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Sidney Shapiro

China Daily

According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 50 million foreigners exit or enter the country on average every year, while another 5 million live here. Of these, about half-a-million call China home.

Many have enriched Chinese lives with their contributions in business, education, medical care and disaster relief.

China Right There, a recent bilingual documentary on Tianjin TV highlighted the lives of 100 expatriates who have been living here since the founding of New China in 1949. The crew traversed the length and breadth of the country recording their everyday lives.

Now, 13 of them have been picked to be honored with the "You Bring Charm to China" award, presented jointly by Tianjin TV and Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, and supported by China Daily.

The awards were presented on Saturday at Kerry Centre Shangri-La Hotel, witnessed by representatives from the United Nations, leaders of China's major diplomatic institutions and by distinguished overseas Chinese.

Domestic and overseas artists put up a gala show and the whole ceremony was broadcast live to audiences at home and abroad.

We profile one of them here:

Sidney Shapiro, 94, author and translator who has lived in China since 1947

Sidney Shapiro

Sidney Shapiro, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1915, is an author and translator who has lived in China since 1947. He is the oldest member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's highest advisory body. A law graduate of St John’s University in New York City, he joined the US army in November 1941.

In 1942, he applied for a special army program developing translators in foreign languages for use in possible expeditionary forces abroad. Although he asked for the French program, he was urged to study Chinese. In considerable confusion, he agreed.

After the war, he continued to pursue the Chinese language, first at Columbia University and then at Yale University. He became fascinated by Chinese history and culture and decided to go to China to learn more.

He arrived in Shanghai in 1947, quickly ran out of money, and was forced to take up the practice of law, which, he said, he had "travelled 10,000 miles to avoid."He soon met his future wife, Feng Zi (Phoenix), one of China’s most well-known actresses and woman writers. They married in 1948.

After the founding of New China in 1949, the devoted couple settled in a courtyard house in a Beijing hutong. Sidney became a Chinese citizen in 1963 and, in 1983, a National Committee member of the CPPCC, China's highest advisory body.

Feng Zi passed away in 1996, but Sidney still lives in the house they shared. Their daughter Yamei, a doctor of Western medicine, lives with him, together with his Chinese granddaughter Stella and her American husband Kevin. Happily, a great-grandchild is rumored on the way.

For nearly 60 years, Shapiro has worked as an editor and translator of Chinese literature, and as a writer of several books on Chinese themes.

He has won critical and popular acclaim, in China and abroad. He has translated more than 20 books including Ba Jin’s "Family", Mao Dun’s "Spring Silkworms: and several of Zhao Shuli’s literary works.

His translation of "Outlaws of the Marsh", one of the most important classics of Chinese literature, won him China’s highest translation award in the 1970s. It received warm praise in the West.

His research on the history of the Chinese Jews was published in America and China under the title of "Jews in Old China: Studies by Chinese Scholars". It was translated into Hebrew and published in Israel. More recently, it was also translated into Chinese.

His own works include "The Law and the Lore of Chinese Criminal Justice," "Ma Haide: The Saga of American Doctor George Hatem in China" and "A Sampler of Chinese Literature from the Ming Dynasty to Mao Zedong," not to mention his autobiography "I Chose China."