Monday, 14 December 2009

Yang Xianyi - my kind of guy

Yang Xianyi is dead and we should care, because he was a remarkable man, like a window connecting two worlds. His death, aged 95 by Chinese reckoning, marks the end of an era. It's like losing your last, beloved grandparent. His life is an inspiration because, despite hardship, he had integrity.

As the foremost translator of his time, he knew that he could spread knowledge and understanding. Ultimately that transforms the world more than politicians ever can. In his own quiet way, Yang stood for principles more powerful than governments and regimes. And after Tienanmen, he also stood up for freedom. Will his values live in a world that doesn't value learning ?

That's him when he was young, with his gutsy wife Gladys. She was English, but born in China and dedicated to the Chinese culture. First Oxford grad in Chinese. She ended up depressed and broken but was a fighter too. A remarkable couple. Read the Times obit of Yang HERE, it's so moving. His autobiography White Tiger is available from Amazon, And if you have any translations from Chinese, chances are they are by Yang or Gladys.

coming up - a truly odd Rosenkavalier a reader sent me, and an interesting account of a high-profile Elliott Carter concert where no one turned up .


Khim said...

As an overseas Chinese living in London in the 80s, & searching for my cultural roots, my access to classical Chinese literature was mainly through the excellent translations (into English) of Yang Xian Yi & his wife Gladys Yang. To them I owe a great debt for providing a key to my Chinese heritage. THANK YOU.

Doundou Tchil said...

Thank you. Now there are thousands of us, who live abroad and many grown up abroad, and with children who grow up abroad too. And because China is so big, many people just do not understand. And even in China, the special heritage of the South tends to get forgotten. So now it is more important than ever that we try to learn about this heritage. Your input will be welcome, I'm trying to create a site that bridges Chinese (and specifically South China) culture for the people like us and people who want to understand Chinese culture, and cultural adaptation.