The Man Who Helped Bring Shakespeare to China

By Alistair Baker-Brian, July 26, 2021

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Who’s Who of the Hutong? is a monthly feature that explores the lives of famous historical figures who lived in Beijing’s hutong. In this edition, we look at the life of Liang Shiqiu, a literary expert and translator credited with helping to introduce Shakespeare to a Chinese audience. Shiqiu was born in Beijing and once lived in Neiwubujie Hutong.

Liang-Shiqiu.jpeg

Liang Shiqiu. Image via Wikimedia

While William Shakespeare and his infamous plays and poems need no introduction, the story of how his works were introduced to the Middle Kingdom is perhaps not so well known. 

Neiwubujie Hutong lies in Beijing, Dongcheng district. It looks like any of the other hutong in the city – old-style courtyard residences nestled among convenience stores, local government offices and more.

Liang-Shi-Qiu.jpeg

Image via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's

At No. 39, a few doors down from the Embassy of Luxembourg, a sign on the wall reads, “Former Residence of Liang Shiqiu.” Born in Beijing in 1903, Liang lived at the home in Neiwubujie Hutong during his early years. 

Liang-Shi-Qiu.jpegImage via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's

His talent for writing and foreign languages was evident early on in his life. By 1923, he was studying for a master’s degree in literature at Harvard University in the US. After returning in 1926, Liang worked as a professor at a variety of higher education institutions across China. 

In 1930, Liang started translating the works of Shakespeare at the age of 27. His first translation was published in 1936.

By 1949, the year in which the People’s Republic of China was founded, Liang moved to Taiwan where he continued his work. By 1967, aged 64, he had finished translating the entire works of Shakespeare. 

Following his death in Taipei in 1987, Liang’s work continued to garner attention. The Complete Works of Shakespeare was published in Chinese by People’s Literary Publications in 1994. 

More recently in 2016, an updated bilingual English-Chinese version of the collection was published by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press with the authorization of the UK-based Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Clearly, the legacy of the man who helped bring Shakespeare to China will live for a very long time. 


[Cover image via Pixabay]

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