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Happy Chinese New Year!

Shakespeare’s works have become known in China over the last 150 years, starting from amateur performances in Hong Kong and adaptations from Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare which were given the title Strange Tales from overseas.

Hamlet Chinese

The first whole play translated was Hamlet in 1922. Then Zhu Sheng Hao set himself the goal of translating all of them, starting in 1935, and was able to complete 31. These were supplemented by other scholars, and published in 1978, as the first translated complete works by any foreign author to be published in China. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has a set which was donated by a visiting delegation of Chinese publishers. These and many other editions in Mandarin are held in the library.

The study of Shakespeare is now very important in China and many Chinese people will have seen either a spoken drama production or an adaptation in the Chinese opera style. We may also have the opportunity to see classical Chinese drama e.g Snow in Midsummer is at the theatre next month. It was written by Guan Hanqing (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty and is a contemporary re-imagining of one of the most famous Classical Chinese dramas.

Hamlet Chinese

As we are entering the Year of the Cockerel, I will wish readers a Happy Chinese New Year:

新年快乐 / 新年快樂 Xīnnián kuàilè

Standard Chinese (sometimes called Mandarin or Putonghua) is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and is now written using simplified Chinese characters, but in Taiwan the traditional characters are used, and many Chinese people speak other dialects, including the one we usually call Cantonese.  I have been trying to learn Mandarin so, I am very thankful for simplified characters and for the pinyin system of writing the sounds in the Roman alphabet.

欢迎  means Welcome*

Huānyíng lái dào Stratford means Welcome to Stratford

When you go to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website look at the button in the top far right corner; clicking on it will get text in other languages and at the top is Chinese*, as we now welcome increasing numbers of Chinese and Chinese speaking visitors.

Patricia Wyspianska, library volunteer