top of page

            Geling Yan

Geling Yan (嚴歌苓) is one of the most acclaimed novelists and screenwriters writing in the Chinese language today and a well-established writer in English. Born in Shanghai, she served with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) during the Cultural Revolution, starting at age twelve as a dancer in an entertainment troupe.


After serving for over a decade with the PLA (including tours in Tibet and as a war correspondent during the Sino-Vietnam border conflict), Ms. Yan was discharged with a rank equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel. She published her first novel in 1986 and ever since has produced a steady stream of novels, short stories, novellas, essays and scripts. Her best-known novels in English are The Secret Talker, published by HarperCollins; Little Aunt Crane published in the UK by Random House affiliate Harvill Secker; The Flowers of War, published in the U.S. by The Other Press and elsewhere by Random House's Harvill Secker; The Banquet Bug (The Uninvited in its UK edition - written directly in English); and The Lost Daughter of Happiness, (translated by Cathy Silber) both published by Hyperion in the US and Faber & Faber in the UK. She has also published a novella and short story collection called White Snake and Other Stories, translated by Lawrence A. Walker and published by Aunt Lute Books.


Many of Geling Yan's works have been adapted for film and television, including internationally distributed films Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl (directed by Joan Chen) and Siao Yu (directed by Sylvia Chang; produced by Ang Lee).   Chinese director Zhang Yimou made The Flowers of War, a big-budget film based on her work set during the 1937 Rape of Nanking, starring Academy Award winning actor Christian Bale; Coming Home 归来, based on her novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi 陆犯焉识, and One Second 一秒钟, also based on that novel.  


Ms. Yan has also written numerous scripts based on her own and other authors' work, both in English and Chinese, including a script for a biopic on the iconic Peking opera star Mei Lanfang for director Chen Kaige (released as Forever Enthralled 梅兰芳) starring Leon Lai and Zhang Ziyi.  She wrote the script for Dangerous Liaisons 危險關係, a Chinese-language film directed by South Korean director Hur Jin-ho and starring Zhang Ziyi, Jang Dong Gun and Cecilia Cheung.  Her novel Fang Hua 芳华 is the basis a film of the same name (English title Youth) directed by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚.  Her novel A City Called Macau 妈阁是座城 was made into a film directed by Li Shaohong 李少红, released in 2018.


Geling Yan a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and of France's Société des Gens de Lettres.  She is a member of the Hollywood screenwriters' union, Writers' Guild of America, west, and a former member of the Chinese Writers' Association (中国作家协会).


Geling Yan went to the United States at the end of 1989 for graduate study. She holds a bachelor's degree in literature from Wuhan University and a Master's in Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Columbia College, Chicago. To date she has published over 40 books in various editions in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the US, the UK and elsewhere; has won over 30 literary and film awards; and has had her work adapted or written scripts for numerous film, TV and radio works.  Her works have been translated into twenty-one languages: Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Uyghur and Vietnamese, and her English-language novel The Banquet Bug/The Uninvited was translated into Chinese. She currently lives in Berlin, Germany.  For non-Chinese language publishing she is represented by Agence Astier-Pécher of Paris:


Her Facebook fan page is  

Note on the author’s name: The surname is Yan, the given name is Geling. The author normally uses the Western order of given name + surname in the West (Geling Yan) and the Chinese order of surname + given name in the East Asia (Yan Geling). The g in Geling is hard, as in the word “golf.” The e in Geling is a shwa vowel /ə/, like the e in the unstressed word “the.” The a in Yan is pronounced like a short “e,” “yen.” In Traditional Chinese characters her name is written 嚴歌苓; in simplified characters: 严歌苓. In Hanyu Pinyin phonetic transcription it is Yán Gēlíng. In Wade-Giles transcription it is Yen Ko-Ling. In International Phonetic alphabet (IPA) it is /jɛn35 gə55 lɪŋ35/.



bottom of page