Translation in Context Translation Theory translation jobs
Home More Articles Join as a Member! Post Your Job - Free! All Translation Agencies

Translation in Context

Become a member of at just $12 per month (paid per year)

Jiang Tianmin photo Abstract:

Translation, seen as a mode of being in the world, should not be regarded per se but should be contextualized as a social system. Infidelity is built in translation because it inevitably describes domestic scenes that are loaded not only linguistically and culturally, but also socially and politically. Translation is simultaneous decontextualization and recontextualization, hence is productive rather than reproductive.

Keywords: mode of being; social system; infidelity; decontextualization and recontextualization

1 Introduction

Nord (1997:1) posits,

communication takes place through a medium and in situations that are limited in time and place. Each specific situation determines what and how people communicate, and it is changed by people communicating. Situations are not universal but are embedded in a cultural habitat, which in turn conditions the situation. Language is thus to be regarded as part of culture. And communication is conditioned by the constraints of the situation-in-culture.

So is translation as a form of cross-cultural communication. The complexity of translation, one of the most complex things in human history, lies in the multitude of and the delicate relationship among its relevant factors. Translation is never innocent. There is always a context in which translation takes place, always a history from which a text emerges and into which a text is transposed. The situation-in-culture has been given much emphasis. In translation, Gentzler says:

Subjects of a given culture communicate in translated messages primarily determined by local culture constraints. Inescapable infidelity is presumed as a condition of the process; translators do not work in ideal and abstract situations or desire to be innocent, but have vested literary and cultural interests of their own, and want their work to be accepted within another culture. Thus they manipulate the source text to inform as well as conform with existing cultural constraints. (1993: 134, emphasis in the original)

Thus emerges an approach to translation that is descriptive, target-oriented, functional and systemic; and an interest in the norms and constraints that govern the production and reception of translation. According to Lefevere and Bassnett (1990), the study of translation practices has moved on from a formalist approach and turned instead to the larger issues of context, history and convention. Translation cannot be defined a priori, once and for all. What translation means has to be established in certain context. Contextulization of translation brings first culture and then politics and power into the picture.

2 Translational norms

Culture-oriented translation scholars would define "culture" as

a complex "system of systems" composed of various subsystems such as literature, science, and technology. Within this general system, extraliterary phenomena relate to literature not in a piecemeal fashion but as an interplay among subsystems determined by the logic of the culture to which they belong. (Steiner 1984:112)

Seen in this light, culture refers to all socially conditioned aspects of human life. Translation can and should be recognized as a social phenomenon, a cultural practice. We bring to translation both cognitive and normative expectations, which are continually being negotiated, confirmed, adjusted, and modified by practicing translators and by all who deal with translation. These expectations result from the communication within the translation system, for instance, between actual translations and statements about translation, and between the translation system and other social systems (Hermans 1999:142).

These expectations have gelled into translational norms. Borrowed from sociology, the term "norm" refers to "a regularity in behavior, together with the common knowledge about and the mutual expectations concerning the way in which members of a group or community ought to behave in certain types of situation"(Hermans 1999:163). People in a given community inevitably share ideas about the "correctness" of a particular act of behavior. There is a degree of agreement as to whether the act is "correct" in some sense, which constitutes the content of the norm. What guides the behavior of individuals so as to secure the content of the norm is the directive force of a norm, a psychological and social entity, which mediates between the individual and the collective, between the individual's intention, choices and actions, and collectively held beliefs, values and preferences. Norm thus defined, is both cognitive and normative. With a degree of social and psychological pressure, norms act as constraints on behavior by foreclosing certain options and choices, which nevertheless remain available in principle. Applied to translation:

It is part of the meaning of a translation that a particular original was selected from among a range of candidates, that it was selected for translation and not for some other form of importation, recycling or rewriting, and that a particular translating style was selected, one mode of representing the original against other more or less likely, more or less permissible modes. (ibid., 141)

Behind the choices are translational norms expounded by Toury (1995), Chesterman (1997), Nord (1991) and Lefevere (1992,1998,1999). For Nord, what determines what a particular culture community accepts as a translation are constitutive conventions, which constitute the general concept of translation prevailing in a particular culture community, i.e. what the users of translations expect from a text which is marked as a translation. Embedded within the constitutive conventions are regulative conventions, which govern the generally accepted forms of handling certain translation problems below the text level.

Andre Lefevere's main interest lies in literary translation, not only the internal dynamic of preservation and change within the literary system, but also its mechanisms. For him, embedded in the conglomerate of systems known as society, a literary system possesses a double control mechanism: one governs it largely from the outside and secures the relation between literature and its environment, the other keeps order within it.

As for the former, the key words are patronage and ideology. Patronage refers to "the powers (persons, institutions) that can further or hinder the reading, writing, and rewriting of literature" (1992: 15). As a regulatory body such as individuals, groups, institutions, a social class, a political party, publishers, the media, etc., patronage sees to it that the literary system does not fall out of step with the rest of the society. It consists three components, namely, the ideological component determining what the relation between literature and other social systems is supposed to be, the economic component enabling the patron to assure the writer's livelihood, and the status component enabling the patron to confer prestige and recognition. Patronage is largely related to ideology, which he early described as the dominant concept of what society should [be allowed to be] (1992:14), and later as "the conceptual grid that consists of opinions and attitudes deemed acceptable in a certain society at a certain time, and through which readers and translators approach texts"(1998: 48).

As for the latter, the operative terms are poetics and a loosely defined group referred to variously as "expert," "specialists," "professionals," and also "rewriters." Patronage rarely intervenes directly in the literary system, but delegates control of the system to the group operating within it, such as "experts," "specialists," "professionals," and also "rewriters," so as to secure the system's ideology and poetics. Poetics consists of an inventory component and a functional component, in Lefevere's words, "an inventory of literary devices, genres, motifs, prototypical characters and situations, and symbols" plus "a concept of what the role of literature is, or should be, in the social system as a whole"(1992:26).

Patrons and literary experts, ideology and poetics control the literary system, and hence the production and distribution of literature. Not only literary texts are produced under these constraints, but also translations, which Lefevere puts under the umbrella of "rewriting" referring to any text produced on the basis of another with the intention of adapting that other text to a certain ideology or to a certain poetics. In addition to these constraints, Lefevere lists two more, that is, the universe of discourse referring to the subject matter of the source text, the objects, customs and beliefs it describes, which may be offensive or unacceptable to the target readership; the source and target languages themselves, and the differences between them, which he demonstratively puts at the bottom of the list.

Lefevere stresses that constraints are conditioning factors, not absolutes. Individuals can choose to go with or against them. Here he refers to the translator's ideology, namely, the translator's personal set of values and attitudes, including his/her attitudes to the other constraints. For him, translation is a language game, embedded in norms which are implied in the game itself but not reducible to them. It is at the same time norm-following, norm-changing, norm-building and norm-creating, which in turn adds to the entanglements within and without its territory.

3 Translation as discourse: E-C translations in the Late Qing period

Looked at from this perspective, translation can be treated as discourse, manipulated and manipulating—in the Foucaultian sense of being speech and/or writing—something that is not innocent and unmediated, but is shot through and through with ideology (the assumptions, values and beliefs which are collectively held and which govern the way people live, think, and organize or represent their experience, whether the they are conscious of their operation or not), and that relies for its circulation and proliferation on the support of institutions (universities and schools, publishers, newspapers, libraries, etc.), and that is regulated by certain rules and conventions in its production. During the late Qing period which saw the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, translation (especially of Western literary works) was discourse pure and simple (Cheung 1998: 141).

Translation was then grounded in ideology—the ideology of anti-imperialism, of self-strengthening through reforms, of learning from the West. How China should learn from the West cast a splendid spectrum corresponding to social changes in Modern China. However, what remained functioning as a touchstone all along was the guideline of "Chinese learning for the essential principles; Western learning for the practical applications." This guideline meant to preserve traditional values while adopting Western science and technology, which was expressed in terms of the traditional Neo-Confucian dichotomy of "ti" (substance) and "yong" (function): Western means for Chinese ends (Yu Yuhe 1997: 165).

Translation therefore received institutional backing, as witnessed in the setting up of government-run translation bureaus and training college for translators in different parts of the country, the publication of translation works, and the incorporation of knowledge and ideas imported via translation into the curriculum. In 1861, the Zongli Yamen, a kind of ministry of foreign affairs was established to deal with the foreign powers and related matters. In 1862, the Tong Wen Guan (School of Combined Learning) was set up for foreign languages and other nontraditional subjects. From then on, more translation institutions were set up either by the missionaries or the Chinese or the combined endeavor of both. There also sprung up organizations, consisting of the missionary societies (for instance, the London Mission Press, the School and Textbook Series Committee), the Chinese government agencies, and privately owned Chinese publishing houses (for instance, the Tong Wen Guan, the Jiangnan Arsenal Translation Bureau, and the Guang Xue Hui), which translated and published Western publications. Classical studies were replaced by a mixed Sino-Western curriculum. "The intellectual content of the new education, as in Japan, now contained some of the West" (Fairbank 1989: 394). The establishment of the Tong Wen Guan in the capital, followed by that of other schools at Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc., made available the offer of a curriculum including both the classical studies required for success in the examination system and the new subjects based on knowledge and ideas imported via translation. A typical example of how discourse proliferated via institutional support is the way the notions of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" spread in China: soon after the publication of Yan Fu's translation of T. H. Huxley's "Evolution and Ethics" in 1898, they became the most talked about topics because intellectuals immediately wrote newspaper articles on them and because even teenage schoolchildren were asked to write essays on the these topics.

The production of translation at that time was regulated by certain conventions, rules, or norms. The norms which governed translation also defined it: they delineated and policed the boundaries of what counted as translation. However, the notions of correctness defined by norms were not neutral but cultural: the correct translation was a translation which agreed with the expectations of what a good translation should be, but these expectations were ideologically loaded. The ideological slant embedded in the norms provided us with an index of cultural self-definition. This pointed to the constraints embedded in the very purpose and activity of translation: the reconstitution of the foreign text in accordance with values, beliefs and representations that preexisted in China was always subjected to hierarchies of dominance and marginality. Translation in the late Qing period never communicated in a straightforward fashion, because the translator negotiated the linguistic and cultural idiosyncrasies of the foreign text by reducing them and supplying another, basically domestic, set of idiosyncrasies drawn from the Chinese language and culture to enable the foreign to be received. The foreign texts were not so much communicated as inscribed with domestic intelligibilities and interests. The inscription began with the very choice of a text for translation, always a very selective, highly motivated choice, and continued in the development of discursive strategies to translate it, always a choice of certain domestic discourses over others.

3.1 The choice of a text

3.1.1 The upsurge of literary translation

As the following figure indicates, modern translation history witnessed shifts of focus in different periods: from the rise of natural sciences in the latter half of the 19th-century to the popularity of social science at the turn of the 20th-century, and then to the flourishing of fiction in the early 20th-century.

Natural sciences

Social Science

















(Wang Kefei 1997; pp. 181-183)

This shift was triggered by the social changes in the late Qing period. The complete defeat in the Opium War made China aware of the advancedness of the Western countries and backwardness of its own technology, hence a domestic motive to catch up with the opponents by learning natural sciences, as Wei Yuan advocated, "learning the foe's advanced technology to curb the foe." (Chen Fukang 1998: 82-84). However, while China employed a guideline to justify its preference for Western technology, the guideline was in itself a proof of its inadequacy since Western techniques (function) and ideas (substance) were also closely tied together. As the disastrous defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 proved, China had failed to gain full understanding and make a good use of Western knowledge without its own foundation of natural and social sciences by just taking the practical part while remaining unattached by Western ideas and values. The subtle working-together of the failures made it possible for intellectuals to turn to social science, noticing that the prosperity of the Western countries did not only result from advances in natural sciences but also in social science. Thus came the mushrooming of translated works in this field, introducing advanced Western social sciences in China. The drastic change of priority indicates "a shift in the introduction into China of Western learning from the material culture of apparatus and technology to the spiritual culture of thought and scholarship" (Pollard 1998: 33).

It was in the late 19th century that China took up the translation of Western literary works on a large scale. From 1850 to 1899, only three literary works were translated into Chinese, or 0.5% of the total. Translation of Western literary works started to flourish around 1890; the translation entitled Chahuanu Yishi of La Dame aux Camilias by Lin Shu was the milestone of the importation of European literary works. Ever since, plenty of literary works were rendered, including those translated via Japanese versions. However, only during the two years from 1902 to 1904, there was an evident increase of the number—26 Western literary works were translated, making up 4.8 percent of the total. This increase continued, and finally the translation of Western literary works outnumbered that of those of sciences (including natural and social sciences) in the previous 300 years (Guo Yanli 1998:11).

The upsurge in literary translation came due to the reformers' political motives and their conviction of the assumed social function of translation of literary works, especially fiction, as I will discuss below. What might also be revealing here is why it came last. On the one hand, although the social function of literature was never neglected, yet modern China, facing desperate conditions, certainly gave priority to what it deemed to bring immediate results. On the other hand, as far as Chinese literature is concerned, there was a prevalent sense of superiority over Western literature. Intellectuals considered useful only Western works on social and natural sciences (Guo Yanli 1998:12-14).

3.1.2 The upsurge in fiction translation

In the late Qing period novel became the most often translated literary form. According to A Ying, the leading authority of the late Qing period literature, among the 1007 works published from 1875 to 1911, there were 587 translated works, or 58% of the total (Tarumoto 1998: 38). There were seven kinds of novel, including the love story novel, the historical novel, the social novel, the political novel, the educational novel, the science novel, and the detective novel, among which the latter four were non-existent as genres in the previous Chinese history of the novel (GuoYanli 1998: 497). At the end of the Qing Dynasty, thanks largely to Liang Qichao, who declared that the novel was the best among all forms of literature, the novel, previously regarded as a popular and vulgar literary form only for pastime pleasure in the Western literary hierarchy, rose drastically at the expense of poetry and other forms of prose.

Fiction gained its new standing largely because the new norms propagated by the late Qing period reformist elite gave priority to the educational (i.e. social) rather than the literary value of the genre. The impetus for fiction translation in the late Qing period was non-literary, and the fact that the instrument happened to be literary was initially coincidental. Liang Qichao's advocacy of revolution in fiction, creation of new fiction, and introduction of political novels was not as much for literature or fiction itself, as part of his political agenda. The reformers wished to convince the conservative government of the need for reform, and to mobilize the entire society to carry out such reform. As the reform movement progressed from the late nineteen century to the early twentieth century, especially after the failure of the "Hundred-Day Reforms," Liang and his allies turned their attention from winning over the governing elite to winning over the citizenry. The problem was how to reach the citizenry which could not read the classical language which the elite used to communicate with each other, and would not read political tracts. That is where fiction came in: ordinary people did read novels, which were customarily written in a stylized form of the common spoken language. As Kang Youwei wrote:

Those who can barely read may not read the Classics, but they all read fiction. Hence, the Classics may not affect them, but fiction will. Orthodox history may not affect them, but fiction will. The works of philosophers may not enlighten them, but fiction will. The laws may not regulate them, but fiction will. (qtd. in Wang Wong-chi 1998: 106)

Their choice of fiction was further justified by the reformists' conviction that fiction helped greatly the political development of Europe, America, and Japan. They claimed that in the Western philosophers and statesmen gave their time to writing novels in the line of duty, to guide, inform and educate—and their success was easy to see as Europeans and Americans had colonized the world. As Lin Shu wrote in the preface to his translated version of Dicken's Oliver Twist:

One hundred years ago, English misrule was no better than Chinese today, except for the fact that the English had a powerful navy. In his novels Dickens did his best to expose social abuses in the underworld to call the government's attention to them, so that reforms might be introduced—-then, English authorities listened to advice and carried out reforms. That is why England has become strong. It would not be difficult for China to follow her example. Much to our regret, however, we have no Dickens in our midst, no one who can write a novel to make the authorities aware of the social abuses in our country. (qtd. in Wang Zuoliang 1981:11)

Zohar outlines three social circumstances in which translation may maintain a primary position: (1) when a literature is at its developing stage; (2) when a literature is marginal or feeble or both; (3) when a literature contains a vacuum or finds itself in a state of crisis or at a turning point (Gentzler 1993:116). As for the novel, three condition emerged in the late Qing period: it was marginal: the traditional novel was ranked low in the Western literary system; it also contained a vacuum when utterly debased by the reformers who advocated revolution in fiction; it was at its developing stage since the reformers advocated the formulation of the "new fiction."

3.2 The discursive strategy in translation

An ideal translation is traditionally viewed as a perfect integration of two different texts in two cultures. According to Qian Zhongshu's notion of sublimation (huajing), it brings about a transparent foreignness without any strangeness when there disappears the mist of alien modes of thinking, speaking, and feeling associated with the source text. However, due to the asymmetry in cross-cultural communication, the translator "either leaves the author in peace, as much as possible, and moves the reader towards him; or leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him" (qtd. in Venuti, 1995:18). Venuti would define these as (1) a domesticating method, namely, an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values, bringing foreign culture closer to the reader in the target culture, making the text recognizable and familiar; and (2) a foreignizing one, an ethnodeviant pressure on those values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text, taking the reader over to the foreign culture, making him or her see the difference.

"Domesticating" and "foreignizing" here are two relative terms which can only be defined by referring to the formation of target cultural context. Using the foreignizing method cannot basically change the permanent trend of domestication in translation since

the "foreign" in foreignizing translation is not a transparent representation of an essence that resides in the foreign text and is valuable in itself, but a strategic construction whose value is contingent on the current target-language situation. Foreignizing translation signifies the difference of the foreign text, yet only by disrupting the cultural codes that prevail in the target language. (ibid., 20)

The scale from foreignization to domestication indicates a discursive stance, always loaded with ideological factors which bear on self-image and self-perception. Robyns distinguishes four basic stances, depending on whether or not the "otherness" of the foreign (and hence the identity of the self) is viewed as irreducible, and on whether or not the receptor culture adapts the intrusive elements to its own norms: (1) "transdiscursive" stance, assumed when one culture sees another as compatible and translation is not a cause for concern or alarm; (2) defective stance, assumed when a culture reckons it lacks something which is available elsewhere and can be imported; (3) defensive stance, assumed when a culture wards off imports and tries to contain their impact because it feels they may threaten its identity; and (4) imperialist stance, assumed when a culture only allows imports if they are thoroughly naturalized because it takes the value of its own models for granted (Hermans 1999: 89).

Translation in the late Qing period featured the frequent use of domesticating strategy, yet went to foreignizing strategy at its end. Behind this is the dazzling spectrum reflecting the functioning of a variety of factors within and without China: the change of power differentials (patrons), the focus of learning from the West, and the aggregation of invasions inflicted on the country. Translation during that time is truly an index. The hybridity of fiction translation incarnates multi-faceted confrontation: quality vs. quantity, the aim of the elite vs. the taste of the mass, wenyan vs. baihua, canonized literature vs. marginal literature, the influence from outside vs. the Chinese tradition, reform vs. convention, and entertainment vs. enlightenment.

According to Lefevere (1998:13-14), cultures are not likely to deal much with Others, unless they are forced to do so, and even when they do, they do it in ways of acculturation if (1) they see themselves as central in the world they inhabit, and (2) they are relatively homogeneous. Both conditions fit China in the late Qing period quite well.

As for the former, several millenniums of self-sufficiency had bred in intellectuals' deep-seated self-esteem, which even survived the deep crisis: internal political and cultural deterioration on the one hand and the imperialistic incursions of European powers on the other. China's eventual domination in the world represented the prevalent futuristic vision. Kang Youwei even composed a "Patriotic Song" with twelve stanzas, the eleventh of which runs as follows:

Only our country has the resources to achieve domination;

Who in the world is there to compete with us?

Fortunate am I to have born in such a great nation;

May our spirit and our Emperor reign long over us!

The last stanza concludes thus:

We'll span all the five continents

And see the Yellow Dragon fly on every flag. (qtd. in Wang Xiaoming 46-47)

As for the latter, throughout Chinese history, up to the beginning of the 1820's, the number of those who really participated in the literate culture was small: the Qing government limited both the producers and readers of literature to a relatively small coterie dominated by the court and the mandarins, and it also imposed its ideology and its poetics by making them part of the requirements to be met by those who wanted to belong to that coterie.

These factors, plus the emphasis on translation's educational function, justify the current translators' domesticating strategy, that is, "bringing the foreign culture closer to the reader in the target culture, making the text recognizable and familiar" (Schaffmer 1995: 4). The special attention given to the readers of the target texts is obvious and well-grounded:

Translating novels is different from translating science. Science deals with universals, and literal translation may be welcomed by the academics interested. The happenings in novels are semi-imaginary, being designed to move the feelings of the community. If a translation sticks to the surface features of the original which have no connection with our country's politics or customs, so making it as dull as ditch-water, what value will it have, and why should the reader spend his energy reading it? (qtd. in Pollard 1998:12)

This explains why the practice of translation in the late Qing period was such a loosely defined vocation, including paraphrasing, rewriting, truncating, translation relays, and restyling. By so doing, translations are made compatible with the current ideology and poetics. The wenyan and Confucianism of the translations in the late Qing period show that translators were supposed to strengthen the imperial culture just as its authority was being severely eroded by political and institutional developments. Most importantly, they continued translating long after 1905, when the abolition of the civil service examination removed the main institutional support for using classical Chinese in official and educated discourse. They considered their role to be "that of a guardian of the language rather than simply a contributor to the classical language and by extension, therefore, a guardian of classical civilization" (qtd. in Venuti 1998:180). Furthermore, this activity of translation was, of course, in no way independent of the supervision by its institutional backers.

Let us just look at two Chinese versions of Rider Haggard's Joan Haste, a fall-in-love-at-the-first-sight story between Joan Haste, a girl from an average family and Henry, a boy from a noble one. The first translation, made by Pan Xizi and Tian Xiaoshen, only kept half of the story, cutting the part in which Joan became pregnant before marriage, and the one describing Henry's love for Joan despite the severe objection of his father, (Guo Yanli 1998: 282), making the self-sacrificing Joan a fairy-like chaste girl. It was an immediate success, partly owing to its compatibility with traditional Chinese morality. In his translation named jiayinxiaozhuan (1905), Lin also deleted much of the material that would be morally offensive. For instance, the description of the sexual relations between the protagonists is discarded in his translation and consequently the illegitimate child appears unexpected. However, he did keep more of the plot: the hero rejecting his father's death-bed wish that he marry Emma, and Joan, the heroine, confronting her father directly, demanding she not be abandoned; these lovers disobeyed their parents by having a secret child; abandoned by her father, Joan turns the criticism around and makes her father the accused. Joan thus made into a slap on the face of traditional Chinese morality, which emphasized filial loyalty as superior to all other virtues. It is no surprise that Lin was open to criticism not only by conservatives but also by reformers. For example, Jin Tianhe, a vehement advocate of women's rights, attacked Lin saying, "Men can now justify whoring by saying 'I am Armans Daval.' Young women with erotic feelings can now justify breaking the code of charity saying 'I am Joan Haste'." He was worried that holding hands and kissing in public would become prevalent in China and suggested that the ancient taboos should rather be revived than such laxity condoned. Zhong Junwen, another reformer, compared Lin's translation with that by Pan Xizi and said: "where Pan Xizi tried his best to gloss over Joan's errors, Lin had to expose her shame to the full—Where is the propriety in this?"(Yuan Jin 1998:26).

What is significant in the above example is that translation can create stereotypes for the Other that reflects domestic cultural and political values and can be instrumental in shaping domestic attitudes towards the Other. Pan Xizi's translation created such a stereotype, compatible to traditional Chinese morality. The ferocious criticism on Lin's translation indicates the politically and ideologically loaded wish to maintain that stereotype with some degree of coherence and homogeneity. However, Lin's translation itself suggests

the identity-forming power of translation always threatens to embarrass cultural and political institutions because it reveals the shaky foundations of their social authority. The truth of their representations and the subjective integrity of the agents are founded not on the inherent value of authoritative texts and institutional practices, but on the contingencies that arise in the translation, publication, and reception of those texts. The authority of any institution that relies on translation is susceptible to scandal because their somewhat unpredictable effects exceed the institutional controls that normally regulate textual interpretation, such as judgments of canonicity. (Venuti 1998:68)

This constitutes a delicate situation: translation was torn by the pulls and pushes between the Classical Chinese system and the emerging vernacular system, and it in turn added to the pulls and pushes. The pulls, namely, the domestic cultural and political agenda that guided the work of these translators, did not entirely efface the differences of the foreign texts. On the contrary, the drive to domesticate was also intended to introduce different Western ideas and forms into China so that it would be able to compete internationally and struggle against the imperialistic countries. As a result, the recurrent analogies between classical Chinese culture and modern Western values usually involved a transformation of both, transformation foreshadowed by the built-in paradox in the guideline of "Chinese learning for the essential principles, Western learning for the practical applications."

The importation of new concepts and paradigms, as indicated above, had a potential to set going the transition from ancient traditions, whether oral or literary, to modern notions of time and space, of self and nation. In fact, China at the turn of the 20th century presented a rich instance of the translator's intent on building a national culture by importing foreign literatures. The classical Chinese system could continue if the environment was itself relatively homogeneous and secure. It could keep producing works of literature in a language no longer spoken by the majority of the population and with little or no bearing on what was actually happening in the environment. However, when that environment came under increasing pressure from outside and when new groups, such as the emerging bourgeoisie, capable of offering alternative sources of patronage, began to appear inside it, it was likely to crumble.

The pushes became more obvious when translation was enlisted in a nationalist cultural politics, aiming to build a vernacular literature that was modern, not simply Westernized; for instance, Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren would use literary translation as a means of changing China's subordinate position. Their anthology of translation, published in 1909, registered, rather than removed, the linguistic and cultural differences of foreign fiction. Their translations were written in wenyan combined with Europeanized lexical and syntactical features, transliterations of Western names, and Japanese loan word. However, the pushes also had a domestic source, since the foreign, i.e., differing from dominant translation practices, was a response to the current Chinese situation. In opposition to the comforting Confucian familiarity offered by many late Qing period translations, Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren's foreignizing strategies were designed to convey the unsettling strangeness of modern ideas and forms. This embodied an idea of change, and a hope of modernization. The heterogeneous construction in their translation was an excellent trope for change, trope of equivalence created in the middle zone between West and China. Its presence points to a much more widely based and deep-seated revolutionary process that has fundamentally changed the linguistic landscape of China. Their anthology was joined by such other translation projects as the Union Version of the Bible (1919) in fostering the development of a literary discourse in baihua, which subsequently evolved into the national language of China.

4 Conclusion

Humans are social, rather than solitary beings. They constantly interact with their environment. Their modes of being are about their emergent attunement with their constantly-changing context. Translation, if seen as such a mode of being in the world, cannot be considered per se, but should be contextualized as a social system. It exists in a situation that includes a network of elements involving others, the objective economic conditions, cultural and political institutions and ideologies, and so on. Since the translator cannot avoid being faithful to his/her own circumstances and perspective, she/he cannot be really faithful to the text he/she translates. Infidelity is built into translation because it inevitably describes domestic scenes that are loaded not only linguistically and culturally, but also socially and politically. The source text does not reach the target society unscathed, but refracted. Communication in translation is simultaneous decontexualization and recontextualization; hence is productive, rather than reproductive. Translation as a product communicates more and at the same time less than the source text intended to. Translation as a process communicates different modes of being, or at least leads to intended understanding or/and misunderstanding of different modes of being in the world. This constitutes the predicament and the dynamo of cross-cultural communication, and points to that of communication in general.


Chen Fukang (1998). Chinese Translation Studies: A History Book. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

Chesterman, Andrew (1997). Memes of Translation. The Spread of Ideas in Translation Theory. Amsterdam ad Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cheung, Martha P. Y. (1998) "The Discourse of Occidentalism? Wei Yi and Lin Shu's Treatment of Religious Material in Their Translation of Uncle Tom's Cabin." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Fairbank, John K., and Edwin O. Reischauer. China: Tradition and Transformation. Rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989.

Gentzler, Edwin (1993). Contemporary Translation Theories.. London and New York: Routledge.

Hermans, Theo (1999). Translation in systems: Descriptive and System-oriented

Approaches Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Lefevere, Andre (1999). "Composing the Other." In Susan bassnett and Harish Trivedi eds. Post-colonial Translation. Theory and Practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Lefevere, Andre (1998). "Translation Practice(s) and the Circulation of Cultural Capital. Some Aeneids in English." In Susan Bassnett ed. Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Lefevere, Andre (1992). Translation, Rewriting, and the manipulation of literary fame. London: Routledge.

Nord, Chistiane (1997). Translation as a Purposeful Activity. UK: St. Jerome.

Pollard, David (1998). "Introduction." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Schaffner, Christina (1995). "Editorial." In Christina Schaffner and Helly-Holmes eds. Cultural Functions of Translation. Clevedon, Philadelphia and Adelaide: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Steiner, Peter (1984). Russian Formalism. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Tarumoto, Teruo. "A statistical survey of translated fiction 1840-1920." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1998.

Toury, Gideon (1995). Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 1995.

Wang Kefei (1997). Translation and culture: A History Book. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

Wang Wong-chi, Lawrence (1998). "The Sole Purpose Is to Express My Political Views: Liang Qichao and the translation and writing of political novels in the late Qing period." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Wang Xiaoming (1998). "From Petition to Fiction: Visions of the Future Propagated in Early Modern China." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Wang Zuoliang (1981). "Two Early Translators Reconsidered." Foreign Language Teaching and Research, 1, 3.

Venuti, Lawrence (1998). The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference. London and New York: Routledge.

Venuti, Lawrence (1995). The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation. London: Routledge.

Yuan, Jin (1998). "The Influence of Translated Fiction on Chinese Romantic Fiction." In Translation and Creation: Readings of Western literature in Early Modern China, 1840-1918. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Yu Yuhe ed. (1997). A History Book of Cultural Communications between Modern China and the West. Taiyuan: Shanxi Education Press.

Guo yanli (1998). An Overview on Translated Literary Works in Modern China. Hubei: Hubei Education Press.


Submit your article!

Read more articles - free!

Read sense of life articles!

E-mail this article to your colleague!

Need more translation jobs? Click here!

Translation agencies are welcome to register here - Free!

Freelance translators are welcome to register here - Free!

Free Newsletter

Subscribe to our free newsletter to receive news from us:

Recommend This Article
Read More Articles
Search Article Index
Read Sense of Life Articles
Submit Your Article
Obtain Translation Jobs
Visit Language Job Board
Post Your Translation Job!
Register Translation Agency
Submit Your Resume
Find Freelance Translators
Buy Database of Translators
Buy Database of Agencies
Obtain Blacklisted Agencies
Advertise Here
Use Free Translators
Use Free Dictionaries
Use Free Glossaries
Use Free Software
Vote in Polls for Translators
Read Testimonials
Read More Testimonials
Read Even More Testimonials
Read Yet More Testimonials
And More Testimonials!
Admire God's Creations

christianity portal
translation jobs


Copyright © 2003-2024 by
Legal Disclaimer
Site Map