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Clever, rich, and single, the beautiful Ān Mò (Emma Woodhouse) is focused on her career as fashion designer in the glamor of 21st-century Shanghai. She sees no need for romance in her life, but when she tries to find a boyfriend for her new friend Fangfang (Harriet), her carefully laid plans being to unravel. As she ignores the warnings of her good friend Shi Wenzheng (Mr. Knightley), her decisions bring consequences that she never expected. With its witty and charming characters, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.
This adaptation of Emma is approximately 200 years removed from the original, a change from the Victorian Era to the Digital Age, two widely different cultures. Although there are great differences in time and culture, we were able to find direct parallels between these two different time periods to bring this classic story to you. When Jane Austen sat down in January 1814 to write about “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like,” she could have never imagined that one day her story would be adapted into a Chinese setting hundreds of years in the future.
However, bringing Emma into the hustle and bustle of 21st century Shanghai was no small task. In the original story, Emma was born into a wealthy family, sees no need for a man in her life, and spends much of her time dabbling in the lives of her friends and neighbors. In this adaptation, Emma has a wealthy father yet has an ambitious drive to make something of her life. She is married to her career as a fashion designer, which leaves her with no time for a man. Instead of pursuing a relationship of her own, she tries to set up her friends and co-workers.
Setting the story in modern day brought in a number of new possibilities. Hand-written letters sent via courier, commonly used in Victorian England, are replaced by text messaging. Community newspapers and bulletins as a way of spreading local news are replaced with social media, complete with likes, comments, and selfies. It is fun to note that the cover image pays homage to the movie Clueless, perhaps the most commercially successful adaptation of Emma yet.
Despite the time difference between the original and adapted version, the core essence of Emma’s personality remains intact: a spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied heroine who greatly overestimates her own skills and is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives.
The following is a list of the characters from Emma in Chinese followed by their corresponding English names from Austen’s original story. There are, of course, other characters in the story besides these, but many do not have exact correspondences to the original. The names below aren’t translations; they’re new Chinese names used for the Chinese versions of the original characters. Think of them as all-new characters in a Chinese story.
- 安末 (Ān Mò) – Emma Woodhouse
- Elton (Elton) – Philip Elton
- Jane (Jane) – Jane Fairfax
- 石文正 (Shí Wénzhèng) – George Knightley
- 芳芳 (Fāngfāng) – Harriet Smith
- 小周 (Xiǎo Zhōu) – Robert Martin
- 陈然 (Chén Rán) – Frank Churchill
- 公司 (gōngsī)n. company, corporation; office
- 帮 (bāng) v. to help; for (someone)
- 同事 (tóngshì) n. co-worker, colleague
- 叫外卖 (jiào wàimài) vo. to order take-out
- 送 (sòng) v. to deliver; to send; to give (as a present); to see off
- 见面 (jiànmiàn) vo. to meet
- 岁 (suì) mw. [measure word for years old]
- 开饭店 (kāi fàndiàn) vo. to open a restaurant
- 周末 (zhōumò) n. weekend
- 笑 (xiào) v. to laugh, to smile
- 不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) adj. to feel embarrassed or awkward
- 发 (fā) v. to send out
- 短信 (duǎnxìn) n. text message
- 告诉 (gàosu) v. to tell, to inform
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