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Testimony to the emotional truth of their life together even in these increasingly trying times.

The memoir Ordinary Days(《過平常日子》) by the scholar and critic Leo Ou-fan Lee(李歐梵) and his wife Esther Yuk-ying Lee(李玉瑩) brings to this Hong Kong series an intensely personal touch, consciously echoing the great sentimental memoir of 18th-century China, Shen Fu’s Six Chapters of a Floating Life(《浮生六記》). With disarming candour, Leo and Esther lay bare their hearts so unreservedly, to share with us their story of love and suffering, charting in a series of memorable chapters their shared spiritual quest. This is a brave book. It lays bare in a most unusual way the heart and soul of a charming and highly cultivated Chinese couple, the scholar and critic Leo Ou-fan Lee and his wife Esther Lee Yuk-ying. It charts the love story of two individuals who are no longer young, and it also boldly breaks the taboo surrounding the twin topics of depression and suicide.

Set partly against the recent backdrop of some of Hong Kong’s most turbulent years, partly in the far-flung diaspora of the Chinese intelligentsia, this is a revealing record of the inner life of a highly cultivated modern Chinese couple. In presenting this work to English-speaking readers, we hope to demonstrate that, Hong Kong "is one of the high places of the multicultured world".


“In these letters of theirs, Leo and Esther bare their hearts truthfully, transcending self and emotion and all sense of age, until all that is left is purity and truth. The later chapters record their deep love as husband and wife, his devotion to her, and their inseparable bond, in the course of which they put aside all social convention.”

––Pai Hsien-yung(白先勇), Author of the Taipei People

Leo Ou-fan Lee(李歐梵) is Sin Wai Kin Professor of Chinese Culture, Emeritus, at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is author of many books on Chinese literature and culture, and is also a great lover of Western classical music.
Esther Yuk-ying Lee(李玉瑩) is a published author and visual artist, whose paintings have been widely exhibited.

Annie Ren is a PhD candidate at The Australian National University, writing on the Chinese novel The Story of the Stone.
Carol Ong was born in Taiwan. She studied translation at The University of Melbourne, where she is now employed.

John Minford is Emeritus Professor of Chinese at The Australian National University and Sin Wai Kin Professor of Chinese Culture and Translation at The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong.

Series Editor’s Preface | vii

Acknowledgements | xi

A Brief Foreword to the English Edition of Ordinary Days, by Leo Ou-fan Lee | xvii

Editor’s Introduction, by John Minford | xix

Preface, by Pai Hsien-yung | xxv

Prelude, by Leo Ou-fan Lee | xxxv


Chapter 1

Love Between Two Worlds  1


Chapter 2

Wedded Bliss (Esther’s Journal)  75


Chapter 3


Shared Fate in the ‘Valley of Songs’  137


Chapter 4

Memories of Hong Kong

Love in a Fallen City  185


Chapter 5

The Joys of Travel

Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai  229


Chapter 6

The Sorrows of Depression  263


Appendix 1: A brief list of some of Leo and Esther’s main publications | 353

Appendix 2: Chronology of Leo and Esther’s Life Events | 355