Ji-li Jiang was born in Shanghai, China, in 1954. She graduated from Shanghai Teachers' College and Shanghai University and was a science teacher before she came to the United States in 1984. After her graduation from the University of Hawaii, Ms. Jiang worked as an operations analyst for a hotel chain in Hawaii,then as budget director for a health-care company in Chicago. In 1992 she started her own company, East West Exchange, to promote cultural exchange between Western countries and China.
The son of immigrant Chinese parents, Hwang attended Stanford University and the Yale Drama School and has been a director and a teacher of playwriting. FOB (1981), which stands for "Fresh off the boat,"' explores the conflicts between two Chinese Americans and a Chinese exchange student still steeped in the customs and beliefs of the old world. It won an Obie Award in 1981. The Dance and the Railroad (1982) concerns an artist and his fellow workers who stage a strike to protest the inhuman conditions suffered by Chinese railroad workers in the American West in the nineteenth century. M Butterfly (1988), about the relationship between an American man and a Chinese transvestite, won the Tony Award as best play of the year. Maxine Hong Kingston wrote, "David Hwang has an ear for Chinatown English, the language of childhood and the subconscious, the language of emotion, the language of home."