Suping Li

The Poet of Love to Patriotism: The Early Reception of Robert Burns in China from 1919 – 1949

The early reception of Robert Burns in China from 1919 – 1949 demonstrates the trajectory of Burns translation in Republic of China (1912-1949), the course from May Fourth Movement in 1919 to 1949 when the PRC was established. Since Su Manshu (1884-1918) at the first time translated ‘A red red Rose’ to Chinese readership in 1908, after May Fourth Movement, Burns had been operating in the confined realm of a love poet by this piece’s continual retranslation into thirteen versions by various translators, particularly Zhou Shoujuan (1895-1968) in 1921 and Wu Fangji (1896-1932) in 1926. Nonetheless, since 1937 when the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) broke out, for the calling of resisting Japanese aggression, Burns’s reputation was shaped as a Scottish patriotic poet via the translation works of Sun Yong (1902-1983) and Yuan Shuipai (1916-1982), particularly Yuan’s My heart’s in the Highlands: Selected Poems of Robert Burns and A. E. Housman (1944). Furthermore, Burns, as a Scottish peasantry poet pursuing independence and liberty, was also seen a representative of ‘literature of ethic minorities’ which was a unique literary phenomenon prevailed in the first half of twentieth century in Chinese literary studies.

Suping Li, University of Glasgow, Scotland