There are many people here on the island of Fyn who have their doubts whether people who live as far East as Copenhagen really can appreciate the subtleties of H.C. Andersen. And the problems certainly do not become less when one goes as far East as Shanghai. For in Copenhagen, at least, they know where Rundetaarn is, and they can enjoy the thought of a dog with eyes as large as that architectural marvel in the centre of their city. But in Shanghai the children won’t even understand when H.C. Andersen talks about God: they may well ask: ‘which God?’ For there are no capital letters in Chinese, and there are a great many different gods in China. Worst of all, the children’s question is by no means so easy to answer when you come to think of it …
Indeed, consider the problem of translating the term ‘God’ into Chinese. A translator has to choose between the catholic term tianzhu, the protestant term shen, and the name of the ancient Chinese ’highest ancestor’ or deity shangdi, to name a few of the most obvious possibilities that come to mind. That is to say, the Chinese translator has to take sides on matters of religious doctrine. But in H.C. Andersen there is no doctrinal God. There is no specific reference to any branch of the Christian religion or even to the Danish Folk Church. It seems to me that H.C. Andersen’s frequent and important references to God lose all their poetic innocence and their lyrical force if they are translated as if they advocated certain religious denominations.
However, in the brief discussion of H.C. Andersen in China that follows I shall not be concerned with such problems of detailed translation of H.C. Andersen’s texts into Chinese. This subject deserves a separate treatment in its own right. Rather I shall look at the Chinese reception of H.C. Andersen in a more macroscopic way. I shall ask: How did the Chinese adapt H.C. Andersen to their cultural context? What did the Chinese do to H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales in order to make them acceptable and relevant in Chinese society?
From this macroscopic point of view the most important problems are not so much those of translation but those of adaptation to the various Chinese public media: the children’s opera, the propaganda short story, and most importantly the ancient Chinese medium of the ‘linked pictures’ (lianhuanhua) or comic strips. It is healthy to reflect that the Chinese had their printed ’comic strips’ long before the art of printing was ’invented’ in the west, and that they have an unbroken operatic tradition over the past 800 years. I found it fascinating to see how the Chinese fitted H.C. Andersen into their modernized traditional media. In this brief introduction I can do no more than present a preliminary and informal report on my findings.
In 1978 a beautiful 16-volume edition of H.C. Andersen’s tales was printed in Peking. 500 000 copies of this (by Chinese standards very expensive) edition came on the market. Within a few days it was completely sold out.
In 1978 alone one million copies of H.C. Andersen were printed, and an official guess is that over 5 million copies of books with H.C. Andersen’s tales were published in China since the 1920s.
H.C. Andersen occupies a quite unique position on the Chinese literary scene. He is by far the most popular of the Western poets. Let me begin with a brief survey of the history of Chinese H.C. Andersen translations.
The earliest mention of H.C. Andersen in China dates from the late 19th century. The scholar Sun Yu-xiu mentions H.C. Andersen in his Collected discussions of American and European story-telling (Ou Mei xiaoshuo cong tan). Sun Yu-xiu has also retold The Little Mermaid and The Tin Soldier. But all this did not apparently arouse much attention among the Chinese public.
It was Zhou Zuo-ren, younger brother to China’s most famous modern poet Lu Xun, who first made H.C. Andersen a well-known figure on the Chinese literary scene. In his Stories from abroad (Yuwai xiaoshuo ji) from 1909 Zhou Zuo-ren had translated The Emperor’s New Clothes, but the more important thing was that Zhou published a translation of The little Girl with the Matches in the very important left-wingjounal New Youth (Xin Qingni-an). The Little Girl with the Matches has ever since remained the most popular of H.C. Andersen’s stories in China. (In 1978 it was even put on stage as a ballet in Peking).
Since these frail beginnings there have been two important boom periods for the translation of H.C. Andersen into Chinese: the period from 1924 to 1926 and the period from 1955 to 1957.
In the 1920s there seems to have been something of a H.C. Andersen-craze. The journal The Story Monthly (Xiaoshuo yuebao) from Shanghai devoted two special issues to H.C. Andersen (nr. 8 and 9, 1925), and other journals like Woman’s Magazine (Funü zazhi), Literary Survey (Wenxue Zhoukan) carried a desproportionate number of H.C. Andersen stories, mostly translated from the English. Apparently there were also serious efforts at studying H.C. Andersen in a more serious vein. Critical works on H.C. Andersen were reviewed and excerpts translated. Georg Brandes and Edmund Gosse were particularly popular in China. Clearly, the young generation of Chinese writers were hoping to learn from H.C. Andersen for their own creative writing. And indeed, the (satirical) fairy tale has remained a prominent literary genre in China to this day.
The fact that China’s greatest novelist, Mao Dun, published a volume of H.C. Andersen translations in 1929 will have contributed significantly to H.C. Andersen’s popularity in China.
Apart from the writers’ journals in the 1920s H.C. Andersen was also already popular among compilers of children’s books. In compilations like Literary World Treasury for the Young (Shijie shaonian wenku), A collection of Stories for the Young (Shaonian wenxue gushi congshu) we find a fair sprinkling of H.C. Andersen stories, presumably under the influence of the literary magazines mentioned above.
The 1930s and the 1940s are lean years for H.C. Andersen translations. Political unrest and the civil war in China provide a natural ecplanation for this. Now one might have expected that the politicization that accompanied liberation in 1949 would leave no room for sensitive, lyrical story-tellers like H.C. Andersen. But already in 1950/1951 the communist publishing houses issued no less than seven H.C. Andersen-books.
The general impression is that until the early fifties most if not all the translations of H.C. Andersen were from the English, i.e. they were really re-translations. But this situation changed radically with the advent of Ye Jun-jian on the Chinese H.C. Andersen-scene. Ye Jun-jian had spent a number of years in England and had also visited Denmark, and he had learnt to read Danish fluently. Ye Jun-jian was (and is!) a distinguished writer in his own right: he has published a number of novels, both in English and in Chinese. But like so many talented creative writers he devoted himself whole-heartedly to – politically not so dangerous -translation after 1949. By 1957 Ye Jun-jian had translated practically all H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales, and these were published in Shanghai in a beautiful 16-volume edition.
Ever since then Ye has been polishing and re-editing these translations in different editions. He has also written two monographs on H.C. Andersen: The Writer of Fairy Tales H.C. Andersen (1955), and H.C. Andersen, the Cobbler’s Son (1978). Ye must be regarded as one of the world’s leading H.C. Andersen specialists. That he is a competent creative writer at the same time makes his work all the more fascinating. I propose to review his work on H.C. Andersen in more detail on another occasion.
It is hardly a coincidence that the first tale by H.C. Andersen to be translated into Chinese was The Emperor’s New Clothes. When Zhou Zuo-ren published his Classical Chinese version of The Emperor’s New Clothes in 1909 H.C. Andersen’s satire was undoubtedly felt by the Chinese public to be very immediately relevant to what was happening around them. Very probably Zhou Zuo-ren intended his translation as a satirical attack on the decadent pomposity and the hollow hypocrisy of the Manchu court in Peking.
Naturally, The Emperor’s New Clothes remained popular also after the fall of the Manchu dynasty in 1912, when China became a republic. In 1930 the distinguished writer Ye Sheng-tao published an ’elaborated version’ of H.C. Andersen’s famous tale, which starts out like this: “Many people will have read H.C. Andersen’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes …” After a very brief summary of H.C. Andersen’s story Ye Sheng-tao asks: “But what happened after that? H.C. Andersen doesn’t say. In fact a great deal happened … And then Ye elaborates at length how the people ridicule their naked emperor, how he stubbornly decides to wear only his ‘new clothes’ in the future.
The Chinese emperor in his new clothes decrees that all those who declare him naked are to be beheaded. When he is drinking with his concubine and spills some wine, the concubine exclaims: “Darling! You’ve got wet on your chest!” She quickly regrets her unheeded remark. But that is too late: “Off with her head!” says the emperor.
Ye introduces an amusing Chinese palace intrigue. An old courtier is appalled by the many executions and after submitting elaborate praise of the emperor’s clothes he shrewdly suggests that perhaps one should change them before they got worn out. Again the emperor flies into a rage, but on account of the courtier’s age and his previous loyalty he is not beheaded but sentenced to life-long imprisonment.
The Chinese emperor sees himself forced to make harsher and harsher decrees to control and eradicate the evil rumours that he is going around naked. In the end he forbids all speech within his earshot. When he hears a baby crying and sends his soldiers out to find the culprit and execute him, the people surge out in revolution against the tyrant. “Off with your non-existing clothes!” they shout as they manhandle him.
When the emperor’s guards see their master being ridiculed and teased they break out into laughter and join the revolution. The imperial officials sneak away in the fracas. The emperor drops dead.
Ye Sheng-tao’s elaboration has very little of the lyrical subtlety of H.C. Andersen’s original. Ye’s story is much more baroque and burlesque. It provides more earthy and more popular rough humour. Compared with H.C. Andersen’s delicate picture the Chinese elaboration reads rather like a satirical propaganda poster.
Ye Sheng-tao is a very sensitive, fine poet. (He is still very much alive and active in 1979!) He might easily have tried (and succeeded) to write a piece as delicate as H.C. Andersen’s, but his purpose was different. He aimed at a kind of literary propaganda effect. As a literary effort in this direction, his adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes seems very successful. (For an English translation of Ye Sheng-tao’s version of H.C. Andersen see the journal Chinese Literature nr. 3, 1954, p. 133-138).
We have seen that The Emperor’s New Clothes did not cease to be popular when the last emperor of China abdicated. H.C. Andersen’s parody proved especially useful since the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976. Thus in April 1979 the Comic Strip Monthly (Lianhuan hua bao) which sells millions of copies each month produced a marvellously illustrated cartoon version of the tale in 20 multichrome pictures. (The monthly is generally printed in black-and-white. It is a great distinction for H.C. Andersen that his work was produced in colour.)
The editors of the cartoon version of The Emperor’s New Clothes don’t even have to change any significant details in H.C. Andersen’s plot. Every literate Chinese reader will realize immediately that The Emperor^ New Clothes is a parody of the hypocrisy and the arbitrary counter-to-fact dogmatism that characterized the reign of the Gang of Four to such a grotesque degree.
But even in their comparatively faithful simplification and adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes the editors cannot keep their hands off H.C. Andersen’s rather open-ended way of finishing the story. A Chinese cartoon story must not leave the reader in suspense. There must be a proper end. Rather innocuously the Chinese weaver-impostors are seen in the final picture to make away with heavy bags full of gold and silk … It is only fair to add, though, that the gloriously illustrated 1951 booklet on The Emperor’s New Clothes involves considerable rewriting of H.C. Andersen’s story. In the 1951 version the working people never begin to pretend that they see the emperor’s new clothes. Only the sycophantic members of the aristocracy are so silly!
On the fiftieth anniversary of H.C. Andersen’s death the prolific young writer Zhao Jing-shen wrote a children’s play entitled The Wild Swans. The whole play is written in rhymed verses to simplified versions of well-known tunes of traditional Chinese opera. On the one hand there is a systematic dramatization of H.C. Andersen’s plot, but on the other hand there are plenty of long and sentimental arias where the audience revels in the emotional upheavals in the main characters. A brief summary may give an idea of what H.C. Andersen looked like on the Chinese stage in the ‘golden twenties’.
Five jubilant princes enter and sing eight strictly parallel couplets on the joys of court life. Towards the end of their jubilant chorus they mention the source of their pleasure: Elisa. As they sing about her, Elisa enters the stage, but together with her the wicked stepmother sneaks her way onto the stage as well. The stepmother hides and overhears Elisa complain about her ’poisonous mind’. Elisa is so unhappy because she suspects that her mother will chase the five princes, her playmates, away.
Elisa sings about her beloved mother, and the five princes join her in praise of the deceased. At this very emotional point the stepmother steps out into the open: “You little rats! What mischief are you up to now?” She starts beating the children furiously, but the noise causes the king to come out onto the stage: „These may not be your children, but they are my little darlings. If you have to beat someone, beat me!“ In a rage the stepmother orders Elisa to be sent to the countryside, calls her ‘an evil little witch’. In vain father and brothers try to hold on to Elisa.
Then the stepmother turns to the princes and calls them five nails in her eyes. “Turn into birds of ill omen! Fly beyond the sea and don’t stop! Don’t stop!” As the tearful father watches his daughter being led away to the countryside and his sons turning into swans the curtain falls over the first act.
Elisa is sitting in front of a peasant house beside a rose-tree, more beautiful than ever. She hums a song of love to her brothers. She remembers her childhood and her mother, and she concludes: „I’ll leave! Like a swallow I shall fly, everywhere I shall seek my brothers.“
Elisa has got tired after searching for her brothers everywhere. She falls asleep in a thick forest by the sea. As she sleeps, four angels dance round her and shower her with fragrant flowers. Elisa wakes up, prays to the angels to guide her to her brothers. Suddenly five swans settle down on the shore, dance around her, and as the sun goes down (convenient darkening of the scene) they drop their wings and turn into the princes she was looking for. Elisa suggests they take her along to their home. The brothers agree enthusiastically.
The scene is set in mid-air. The brothers sing hymns of comfort to Elisa one after the other, and afterwards in a chorous that is full of lyricism, describing the dangers of wind and sea. Elisa is grateful but terribly frightened. The act ends with everyone in panic: the sun is almost setting and the shore is still some distance away. “Ayaya, Ayaya, soon we shall live no more!”
The ‘Spirit of Dreams’ tells Elisa to weave shirts of nettles for the brothers, and to pretend to be deaf and dumb. The young king on his hunt invites her to join him, although his entourage advise him that this would be an uneven match. Elisa refuses to go. First when the king offers to make a cave for her in the palace, where she can continue to make nettle shirts for her brothers, is she prepared to go along with the king. The act ends with the five princes coming to the cave to play with their sister but finding it empty.
As the court officials are trying to persuade the king not to marry Elisa she enters, knitting away with her nettles. “Tell me, is it true that you are in communion with the devil?” asks the king. Elisa is just about to answer but remembers in time that she must pretend to be deaf and dumb. A minister is triumphant: “See! See! You ask her if she is an evil spirit and she doesn’t say a thing!” The king orders her to be burnt on the stake. As the guards try to drag her off stage to a burning stake five swans fly up to her. She throws the five jackets over them and transforms them into men, only the little one has one wing left. Now Elisa tells her story in moving rambling lines. Everybody on stage forms a circle round Elisa. They dance and sing. King: “What a wonderful wife I have!” Ministers: “What a steadfast and blameless queen we have!” Princes: “What a loving little sister we have!” Elisa: “What wonderful companions I have as brothers!” The play ends in a triumphant chorus.
As a children’s opera, Zhao Jing-shen’s adaptation of H.C. Andersen looks remarkably subtle and sensitive. Unfortunately I have not seen the opera on stage, so I can’t tell how effective it would be in practise. But perhaps it is worth noting that in May 1979 what appears to be a re-adaptation of Zhao Jing-Shen’s opera was produced as a puppet show in Peking. This puppet show was, I understand, extremely popular with the Chinese public.
In 1951, two years after the establishment of the socialist People’s Republic of China, H.C. Andersen’s The Wild Swans was published in Peking as a Chinese book of ‘linked pictures’ (lianhuan hua). The book consisted of 90 black-and-white illustrations with about two lines of text on each illustrated page.
The ‘linked pictures’ or comic strip books have a very long history in China. And the 90 page version of H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale combined traditional Chinese techniques with an attempt to create a ‘Western’ atmosphere.
It is well worth studying the way in which the Chinese found it appropriate or neccessary to adapt H.C. Andersen’s text for their purposes. The general tendency is to reduce the fantastic or ‘surrealist’ elements in H.C. Andersen’s tale and to strengthen the edifying or moralizing message of the story.
For example we hear nothing of diamond pencils or stools of mirror-glass. And there are no picture-books costing as much as half the kingdom. Instead we are told that the eleven princes were all both intelligent and diligent at school, something which H.C. Andersen does not mention at all.
Naturally, the Chinese comic strip version adds graphic details. For example the princes are seen asleep in their princely beds when their stepmother tells them to fly off in the shape of birds. On the other hand the detail that the wicked stepmother wants the princes to become ugly voiceless birds but is unable to defeat the princes’ inherent goodness so that they end up as wonderful white swans, that sort of ‘magical’ detail is hard to illustrate and easy to leave out. This detail does not appear in the comic strip. Thus the story becomes both more graphic and more simplified and vastly more accessible for children.
H.C. Andersen tells us, that when Elisa was 15 she had to go home to the palace, but in the Chinese comic strip she becomes a heroine who steals her way into the palace. The reader is encouraged to identify himself with her heroic efforts to find her brothers. And even while Elisa is still working on the farm, the Chinese comic strip facilitates this identification with the heroine by showing Elisa feeding the chicken rather than Elisa listening to the wind that wispers in the roses …
When in the comic strip Elisa recognizes her brothers on the sea shore, she ’shouts’ ，their names, although in the Danish she just addresses them with their names. Here, for once, we have not a deliberate modification of H.C. Andersen’s story, but apparently a simple linguistic misunderstanding: To ‘call’ (kalde) someone by his name does not normally involve shouting, but the Chinese translator af H.C. Andersen seems to have thought so.
Misunderstandings of this sort are surprisingly rare. Most changes that the comic introduces have a deep purpose. For example, when the comic lets the heroic Elisa take the initiative to suggest that she should join her brothers on their long flight over the sea. In H.C. Andersen the brothers invite her and are afraid that she might not have the courage to come along. But at a time of a vigorous movement of women’s liberation in China such details have to go out: Elisa is not just a ‘little girl’, she is her brothers’ equal.
Nonetheless, when Elisa with her eleven brothers alights on the tiny rock island in the middle of the sea and the waves come crashing in on the little freezing group, the Chinese comic – unlike H.C. Andersen – makes the eleven brothers gallantly protect their sister against the waters.
In the Chinese comic it is the common practical purpose to protect the little sister against the water that keeps the group together. Needless to say, there is no singing of church hymns on the little rock. Here as always H.C. Andersen’s references to popular religion are played down in the Chinese adaptation.
It is therefore not surprising that when Elisa arrives at the cave and falls asleep the Chinese version does not mention her intense prayer to God that even continued into her sleep and led to her dream about how she could deliver her brothers from their plight. The Chinese Elisa is pre-occupied with the fate of her brothers, not the grace of God. That is why the Chinese Elisa doesn’t fall on her knees and thank Our Lord when she wakes up from her dream and finds a nettle by her side. She decides to do as she was told by the fairy in her dream.
However, the Chinese Elisa does not have to go without all forms of magical solace. When her brothers find her mute and covered with blisters all over, their tears prove to be as magically effective as they are in H.C. Andersen’s tale: wherever the tears fall the blisters go away. This sort of magic illustrates poetically the power of brotherly love. It is thus a constructive element in the plot. The magic is comprehensible to the child. It is not just religious superstition.
The Chinese Elisa enjoys considerable freedom in her relationship with her brothers. They are allowed to embrace and caress her even in the illustrations. But when the young king falls in love with her and softens her heart by providing a cave where she can go on working with her nettles to liberate her brothers, we see no more than a very cool and formal young king kissing Elisa’s hand from a distance. A gentle embrace – as we have it in H.C. Andersen – would be felt to be outrageously obscene: the young Chinese readers of the comic might get some wrong ideas …
One might have thought that a cartoonist would be grateful for an opportunity to give a vivid picture of little Elisa in the murky churchyard facing the awful witches digging the graves with their lean whitish fingers, eating the dead, but the Chinese Elisa just courageously braves the darkness and efficiently collects the nettles she needs. The illustration shows her picking nettles next to a peaceful grave: No witches with whitish fingers.
One might also have thought that a royal wedding between the young kind and beautiful Elisa would have been a splendid theme on which to end. But the Chinese Elisa sticks to her brothers: In the last but one picture she looks affectionately at the king, and he looks kindly at her. But this is only a prelude to the farewell scene with which the cartoon ends: The Chinese Elisa returns home with her brothers. Her family is reunited.
The Daughter of the Sea is the title of a remarkable comic strip version of Den lille havfrue from 1956. The title page shows an ’exotic’ young Western female lying on the beach against the background of a sunset. The illustration bears a remarkable resemblace to the cover of Walther Killy’s classical study Deutscher Kitsch, and the content of the Chinese comic satisfies the expectations raised by the cover. We have a rather banal dramatization of H.C. Andersen’s story, with the little mermaid inevitably emerging as an admirable romantic heroine. When at the end of the story she casts the dagger into the sea and the sea turns red, it turns out in the Chinese comic that the little mermaid has incidentally hit the abominable witch from below the sea: she has won a victory over the dark and evil forces of the underworld.
Needless to say, there is no union with the waves and the sun for the Chinese little mermaid. She remains intact at the end, is reunited with her sisters in eternal bliss, a model of romantic true love for the rest of the world. The idealistic quest of the little mermaid for a higher world doesn’t come into the picture at all. There is no question of the little mermaid entering the Kingdom of God, not after 300 years, and certainly not before then.
I have on several occasions tried to read Den lille havfrue for my five-year-old son. He always complains that the story is too repetitive, the introduction much too long, the conclusion unsatisfactorily vague. The reason why he will listen to the story at all is because he simply loves the Chinese version of it. There he finds a clear line of action to follow and proper emphasis on the dramatic effects of the story. I have had to make a complete Danish translation of the cartoon for my son.
One may not like the Chinese adaptation of Den lille havfrue, but there is no denying that it is a very effective ‘popularization’ of H.C. Andersen’s story. In spite of everything, The Daughter of the Sea is an immensely readable comic strip. It is not at all surprising that the comic had to be reprinted in 1959.
There isn’t much action in The Little Girl with the Matches. But in a Chinese comic there has to be action all the time. Things have to be seen to happen. H.C. Andersen’s tale begins on New Year’s Eve and it ends on New Year’s morning. The comic strip version of 1977 published in colour in the Comic Strip Monthly in Peking has the little girl wake up early in the morning, shivering with cold. Her family has no money for an eiderdown that is warm enough. The wind blows in through broken windows which the little girl’s family are too poor to repair.
But the little girl in the comic shows herself to be a little heroine. She refuses to be subdued by her poverty and the cold. Resolutely she gets up. Of course, she doesn’t think of herself, she is concerned for her mother, who in the comic is sick in bed. Very carefully she puts her own thin blanket over her mother. She doesn’t want to wake her mother up. She is a thoughtful heroine.
In the Chinese comic there simply is no food in the kitchen. And although there is a father who should really earn money for the family, the little girl takes things into her own hand. She takes the revolutionary initiative. She is not satisfied with relying on others. She decides to go out to sell the last lot of matches that she didn’t manage to sell last time she was out in the streets. In order to make sure that she sells as much as she can she goes out immediately, early in the morning, at a time when there is hardly anybody about in town.
The little heroine fails to sell any matches, but as she is trying to escape a fast horse-carriage driving towards her she loses one of her clogs. (Danish clogs are apparently so proverbial in China that the large slippers H.C. Andersen makes her wear are turned into wooden clogs in order to create an exotic Danish atmosphere.) H.C. Andersen’s little episode on the boy who takes the slipper away and says he wants to use it as a cradle for his own child, when he gets one, is left out in the comic, although it could make a pictoresque little scene to illustrate. But the episode has no edifying or moralizing function. It is no more than a pictoresque detail, and that sort of detail has to be left out in a Chinese comic.
Also the point that the little girl in H.C. Andersen’s tale doesn’t dare to go home because she is afraid that her cruel father will beat her, since she hasn’t managed to sell any matches, has to go out: The father is poor and a member of the working classes. Consequently he has to be a kind and sympathetic father. Working class fathers are always like that, and if H.C. Andersen paints a different picture he has to be corrected. If the father had been rich, the whole thing would have been entirely different, of course. In that case we should inevitably have got a vivid picture of the bloodthirsty father waiting in the door to pounce upon his innocent daughter to see if she had made any profit on the sales. (But that is not the story we get in this instance.)
When in the end the little girl sinks down in a corner and begins to light the matches more than half the Chinese comic is over, whereas this part covers only a fourth of H.C. Andersen’s story. For the Chinese comic the little girl’s struggle against the cold capitalist world that has no place for her is of central importance, and the most striking differences between H.C. Andersen and the comic are in this first part.
Nonetheless there are significant differences also in the second part. It emerges in H.C. Andersen’s tale that the little girl’s grandmother had been the only person who understood her, and treated her with kindness. In H.C. Andersen it is not just that the father threatens to beat the little girl, the mother isn’t a very good mother either. (One suspects that H.C. Andersen speaks from genuine working class experience!) All this has to be changed into a picture of idyllic working class desperation in the Chinese comic.
The grandmother’s superstition that someone is dying when a star falls out of the sky obviously can’t be mentioned in the comic.
The meeting of the little girl with her grandmother takes on a completely different meaning in the comic. In H.C. Andersen’s tale the little girl says: “Oh grandmother, take me along with you! I know you are far away …” The grandmother is dead. The little girl has a longing to leave this world. She has given this world up. She longs for the warm world of fantasies, with her grandmother and the smell of fried goose … But in the comic the little girl’s vision ends in a plain and warm embrace. There is no lofty notion about ‘being with god’ in the comic.
The little girl in the comic dies in plain desperation over the fact that the capitalist world that she lived in offered her no chance of survival.
The Chinese authors of the comic will – I suspect – point out that they had to change H.C. Andersen’s story because it failed to show a clear political perspective, because in certain ways it was emptily romantic. The Danes might well be inclined to retort that the comic version of H.C. Andersen has none of the fine humour and the delicate sensitivity that make H.C. Andersen’s story into great poetry. The deep truth seems to be that both the Chinese and the Danes are right, each in their own way. What the comic seems to be aiming at is to preserve some of H.C. Andersen’s poetry but add a clear political perspective.
H.C. Andersen’s enthusiastic attitude towards scientific and technological progress, his romantic attitude towards the blessings of science and technology have always had a deep appeal in China, especially during the campaigns of modernisation of technology.
In an article Towards Eternity from September 23, 1979 Ye Jun-jian talks enthusiastically about fairy tales like The Great Sea Snake and he recommends particularly the little known story The Thorny Path of Glory. The Thorny Path of Glory recounts with deep sympathy the sufferings of poets and of the great protagonists of scientific and technological progress. The misery of the lives of Homer, Socrates, Columbus, Galilei, Robert Fulton (inventor of the steam ship) are contrasted with the eternal glory of their historical achievements. In the Chinese context Ye Jun-jian thinks particularly of the trials and tribulations suffered by poets and men of science in China since 1949, and especially since the Cultural Revolution in 1966. They may have died unhappy men, but with their poetry and with their technological contributions they have laid the foundations for the glorious progress of Chinese civilization.
Ye Jun-jian quotes H.C. Andersen with approval: “Then the thorny path of glory shows itself as a halo around the earth. Blessed is he who is chosen to wander on this path, who without a salary (!) associates with the builder of the bridge between mankind and god.” But he hastens to add: “The ‘God’ H.C. Andersen here refers to is not the God religion talks about, it signifies the highest horizon of the ideal human society.”
On the other hand Ye doesn’t need to add any qualifications whatever to the following quotation from H.C. Andersen: ‘‘Soon the Long Wall of China will crumble. Before long the European steam trains will reach the closed and self-contained cultures of China: the two cultures will merge into one!” (from The New Century’s Muse) Ye can only exlaim: ‘‘What a wide horizon H.C. Andersen had! But H.C. Andersen was not a man of illusions. He longed for ‘the new century’， but he knew that the way towards the new century was full of brambles. His thought was that this thorny way was glorious.”
The present bibliography includes only books and articles especially concerned with the translation or explanation of H.C. Andersen’s works.
The bibliography is based mainly on the material available in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, and the H.C. Andersen Museum in Odense supplemented by my own personal collection.
Much of the literature listed in this bibliography is not available in Western libraries. In the case of the extensive Chinese literature on H.C. Andersen this seems especially unfortunate.
In the context of cultural relations between Denmark and China it would seem both important and interesting to survey Chinese reactions to the great Danish poet, but such a survey could only be conducted with the co-operation of the authorities in the People’s Republic of China.
In many ways this bibliography is still grossly incomplete. A proper bibliographic survey seems again possible only with the co-operation of the Chinese authorities. It will be noted in this connection that the two most prolific students of Andersen in China, Zhao Jing-shen and Ye Jun-jian are both still active in March 1979. They would be uniquely useful people to consult on the reception of Andersen in China. Ye Jun-jian is 65, Zhao Jing-shen is in his late seventies.
(A chronological bibliography)
(The arrangement is alphabetical by translator’s surnames and pen names. Those items for which I have been unable to give a precise date are definitely pre-1926.)
While travelling in China in November 1979 I often had to explain where I came from, and I got into the habit of saying ’from H.C. Andersen’s home island.’ That was more readily understood than ‘from Danmai.’ 一 Not surprisingly the only book on Denmark that one can buy in China is entitled H.C. Andersen’s Home. (A very charming little book, incidentally, which makes one reflect on the difficulty of describing a very distant culture. One wonders how the Chinese would react to the things we go on writing about them …)
I was in Peking during the Fourth National Congress of Writers and Artists. The president of the conference, China’s greatest living novelist Mao Dun, summed up on this occasion what he had felt was wrong with Chinese juvenile literature in 1961, and what he still felt was wrong with Chinese juvenile literature in 1979:
Then he continued: “Now we must emphasize the artistic aspect. We must liven things up. Even if we cannot achieve the high level of H.C. Andersen’s tales, we must at least study these tales, take the good things in and convert them into our own flesh and blood …”
The famous realistic novelist Mao Dun has translated a number of H.C. Andersen’s tales into Chinese during the 1920s, and so have quite a few other prominent Chinese writers. The fable or fairy tale has become one of the strong points of 20th century Chinese literature. A collection of Chinese fables from the 1920s to the 1970s was published in 1978 in Shanghai: Tonghua xuan, 680 pages.)
However, it is important to emphasize that the modern Chinese fables in no way are imitations of H.C. Andersen. They build on an extremely rich Chinese folklo-ric tradition and they aim at effects quite alien to H.C. Andersen. By studying the systematic ways in which the Chinese have rewritten H.C. Andersen for their purpose since 1949 we can appreciate the considerable gap there is between H.C. Andersen’s art and official Chinese cultural policy. The gap is narrowing, but it is still very much present.
Ye Jun-jian, the great H.C. Andersen translator of modern China, has recently republished his biography of H.C. Andersen, which is almost entirely in the tradition of romantic socialist realism. H.C. Andersen emerges as a pure and unselfish proletarian hero, a literary fighter against wealth and privilege.
In fact, Ye Jun-jian is a very distinguished communist author in his own right. From 1946 to 1949 he has published three English novels in London, using the name Chun Chan Yeh. One of these novels, Mountain Village, has been widely translated into different languages, among others Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic, but deplorably not yet into the language of H.C. Andersen!!
In 1950 Ye returned to China to take up a professorship in the University of Peking. Since then he has published a considerable number of Chinese books. His new magnum opus is a trilogy of novels about Chinese society in the early 20th century, of which he has recently sent me the first volume. As a creative writer Ye shows little of H.C. Andersen’s romantic and good-humoured understanding for all sorts of people, for all classes in society. Ye takes sides in the class struggle. He is merciless in his castigation of the class enemy, and orthodox in his glorification of the oppressed. He is not a romanticist, he is a romantic revolutionary.
Ye tells me that what fascinated him in H.C. Andersen was his humour and his warm humanity. And indeed I perceive a warm sensitivity and a deep human concern as the driving force behind all of Ye Jun-jian’s writing that I have read. But still it remains strange to ponder that Ye, the writer of propaganda stories, is the same Ye who translated the whole lot of H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales with such meticulous and loving care.
It is as if somewhere, deep below the surface of different literary and ideological conventions, Andersen’s poetry and socialist propaganda are profoundly complementary. And if anyone is in a position to merge the two, it must be a poet like Ye Jun-jian.