Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal

First Page


Last Page


Additional Publication URL


The Caucasian Chalk Circle is one of the most important works of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956). It is also one of the most widely performed modern plays in the West. However, this critically acclaimed play is not purely Brecht’s “originality” but is indebted to an ancient Chinese play, Li Xingdao’s Hui Lan Ji (The Story of the Circle of Chalk).1 Brecht acknowledged his adaptation in the prologue of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in the voice of the singer: “It is called ‘The Chalk Circle’ and comes from the Chinese. But we’ll do it, of course, in a changed version” (Brecht 1983, 126). The “changed version” Brecht made was for the Broadway stage during his exile in America. Inevitably, he also took influences from American culture and society. Thus, in the creation of the play Brecht had two systems, Chinese and American, as his source and target systems to respond to. In addition, Brecht was not a native speaker in either of the systems; rather, he approached both primarily in German. Therefore, in both the actual and metaphorical senses, Brecht acted as a translator in his writing of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Writing was his way of translating.


This is a copy of Xiaoqing Li's paper originally published in Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal . Archived with permission. The author reserves all rights.