Yumiao Bao
Wed 20 Jan 2016, 16:30 - 18:00
Project Room, 50 George Square

If you have a question about this talk, please contact: Hephzibah Israel (hisral)

All Welcome

In late Qing, especially after China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war (1894-5), Chinese literati started to take the initiative in translation to introduce Western learning, especially Western fiction, as a response to the social and national crisis. In the intense encounters of cultures, rather than acting as a bridge between the West and China, this generation of Chinese translators reconstructed the West within Chinese cultural values and literary traditions that they were more familiar with. It is almost common knowledge that they abridged, rewrote and domesticated the original texts at their disposal to bring Western fiction closer to common Chinese readers. But how did this generation of Chinese literati-translators perceive what they were doing with texts and what they were? What was their understanding of ‘translation (or fanyi in Chinese)’? To answer these questions, this paper will focus on what late-Qing Chinese literati said about (fiction) translation and how they discussed it in paratextual and extratextual materials.

Translations published in late Qing were usually surrounded by various materials such as prefaces, postscripts, pingdian commentaries, book reviews, advertisement, etc. In these paratexts and extratexts, there are few reflections on ‘translation’ itself. These Chinese literati rarely directly discussed translation strategies or compared a translation with the original. Rather, translated fictions were treated as if they were ‘original’ works within the intertextual matrix of Chinese literary system. In my analysis of this seeming ‘invisibility’ of Chinese translators in paratexts surrounding translations, I will contextualize and interpret such paratextual and extratextual information within the fiction tradition of Qing China where the lines between the textual roles of the author, the commentator and the reader were very fluid. In so doing, I aim to show that in this early period of translation of Western fiction translation was conceptualized by Chinese literati as another type of textual activity in China’s long-standing fluid, communal textual tradition.

Yumiao Bao, PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh