In a Bronze Mirror: Eileen Chang’s Life and Literature

Gender and Sexuality/Desire, Longing, and Ill-Fated Romance

Originally published in 1944, Red Rose White Rose was adapted to a film by Stanley Kwan 50 years later. Scenarios in it resonated with Chang’s upbringing and it also reflected Chang’s value of love in some ways. Chang delineated the dilemma that the traditional man faced when he encountered two women and she revealed the paradox that male made decisions at every turn. Two women in the novel symbolled the different gender stereotypes in terms of social values in China at that time. They were the incarnations of the woman who was bound by China's traditional cultural identity versus the independent woman. It is interesting if we place her work along with the First-wave feminism, which held during 1860 to 1945. Chang was nurturing feminism in the East. Chang mentioned that Lian Huan Tao, Chuang Shi Ji, as well as Yin Baoyan Song Hua Lou Hui were produced during her prolific period. These pieces of work were drafted after Red Rose White Rose. It took her a while to make up her mind to publish them.

Chang mentioned her another work Rouge of The North a few times between her correspondence with Hsia. Rouge of The North portrays a distorted change of a woman, Yindi, in a dramatic way. Yindi, who marries the blind, bedridden son of a rich and noble family has no power in speech. The twisted domestic relation, the unsatisfying family life, and the exacting dictates of her husband's mother, leaves Yindi in a hopeless situation. After her demanding mother-in-law passed away, she moved out of the big house with her son. Absurdly though, when her son gets married, Yindi has become a perverted mother-in-law and inflicted pain on others. She constantly blames and emotionally tortures her daughter-in-law in a vicious and brutal way. Chang expounds the tragedy across three generations, conveying her idea that marriage is attributed to women’s plight. While holding a negative perception of marriage, in one letter written to Hsia regarding Rouge of The North, Chang implies that “our generation is impoverished with a love life in youth.” The disbelief in marriage, and the yearning for true love, both occur in Chang’s mind. 

This page has tags:

This page references: