Four Sisters of Hofei: A History
The true story of four sisters born between 1907 and 1914 in China, Four Sisters of Hofei is an intimate encounter with history. The Chang sisters lived through a period of astounding change and into the twenty-first century. Unusual opportunities and an extraordinary family education launched them into varied worlds -- those of the theater, modern literature, classical studies, and calligraphy -- but their collective experience offers a cohesive portrait of a land in transition.
With the benefit of letters, diaries, poetry, and interviews, writer and historian Annping Chin shapes the Chang sisters' stories into a composite history steeped in China's artistic tradition and intertwined with the political unrest and social revolutions of the twentieth century.
name, however, was given as “Chang Hsüan,” the pseudonym Ch’ung-ho used when she signed up for the exam. She did not want to be associated with her brother-in-law Shen Ts’ung-wen through her sister Chao-ho. Shen was a well-known author then, and Ch’ung-ho feared that her relation to him might bias the examiners, many of whom knew him either personally or through his works. Ch’ung-ho was also protecting herself and her family, just in case she did badly. Her brother Tsung-ho had a friend who had
the coffin was taken back to her family for the funeral and burial. Yuan-ho said that before her father’s branch of the clan divided their holdings, her mother took charge of the birthdays, weddings, and funerals for all three families. “This was in addition to her daily responsibilities,” Yuan-ho continued, “not to forget, of course, that my mom was carrying a child in her womb nearly all the time.” Just prior to her grandmother’s funeral, a young aunt of Yuan-ho’s from the third family died.
to Szechwan, where he would join them. He had decided to make his way to Chungking with colleagues at the bank where he was employed. A friend of the Changs sent a truck to pick up Yu-kuang’s family. Yun-ho said good-bye to her father, who had also moved back to Hofei. This was the last time she saw him. From Wuhan, Yun-ho went upstream on a boat to Chungking. Fifty years earlier, her grandfather had made the same journey with her father, the eight-month-old Wu-ling, to take up his duties as
had ulcerated, and infection had spread. It took Hsiao-ho two months to die. Watching her die was excruciating, the darkest period of Yun-ho’s life. Even now she cannot talk about it. During those two months, Ch’ung-ho and their fifth brother, Huan-ho, spent a lot of time with Yun-ho, doing everything they could in a hopeless and agonizing situation. In the last few days of Hsiao-ho’s life, even Yun-ho’s spirits were quashed. She could no longer carry her daughter or comfort her. To Hsiao-ho’s
doctors who operated on him right away, he, like Hsiao-ho, would have died, and his death would have killed his grandmother and his mother. Timeliness was what saved all of them. Yun-ho had another point of view. Yu-kuang was not in Ch’eng-tu when the bullet hit their son. She and the landlady rushed Hsiao-p’ing to the air force hospital, and for three days and three nights she could not sleep. It was not until the fourth day, when Hsiao-p’ing was out of danger, that Yu-kuang came home. “Women