Jiang was born in the city of Yangzhou, Jiangsu. His ancestral home was the Jiang Village (江村), Jingde County, Anhui. This was also the hometown of a number of prominent figures in Chinese academic and intellectual establishments. Jiang grew up during the years of Japanese occupation. His uncle, Jiang Shangqing, had died fighting the Japanese in World War II and was considered to be a national hero. Since Shangqing had no heirs, Jiang became the adopted son of Shangqing's wife, or his Aunt, Wang Zhelan, to whom he referred to as "Niang" or "Mom."