A family besieged now beloved

( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-05-26 10:07:22

This article was originally published on China Daily on Nov 17, 2003.

Two individuals, each with a strong spirit but vulnerable heart, encountered each other, married and gave birth to a daughter. In their 60 years together the small family of three members went through war, political turmoil and illness in their repeated returns, but all the while they were always there for each other.

A family besieged now beloved

The family of three. [File photo]

But eventually death called away two of them, leaving one lonely survivor in the winter of her life.

Today, the lives of the three individuals, captured by the pen of the family's only surviving member in an autobiography titled "The Three of Us (Wo Men Sa)," has been on the best-seller list ever since it was published on June 25 by Sanlian Publishing House. Its first printing of 30,000 copies sold out in 12 days. Since then, it has been re-printed nine times.

The readers are curious because the writer is Yang Jiang, 92, who is already a renowned author in her own right, and a scholar and translator of foreign literature as well.

A family besieged now beloved

Yang Jiang [File photo]

Her husband, Qian Zhongshu (1910-98), was one of the 20th century's greatest Chinese scholars and an authority in Chinese classical history, philosophy and literature, as well as in comparative culture and literature. He had a consummate mastery of the entire range of classical Chinese texts as well as an extensive knowledge of the Greek, Latin, English, German, French, Spanish and Italian classics.

Qian's only novel "Fortress Besieged (Weicheng)," first published in 1947, has enthralled generations of young readers with its humour, profound wisdom and unique insights into human nature.

Readers find it hard to put down this new memoir by Yang Jiang, with its intimate and heartfelt narration, something quite different from her previous works, as it takes them into this modest household that has yielded so much admirable scholarship.

Their daughter, Qian Yuan (1937-97), was a professor of English with Beijing Normal University, and was in charge of evaluating the teaching of English in all teachers' colleges in China for the then State Education Commission.

But life was not always smooth sailing for the family. Aside from their love for their work and one another, the world around them confronted them with confusion and chaos.

The readers join the young couple in their daily shopping for fresh groceries from a small store on the street corner near their temporary home close to Oxford University in England.

They share not only their joy at having a new member in their family, their daughter Ah Yuan (Qian Yuan's childhood name, which meant 'round,' as her face was plump), but also their uneasiness through the years of war, political movements, separations and reunions.

As the three protagonists cope with life's twists and turns, the readers get to know the details behind their much respected scholarly achievements.

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