New Resource: Zhaiyi (摘译) database

The Institute of Chinese Studies Heidelberg holds a full run of Zhaiyi (Selected Translations). Because it will not be found in the great collections outside the PRC and is of interest for the study of Chinese literary and cultural interactions with the world at a time when such interactions were at a low ebb, it is made accessible on-line here for scholarly research in a fully searchable version. Zhaiyi was “internally published” by the Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe from late 1973 to the end of 1976. It belonged to a group of journals starting publication in Shanghai around the same time, namely the literary journal Zhaoxia 朝霞 (Morning Dawn), a journal devoted to theoretical questions of science and philosophy, Ziran bianzhengfa 自认辩证法 (Dialectics of Nature), and a journal of political theory and criticism, Xuexi yu pipan 学习与批判 (Study and Critique). These were not marked as “internally published,” but they were all also discontinued shortly after !
 the end of the Cultural Revolution.
 
Zhaiyi (print run 15.000) in a way took the place of Yiwen 译文 (Translation Literature), by far the most widely read literary journal in the PRC during the 1950s. Yiwen was published between 1953 and 1958, when its title was changed to Shijie Wenxue 世界文学 (World Literature) . It was suspended in 1965 and between 1967 and 1976. Zhaiyi, however, had a much narrower focus than Yiwen and its successor. Its purpose was to document social and political developments and conflicts in the Soviet Union, the US, and Japan through translations, synopses, criticism and news summaries of works of fiction, film, theater, and poetry. In issue 1 (1976) the editors responded in kind to readers and potential writers who would have preferred greater emphasis on introducing foreign works of high literary quality. The journal, they said, was to serve as internal reference for researchers studying these three societies (and not as a window to world literature).
 
The importance of Zhaiyi lies in its providing one of the few Chinese windows to international culture at the time, the others being translations (in “white” or “yellow” binding without book number) with a much more restricted circulation. One will find in Zhaiyi full translations of Soviet works, Japanese film scripts, and North American works such as Neill Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue or works by Malcolm X, all of them coming with some literary and political comment. The selection criteria was not simply “black material” but the journal often also included “progressive” works whose critical take on the political and social situation of the country in question would highlight certain conflicts.
 
The Heidelberg Institute hopes that this resource will be of use to scholars. Interested scholars apply for access at: http://uni-heidelberg.de/zhaiyi
 
Kind regards
 
Rudolf G. Wagner
Senior Professor, Chinese Studies, Heidelberg University, Cluster “Asia and Europe”
Associate, John K. Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University