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Yang Xianyi

Yang Xianyi
Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang in 1941
Yang Xianyi (right) and Gladys Yang in 1941
Born (1915-01-10)January 10, 1915
Tianjin, China
Died November 23, 2009(2009-11-23) (aged 94)
Beijing, China
Nationality Chinese
Other names simplified Chinese: 杨宪益; traditional Chinese: 楊憲益; pinyin: Yáng Xiànyì
Occupation Translator
Spouse(s) Gladys Yang

Yang Xianyi (simplified Chinese: 杨宪益; traditional Chinese: 楊憲益; pinyin: Yáng Xiànyì, Wade Giles: Yang Hsien-i, born at Tianjin, January 10, 1915; died November 23, 2009)[1] was a Chinese literary translator, known for rendering many ancient and a few modern Chinese classics into English, including Dream of the Red Chamber.

Born into a wealthy banker family, he was sent to Merton College, Oxford to study Classics in 1936. There he married Gladys Tayler. He had two daughters, and a son (who committed suicide in 1979).

Yang and his wife returned to China in 1940, and began their decades long co-operation of introducing Chinese classics to the English-speaking world. Working for the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, a government-funded publisher, the husband and wife team produced a number of quality translations. The works translated include classical Chinese poetry; such classic works as Dream of the Red Chamber, The Scholars, Liu E's Mr. Decadent: Notes Taken in an Outing (老殘遊記), also known as The Travels of Lao Can, and some of Lu Xun's stories. His wife, Gladys Yang, died in 1999.

Yang was also the first one to render the Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion into Chinese.

He narrowly escaped being labeled a "rightist" in 1957-58 for his frank speaking. However, Yang and his wife were imprisoned for seven years as "class enemies" in 1964 during the Cultural Revolution.[2]

He was also noted for writing doggerels. His autobiography, White Tiger, was published in 2003.


  1. ^ "[Translator Yang Xianyi passes away at 94, translator of Dream of the Red Chamber to English]". Xinhua News Agency. 24 Nov 2009.  (Source in Chinese.)
  2. ^ "Yang Xianyi". The Telegraph (UK). 10 Dec 2009. 

External links

  • Yang Xianyi - Daily Telegraph obituary. 10 December 2009.
  • White TigerAbout
  • An article about him (in Chinese)
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