To Marry or To Write?—Sheng Qinxian and Her (Screen) Writing in 1940s Shanghai

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-507
Journal / PublicationJournal of Chinese Film Studies
Issue number3
Online published9 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2023


During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, writer-translator Sheng Qinxian (1921–2017) joined the script division of the Incorporated Film Studio of China and wrote the screenplays of three successful films: The Honourable Beggar (义丐 1944), Reunion of a Troubled Couple (冤家喜相逢 1945), and Modern Women (摩登女性 1945). Despite this success, she did not receive a writing credit for the third film, which might be one of the reasons that caused her to quit shortly after its theatrical release. It was never easy to be the only woman in any trade during this time, but Sheng’s story allows us to see an era from a unique perspective. What were her working conditions? Where is her position in Chinese film history? Did she make a unique contribution? This article aims to find answers to these questions in view of 1940s’ Shanghai cinema and via the context of Chinese culture and society before 1949. © 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.

Research Area(s)

  • Sheng Qinxian, women screenwriters, Chinese cinema, early Chinese film, Eileen Chang