As a Chinese modern female writer, Eileen Chang is known for writing romantic novels. Among all the books she wrote, the most well-known one is Ban Sheng Yuan, which has been adapted to film, TV series and musical drama.
Ban Sheng Yuan, originally called Shi Ba Chun, is her first complete long novel. Starting from the male protagonist Shen Shijun’s recollection, the book depicts several men and women’s love stories in old Shanghai.
One day, the young lady Gu Manzhen encountered a gentleman Shen Shijun. After staying together for some times, the two persons fell in love. But Gu’s sister Manlu, who used to be a prostitute and got married with a cunning merchant, objected the couple to be together. Because of their family’s objection and some misunderstandings, the couple had to part finally. Years later, they met again. However, they could not go back to the old time any longer even if they knew they still loved each other.
Except mainly narrating Shen and Gu’s sad romance, the novel also inserts other two romantic stories: the love between Shen’s friend Shuhui and a rich girl; the story between Manlu and her first love. Misfortunately, the three loves are all tragic endings. After finishing reading it, readers could not help sighing for the irony of ruthless fate. If Shen was firm enough to Gu’s affection, if Gu Manzhen could express her feeling directly to Shen, if Manlu did not desert her first love for shouldering family responsibility, if Shuhui was brave enough to chase his love, maybe, tragedies would not happen; maybe, these lovers could be together forever.
Regardless of the story end is good or bad, Eileen’s novel always has a sense of sadness. The novel Ban Sheng Yuan is no exception. In the beginning, these characters are endowed with tragic features. It seems that Eileen is using characters’ words to lament that sometimes human is too weak when facing the reality.
Eileen Chang, whose Chinese name is Zhang Ailing, was a legendary and mysterious female writer. She was famous for Chen Xiang Xie in 1943 and this novel helped her lay a solid position in the history of Chinese literature.