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Death ends 'great love' for Shanghai

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)

10:45, April 24, 2013

Cheng Naishan, a writer known for her work on Shanghai,died of leukemia at 67. (China Daily/Jing Wei)

Shanghai writer Cheng Naishan, 67, died of leukemia early on the morning of April 22.

Recognized as a voice of Shanghai, Cheng had a career documenting the city's history, legacy and anecdotes.

Her latest works include a column titled The Swan Pavilion in Shanghai Literature, and a series of six essays composed in Shanghai dialect, published in Xinmin Evening News from last November to March 13.

The six essays recounted the cultural legacy of Shanghai, including detailed accounts of old stories about facial cream, tailors and coffee parties.

"She can write adeptly about the lower-class life experience of dumping the chamber pot, as well as upper-class social life between coffee cups," says Lyu Zheng, editor of the Shanghai Dialect column for Xinmin Evening News, praising Cheng's accurate recording of the city's history.

"They are trivial stories of the past, but somehow reflect the changes of Shanghai," Cheng used to say about the Swan series.

Cheng was born in Shanghai in 1946 to a family of established bankers. She moved with her parents to Hong Kong temporarily, from 1949 to the mid 1950s. She started creative writing when she worked as a teacher of English after graduation from college in Shanghai. Her first collection of short stories, Death of a Swan, was published in 1982.

Her award-winning novel The Blue House was semi-autobiographical. It tells about a senior financial executive and his family that have weathered 30 years of political vicissitudes. It was translated into English, French and Esperanto.

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