“Chinese orphans” in Europe

  From the 17th to the beginning of the 18th century, the popularity of “Chinese opera” in European theaters did not decline. In fact, the authors of these plays do not have any real knowledge of China, but just took a so-called Chinese character or theme to interpret the heroic and beautiful stories of Europeans. The so-called Chinese on the stage often wore long braids and small hats pointed like pagodas, in order to please the audience at the time for their exotic expectations. It was not until the French translation (1735) of the Yuan Zaju The Orphan of Zhao was published that the European theater stage really began to reflect the influence of Chinese theater.
  ”The Orphan of Zhao” is a historical drama created by Ji Junxiang, a dramatist in the Yuan Dynasty. The material for the plot comes from the records in Sima Qian’s “Historical Records: The Family of Zhao” in which Tu’an Jia, a doctor of Jin, killed the Zhao family and Jin Jinggong and others sought to set up the Zhao family’s orphans. “Zhao’s Orphan’s Revenge” is a total of 50% off plus a wedge. Ji Junxiang captures the core of the tragic story of “searching for orphans and seeking orphans”, mainly showing the history of the traitor Tu Anjia of Jin State in the Spring and Autumn Period, from jealousy to Zhao Dun, a loyal and genious old minister, and finally killing 300 people of Zhao’s family. The orphan of Zhao’s family was stolen from the princess’ house by Cheng Ying’s medicine box, the princess committed suicide, the goalkeeper Han Que committed suicide after letting Cheng Ying go, Gongsun Qi gave his life for the orphan, Cheng Ying gave up his son in exchange for the orphan and a series of tragic actions. At the end of the article, after the orphans became adults, they annihilated the entire Tu clan. In the end, justice triumphed over evil, and loyalty, filial piety and righteousness shined through the annals of history. When Western writers translated and adapted this play, although there were many discrepancies in the plot, all the “Chinese orphans” retained and carried forward the core factor of the play – “the spirit of saving the orphans”.
  ”Chinese orphans” in France
  The earliest translation of “The Orphan of Zhao” in the West was the French missionary Joseph Marcus. In 1732, he translated the play into French in Guangzhou, China, and explained his motivation for the translation in the preface: he hoped that Europeans could observe the degree of Chinese civilization and moral values ​​through this real Chinese tragedy. Because of this, when he translated, he deleted the text of the song, and only used the words “he sang” or “she sang” to represent the content of the song, and there was no clear explanation. Because he felt: “These songs are difficult for Europeans to understand. Because these lyrics contain things that we do not understand and language images that are difficult to grasp.” In February 1734, the French “Mercury Magazine” disclosed translation fragment. In 1735, the full text was published in the “Chinese Annals” edited by Duherd.
  After the French translation of “The Orphans of Zhao’s” by Joseph Ma was published in the “General Annals of China”, it quickly spread. In 1755, a single edition was published by the Paris-A-Parting Press. In the 18th century alone, it was adapted four times and translated into English three times.
  Voltaire’s five-act adaptation of Chinese Orphans: The Ethics of Confucius was staged in Paris in 1755. The upheaval turns the struggle of good and evil into a conflict of emotion and reason. Voltaire postponed the story that took place in the Spring and Autumn Period until Genghis Khan invaded the Central Plains twice. It is said that when Genghis Khan entered the capital, he would want to pursue the orphans of the previous dynasty, so as to cut the grass and eradicate the roots. However, in order to save the orphan, Shang De replaced him with his son. Shang De’s wife, Idamei, could not bear to let the parents and children die, so she interceded with Genghis Khan. After Genghis Khan understood the truth, he agreed to pardon on the condition of marrying Idamei as his wife, but Idamenin refused to do so. Genghis Khan was deeply moved by the loyal and righteous behavior of the Shangde couple, and finally decided to exempt them from all investigations and treat the orphans and Shangde family of the previous dynasty kindly. In order to meet the requirements of the “Three Uniforms”, Voltaire only wrote the plot of searching for orphans and rescuing orphans, and added a love story ingeniously: Genghis Khan admired the Han girl Idamé when he was young, but Idamé rejected him He married Shang De, an official of the Song Dynasty, for which Genghis Khan vowed to conquer the world. Through the fictional love between Genghis Khan and Idamé, Voltaire explored the deep emotional and rational conflict in the hero and heroine.
  As we all know, Voltaire had a deep love for Chinese political and religious morality. But he doesn’t know much about Chinese drama, so his evaluation is not high. He evaluates Joseph’s translation from a neoclassical point of view, comparing The Orphan of Zhao to a tragedy in England and Spain in the 16th century, arguing that only people beyond the Channel (referring to England) and beyond the Pyrenees (referring to Spain) can appreciate. It was a quirky burlesque, “a load of unconscionable stories”; “the play has no time and action, no terroir, no emotional development, no literary grace, no reason, no enthusiasm”. In short, “The Orphan of Zhao” cannot be compared with the French drama masterpieces at that time. However, Voltaire also pointed out that “The Orphan of Zhao” is a work of the 14th century in China, and it is very advanced if compared with European dramas at that time. He praised: “People almost thought they had seen ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ on the stage; but as incredible as it was, the play was witty; despite its many changes, the whole play was extremely clear: this is the There are two great virtues in any country; and this virtue (is) not found in many of our modern plays.” (Voltaire, “To the Duke of Richelieu”, “The Chinese Orphan”)
  Voltaire advocated the use of The traditional Chinese culture represented by Confucianism believes that this is the “most prestigious, most civilized and most perfect thing” in China, and this “unified Chinese law” full of tolerance, lofty morality, benevolence and justice is precisely the The essence of the Chinese nation. In the 14th century, China was under the rule of the Mongolian people, and such works were still produced, which shows that the conquerors not only did not change the customs of the conquered, but on the contrary. This also proves that “reason and wisdom have natural superiority compared with blind brute force”. With the vision of a thinker, Voltaire keenly saw the embodiment of this spirit from Cheng Ying, Gongsun Chu and others. Therefore, by adapting “Chinese Orphans”, he tried to rectify the declining morality of France and promote the development of the Enlightenment movement. Therefore, the theme is no longer revenge and loyalty, but reason and benevolence; no longer an atmosphere full of tragedy, but full of reconciliation and moral brilliance.
  In terms of technology, Voltaire complied with the neoclassical “three uniforms” requirement and shortened the dramatic action of “The Orphan of Zhao” from more than twenty years (25 years, according to Voltaire) to one day and night. The plot is also simplified. The original play includes passages such as gaining power, making trouble, searching for orphans, saving orphans, eliminating rape, and revenge, while Voltaire only took the search for orphans to save orphans. At the same time, according to the practice of “hero drama” at that time, a love story was added. Voltaire not only studied the translation of Joseph Marcel’s “The Orphan of Zhao”, but also read the opera “Hero of China” written by the famous Italian poet Medastassou, but he did not follow the layout of the two. His “Orphans in China” originally consisted of three acts, but after listening to the opinions of his friends, it was expanded into five acts, with the purpose of depicting local customs and thus arousing people’s sense of honor and morality. In a letter to a friend, Voltaire wrote: “I have revised the script in order to boldly promote the teachings of Confucius.” . The Chinese Orphan, adapted by Voltaire, has been staged many times in theaters in Paris and other places, and has achieved great success and even caused a sensation throughout Europe.
  ”Chinese Orphans” in England
  In the 18th century in England, the first adaptation of “The Orphans of Zhao’s” was the playwright Hatcher. The adaptation was published in 1741 under the title: “The Orphans of China: A Historical Tragedy, adapted from a Chinese tragedy in Duherd’s “Chinese Chronicle,” with songs inserted in a Chinese style.” This is European The first adaptation of a Chinese drama. In order to allude to the British reality at that time, Hachette changed the names of the characters in the play: Tu Anjia was originally a general, but became Prime Minister Xiao He, Gongsun Chu was renamed Laozi, orphan Zhao Wu was renamed Kangxi, and Timmy Ming was changed to Wu Sangui. But on the whole, Hachette’s adaptation basically retains the outline and main plot of the original, such as getting power, making trouble, searching for orphans, saving orphans, eradicating traitors, and repaying kindness. It does not strictly abide by the “three uniforms”, the whole play has five acts and sixteen scenes, and a dozen songs are added. Hatchett didn’t know the rap tradition of Yuan Zaju, let alone understand the beauty of “combination of music and white”. He just followed Duherd’s introduction in “Chinese Annals” and put the song in a place where the plot was exciting. Expresses sorrow, resentment, despair, grief, joy. It is not difficult to see from this that Hachette is trying his best to use oriental colors for creative adaptation.
  Hachette’s adaptation, which was not publicly staged due to its strong attack on current affairs, has limited reach. In contrast, The Chinese Orphan, adapted by another British playwright in the 18th century, Mou Fei (1727-1805), is better known to the British public. Murphy’s plays also basically reflect the British dramatic tendencies in the second half of the 18th century.
  In April 1756, Moufei read Voltaire’s “The Chinese Orphan” and felt that it was far from what he expected, so he decided to rewrite it, and the first draft was completed that year. In the adaptation of Moufei, ethnic contradictions are particularly highlighted. The orphans of the previous dynasty reported the hatred of the country and the family, the loyal and patriotic Zang Di and his wife died in righteousness, and the conqueror Temujin also got his due end-the fate of the characters is closely related to the national contradiction. The author’s intention is to focus on British reality. At that time, it was in the tense state of the Seven Years War between Britain and France, and the Chinese people urgently needed the inspiration of patriotism. The adaptation of Miaofei catered to the British political trend and people’s psychology at that time. Since the end of April 1759, the play has been performed for 9 consecutive performances at the Drew Leyland Theatre in London. The theatre has specially produced precious Chinese sets and costumes for its performances. The Chinese colors on the stage have opened the eyes of the British audience, pleasing to the eye and at the same time. The spirit is also greatly encouraged. The author therefore became a smash hit and was regarded as a master of patriotism.
  After the success of the play, Moufei published an open letter to Voltaire. In the letter, he mentioned that he had referenced the following materials: “The Orphan of Zhao” by Joseph Marcel (in French and English); Hurd’s criticism of “The Orphan of Zhao”; Voltaire’s “Orphan of China”. He agrees with Hurd’s views on Chinese drama, but has different opinions on “The Orphan of Zhao” translated by Joseph Marcel and “The Orphan of China” by Voltaire. He disapproved of the love story in Voltaire’s “Orphans of China”, thinking that it was very unnatural to turn a rough Tartar conqueror into a love-talking, groaning French knight. In order to make the plot more attractive to the audience and avoid focusing on the praise of Chinese morality like Voltaire did, Moufei rearranged the plot on the basis of retaining the characters, so that the orphan changed from a baby to a person who can express his words and thoughts independently. Youth in action. At the same time, he believes that the French “Orphans of China” has too many lengthy dialogues and lacks action suspense. So he tried his best to add some enthusiastic and lively actions, making the whole drama compact and suspenseful.
  Of course, in terms of literary value, Moufei’s play is not outstanding, especially the language is mostly rigid and far-fetched, and its freshness is not comparable to that of Hatchet’s poetic play 18 years ago. In terms of character portrayal, the image of Genghis Khan in Voltaire’s writings constantly changes as the plot progresses, from a savage conqueror to a resourceful politician, to a tender knight, and finally to a benevolent and moral man A self-righteous gentleman. And Temujin in the “Murderous Flight” drama is a conqueror from beginning to end, just like Tu Anjia in “The Orphan of Zhao” is always an oppressor, he has never been baptized by the so-called Chinese civilization, he is just self-willed Killing fool. However, this did not affect the wide spread of Mufei’s plays. In the following 60 years, his adaptation of “Chinese Orphans” was repeatedly performed on the British stage, and even crossed the Atlantic Ocean in Philadelphia, New York and other places in the United States (there are statistics, In the second half of the 18th century, “Chinese Orphans” was performed forty or fifty times in English-speaking countries). Even at the end of the 18th century, people thought that “Chinese Orphans” was the creation of Mous Fei, but they did not know the names of the first translator, Ma Joseph and the author, Ji Junxiang.
  Of course, in addition to France and the United Kingdom, “The Orphan of Zhao” has also had a greater impact in other European countries. For example, in 1748, the famous Italian poet Meda Stassu (1729-1782) created the opera “Hero of China” based on “The Orphan of Zhao”. The plot is basically the same, except that the orphan grows into a young man, the “Chinese hero” who fights against the villainous evil in the play. In 1752, the play was performed at the Royal Palace in Vienna, Austria, to great success.
  So far, we can say without exaggeration that it was the success of the adaptation and performance of The Orphan of Zhao in Europe that triggered the spread and acceptance of Chinese drama (and even Chinese culture) in the West. In the history of cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries, the milestone significance of “Chinese orphans” should never be ignored by future generations.

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