Eileen Chang at the University of Hong Kong: An online presentation of images and documents from the archives

Department of Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts and the University Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) jointly present — “Eileen Chang at the University of Hong Kong: An online presentation of images and documents from the archives” on the occasion of the centennial celebration of Chang’s birth this year.

This online exhibition has been launched today (September 28) on the website of the University Museum and Art Gallery at: https://www.virtual.umag.hku.hk/eileenchang100*

Eileen Chang (1920-1995) was one of the most eminent alumni of HKU Faculty of Arts. She arrived at HKU in August 1939 and left without completing her degree in May 1942 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, when classes had been interrupted by the war since December 1941. Her wartime experience had lasting impact on her, indeed as she wrote in “From the Ashes,” that it “cut too close to the bone, affecting me in an altogether drastic fashion.” The courses she took included English, History, Chinese (Literature & Translation), Logic, and Psychology, and she scored better in English and History than in the others. Her class attendance was near perfect, in stark contrast to her meagre participation in extracurricular activities. In the photograph on her student registration, she wears a dark cheongsam and a dark cardigan, round glasses, and a hesitant smile, pretty much still a high school girl from St. Mary’s Hall in Shanghai (Image 1).

Curated and introduced by Professor Nicole Huang, Chairperson of the Department of Comparative Literature in the Faculty of Arts, this online exhibition pieces together a narrative that highlights the beginning of an extraordinary literary career. We celebrate Chang’s connection with HKU as an important chapter in the history of both the Faculty of Arts and the larger university community.

Drawing from previously unseen material from the HKU Archives and other public and private collections, this exhibition redefines Chang’s solitary experiment as an important chapter in our collective knowledge of global Chinese and global English.  “As Chang’s alma mater and a starting point of her literary journey, HKU and the Faculty of Arts have a responsibility to help preserve her legacy. The narrative that emerges from these images and documents in this online presentation is only the beginning. When public events are permitted again on campus, we will unveil a physical exhibition at the historic Fung Ping Shan Library with a larger collection of images and documents.  Our work will continue and the legacy of Eileen Chang lives on”, said Professor Huang.

Professor Nicole Huang is the Chairperson of the Department of Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts at the University of Hong Kong. She authored a book on Eileen Chang’s wartime writing titled Women, War, Domesticity: Shanghai Literature and Popular Culture of the 1940s (2005) and co-edited a collection of essays by Eileen Chang called Written on Water (2005).

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