The article analyzes the translations, performances and the reception of traditional Chinese plays in the English-speaking world from the mid-and-late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. We found that the reception underwent two phases featuring self-centered and multicultural respectively. In the first phase, the English-speaking world acknowledged the moral values of traditional Chinese plays but it did not accept their aesthetic values while in the second phase, aesthetic values became the focus and were received through translations, studies and performances. The two phases differed significantly. The first phase was characterized by the initial contacts and exchanges between the plays and the English culture as well as obvious cultural misunderstandings. During the second phase, moral and aesthetic values were gradually accepted. Text translations, theatrical studies and performances were flourishing while cultural misunderstandings decreased remarkably. The two stages demonstrate the general result of the Chinese culture’s historical process of “going global”. The reception of Chinese culture by other cultures often started with cultural utilization, accompanied by obvious cultural misunderstandings. With the deepening of contacts and exchanges between the two cultures, however, the host culture began to gain a better understanding of the intrinsic values of Chinese culture and therefore cultural misunderstandings decreased. Cultural misunderstandings are an inevitable historical process that the Chinese culture would experience during its “going global”. With continuing and expanded exposures, the intrinsic values of Chinese culture will continue to manifest themselves.


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