As the first official English to Chinese translator employed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to translate Marxist writings, HE Xilin (together with his team’s Chinese translators) have translated the writings by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and volumes of The Selected Works of Lenin into Chinese. Their translation work have been well received by CPC leaders, including Chair Mao, who praised their translation that “every word is useful. As you know, we are all blind”.
HE’s responsibilities also included compiling US newspaper reports into a brochure for Party leaders. Back then, there’s no computer, no Internet, no Trados, no Google Translate, no nothing. He said the biggest challenge for the Chinese translators back then was a lack of dictionaries and reference books in Yan’an. There was only one dictionary between the 10 of them, and the college had only limited reserves of books. But still, these Chinese translators have played a significant role for the Party’s communication to the outside world.
HE later moved to the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau (CCTB) in Beijing at the age of 63 and retired nine years later, and he is now 96 years old.