Chi Shuchang

Tagged: Author

(1922-1997) Chinese author and translator from Japanese, remembered today for one work that captured the spirit of the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s. Born in North-East China shortly before it fell under the sway of the Japanese "Manchurian" puppet-state, Chi studied Economics at Keiō University in Japan, before returning to newly Communist China. There, he became one of the early "science popularizers", writing Children's SF that sought to educate the masses about new advances, or possible advances in science and Technology including breathless tours of China 20 years hence (see Futures Studies) and speculations about life Under the Sea. His most famous work was "Ershi Shiji de Zhubajie" ["A Twentieth Century Pigsy"] (November 1956 Zhong Xuesheng), subsequently revised with help from his editor Ye Zhishan into its more famous and enduring form Gediao Bizi de Daxiang ["Elephants with Their Trunks Removed"] (1958 chap), in which the titular creatures, spotted at a Near Future research facility in the Gobi Desert, are revealed as super-sized pigs, created through selective breeding and irradiation of the pituitary glands (see Genetic Engineering; Great and Small).

Chi's text seems related to a propaganda poster from 1958, depicting two humans riding on a giant pig, and claiming "a fat pig is like an elephant with a shorter nose, which can feed the whole village's people for half a year." Taking such artistic licence at face value, he deals diligently with collateral issues like the need to strengthen bones and the likely food consumption of these miracle animals, in a story exuding both Utopian exuberance and a sense of creepy unease. At the time of its publication, it was lauded as a work of patriotic aspiration; half a century later, it is still regarded as a classic of its period for wholly different reasons, remembered as a work of deluded gigantism entirely in keeping with Chairman Mao's belief that food yields would grow exponentially with the right application of State control. During the agricultural and macro-structural experiments of the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1961, famine, unrest and conflict over resources in a starving China cost the lives of up to 40 million people, repositioning "Elephants" as a Disaster story that treats the Mad Scientist as the hero.

The Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 put paid to Chi's career in the arts, and he spent some time as a demolition man wielding a sledgehammer. When the political situation thawed, he drew on his Japanese contacts, writing a Chinese cookbook in Japanese and editing a Japanese dictionary of Chinese herbalism, eventually moving back to Keiō University as a lecturer. As a translator from Japanese, Chi published Chinese versions of the works of Takiji Kobayashi (1903-1933), among others. His wife, Wang Wei, was a Russian translator, specializing in the works of Mikhail Ilin (1896-1953). In later life, Chi flourished on his Japanese contacts and abilities, becoming the chief Chinese adviser to the Japanese electronics giant Sony. [JonC]

Chi Shuchang

born Harbin or Jilin, China: 13 February 1922

died China: 1997

works (selected)

  • Diannao ["Computer"] (Xi'an: Renmin Meishu Chubanshe, 1958) [chap: pb/]
  • Gediao Bizi de Daxiang ["Elephants with Their Trunks Removed"] (Shanghai: Zhongguo Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1958) with Ye Shishan [chap: pb/]
  • Dajing Muchang ["Whale Farm"] (Shanghai: Zhongguo Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1979) [coll: pb/]
  • Zai Nali Guodong ["Where Do You Winter?"] (Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 1980) [chap: pb/]

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