Yan Fu - A Famous Chinese Scholar and Translator
Yan Fu (严复; 8 January 1854 — 27 October 1921) was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western ideas, including Darwin's "natural selection," to China in the late 19th century.
Yan Fu studied at the Fujian Arsenal Academy in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1877–79 he studied at the Navy Academy in Greenwich, England. Upon his return to China, he was unable to pass the Imperial Civil Service Examination, while teaching at the Fujian Arsenal Academy and then Beiyang Naval Officers' School at Tianjin.
It was not until after the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95, fought for control of Korea) that Yan Fu became famous. He is celebrated for his translations, including Thomas Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and Herbert Spencer's Study of Sociology. Yan critiqued the ideas of Darwin and others, offering his own interpretations.
The ideas of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" were introduced to Chinese readers through Huxley's work. The former idea was famously rendered by Yan Fu into Chinese as tianze (means "God's choice").
He became a respected scholar for his translations, and became politically active. In 1912 he became the first principal of National Peking University (now Peking University).