LOST IN TRANSLATION

CHINA EDITION

The following list of printed materials, a movie,
and a soap opera highlights the hopes and disappointments
of the past century-or-so of Chinese life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or, A Black Slave’s Cry to Heaven) (1901)
By Lin Shu
For late-nineteenth-century Chinese scholars, Western democratic culture suggested a way for their stodgy civilization to cope with modern progress. The era’s most famous translator was Lin Shu, a rather ironic distinction since he did not know any foreign languages and relied instead on interpreters. In the shadow of anti-Chinese xenophobia abroad and post-Boxer Rebellion occupation at home, Lin’s creative take on Harriet Beecher Stowe wiped away the original’s flossy sentimentalism and underscored the parallels between African slaves and the humiliated Chinese.

Studying Abroad(1911–1917)
By Hu Shih
Future ambassador and key educational reformer Hu spent seven years in the U.S. (at Cornell and Columbia), studying under John Dewey and becoming a devout believer in American pragmatist thought. These volumes (first published in the 1930s and reprinted recently) collect Hu’s penetrating and occasionally quirky thoughts on American culture, customs, and politics.

Destruction (1934)
By Ba Jin
Though Ba Jin was born to wealth, exposure to the works of Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman while studying abroad transformed the young Ba into China’s most famous—and persecuted—anarchist writer. His first novel tells of festering class and generational resentments from the perspective of a depressed young anarchist.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Hua Hsu

Hua Hsu writes about politics and the arts for The Village Voice, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Wire, and other publications. He is working, slowly but surely, toward a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University.

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