and in the same year she and Xiao Jun self-published a joint collection of short stories, Bashe (Arduous Journey).

In June 1934, the couple moved to Qingdao, where after three months Xiao Hong wrote a novel entitled Sheng si Chang (The Field of Life and Death). The book was a gripping account of the tortured lives of several peasant women, and one of the first literary works to reflect life under Japanese rule. In its foreword, Lu Xun declared the work "a female writer's meticulous observation and extraordinary writing." In October, the couple again moved, this time to Shanghai’s French concession. With Lu Xun’s help, Sheng si Chang was published 1935 by Shanghai's Rongguang Publishing House, bringing Xiao Hong fame among Shanghai’s modernist literary circle. At the time, Lu Xun declared that Xiao Hong would one day surpass Ding Ling as China’s most celebrated female writer.

The same year, Xiao Hong and Xiao Jun completed a collection of autobiographical essays entitled Market Street, named after the street on which the couple lived in Harbin, and from 1935–36 Xiao Hong wrote short stories and essays, later collected in Shangshi Jie, Qiao, and Niuche Shang. In 1936, in order to shake off her past, Xiao Hong moved to Tokyo, where she wrote a collection of essays entitled "the Solitary Life", a long set of poems entitled "Sand Grains", a short story entitled "On the Ox Cart", and others.

In 1938, while living in Xi’an as part of the Northwestern Combat Zone’s Service Group, she broke up with Xiao Jun, and later married the writer Duanmu Hongliang in Wuhan. In January 1940, the newly married couple made their way from Chongqing to Hong Kong, and took residence in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Her remembrance of Lu Xun, Huiyi Lu Xun Xiansheng, was published that same year, along with the first volume of a planned trilogy, Ma Bole, satirizing the war and the era's patriotism. While in Hong Kong, Xiao Hong wrote her most successful long novel, Hulanhe zhuan (Tales of the Hulan River), based on her childhood memories, along with a number of short stories based on her childhood, such as "Spring in a Small Town".

She died during the chaos of wartime Hong Kong in the temporary hospital of St. Stephen's Girls' College on January 22, 1942. She was buried at dusk on January 25, 1942 in Hong Kong's Repulse Bay. Her grave was moved to Guangzhou in 1957.

Selected works[edit]

  • Bashe (跋涉, Arduous Journey), with Xiao Jun, 1933.
  • Sheng si chang (生死場, The Field of Life and Death), 1935.
  • Huiyi Lu Xun Xiansheng (回憶魯迅先生, Memories of Mr. Lu Xun), 1940.
  • Ma Bole (馬伯樂), 1940.
  • Hulanhe zhuan (呼蘭河傳, Tales of Hulan River), 1942.

Selected works in English translation[edit]

  • The Field of Life and Death & Tales of Hulan River, Indiana University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-253-15821-4.
  • Anthology of Modern Chinese Stories and Novels, with Xiao Hong's short stories "Hands" and "Family Outsider", 1980.
  • The Field of Life and Death & Tales of Hulan River. Translator Howard Goldblatt. Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company. 2002. ISBN 978-0-88727-392-6.CS1 maint: others (link)
  • The Dyer's Daughter: Selected Stories of Xiao Hong. Translator Howard Goldblatt. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. June 2005. ISBN 978-962-996-014-8.CS1 maint: others (link)

In popular culture[edit]

A biopic of Xiao Hong's life directed by Huo Jianqi, titled Falling Flowers, was released in 2012 in China. This was followed in 2014 by a further biopic, The Golden Era, directed by Hong Kong director Ann Hui.