Chen Zeping

One of MĀNOA’s most respected translators, Chen Zeping passed away from a heart attack in March. Zeping was an emeritus professor of Chinese linguistics at Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, and the author of fifteen books and fifty papers and articles. He taught for extended periods at Southern Oregon University and Ehime University in Matsuyama, Japan, and for brief periods in Malaysia and Indonesia.

For over twenty years, Zeping worked on translations with Karen Gernant, professor emerita of Chinese history at Southern Oregon University. Writers they translated include Guo Xuebo, Jin Renshun, Ji Xiaotai, Alai, Can Xue, Su Tong, Bei Cun, Wei Wei, Yan Lianke, Lin Bai, Zhu Wenying, Zhang Kangkang, Shi Tiesheng, Chi Li, Zheng Xiaolu, Zhang Yihe, A Yi, Wang Suxin, Cao Kou, and Yi Zhou. Zeping and Karen produced twelve books of fiction, four books of nonfiction, and sixty translations of short fiction and essays. Their translations appeared in such literary magazines as Chinese Literature, Conjunctions, Turnrow, Black Warrior Review, Words Without Borders, Ninth Letter, Pathlight, and Asymptote.

Nominated for the International Booker Prize, I Live in the Slums was the fifth book by Can Xue translated by Chen and Gernant. The previous books were Blue Light in the Sky (2006), Five Spice Street (2009), Vertical Motion (2011), and Frontier (2017).

Zeping and Karen contributed many of their translations to MĀNOA and guest-edited three issues: The Zither: A Novella and New Short Fiction from China (summer 2021); Red Peonies: Two Novellas of China by Zhang Yihe (winter 2016); and Blood Ties: Writing across Chinese Borders (summer 2005).

Karen writes, “At sixty-eight, he was far too young and still had so much living ahead of him, as well as so much more to give in contributions to his field of Chinese linguistics and to translations of contemporary Chinese fiction. He was among the leading scholars in his field, and he was the recognized expert in the field of Fuzhou dialect. He touched many, many lives, including those of his students.”

Like others who admired him, we will miss Zeping’s presence greatly.