Yang Xianyi (Chinese:杨宪益), born at Tianjin, January 10, 1915, is a Chinese translator, known for rendering many ancient and a few modern Chinese classics into English, including Dream of the Red Chamber.
Born into a wealthy banker family, he was sent to Oxford to study Classics in 1936. There he married Gladys Taylor. He had two daughters, and a son (who committed suicide in 1979.
Yang and his wife returned to China in 1940, and began their decades long co-operation of introducing Chinese classics to the English-speaking world. Working for Foreign Languages Press, a government-funded publisher, husband and wife produced a remarkable number of quality translations. The works translated include classical Chinese poetry; such classic novels as Dream of the Red Chamber, The Scholars, and Mr. Decadent: Notes Taken in an Outing (老残游记); and some of Lu Xun's stories. His wife died in 1999.
Yang is also the first one to render Odysseía into Chinese (prose) from the ancient Greek original. He has also translated Aristophanes's Ornites, Virgil's Georgics, La chanson de Roland and Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion into Chinese.
He narrowly escaped being labeled a "rightist" in 1957-58 for his frank speaking.
He is also noted for writing doggerels. His autobiography, White Tiger, was published in 2003.
(China.org.cn July 23, 2008)