Sunday, September 21, 2008

Han Suyin

Han Suyin , is the of Elizabeth Comber, born Rosalie Elisabeth Kuanghu Chow . She is a -born Eurasian author of several books on modern China, novels set in East Asia, and , as well as a physician. She currently resides in Lausanne and has written in and .


Han Suyin was born in Xinyang, Henan , China. Her father was a Belgium-educated Chinese engineer surnamed Chow , of Hakka heritage, while her mother was a . In 1938 Han Suyin married Pao H. Tang , a military officer, who was to become a general. They one daughter .

She began work as a at Beijing Hospital in 1931, not yet fifteen years old. In 1933 she was admitted to . In 1935 she went to Brussels to study science. In 1938 she returned to China, working in an American Christian hospital in Chengdu , Sichuan, then went again to London in 1944 to study medicine at the Royal Free Hospital and graduated MBBS with Honours in 1948 and went to Hong Kong to practice medicine in 1949 at the Queen Mary Hospital. Her husband, Tang, meanwhile, had died in action during the Chinese Civil War in 1947.

In 1952, she married Leon F. Comber, a British officer in the Malayan Special Branch, and went with him to Johore, , where she worked in the Johore Bahru General Hospital and opened a clinic in Johore Bharu and Upper Pickering Street, Singapore. In 1955, Han Suyin contributed efforts to the establishment of Nanyang University in Singapore. Specifically, she offered her services and served as physician to the institution, after having refused an offer to teach literature. Chinese writer Lin Yutang, first president of the university, had recruited her for the latter field, but she declined, indicating her desire "to make a new Asian literature, not teach Dickens", according to the Warring States Project at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Also in 1955, her best-known work, ''A Many-Splendoured Thing'', was made into a . Much later, the movie itself was made into a daytime soap opera.

After Comber and Han Suyin's divorce, she later married Vincent Ratnaswamy, an colonel , and lived for a time in Bangalore, India. Later, Han Suyin and Vincent Ratnaswamy resided in Hong Kong and Switzerland. Since 1956, Han Suyin visited China almost annually becoming one of the first foreign nationals to visit post-1949 revolution China, including through the years of the Cultural Revolution.


Cultural and political conflicts between East and West in modern history play a central role in Han Suyin's work. She also explores the struggle for liberation in Southeast Asia and the internal and foreign policies of modern China since the end of the imperial regime. Many of her writings feature the backdrop in East Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Her novel ''A Many-Splendoured Thing'', the story of a married but separated American reporter, who falls in love with a Eurasian doctor, was made into a film called ''''. This also inspired a .


*''Destination Chungking''
*''A Many-Splendoured Thing''
*''And the Rain My Drink''
*''The Mountain Is Young''
*''Winter Love''
*''Cast But One Shadow''
*''Four Faces''
*''L'abbé Pierre''
*''L'abbé Prévost''
*''Till Morning Comes''
*''The Enchantress''

Autobiographical works

*''The Crippled Tree''
*''A Mortal Flower''
*''Birdless Summer''
*''My House Has Two Doors''
*''Phoenix Harvest'' .
*''Wind In My Sleeve''
*''A Share of Loving''
*''Fleur de soleil, histoire de ma vie''

Historical studies

*''China in the Year 2001''
*''Asia Today: Two Outlooks''
*''The Morning Deluge: Mao Tsetong and the Chinese Revolution 1893-1954''
*''Lhasa, the Open City''
*''Wind in the Tower: Mao Tsetong and the Chinese Revolution, 1949-1965''
*''China 1890-1938: From the Warlords to World War''
*''Eldest Son: Zhou Enlai and the Making of Modern China''

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