Zhang Jie, was born in Beijing in 1937. Her family is originally from Fushun in Liaoning Province. In 1960, she graduated from the Faculty of Planning and Statistics at Renmin University. In 1979, she joined the China Writers Association. She has been recognized by the government as one of the nation's most eminent authors. She is the Vice-President of the China Writers Association and an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her most well-known works include the essay collections Love Cannot Be Forgotten and The Person Who Most Cared for Me is Gone; the novella collections The Ark and Emerald; as well as the novels Heavy Wings and Without A Word. Zhang Jie views writing as a source of salvation. Rather than pandering to popular tastes, she has upheld her own style and set of aesthetic criteria — going so far as to personally design the covers of her books. Her works have been translated into languages such as English, French, German and Italian.
Zhang Jie's writing is full of implicit meaning. She combines sentimental narration and philosophical musings as a means of evoking her characters' inner world, as well as creating various surrealist scenes that mock the absurdity of human experience. Lately, however, Zhang has developed a more understated and transcendental style, further demonstrating her originality as an author. She has continually pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. With great sentiment and attention to detail, her works delve into the inner world of human beings. She has been praised for her emotional authenticity and elegant writing style.
The short story that began Zhang Jie's rise to fame, Love Cannot Be Forgotten, was published in the November 1979 issue of Beijing Literature. In this story, a 30-year-old unmarried woman reflects on the past in highly sentimental terms and recounts the star-crossed love affair between her mother and a retired official. The story describes both the pain of a love without marriage and the pain of a marriage without love. At the same time, it astutely reveals the way that modern realities and traditional values deprive people of their liberties, evoking their distress within contexts of oppression. Heavy Wings is Zhang Jie's first novel, for which she won the 2nd Mao Dun Literature Prize. This novel is considered to be an emblematic work of "reform literature". It not only evokes the post-Cultural Revolution reform at a grassroots level (i.e. in factories) — it also offers insights into the lives of policy- and decision-makers at that time, taking us inside the Ministry of Heavy Industry. Resistance to the reform did not only exist in factories — it was equally, if not more difficult, to change mentalities at the decision-making level and in bureaucracies. Without a Word is a rich and expansive work that Zhang Jie devoted herself to writing over the course of twelve years. The novel uses the life experiences of its protagonist, the female author Wu Wei, as an underlying plotline as it recounts the her and several other generations of women in her family's marriages. In doing so, it evokes the arduous lives of people of different backgrounds during a time of intense social change. In this work of epic proportions, Zhang Jie documents and reflects on China's social transformations over the course of the last century. Without a Word earned Zhang Jie a second Mao Dun Literature Prize. To this day, she remains the only author in China to have won this prestigious award on two occasions.
Even though Zhang Jie is in her 70s, she is still attempting new styles and subject matter in her stories. Her latest work, Knowing Presence, plays with the genre of suspense novels. In this novel, Zhang Jie attempts to evoke an inability to control fate, a sense of isolation, as well as her own doubts concerning the past. The novel conveys the author's Zen-like reflections on the notions of "knowing" and "presence".