Wang Zhiliang: Bridging Cultures Through Literary Translation

Wang Zhiliang (Chinese: 王智量; pinyin: Wáng Zhìliàng) was a distinguished Chinese-Australian literary translator who dedicated his life to fostering cultural understanding through the art of translation. Born on 19 June 1928 in Hanzhong, Shaanxi, Wang’s journey as a translator spanned nearly five decades, leaving an indelible mark on the literary world.

A Passion for Language and Literature

Wang’s love for language and literature blossomed during his formative years. In 1947, he embarked on his academic journey at Peking University, where he majored in Russian language. Under the guidance of notable mentors like Hu Shih and Zhu Guangqian, he immersed himself in the world of literature. Wang’s dedication and commitment led him to become a teacher at his alma mater upon graduating in 1952.

Navigating Adversity

Wang’s life took a challenging turn in 1958 when he was labeled as a rightist by the Chinese government. Subsequently, he was sent to the May Seventh Cadre Schools to engage in laborious work in the Taihang Mountains. Undeterred by adversity, Wang’s spirit remained unbroken.

During the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, Wang found himself working as a factory laborer in Shanghai in 1960. Despite the hardships, his passion for literature continued to burn brightly.

A Resilient Return to Academia

With the dawn of a new era after the Cultural Revolution, Wang’s expertise found its rightful place. In 1977, he began his academic journey anew, teaching at East China Normal University. It was during this period that he embarked on his monumental mission of translating Russian literary treasures into Chinese, sharing the richness of Russian literature with a wider audience.

Bridging Cultures through Translation

Wang Zhiliang’s contributions to the world of translation were particularly notable in his renditions of the works of Russian novelists Ivan Turgenev and Alexander Pushkin into Chinese. His meticulous translations breathed life into the works of these literary giants, allowing Chinese readers to savor the beauty and depth of Russian literature.

In recognition of his extraordinary efforts to introduce Russian literature to foreign readers, Wang was awarded the prestigious Pushkin Medal by the Government of the Russian Federation in 1999.

A Legacy of Understanding

In the 1990s, Wang emigrated to Australia with his children, further enriching his life experiences. He eventually settled in Shanghai in the 2000s, continuing to contribute to the world of literary translation.

Wang Zhiliang’s legacy as a bridge between cultures will forever be cherished. On 2 January 2023, Wang passed away at the age of 94, leaving behind a body of work that continues to foster understanding and appreciation between the Chinese and Russian literary traditions. His dedication to the art of translation serves as an enduring testament to the power of words to transcend borders and unite hearts.