Chinese Shakespeares

Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange

Alexa Huang

Columbia University Press

Chinese Shakespeares

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Pub Date: June 2009

ISBN: 9780231148498

368 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£27.00

Pub Date: June 2009

ISBN: 9780231148481

368 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£79.00

Pub Date: June 2009

ISBN: 9780231519922

368 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£27.00

Chinese Shakespeares

Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange

Alexa Huang

Columbia University Press

For close to two hundred years, the ideas of Shakespeare have inspired incredible work in the literature, fiction, theater, and cinema of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. From the novels of Lao She and Lin Shu to Lu Xun's search for a Chinese "Shakespeare," and from Feng Xiaogang's martial arts films to labor camp memoirs, Soviet-Chinese theater, Chinese opera in Europe, and silent film, Shakespeare has been put to work in unexpected places, yielding a rich trove of transnational imagery and paradoxical citations in popular and political culture.

Chinese Shakespeares is the first book to concentrate on both Shakespearean performance and Shakespeare's appearance in Sinophone culture and their ambiguous relationship to the postcolonial question. Substantiated by case studies of major cultural events and texts from the first Opium War in 1839 to our times, Chinese Shakespeares theorizes competing visions of "China" and "Shakespeare" in the global cultural marketplace and challenges the logic of fidelity-based criticism and the myth of cultural exclusivity. In her critique of the locality and ideological investments of authenticity in nationalism, modernity, Marxism, and personal identities, Huang reveals the truly transformative power of Chinese Shakespeares.

Huang has tackled one of the most exciting areas in Chinese and comparative cultural studies. Seen through the prism of Chinese encounters with Shakespeare and Shakespearean theatre, his book covers a wide range of issues: the dynamics of transculturation, the technology of media and reproduction, and the politics of theater. Chinese Shakespeares is a fascinating study of how, throughout the crucial moments in modern history, the Chinese imagined, appropriated, and re-oriented Shakespeare.

David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University, and author of The Monster That Is History

Chinese Shakespeares is a theoretically sophisticated contribution to crosscultural adaptation studies, not to mention Shakespeare studies. It asks (and answers) the questions that do full justice to the complexity—historical, political, cultural, social, and aesthetic—of indigenizing Shakespeare in the multiple Chinese literary and performance cultures from the first Opium War to our own times.

Linda Hutcheon, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto, and author of A Theory of Adaptation

Huang brilliantly demonstrates the extent to which East Asia explores its fascination with Shakespeare in fiction, theater, opera, cinema, and popular culture, and conversely the extent to which the rest of the world has absorbed Chinese theatrical idioms and practices. If Shakespeare proverbially belongs to the whole world, we can also gain invaluable insight from this study as to how a paradoxical sense of belonging and betrayal is configured chronologically and spatially. Imaginations about China function in Shakespearean performances in mainland China, in Taiwan, and around the globe. What Walter Benjamin has called 'the aestheticization of politics' becomes here the focus of an absorbing and unforgettable account.

David Bevington, Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, author of Shakespeare: The Seven Ages of Human Experience

Anyone interested in modern and contemporary China and its performance culture in global contexts must read this book. Huang has gone where few have gone before: the reception and performance of Shakespeare in the Chinese-speaking world during the twentieth century. With insightful analysis of intercultural relationships and East-West comparative theater studies, this meticulous and thorough study breaks new ground in the understanding of Chinese performance culture.

Xiaomei Chen, professor of Chinese literature, University of California, Davis, and author of Occidentalism and Acting the Right Part

Astonishing in breadth and depth, this study establishes Alexander C. Y. Huang as the world's preeminent authority on Chinese Shakespeares. Its theoretical sophistication and careful analysis of Chinese adaptations in global and local contexts set a new standard for the topic that is not likely to be equaled for decades. This is the book that so many of us have been waiting for, surpassing everything on the topic with its sustained theoretical reflection on the dynamics of intercultural appropriation, its depth of research into Chinese texts, and its command of both Shakespeare scholarship as well as the most recent criticism on intercultural performance.

Timothy Billings, Middlebury College, and author of Glossing Shakespeare: Reading the Plays from the Bottom of the Page

Chinese Shakespeares is not just another book on Shakespeare. It is a very absorbing account of intercultural appropriations and engagements that spans a century and a half of cultural flows across the Sinophone world and beyond. Written in a fluid and lucid prose, the book contributes to our understanding of the evolving patterns of globalization and localization in the realm of art, culture, and intellectual subjectivity.

Haiyan Lee, Stanford University, author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950

This book makes not only a groundbreaking but formative contribution to what is at this time a newly-emerging field of study in the English-speaking world. No one working in this field in the future will be able to proceed without seriously reckoning with all that Alexander C. Y. Huang has put into play.

Tom Cartelli, Muhlenberg College, and coauthor of New Wave Shakespear on Screen

The best of a new generation of scholarship based on rigorous archival research that moves the field in significant new directions.

The China Quarterly

Among the most innovative monographs this year is Chinese Shakespeares. Particularly exciting is Huang's emphasis on the two-way exchange between Shakespeare and China. His examples are temporally, geographically, and ideologically diverse. By looking to the local, Huang is able to question the terms of current cross-cultural discourse—to ask whether hybridity is necessarily progressive, to make an important distinction between universalizing and globalizing impulses, to insist on the plurality and individuality of any given audience.

SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

In the recent spate of scholarship on Shakespeare... Huang's volume stands out as being particularly valuable,... offering a model for theorizing cross-cultural entanglements that goes beyond its specific subject matter.


A splendid book,... well written and illustrated. Highly infused with theory, it adds to our understanding of the ways in which great cultures interpenetrate and enrich each other. It is a truly path-breaking book. I recommend it strongly not only to all those interested in Chinese culture but those interested in theatre and drama and the many ways in which the performing arts inform societies and cultures.

MCLC: Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Chinese Shakespeares demonstrates why the study of Shakespeare in Chinese contexts is a vital topic of such significance.... [Huang's] meticulously researched and thoughtfully constructed study... has turned this skeptic into a believer, and I invite any scholar who is interested -- or not interested -- in this topic to read Huang's thought-provoking volume.

John B. Weinstein, Journal of Asian Studies

This book maps new territory for the most promising project in comparative literature today.... Remarkable not only for its sophistication but also for its scholarly depth, Chinese Shakespeares is a landmark in the renewal of comparative literature as a discipline.

citation from the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary studies

Chinese Shakespeares is a critically sophisticated study that is grounded in firsthand knowledge of every major stage production, film, and critical article on the subject of Shakespeare in China.

Charles Ross, Comparative Literature Studies

A fascinating and important study

The Year's Work in English Studies

His keen observations on intercultural exchange and critique of prevailing discourses make the book relevant not only to scholars and students of sinophone Shakespeare but also to Shakespeareans exploring the Bard's afterlife in various fields: dissemination, modernization, localization, translation, transplantation, appropriation, and intercultural or cross-media adaptation.

Bi-qi Beatrice Lei, Modern Language Quarterly

His scholarship is meticulous, wide-ranging, and very well presented.

Theatre Journal

Alexander Huang has done a masterly job.... The book gives us an excellent picture of the various takes on Shakespeare, as well as inroads to understanding the complicated national, global, and personal meanings that are part of the Shakespeare phenomenon.

Wendy Larson, Modern Philology
List of Illustrations
A Note on Texts and Translation
Part I. Theorizing Global Localities
1. Owning Chinese Shakespeares
Part II. The Fiction of Moral Space
2. Shakespeare in Absentia: The Genealogy of an Obsession
3. Rescripting Moral Criticism: Charles and Mary Lamb, Lin Shu, and Lao She
Part III. Locality at Work
4. Silent Film and Early Theater: Performing Womanhood and Cosmopolitanism
5. Site-Specific Readings: Confucian Temple, Labor Camp, and Soviet-Chinese Theater
Part IV. Postmodern Shakespearean Orients
6. Why Does Everyone Need Chinese Opera?
7. Disowning Shakespeare and China
Select Chronology
Select Bibliography
Web Features:
Watch a video of highlights of four adaptataions of "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Lear," on screen and stage with commentary by Alexa Huang

<strong>Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies, Modern Language Association. Read the official press release.

2011 ICAS Colleagues Choice Award

Honorable Mention&mdash;Joe A. Callaway Prize for the Best Book on Drama or Theatre

About the Author

Alexa Huang is Professor of English, International Affairs, and East Asian Languages and Cultures at George Washington University where she co-founded and co-directs the Digital Humanities Institute. Her other books include Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation.