Wang Anyi was born in Nanjing on March 6, 1954, and raised in Shanghai. Her mother, Ru Zhijuan, is an accomplished writer whose career began in 1947. Thanks to her cultured family background, Wang was exposed to music, art, and literature as a child. She finished her junior high school education in 1969, the third year of the Cultural Revolution, a period during which a cataclysmal chaos extended all over China as civil and human rights were severely restricted by the Communist regime.
In 1970, like many other teenagers across the Chinese nation, Wang was sent to a rural area in the province of Anhui to join a production brigade as a “young intellectual” (high school graduate) to be “re-educated by the poor and lower-middle peasants.” In 1972, however, she managed to find a position in the orchestral troupe of the Xuzhou City Commission for Literature and Arts in the province of Jiangsu; it was during this period that she started writing. In 1978, as the political climate began to change for the better, Wang was transferred back to Shanghai, where she started working in the editorial department of Childhood magazine. In 1980, she enrolled in the Fifth Annual Writers’ Workshop hosted by the Writers’ Association of China. Upon graduation at the end of the year, Wang returned to her editorial work and emerged rapidly as an important writer.