HCA NEWS The Chinese love Andersen

Antusheng, as Hans Christian Andersen is called in Chinese, is the most popular foreign author in China where his fairytales are part of the school curriculum. The Chinese cherish Andersen and regard him as part of their cultural heritage.

By Camilla Jensen - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 26 February 2004

In 1995, Lin Hua, the former Chinese Cultural Attaché to Denmark, translated into Chinese a four-volume edition of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales. Today, Lin Hua lives in the Chinese capital Beijing where he is constantly reminded of the passion the Chinese have for the Danish storyteller.

In fact, Hans Christian Andersen is the most sold and most popular foreign author in China, Lin Hua says to Danish national daily Berlingske Tidende. Lin Hua's 1995 translation of the fairytales have been published in fourteen editions - and he is only one of many scholars preoccupied with Andersen's work.

"Andersen's fairytales are very wonderful tales, and in many ways they are a mirror of life in China. 'The Little Matchstick Girl', which is indisputably the most popular among young Chinese, evokes sentiment and sympathy among the passionate Chinese readers," Lin Hua explains to national daily Berlingske Tidende.

The Chinese have always read Andersen, and his reception in China is testimony to the fact that Andersen can be interpreted in many ways. 'The Ugly Duckling', 'The Little Matchstick Girl' and 'The Nightingale' have been obligatory reading in Chinese primary schools ever since the former Chinese dictator, Chairman Mao Zedong, nurtured sympathy for the Danish storyteller's account of the squalid conditions of the impoverished masses, which suited his communist ideology.

Reportedly, Mao Zedong once likened himself to the little boy in 'The Emperor's New Clothes', who exposes the Emperor's nakedness. Juan Chang, author of 'The Wild Swans' and child of the Cultural Revolution, once stated: "Andersen's fairytales reflect perfectly the inherent danger of the capitalist world."

In China, Hans Christian Andersen is primarily regarded as a storyteller for children, although many of his tales appeal to adults too. One of the main objectives voiced by Secretary General of the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation, Lars Seeberg, is to promote Andersen as a storyteller who speaks to an adult audience.

The bicentenary events will be featured worldwide, but the Chinese celebrations are seen as principal.

"The projects in China have top priority. Andersen is much a part of Chinese cultural heritage, and the Chinese have from the very beginning shown great enthusiasm for the Hans Christian Andersen bicentenary," says Lars Seeberg.

Lin Hua's coming translation of select Hans Christian Andersen poems may also open the eyes of the adult audience in China to Andersen's work. Hua's translations will be published in 2005 in connection with the bicentenary celebration of the birth of the Danish poet.