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Lin Shu, Inc.Translation and the Making of Modern Chinese Culture$

Michael Gibbs Hill

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199892884

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199892884.001.0001

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(p.241) Appendix 1 Profiles of Lin Shu’s Cotranslators

(p.241) Appendix 1 Profiles of Lin Shu’s Cotranslators

Lin Shu, Inc.
Oxford University Press

The order of these cotranslators is arranged chronologically from the first publication of a translation completed together with Lin Shu. The total number of assistants (nineteen or twenty) cannot be determined conclusively. I include here all legitimate possibilities.

These profiles immediately reveal two key aspects of the group of people who collaborated with Lin Shu. First, the great majority of Lin’s collaborators were from his native Fujian province. This may be attributed to a number of factors, including the ease of communication enabled by a shared spoken dialect between Fujian natives and the power of place-based networks in determining both social and professional associations and activities. Second, with the exception of Wang Shouchang and Wei Han, Lin’s collaborators were usually much younger than he and, unlike Lin, had received formal training at schools and academies founded during or after the collapse of the imperial examination system. Many went on to serve in government posts that required a command of foreign languages. Indeed, for people such as Wei Yi and Wang Jingqi, whose work as translators was only a part of impressive careers in government service, the trajectories of these translators were often very different from the professionalized literary intellectuals who would replace them by the 1920s and 1930s.

Information for this appendix was compiled from a number of sources, including: Zhongguo jinxiandai renwu minghao cidian, ed. Chen Yutang (2nd. ed. Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 2005); Minguo renwu da cidian, ed. Xu Youchun (Rev. ed. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 2007); Robert Compton, “A Study of the Translations of Lin Shu” (PhD Diss., Stanford University, 1971); Han Guang, Lin Qinnan (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1935); Tsang Kam-cheung, “Linyi xiaoshuo yanjiu” pt. 1 and pt. 2, Xinya xuebao 7, no. 2 (1966): 212–91, and Xinya xuebao 8, no. 1 (p.242) (1967): 383–426; Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, ed. Howard Boorman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967–1979); Zhu Xizhou, “Lin Shu dizi biao,” in Lin Qinnan xiansheng xue xing pu ji sizhong, ed. Zhu Xizhou (Rpt. Taipei: Shijie shuju, 1960); and Guo Yang, “Linyi xiaoshuo kouyizhe xiaokao,” Zhongguo wenxue yanjiu 4 (2008): 40–42. Information not included in sources listed above is cited in separate notes.

Wang Shouchang 王壽昌 (1862?–1925)

Native of Min county, Fujian. Wang first studied French at the Fuzhou Naval Yard Academy (Mawei chuanzheng xuetang 馬尾船政學堂). In 1886 he became among the first Chinese students to study in France, taking courses in French and international law at the University of Paris.1 Wang returned to China in 1893; soon thereafter he was introduced to Lin Shu. According to Lin Shu’s account, Wang suggested that Lin assist him in translating La dame aux Camelias as a way to take Lin Shu’s mind off of his long mourning for the death of his wife and mother. Their translation launched Lin Shu’s career, but Wang Shouchang himself never collaborated with Lin Shu again. Over the course of his life Wang held several positions in government, including a role as lead translator for the Beijing-Hankou railway project, which was built with loans from the French government. Wang’s other works included a collection of prose and poetry, as well as a translation of an introduction to political economy, which he published with the Commercial Press.2

Wei Yi 魏易 (1880–1932)

Born near Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Wei Yi studied at St. John’s University in Shanghai, but it is not clear whether he took a degree there.3 He was appointed, along with Lin Shu, to serve on the Translation Bureau of the Board of Education from 1901 to 1903. His first translation with Lin Shu, a version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was published in 1901. Later Wei Yi (p.243) and Lin Shu were both employed at the Translation Bureau of the Imperial Academy in Beijing. Wei Yi continued to collaborate with Lin through 1909 and is widely regarded as the best of Lin’s collaborators, both in his choice of materials and in his command of English. He held posts teaching English at Peking University and after 1911 worked at the Imperial Bank (the forerunner of the Bank of China), the Press Bureau, the National Oil Administration, and the Salt Administration. Wei Yi also published translations on his own. Notable works include a version of the Travels of Marco Polo4 and a translation of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, which went through numerous editions and stayed in print well through the 1930s.5 Wei also authored a book of brief biographies of major Western writers.6

Yan Qu 嚴璩 (1878–?)

Native of Min County, Fujian, and Yan Fu’s eldest son. He studied at the Tianjin Beiyang Naval Academy (Tianjin Beiyang shuishi xuetang 天津北洋水師學堂) and later at the University of London. He also served in the Chinese foreign missions in England and France. During the Republican period he held high-ranking posts in the Salt Administration and the Ministry of Finance. Translated one book, Aesop’s Fables, together with Lin Shu and Yan Junqian.

Yan Junqian 嚴君潛 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Min county, Fujian, and nephew of Yan Fu. Graduated from the Tianjin Beiyang Naval Academy in 1895 and taught at various schools, including the Wucheng Academy, where Lin Shu taught in Beijing. Despite his education and pedigree, Yan Qu apparently fell on hard times and (like his famous uncle) suffered from opium addiction later in life. Translated one book, Aesop’s Fables, together with Lin Shu and Yan Qu.

(p.244) Zeng Zonggong 曾宗鞏 (1870–?)

Native of Changle 長樂 in Fujian province. A student of Yan Fu, he graduated in 1892 from the Tianjian Naval Academy and later taught English at the Imperial Academy in Beijing. Zeng and Lin Shu began publishing translations in 1903. Zeng also translated on his own, including books on science and history.7 After 1910 he taught at the Fuzhou Naval Armory Academy (Fuzhou haijun zhizao xuexiao 福州海軍製造學校) and served as director of the Yantai Naval Academy (Yantai haijun xuexiao 煙臺海軍學校), and as a director of training in the navy. Late in life he worked at the navy’s Translation and Editorial Department, translating works on naval history.

Chen Jialin 陳家麟 (1880–?)

Born in Zhili province, near contemporary Tianjin. Graduated from the Beiyang Naval Academy and later studied in England. Later served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Beiyang government and participated in negotiations concerning Shandong Province. Chen was Lin’s most prolific collaborator, especially after 1911. Over the years Chen has taken the heaviest criticism for the quality of materials he translated with Lin Shu, most of which was drawn from popular adventure literature. Chen also translated on his own and in collaboration with others. Notable works include a 1916 collection of works by Anton Chekhov—one of the first complete collections in Chinese—and a 1917 version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.8 Chen translated into respectable classical Chinese, so it is possible that he was another of Lin’s collaborators who prepared a draft translation on their own that was later edited by Lin Shu. (This practice is detailed in chapter 7.) He later studied literature at Cornell University and Oxford.

Wang Jingqi 王景歧 (1882–1941)

Also known as Wang Qingji 王慶驥. Native of Fujian. Studied French at the Wuchang Language Academy (Wuchang fangyan xuetang 武昌方言學堂). Traveled to France in 1900, returning to China in 1903. Wang want back to France and took a degree in 1910 from École Libre des Sciences (p.245) Politiques in Paris while serving as a translator in the Chinese embassy; he later studied at Oxford. After returning to China in 1912, Wang held several government posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and lectured at Peking University. Wang then returned to Europe, serving in the Chinese embassy in Italy and taking part in the Paris Peace Conference. He returned to China once again in 1920, but was dispatched yet another time to serve abroad. He died in Norway in 1941. Lin and Wang translated thirteen books, including Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes, along with a number of short pieces for the newspaper Ping Bao平報. Wang’s deep involvement in government work may have led him to use the pen name Wang Qingji to keep a lower profile in his collaborations with Lin Shu.9

Wang Qingtong 王慶通 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Minhou, Fujian. Nephew of Wang Shouchang (see above).

Mao Wenzhong 毛文鍾 (no known birth/death dates)

Little is known about this collaborator, who translated over 20 books with Lin Shu after 1911.

LiShizhong 李世中 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Minhou in Fujian. Li served as a translator in the Chinese embassies to France, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal.

LiShuxuan 力樹蘐 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Fujian. Translated only two works with Lin.

(p.246) Liao Xiukun 廖琇崐 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Fujian province. Translated only one book and one short piece with Lin, all from French.

Chen Qi 陳器 (1880–?)

Native of Min County in Fujian. Graduated from Tsinghua University and took an MA at Stanford University. After returning to China, Chen Qi taught English at a number of colleges and schools in Beijing, including Peking University. According to one biographical source, Chen also published an English Rhetoric (Yingwen xiucixue英文修詞學). Chen translated two books with Lin Shu.

Hu Chaoliang 胡朝梁 (1877–1921)

A native of Qianshan 鉛山 in Jiangxi Province, Hu was mostly known for his classical-style poetry. In the early Republican period he worked in the Ministry of Education and served as a secretary to the warlord figure Xu Shuzheng.

Ye Yuyuan 葉于沅 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Minhou, Fujian. Ye studied business at the University of Liège in Belgium and took a degree in business from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and taught at the Railway Transportation Academy (Jiaotong zhuanxi suo 交通傳習所). Translated only one book with Lin Shu.

Lin Kai 林凱 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Minhou, Fujian. Translated only one book with Lin Shu. Other works by Lin Kai included an account of World War I he coauthored with one Liang Jingchun.10

(p.247) Lin Zou 林騶 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Minhou, Fujian. Translated one book with Lin Shu.

Wei Han 魏瀚 (1852–1929)

Native of Min County, Fujian. Wei Han graduated from the Fuzhou Navy Yard School and, like Wang Shouchang, was among the first students from Fujian to study in Europe. He later taught at the Navy Yard School and has been lauded by historians for his early work in building up the Chinese navy. Wei Han’s contribution to Lin’s work as a translator is sketchy at best—Lin only mentions that he and Wei had worked together to translate a book titled Hero of Preserving the Race (Baozhong yingxiong zhuan保種英雄傳), which was never published. Nonetheless, Lin probably met other young translators in Fujian through Wei’s support.

Cai Lu 蔡璐 (no known birth/death dates)

Native of Tong County in Zhejiang Province. Cai Lu is said to have assisted Lin in preparing a translation titled General History of Europe (Ouxi tongshi歐西通史), but this work was never published.

Yue Xian 樂賢 (no known birth/death dates)

Nephew of Wang Shouchang (see above). Said to have translated one book with Lin Shu, Annals of Unrest in Turkey (Tu’erji luan shi shimo土爾基亂事始末).


(1) For a description of this group from the Fuzhou Naval Yard, see Biggerstaff, The Earliest Modern Government Schools in China, 237–39.

(2) Wang Shouchang, Jixue qian xun. The English title included with this work is “Elementary Political Economy,” but the back matter also indicates that it was translated from French; the original author has not been determined.

(3) Compton (138) suggests that Wei’s involvement in anti-British agitation led to his departure from St. John’s without a degree, but I have found no other sources to corroborate this statement.

(4) Yuandai ke qing Mageboluo youji. In an acknowledgment of the importance of this translation and perhaps of Wei Yi’s own reputation, this edition bears calligraphy on the title page from Liang Qichao.

(5) A copy of this translation held in the library of Peking University, Shuangcheng gushi, was printed by Minqiang shuju in 1930.

(6) Taixi ming xiaoshuojia l ü ezhuan.

(7) Zeng Zonggong, Zhixue keben and Xila xing wang ji.

(8) Chen Dadeng and Chen Jialin, Ge xin ji.

(9) See Han Yiyu, Qingmo Minchu Hanyi Faguo wenxue yanjiu, 162–78. Prior to Han’s research, most scholars had assumed that Wang Jingqi and Wang Qingji—names that appeared on translations from Lin Shu—were two different people.

(10) Lin Kai and Liang Jingqun, Ou zhan quan shi (Beijing: Yazhou wenming xiehui, 1919). I have only seen the first volume of this book.