Anne in China essay winners read their works during special reception at Montgomery Theatre in North Rustico
© Guardian photo by Sally Cole
Montgomery Theatre president, Mary Crane, left, congratulates contest winners Jo (Hang Ying), second left, and Cindy (Huang Ixhiui) after hearing essays on how the Prince Edward Island described in the new translation of Anne of Green Gables inspired them, during a reception at the Montgomery Theatre in North Rustico. Joe (Chang, Zhou Sheng), left, a youth ambassador from Hainan, P.E.I.’s sister province in China, also spoke. The three young people, as well as representatives from Anne in China Inc., left this past Sunday for China to promote the contest winners and discuss the second printing of Anne in Mandarin.
For over 100 years, people have read Anne of Green Gables, the iconic novel about the little red-haired orphan girl who finds love and acceptance in the Cavendish home of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.
Although it is published worldwide in many languages, it is only recently that L.M. Montgomery’s book has become available in China, through a Mandarin translation published earlier this year by Anne in China Inc., an Island company.
Ever since, it has been the object of much promotion — from Laureen Harper personally handing out copies to school children during a visit to China in February to a writing contest requested by the publisher, Tsinghua University Press, culminating on P.E.I. just last week.
Last Friday, two young Chinese women stood at the podium at the Montgomery Theatre in North Rustico and read their prize-winning essays about how the Prince Edward Island described in the new translation of Anne of Green Gables inspired them.
Jo (Hang Ying), a white-collar worker, spoke about what she has learned from the title character.
“Anne is an exuberant, innocent little girl ... She accomplishes her job, and most of her dreams come true.
“The book gives us a chance to learn from her and to share her feelings and to live a better life, instead of working all the time. We also learn to let out our feelings,” says Jo, who is from Beijing.
Anne Shirley also taught her the power of a dream.
“And now my dreams have come true because I’m standing here,” she says.
The second winner, Cindy (Huang Ixhiui), a graduate student at the University of Tsinghua, read from her speech, Everyone Has An Anne Inside.
“The spirit of Anne is so powerful that it enthuses everyone who has read the book,” says Cindy.
Besides providing a good role model for girls, the book touches on universal themes, she says.
“Anne and her friend, Diana, and the consummate charmer, Gilbert, will remind you of someone (you know) as will being punished (by) a teacher like Mr. Phillips ... Different countries, same story,” says Cindy.
During a question and answer session after the speeches, she said she felt an immediate kinship with the storybook character.
“Anne and I have something in common. I lived a long time with my grandparents. So I know what it’s like to be raised by the older generation.
“Anne and her friend, Diana, and the consummate charmer, Gilbert, will remind you of someone (you know) as will being punished (by) a teacher like Mr. Phillips ... Different countries, same story." Cindy (Huang Ixhiui) in her speech Everyone Has An Anne Inside
“Anne also talked about being grateful. I think we should be grateful every day and not so greedy,” says Cindy who was born in Shanghai but now lives in Beijing.
Listening to the enthusiastic speakers moved audience members.
“The words they used were so beautiful,” says Wade MacLauchlan, a former president of the University of Prince Edward Island and a director of Anne in China Inc.
“To hear in their words how important our great literature is and what it means to them (is rewarding). Then to hear opinions expressed by people in China, wanting to know and read and imagine about Prince Edward Island . . . there’s a lot of potential there,” says MacLauchlan.
The executive director of the Tourism Industry of P.E.I. is also excited about the possibilities created by this cross-cultural experience.
“Bringing the winners here gives P.E.I. a perfect leg up to make a difference and help people in China understand what we’re all about,” says Don Cudmore.
Their prize included an all-expenses paid trip to Prince Edward Island to experience the landscape that they have seen only in their imaginations.
Billeted in Island homes, the winners toured the North Shore area and visited many places, including the birthplace of L.M. Montgomery, the MacNeil Homestead, Green Gables House, Avonlea Village, Park Corner, the Kensington Train Station, the Bedeque School House and an organic farm. In Charlottetown they toured Government House and Province House, met government officials and in their free time took part in deep-sea fishing and apple-picking experiences.
“My favourite part was seeing Anne of Green Gables, the musical,” says Cindy.
Seeing the enthusiasm in the visitors’ eyes inspires Cudmore. He knows that familiarization tours like this one are important.
“Any time there is an opportunity to introduce P.E.I to an audience that isn’t familiar with it, you take advantage of it because if you’re the first in and you have a recognizable product you have a chance to garner a percentage of that market. And it’s a very large market in China.
“So (we are appreciative) to Wade and the group he is working with for making them familiar with P.E.I.”