Sunday, November 4, 2012

Han Suyin - Iconic Chinese Author

Han Suyin passed away at 95 on Nov 2.

She will always be remembered as one of the greatest writers from China.

Read all about her from Wikipedia.

Rosalie Elizabeth Chow Kuang Hu aka Han Suyin (12 September, 1917 – 2 November, 2012) was the prolific author of several books on modern China and novels set in East Asia.

A doctor, she lived in Lausanne until her death and wrote in English and French.

From Henan, China, her father was a Belgian-educated Chinese engineer, Chow Yen Tung of Hakka heritage, while her mother was Belgian Dutch.

She began work as a typist at Beijing Hospital in 1931.

In 1933 she was admitted to Yenching University where she felt she was discriminated against as a Eurasian.

In 1935 she went to Brussels to study medicine.

In 1938 she returned to China, married Tang Pao Huang, a Chinese Nationalist military officer, who was to become a general.

She worked as a midwife in an American Christian mission hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan.

Her first novel, Destination Chungking (1942), was very much inspired by her own experiences during this period.

In 1940, she and her husband adopted their daughter, Tang Yungmei.

In 1952, she adopted another girl Chew Hui Im in Singapore.

In 1944 she went to London to continue her studies in medicine at the Royal Free Hospital.

In 1947, while she was still in London, her husband died in action during the Chinese Civil War.

She graduated with Honours in 1948 and went to Hong Kong to practice medicine at the Queen Mary Hospital.

In Hong Kong, she met and fell in love with Ian Morrison, a married Australian war correspondent based in Singapore, who was killed in Korea in 1950.

She portrayed their relationship in the novel A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952) and the factual basis of their relationship is documented in her autobiography My House Has Two Doors (1980).

In 1952, she married Leon Comber, a British officer in the Malayan Special Branch and went with him to Johor, Malaya (present-day Malaysia), where she worked in the Johor Baru Hospital and opened a clinic in Johor Baru and Upper Pickering Street, Singapore.

In 1955, Han contributed to the establishment of Nanyang University in Singapore.

Also in 1955, A Many-Splendoured Thing was made into a Hollywood film with a musical theme that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In her autobiography, she distanced herself from the film.

In 1956, she published the novel And The Rain My Drink, which was perceived very anti-British.

She and Comber divorced in 1958, and he eventually moved to Hong Kong, where he became managing director for Heinemann's subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

In 1960 Han married Vincent Ratnaswamy, an Indian colonel, and lived for a time in Bangalore, India.

Later, they resided in Hong Kong and Switzerland, where Han remained, living in Lausanne.

Although later separated, they remained married until Ratnaswamy's death in 2003.

After 1956, Han Suyin visited China almost annually.

She was one of the first foreign nationals to visit post-1949 China, including through the years of the Cultural Revolution.

In 1974 she was the featured speaker at the founding national convention of the US China Peoples Friendship Association in Los Angeles.

Han funded the Chinese Writers Association to create the Lu Xun Literary Award For Best Literary Translation to help develop literature translation in China.