Zhang Kangkang was born in Hangzhou in July 1950. She served as Vice-President of the 7th, 8th and 9th sessions of the China Writers Association. She currently works as a consultant to the State Council and resides in Beijing. In the more than 40 years that she has worked as a writer, she has published more than 8 million words and close to 100 literary works, including novels and essays. Her most notable works include the novels Invisible Partner, Four Shades of Red, Gallery of Love and High-Maintenance Women, the collection of novellas Turn Up the Lights; the collection of short stories White Poppies, as well as the collections of essays The Refusal of the Peony and Collected Essays of Zhang Kangkang. She has won awards such as the National Prize for Outstanding Short Story, National Prize for Outstanding Novella, and the 2nd Lu Xun Literary Prize. Her works have been translated into English, French, German, Japanese and Russian.
The subject matter of Zhang Kangkang's works can be roughly divided into three categories: the lives of young intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution, urban life and feminist struggles after the "opening-up and reform", as well as her own personal recollections and musings on history. Zhang Kangkang's works from the 1980s carry evident characteristics of the "new enlightenment" movement from that time. As society continues to change, Zhang has increasingly emphasized the female identity of the narrator, creating different representations of women in the new age. However, her works are still known first and foremost for their critiques of society and the self. Her writing style blends modernism and romanticism, although she has also written a number of experimental texts.
Zhang Kangkang's short stories White Poppies and Dried-Up, as well as her novellas Ruthless and Please Take Me Away, speak of warped human experiences during a tumultuous period of history. They summarize the irrationality and violence of the Cultural Revolution, as well as the hypocrisy and fickleness of human nature. The novel Invisible Partner tells the story of a young couple in the Great Northern Wilderness who fall in love, get married and finally get divorced. The novel's protagonist is initially full of hopes and aspirations, but the harsh realities of life after divorce cause her to slip into a state of immense anguish and confusion. She begins to doubt her past convictions and the essence of human nature, before finally realizing that inside every human is an inescapable, soul-stirring "invisible partner". In Four Shades of Red, a daughter recounts the hardships that her parents have endured throughout their lives. Zhang arranges differently colored Chinese text into a poignant portrait of history. By examining the fate of individual characters, the author traces the origins of the ideology that for half a century took China by storm, evoking it as a song entitled Three Variations on Red that progress from "Red Ideals", to the "Red Storm", and finally, to the "Red Myth". Zhang also deconstructs notions such as "sacrifice", "class", "blood relations" and "truth". High-Maintenance Women (Zuo Nü) uses the implications of the Chinese word zuo ("to do pointless things") as an on-going theme as Zhang tells the tale of Zhuo'er and a group of young women in Beijing from the 1990s to the beginning of this century. As they jump from one endeavor to the next, they demonstrate a powerful sense of independence, as well as clear feminist values. The plot of Gallery of Love is split between the small cities shrouded in rain and fog to the south of the Yangtze River, and the harsh cities of the North. Gallery of Love shows the inner turmoil of the female protagonist resulting from conflict between her role as a traditional mother and her ideals as an independent woman.
Zhang Kangkang recently completed a new novel that reflects the spiritual journey of Chinese intellectuals from the 1980s. Its publication is anticipated by critics and readers alike.