Lucy Zhao

On my visits to Minneapolis, I try to stay the onslaught of Midwestern Boredom by visiting museums and parks. One of my favorite places to go is the Chinese scholar’s room at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. They have a rather tacky website for their Asian collections, as I found while looking for cricket ticklers.

But, now we can admire the scholar’s study cyber-spacially.

Lucy Zhao/Chao, or Zhao Luorui (someone else figure out the graphs), was the author of the first complete Chinese translation of Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. She grew up in a courtyard-style home in Beijing, which later, after surviving the Cultural Revolution, succombed to demolition despite her brother’s spirited fight to preserve the 400 year old house. Their family furniture was donated to museums and private collections around the world.

One of a pair of folding chairs belonging to the Zhao family ended up in Minneapolis, in the collection I regularly pay my respects to. Sarah Handler’s book, Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture (what a Chinese-sounding name for a book), describes the chair as “the property of Zhao Lourui” in her chapter on folding armchairs.

I’ve probably admired this chair at the museum. Lucy may well have translated Leaves of Grass sitting in it.

This is her handwriting.


ß. Andrigon said...

I would need to sit down after translating Leaves of Grass! It's quite a workout.

Quill said...

It seems worth learning Chinese to read that translation. Nice chair.

pele said...

Thank you both for your astute remarks. At my pace it will take me 3 eons to read her translation, starting a few years from now when I get a copy of it. And folding chairs must be more often and lavishly praised!