Many would have been astonished by the fact that the first visitors to the Shakespeare Birthplace from China were not Chinese at all. They were missionaries, merchants, diplomats, and foreigners working for the Chinese government. The reasons for which they resided in the Celestial Empire and signed in the Residence column with a “China” vary, yet all point to the one single fact that the West has developed an immense interest in China, a country that has long practiced a non-engagement foreign policy towards the western world. A touch of naturalisation colours some of these visitors who did not forget to add an original Chinese name of theirs in the name column, and they have been better remembered by Chinese public than the western one. For instance, William Cartwright, the secretary to the Inspector General of the Ch’ing Imperial Maritime Customs in 1863, soon after Robert Hart’s appointment as the Inspector by the Chinese government, also served as the assistant in charge at Takow Customs in 1872. He visited the Shakespeare Birthplace on May 14th, 1885, and signed the Visitors’ Book with a “W. Cartwright” and “葛德立”.
An analysis into the Chinese name “葛德立” will show how well William Cartwright has adapted himself into the Chinese culture. In naming a newly born child it is common practice for Chinese parents to insert characters that represent hope and perfection. William Cartwright seemed to have been well aware of this strategy. The first character “葛”, denotes the surname, among the One Hundred Family Names in Chinese genealogy; it precedes the other two characters “德立”, the first name, which literally means “ virtues built” or “virtues cultivated”, related to one of the three central doctrines in Confucianism. Zuo Qiuming, Confucius’ contemporary, argues that what constitutes in immortal laws are the supreme good and highest order of building virtues(立德), followed by achieving public good(立功) and leaving the legacy of words(立言). He further elaborates that as time changes these three forever live. Among the three profound teachings of Confucianism on life principles, William Cartwright selected the first order and perfected it as “virtues built”(德立) , in which the interchange of Chinese words between “to build virtues”(立德) and “virtues built”(德立) signifies his pursuit of personal autonomy and extremely high sense of self-satisfaction and fulfillment, if not a self-styled title of perfection.
Unfortunately, in the shadow of his namesake the Jacobean dramatist, 葛德立(W. Cartwright) has been better known in the Chinese context than the English one. A Google search with the name William Cartwright directs almost all the results to the dramatist rather than the Chinese official, who is 100% English blood. However, the same search using the Chinese name葛德立 shows readers all the critical facts about his life and career on the first page. After serving the Ch’ing Imperial Maritime Customs for more than twenty years he returned to England and paid his tribute to the national and international Bard. Culturally dislocated between the oriental and occidental, he signed on the signature book with two names, one English, the other, Chinese, and two residences as well, one London, the other, China.