Garibaldi as a Xia (Chinese Knight-errant): On the Transformation of Heroic Narratives in Late Qing China

Dr.  Wendong Cui5

5City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

This article examines the transformation of the image of the Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, in the late Qing China and its implication. Faced with a national crisis, Chinese intellectuals at the time launched an unprecedent enterprise of translating biographies of Western military heroes. Known for his tremendous achievement in the Risorgimento and his legendary experience, Garibaldi drew fervent attention from various Chinese writers, and the translated texts won great popularity among Chinese readers. Although based on the Japanese translations borrowed from English texts, these Chinese biographies developed a distinctive interpretation of the hero by labeling him as a xia (Chinese Knight-errant). By tracing the formation process of the discourse, the article will argue that the Chinese interpretation of Garibaldi not only drew on indigenous sources of narrative on xia, but also assimilated the Japanese portrayal of the hero during the early Meiji Period. In other word, the image of Garibaldi in Chinese texts is shaped through transcultural negotiation. By introducing the new discourse on xia, the Chinese writers reconciled the Western hero worship with the repressed indigenous military tradition.


Cui Wendong is Assistant Professor at the City University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on modern Chinese literature and places a strong emphasis on transcultural translation. In 2015-2016, he was a visiting fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute. He won the Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Award two times.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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