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Stamp Released to Honor Communist Manifesto Translation

Translation

Part of an effort by President Xi Jinping to revitalize Marxist theories, China has released a commemorative stamp in honor of the first person to translate The Communist Manifesto into Chinese, Chen Wangdao.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Chinese translation of The Communist Manifesto, China released a commemorative stamp last weekend in Shanghai and Yiwu marking the anniversary.

In Shanghai, the ceremony was held at the former residence of Chen Wangdao, the first person to translate the complete Communist Manifesto into Chinese, originally written by Karl Marx in 1848. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Chen served as president of the university from 1949-1977. Fudan University Shanghai renovated the residence of Chen into a museum in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birthday.

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Created by Chinese stamp designer Li Chen, the 50x30mm stamp has a face value of 1.2 Chinese Yuan, or about 17 cents USD, and will be issued in a total of 7.5 million copies. The stamp contains a portrait of Chen writing with his right hand and holding with his left a zongzi — a traditional glutinous rice dumpling — soaked in ink.

The story of this stamp tracks a parable that surrounds Chen’s original impetus for writing. As Chen sat consumed in his translation work of The Communist Manifesto, the story goes, Chen’s mother placed a zongzi with a bowl of brown sugar on his desk. When she asked him if he had enough sugar, he answered it was sweet enough. However, when she returned to the room, she saw Chen’s lips covered in ink. It is said that the sweetness came from Chen’s pleasure in translating such a revolutionary work.

The stamp also includes covers of two editions of the Chinese version of The Communist Manifesto, and a photograph of Chen’s former residence in Shanghai on Guofu Road.

The release of the stamp follows news last month of an original first edition copy of Chen’s translation of The Communist Manifesto found at the Library of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Only one of 1,000 copies released, library curators noted the signature red cover with a photo of Karl Marx, as well as a miswrite of the title translation. The original publishing house went on to print 17 more editions of the translation.

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