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Chekhov in China

In 1954, as the whole world was celebrating the 50th anniversary since Anton Chekhov's death, Mao Dung, Chairman of the Union of Chinese Writers published an article, stating Anton Chekhov as one of the most beloved writers in China in the history of world classic literature.

The first Chekhov story to be translated into Chinese language was "The Black Monk". It was published by Shan You Publishing House in 1907, translated by Tao Gen basing on Japanese translation. "The Black Monk" was published in Wenyang, the literature language of Chinese Empire.

Two years later, "The House with the Mezzanine" and "In Exile" were published in the Foreign Literature Almanac. In 1919, the story "Good Friend" was published in the magazine Xin zinnyang. In 1935 eight stories by Chekhov, including "Little Brother" were published.

Zhao Tsinsheng became the first author of the large translations of Chekhov works. In 1930 the "Kaiming" edition issued "The Collected Selected Works by Chekhov" (162 works), translated from English. But Zhu Lun made a real acquaintance of the Chinese reader with Chekhov. He was the author of the translation, which contained more than 200 works in 27 volumes, issued from 1950 till 1958. In 1987 the Henan University Publishing House issued 25 collected dissertations "The research of Chekhov's Works". These dissertations confirm the high level of the Chekhov's researches in China in eighties of the last century.

Anton Chekhov is a great playwright. After translation of his play "The Seagull" into Chinese, other plays by Chekhov started to appear in Chinese. One of the greatest Chekhov translations - "The Collected Plays" - were issued by the Shanghai edition "Wenghua Shengho" in 1936. Among the collected plays were "Ivanov", "Three Sisters", "Uncle Vanya" and a collection of one-act plays. In 1954, was published the volume "The Collected Plays by Chekhov". The famous writer and playwright Cao Yu didn't translate himself the works by Chekhov, but he made his contribution through distribution, popularization and researches of the dramatist heritage of Chekhov. The first night of the Chekhov's play in China took place on May 11, 1930 as the Shanghai theater group performed onstage the "Uncle Vanya".

Before the formation of People's Republic of China, many translations of Chekhov's works were issued, but only after 1949 the researches of his literature legacy began. Zhou Yi Sengyou, Professor of the Eastern Chinese Teacher Training School, enjoyed the glory of founding this direction of history and criticism of literature in China. Two of his works - "Master of Literary Tale - Anton P. Chekhov" (1984) and "Chekhov - Soul, Creation, Art" (1994) are fundamental in this area. Another expert Li Chenming, published the book "To experience the Literary World of Chekhov" in 2003.

Anton Chekhov Memorial Year celebrations, dedicated to Russian writer's 50th (1954) and 100th (2004) death anniversaries, and 100th birth anniversary (1960) were widely celebrated throughout China.

In 2004, The National Theater Company of China presented its first international drama festival, called "Forever Chekhov." Opening with Platonov, Chekhov's little known first play directed by Wang Xiaoying, the month-long festival will also run two versions of The Cheery Orchard, one directed by Lin Zhaohua and the other produced by the Russian State Academic Youth Theater. Other productions included Israel Cameri Theater's Requiem, Canadian Smith-Gilmour Theater's short stories and original works adapted from Chekhov's short stories by young directors and cast of the National Theater Company of China.

Lin Zhaohua, the most renowned theater director in China today, commented in a very serious tone at the press conference for the "Forever Chekhov" festival: "It is a great shame that China's theaters do not stage Shakespeare and Chekhov."

Thanks to the National Theater Company of China, Beijing's theater-goers can finally appreciate Chekhov's great works.

The fact that China has produced few Chekhov works does not mean the great figure has no impact on Chinese drama and theater lovers.

Dramatist Cao Yu (1910-96), the first president of Beijing People's Art Theater, wrote in the epilogue of his trademark work The Sunrise (Richu) in 1936: "I remember I was fascinated by Chekhov's profound art a few years ago when I read The Three Sisters. How I was moved by his story... There is no dramatic plot, the structure is smooth but the vivid roles and their souls catch me... I cannot breathe but was immersed in that gloomy atmosphere. I want to be formally apprenticed to the great master to learn from him."

The other Chinese dramatist Jiao Juyin (1905-75) acclaimed the Russian playwright and novelist as "the supreme taste for arts and literature."

Jiao, one of the pioneers who introduced Chekhov to China's drama circle and translated some of Chekhov's works into Chinese in the early 1940s, once said he benefited much from Chekhov. "I started directing in a unique way: It was not Stanislavsky who helped me understand Chekhov, it was Chekhov who helped me understand Stanislavsky."

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