Ending as Beginning: Chinese. Translations of Edward Bellamy's Utopian Novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887

Kenny K.K. Ng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Chinese translation of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1887) at the turn of the twentieth century has been little studied, in spite of Bellamy's obvious influence on Chinese intellectuals and reformist thinkers. Enthusiastically embraced by the intelligentsia as a gospel of social change, the utopian fiction has inspired subsequent Chinese writings of science fantasy in popular fiction. Bellamy's tale centers on the adventure of time-traveler Julian West, a young Bostonian who is put into a hypnotic sleep in the late nineteenth century and awakens in the year 2000 in a socialist utopia. He discovers an ideally realized vision of the future, one unthinkable in his own century. This article argues that Chinese translators, in their conventional form of storytelling, have intentionally converted Bellamy's original religious prophesy into a vision of a new and modernized state that is in line with the Chinese evolutionary historical imagination. It discusses the problematic of imagining the future by delineating the relationships of utopianism, social modernity, and temporality as the novel was written by an engaged American writer and then rendered into various Chinese versions by Western missionaries, Chinese intellectuals, and popular writers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-35
Number of pages27
JournalFrontiers of Literary Studies in China
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • apocalyptic fiction
  • dream
  • Edward Bellamy
  • Evolutionism
  • fantastic
  • futuristic world
  • translation
  • utopia


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