‘To Translate’ Means ‘to Exchange’ in Ancient China? A Study of Some Key Terms in Chinese Discourse on Translation

Date: 19/01/2005

Time: 7:00-9:00PM

Location: Centre for Translation, DLB 701, David C. Lam Building, Shaw Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University, Renfrew Road, Kowloon Tong

Speaker: Prof Martha Cheung

Translation Seminar Series


This paper analyzes several terms used in ancient China to refer to the activity/activities now called ‘fanyi‘ in Chinese, or ‘translation’ in English. By tracing the pattern behind the semantic and ideological jogging amongst these terms, the paper offers a new interpretation of the earliest Chinese attempts to define translation (‘fanyi‘). The purpose is to highlight the constructed nature of the prevailing notion of ‘fanyi‘ and unsettle its established meaning, the better to provoke theoretical discussions on and about ‘fanyi‘. The final purpose is to provide a response to the recent call for a non-Eurocentric, international translation studies by advocating for a concerted effort to study the conceptualisations of ‘translation’ as they evolved in different cultures, with the view to eventually developing a general theory of translation that truly has general relevance.

About the Speaker:

Martha P.Y. Cheung received her PhD in English and American Literature from the University of Kent at Canterbury. She is now Head of Translation Programme and Director of the Centre for Translation at Hong Kong Baptist University. She has translated many works of Chinese Literature into English, including those of Han Shaogong (Homecoming? And Other Stories, 1992), Liu Sola (Blue Sky Green Sea and Other Stories, 1993), and of Hong Kong poets such as Leung Ping Kwan (Foodscape, 1997; Travelling with a Bitter Melon, 2002). She co-edited (with Jane C.C. Lai) and translated (with Jane C.C. Lai and others) An Oxford Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama (1997) and co-translated (with Jane C.C. Lai) 100 Excerpts from Zen Buddhist Texts (1997). She is Editor-in-Chief (Chinese translation) of Oxford Children’s Encyclopedia (9 volumes, 2082 entries, 1998), and Editor-in-Chief (English translation) of An Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica in Hong Kong (506 entries, 2004). She edited, and translated (with Jane C.C. Lai and others) Hong Kong Collage: Contemporary Stories and Writing (1998). She has written articles on translation teaching, translation criticism, translation history, and translation theory. She is now working on an anthology, in English translation, of Chinese discourse on translation.

‘To Translate’ Means ‘to Exchange’ in Ancient China? A Study of Some Key Terms in Chinese Discourse on Translation
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