Influence and Reinvention: the "Chinese princess" Judith Gautier and The Book of Jade

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Wang Hongyujia


In 1862, Le Marquis d’ Hervey de Saint Denys published the first French translation of Tang poetry, Poems of the Tang Dynasty, and five years later, Judith Gautier published another collection of translated poems, The Book of Jade. While the Poems of the Tang Dynasty frequently gained recognition in sinology but failed to reach the general public, The Book of Jade had the opposite fate, not attracting enough attention in sinology but being well received by the general reader and influencing poetic luminaries from various countries such as Hugo, Verlaine and Pound. Judith Gautier, who calls herself “a Chinese Princess”, has made it her mission to spread Chinese culture, but Judith has never been to China, and the China she presents is an “imaginary” China influenced by some secondary sources and her Chinese acquain­tances. Once the focus is shifted to the female characters in her work, it is easy to see that for almost half a century, Judith looked at European reality through the lens of China as the “other”, reflecting the plight of women in French reality. The imaginary “China” became the locus of her unique feminine thought, while the charismatic female characters prompted Western readers to wonder, identify and yearn for the real China.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Chinese Influences on Modern and Contemporary European and American Literature a