Translation as Metaphor: Yan Fu and the Confucian Dao

Date: 10/07/2002

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: Ms Elsie Chan

Translation Seminar Series


Yan Fu is best remembered for his translation of modern Western intellectual works and his epigrammatic “xin-da-ya” translation principles, generally taken to mean faithfulness to the original text, comprehensibility and elegance. It is a known fact that Yan’s translation agenda is highly purposeful and that many of his commentary-translations are not faithful to the original texts. I am going to argue that if faithfulness really matters in Yan Fu’s translation project, it is his faith to the Confucian dao. I am presenting Yan Fu as a Confucian scholar who takes up narrative rewriting (that is, translation) as practice (manifestation and modernization) of the Confucian dao just like Confucius himself. I will also attempt exegetical and eisegetical analysis of his “xin-da-ya” theory from the perspective of Confucian literary poetics, examining the three concepts with reference to respective passages from the Classic of Changes, the Analects and the Zuo’s Commentary. This reveals that in practice, “xin-da-ya” represents a set of moral code (applicable also to speech as performative act) in the Confucian tradition, though in theory, it is generally perceived as a set of a priori translation principles constructed out of a vacuum.

About the Speaker:

Ms Elsie Chan teaches translation at the City University of Hong Kong and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick. Her research interest lies in comparison between Chinese and Western translation theories and intellectual history. Her published articles include (in English) “Translation in Hong Kong: Toward 1997 and into the 21st century”, “Translation of Buddhist Scriptures into Chinese: A Power-Governed Discourse”, “Back to the Future: Future Development of Translation Studies in Hong Kong”, “Translation Principles and the Translator’s Agenda: A Systemic Approach to Yan Fu”, and (in Chinese) “Tradition and Conciliation: The Prospect of Translation Studies in China in the 21st Century”, “A Historical and Systemic Study of Yan Fu’s Translation”.

Translation as Metaphor: Yan Fu and the Confucian Dao
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