Liang Shiqiu - A Leading Magnate in the English Translation Industry
Liang Shih-chiu (梁实秋; January 6, 1903 - November 3, 1987), a renowned educator, writer, translator, literary theorist and lexicographer.
Liang was born in Beijing in 1903. His father, Liang Xianxi, was a Xiucai in the Qing Dynasty. He was educated at Tsinghua College in Beijing from 1915 to 1923. He went on to study at Colorado College and later pursued his graduate studies at Harvard and Columbia Universities. At Harvard, he studied literary criticism under Irving Babbitt, whose New Humanism helped shape his conservative literary tenets.
After his return to China in 1926, he began a long career as a professor of English at several universities, including Peking University, Tsingtao University, and Jinan University. He also served as the editor of a succession of literary supplements and periodicals, including the famous Crescent Moon Monthly (1928-1933). During this period he published a number of literary treatises which showed the strong influence of Babbitt and demonstrated his belief that human life and human nature are the only proper subjects for literature. The best known among these are The Romantic and the Classical, Literature and Revolution, The Seriousness of Literature, and The Permanence of Literature. In each of these treatises, he upheld the intrinsic value of literature as something that transcends social class and strongly opposed using literature for propagandist purposes. These pronouncements and his dislike for the excessive influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Romanticists in China triggered a polemic war between him and Lu Xun and drew the concerted attacks of leftist writers. His major works as a translator included James Barrie's Peter Pan, George Eliot's Silas Marner and Mr. Gilfil's Love Story, and Emily Bront's Wuthering Heights.
In 1949, to escape the civil war, Liang fled to Taiwan where he taught at Taiwan Normal University until his retirement in 1966. During this period, he established himself as a lexicographer by bringing out a series of English-Chinese and Chinese-English dictionaries. His translation works included George Orwell's Animal Farm and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.
Liang is now remembered chiefly as the first Chinese scholar who has single-handedly translated the complete works of Shakespeare into Chinese. This project, which was first conceived in 1930, was completed in 1967. He then embarked on another monumental project — that of writing a comprehensive history of English literature in Chinese, which was completed in 1979 and consists of a three-volume history and a companion set of Selected Readings in English Literature in Chinese translation, also in three volumes. Liang’s literary fame rests, first and foremost, on the hundreds of short essays on familiar topics, especially those written over a span of more than four decades (1940-1986) and collected under the general title of Yashe Xiaopin, now available in English translation under the title From a Cottager’s Sketchbook.