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Ailing Zhang papers

Identifier: 3032

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Scope and Content

The Ailing Zhang papers consist of seven boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, newspaper clippings and journal articles, photographs, and essays, articles, and speeches (written by Zhang Ailing). The strength of the collection is found within the correspondence as this series chronicles Zhang Ailing's life and career in the United States, primarily her professional relationship with Dr. C.T. Hsia. Though a largely obscure figure in modern Chinese literature from the 1950s to the 1970s, Zhang's career was revived by Dr. Hsia who played a role in helping Zhang achieve wider recognition. The materials in the collection are written in Chinese (traditional characters) and English.


  • Creation: 1943 - 2004


Language of Materials

The correspondence is in Chinese, but the manuscripts and other materials are in both English and Chinese.

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice is required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Department of the East Asian Library at Permission for publication is given on behalf of the East Asian Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Biographical Note

Zhang Ailing was born in Shanghai, China on September 30, 1920. At an early age, Zhang displayed an affinity for education as she learned English, studied art and music, read Chinese novels and attempted writing. In 1939, she enrolled at the University of Hong Kong to study English literature. However, her education plans were halted two years later as the Japanese occupation led to the closing of the university.

After Zhang Ailing immigrated to the United States in 1955, she married screenwriter Ferdinand Reyher the following year and became a citizen in 1960. While in the U.S., Zhang held a few visiting teaching positions at various universities and managed to publish a few literary pieces as well. Even though she kept a low profile, towards the end of her life there was a renewed interest in Zhang’s writings, particularly in Taiwan and Hong Kong. As a result, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, collections of her writings were reprinted by a large number of publishing companies, which allowed readers to rediscover the simple elegance and vivid imagery of her stories. But her impact on literature and film persists today. A number of films, television dramas, and theatrical plays have been produced based upon her compositions. Through the reprinting of and film adaptations based on her texts, such as director Ang Lee's 2007 screen adaptation of Zhang’s short story "Lust, Caution", new generations are being introduced to Zhang Ailing’s works posthumously. Zhang Ailing was found deceased in her apartment in California on September 8, 1995.


The Life of Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing)

Zhang Ailing (张爱玲)

Liu Zaifu’s Eileen Chang's Fiction and C. T. Hsia's A History of Modern Chinese Fiction

New World Encyclopedia


3.52 Linear Feet (7 boxes)


Zhang Ailing (Chang Ailing, Eileen Chang) was a Chinese author whose well-known literary texts include The Rogue of the North, The Golden Cangue, and The Rice Sprout Song. Her works, considered to be among the best Chinese literature of the 1940s, examined the themes of marriage, family, love, and relationships in the social context of 1930s and 1940s Shanghai. Zhang's writing depicted paradoxical human natures, powerlessness, and sorrowful truths in everyday life without the political subtext that characterized other writers of the period. The collection consists of seven boxes of materials in English and Chinese. While the collection includes some of her early Shanghai publications, the majority of the materials relate to her life and ongoing works after she immigrated to the United States in 1955.

Acquisition Note

Dr. Dominic Cheung 張錯, Professor Emeritus of Chinese and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California (USC), donated Chang's manuscripts, photographs, articles, essays, and speeches in 1997 through the Soong Family in Hong Kong, close friends to whom Chang bequeathed her belongings, and Crown Press, Chang's Taiwan Publisher. Lillian Yang, a former Chinese bibliographer at the USC East Asian Library, acquired Chang’s correspondence with C.T. Hsia in 2005. Dr. Dominic Cheung donated an accrual to the collection in 2023 (see the series titled "Correspondence, photographs, and other material added to the collection in 2023").

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was assisted by Ye Fu.

Finding aid of the Ailing Zhang papers
Keisha Brown
2014 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022 July: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub and Tang Li to document an incomplete English draft for Eileen Chang’s short story Xiang Jian Huan (She Said Smiling) -- found in the collection by a researcher.
  • 2023 May: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include a link to the Scalar exhibition titled: "In a Bronze Mirror: Eileen Chang’s Life and Literature."
  • 2023 August: Bo Doub updated the finding aid to include material added to the collection from accession no. 2023-032. The material from accession 2023-032 is housed in box no. 7.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States