Qiu Xiaolong was born in the Chinese port city of Shanghai in 1953, just four years after the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China. A shop owner, Qiu’s father was classified as a capitalist during China’s massive internal restructuring, the Cultural Revolution (1969-1976), and forced to write a “confession.” Because his father had undergone eye surgery and was temporarily unable to see, Qiu wrote the confession for him, joking later that it was the beginning of his writing career. At the age of sixteen, Qiu suffered a serious case of bronchitis. It kept him bedridden at home while most of his classmates were sent away for re-education under the Educated Youths Going to the Countryside program. While reading to amuse himself, he developed a serious interest in writing. In 1977 he began studying English and entered the East Chinese Normal University. He subsequently studied at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, earning a master’s degree in Western literature.
In the early 1980’s Qiu became an assistant research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science. He began writing poetry and stories in Chinese and translated English and American literature, including the works of T. S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. After winning awards for both his translations and his own poetry, he became a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association. In 1986 he traveled to the United States for the first time, attending the third Chinese American Writers’ Conference. He returned in 1988 to study for a doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on a Ford Foundation grant. The next year the Chinese government suppressed a student rebellion in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, an act that profoundly disturbed Qiu. He decided to defect and remained in St. Louis, where he was joined by his wife, Wang Lijun; they have a...
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