Queer Places:
Wuxi Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, 214003 China

Ling Shuhua (March 25, 1904 – 1990),[nb 1] also known as Su-hua Ling Chen after her marriage, was a Chinese modernist writer and painter[3] whose short stories became popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Her work is characterized by her use of symbolism and boudoir literature.[4] In an example of May Fourth fiction, Ling Shuhua recast a story published by a male member of her circle. Both tales, written in 1926, tell of a relationship between two girls who play Romeo and Juliet in their school production. The original story, “Why Did She Suddenly Go Crazy” explains their “same-sex love” as a result of “Romeo’s” masculinity and the lack of heterosexual opportunities. In Ling’s version, with the intriguing title “Rumor Has It That Something like This Happened,” the two girls fall in love, embrace and kiss, and even share a bed in the dorm. Gu Yingman, who plays Romeo, argues for the superiority of female same-sex love, pointing to the example of two of their teachers, who live together. “Why can’t we follow their example?” she asks Deng Yunluo, her Juliet. “I believe my love for you is much deeper and will last longer than any man’s love for you.... Can’t you think of yourself as married to me?” But Yunluo’s family arranges a marriage for her, and although she cannot bear to lose Yingman, she feels she must obey. When Yingman learns that her love has married, she faints and sees a vision of Yunluo but is unable to tell if she is calling for help or smiling.

Ling Shuhua was born Ling Ruitang on March 25th 1904[4] in Beijing.[2] Shuhua was the daughter of the fourth wife of a high ranking Qing official from the southern province of Canton, who later served as the mayor of Beijing. She lived in the familial mansion until the age of seven; she then was sent to Kyoto to study.[5] In 1922, Ling Shuhua enrolled Yenching (Yanjing) University in Beijing, studied French, English and Japanese.[5] She went to school alongside the poet and writer Bing Xin.[5] And in 1924, Ling met Chen Yuan in Beijing. At the time, Chen yuan was an English professor at Peking University and an influential literary critic. The year after they met, Chen rose to fame in a debate with lu Xun, a famous Chinese writer. Through Chen Yuan, Ling shuhua got to know many famous writers of the time, such as Shen Congwen.[6] Ling also practiced calligraphy and was a painter of the scholarly tradition. She also studied painting at the court of the Empress Dowager Cixi, where she became an apprentice to a teacher . Some of her Chinese books have been published with her own inked paintings on the cover.[7] While at Wuhan University, Ling met Julian Bell in 1935 when he was temporarily an English teacher in China.[8] She also met Yuan Changyin and Su Xuelin.[9] During Bell's short stay in China (he stayed until the year 1937), they had a love affair while Ling was still married.[10] In 1999, Hong Ying published K: The Art of Love, a book based on their relationship that was later banned. Through her connections with Bell, she was able to start a correspondence with Virginia Woolf, Bell's aunt. The two writers maintained their correspondence between 1938 and 1941. Woolf agreed to read drafts of the memoirs Ling which had begun writing. This manuscript was published in 1953, with the name Ancient Melodies. Ling dedicated this work to Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, whom she met in England in the 1940s. She moved again to London in 1947, where she became a Chinese representative for UNESCO. She mostly remained in London except for 1956 when she taught at Nanyang University in Singapore. She moved back to China shortly before her death.[11] Shuhua had a daughter named Chen Hsiao-Ying.[10]

Her ashes were buried alongside those of her husband's, in his native Wuxi in Jiangsu Province, at the Wuxi Chen Family Cemetery.


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