Monday, August 5, 2013

Administrative Updates -- 2013 Summer Issue

Dear CLD Members,

I hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer!  Here is the latest issue of our CLD newsletter. Please keep your eyes peeled for announcements from the ATA as we approach the Annual Conference in San Antonio. I'm looking forward to updating you on the CLD’s activities – including a great deal of progress in passage selection for the developing Chinese > English certification exam. I hope to see many of you in San Antonio!

Warm Regards,

Di Wu


Dear CLD Members,

For nearly three years, it has been my honor and pleasure to serve as your newsletter editor. I have greatly enjoyed reading about your experiences, benefiting from your professional insight and working side-by-side with you in creating our newsletter. Thanks mostly to the herculean efforts of our layout editor Evelyn Yang-Garland, our former Administrator Bin Liu and current Administrator Di Wu, the newsletter has been revived and is flourishing.

Now that the newsletter has some solid roots in place, it is time for me to pass on the torch. If you are interested in becoming the CLD editor, please contact either myself or our Administrator Di Wu. I look forward to working with you!

Sincerely Yours,

Katie Spillane

Chinese > English Translator

Tributes to Dr. Yuanxi Ma -- 2013 Summer Issue

Reflections on a Lifetime of dedication: Dr. Yuanxi Ma

Members of the CLD are mourning the loss of Dr. Yuanxi Ma (马元曦), longtime CLD leader and mentor, who passed away on May 17, 2013 after a battle with cancer. Since she worked constantly and vigorously until illness prevented her from doing so in the last year or so, some might be surprised to learn that she had reached the age of 80. She is survived by her husband Dr. Yongbiao Zhang, two daughters Xiaodan and Jessica, and countless former students, colleagues, and friends.

马老师 (Ma Laoshi or Teacher Ma), as many of us called her with respect and affection, joined the ATA in 1996 and was a key force in developing the Chinese Language Division, as well as the ATA’s English > Chinesecertification exam . She served as the CLD’s Assistant Administrator from 2000 to 2004, and then as Administrator from 2004 to 2006. She further contributed to the CLD by providing leadership in establishing a link between the ATA and the Translators Association of China (TAC). Yuanxi Ma remained an active leader, mentor, presenter, and grader with the ATA up through the ATA Annual Conference in Boston in 2011.

Yuanxi Ma was born in 1933 in Shanghai, where she spent most of her childhood and teenage years during China’s turbulent period of war and foreign occupation. Making her way to Beijing soon after the founding of the People’s Republic, in 1950 she began studying English language and literature at the Beijing Foreign Language Institute (now called Beijing Foreign StudiesUniversity). She began teaching there before even finishing her own coursework, earning a BA in 1954 and an MA in 1956. Her teaching career at that prestigious institution lasted nearly thirty years, from 1953 to 1982. Dr. Ma’s achievements are reflected in the comments of Isabel Crook, a Canadian who, with her late husband David Crook, began teaching at the university in the mid-1940s. After learning of her colleague’s illness, Mrs. Crook wrote in a December 2012 letter to Dr. Ma, “You were one of the best-loved teachers in our school. You played a leading role in shaping the teaching methods and materials in our English department in those early exciting days... Dear Xiao Ma, you can look back over the years and feel you have left a mark.”

In 1975, in addition to her teaching duties, Dr. Ma began accumulating experience as a translator and interpreter for conferences, delegations, and business negotiations addressing legal, business, literary, cultural, and other topics.

Between 1982 and 1985, Yuanxi Ma moved to the BeijingInstitute of International Relations as Vice Chair of the English department, where she also carried a teaching load. Her stay there was relatively brief, but the impression she left was deep. Students from those days kept in touch with her until the end of her life. Former student Haiqing Xu wrote of Dr. Ma, “The first time I met her, I was surprised by her diminutive size. The first time I heard her lecture in class, I was intimidated by the dignity and self-confidence in this petite woman’s gaze.” Remembering this teacher, Weiping Zhang wrote, “Though her time as my teacher was not the longest, between primary school and college, Ma Laoshi was the teacher who left the deepest impression on me.” Youyi Huang, a former student who later became a vice-chair of the TAC wrote, “When we were students, she was our dear teacher and, when we embarked upon the path of translation, she guided us in the profession. Ma Laoshi’s familiar, gentle voice often echoes in my ears.”

As China deepened its policies of reform and opening to the outside world, Dr. Ma moved in 1985 to the US for graduate work at the StateUniversity of New York at Buffalo, completing an MA in 1987. In January 1992, just shy of her 59th birthday, she was awarded a PhD in American and comparative literature. She remained a whirlwind of teaching activity throughout this period. Between 1989 and 1995, as associate director and lecturer with the China Institute in America, she taught courses on Chinese culture and literature. In the midst of teaching, Yuanxi Ma also served for four years as the institute’s director of business development programs, organizing exchanges and study tours between the US and China. Concurrently, from 1990 to 1995, she served as an adjunct professor in the East Asian Studies Program at New York University, teaching courses in Chinese language and literature.

At an age when some retire to a simpler life, the indomitable Yuanxi Ma continued squeeze out additional substantial work. For starters, she was instrumental in the 1991 formal establishment of the Chinese Society for Women’s Studies (CSWS), an international NGO connecting scholars from around the world. Since then, members from various countries have worked closely with Chinese scholars to open gender studies centers, train specialists, develop gender and development projects in China, organize international conferences, and produce academic publications. Dr. Ma participated in all of the organization’s major projects and was co-chair of the CSWS Board from 1996 to 1999. Between 2000 and 2010, she translated and/or edited the translations of three books on gender, development, and Chinese-American women, all published for a Chinese audience. CSWS board chair Danning Wang wrote, “To all of us, Ma Laoshi was not just a name representing leadership; she was a spiritual friend and caring figure that we can all rely on.”

In 1995, Dr. Ma began working at the international law firm Baker& McKenzie in Chicago as Director of Translation in its China Practice Group, a position she held until 2004. Jia Zhao, a partner at the firm, made the following comments at Yuanxi Ma's memorial service: “How did she meet the challenge to work in a highly professional business world in the USA when she was already over 60? With her excellent language proficiency, she was modest, eager to learn, showing respect for business culture and rules, asking from time to time, ‘How should I work? Tell me.’… She won people's hearts… Once an American colleague said, ‘She has brought China closer to us’.”

Even after leaving Baker & McKenzie, retirement was a foreign concept to Yuanxi Ma. As China rapidly expanded its public and private post-secondary education systems, she went to Shanghai in June 2004 to join LesRoches Jinjiang Hotel Management College, a new joint-venture training institution. Her work there received high praise from Dean Ron Carpenter, who said, “She was such a special lady, beloved by her students, fellow teachers and all of us… We very much cared about Yuanxi, our first Head of English, colleague and dear friend.”

Shuttling between Shanghai and Chicago, Dr. Ma also continued to lead the ATA’s CLD during this time. Former CLD administrator and close colleague Frank Mou recalled that, “To reach out to Chinese translators and interpreters, Yuanxi Ma worked tirelessly by organizing CLD panels, collecting presentation papers for each annual conference, contributing articles to our newsletter, and giving presentations herself… Yuanxi did her down-to-earth work not for personal gain/fame but for the benefit of the profession.”

Yuanxi Ma’s last official position in a 60-year working life began in 2007. At the invitation of the Aston Educational Group (AEG), she became the group’s Vice-President of North American Operations and later the director of the Aston International Academy (AIA), its member institution in Austin, TX. David Wisner, the CEO of AEG wrote, “She was such an inspiration to me, and loved by so many of our Aston family… I will never forget her positivity, passion and friendship.” Lynn Petro, deputy director of AIA commented, “It was an honor and a joy to work with her and get to know her. She was much-loved not just by me, but by all the teachers and students. She was a light at school and she radiated such warmth. She was one of the kindest, most gentle souls I have ever met.”

Dr. Ma had a unique and profound impact on anyone with whom she came into contact, whether they were students, long-time colleagues, or new acquaintances. While compiling this tribute, I reflected back on my own experience of Yuanxi Ma’s friendship and gentle encouragement after I joined the ATA in 2002. One memory stood out. Ma Laoshi had warmly received me in Shanghai the previous summer, and I was very happy to have her stay in my home during the 2005 ATA conference in Seattle. I was eager to share with her some of my latest work translating subtitles for the National Geographic documentary, China’s Lost Girls. We sat together on my not-very-comfortable guest futon, watching the heart-wrenching film with tears streaming down our cheeks. She had no particular reason to make the time for that vulnerable moment with me, but she did so in her own completely accessible and humane way.

Yuanxi Ma’s long-time friend Charles Wu wrote, “Since we met over 60 years ago, facing trials and hardships together, our friendship has not once been interrupted… Her life achievements were outstanding and her vitality extraordinary, but she was modest and, everywhere she went, she took pleasure in helping others… We have lost a family member and an intimate friend; a go-to person.” Peter Gilmartin, program director of Primary Source, a global resource for educators and a friend of 40 years, wrote, “Her intellect and her passion for living have inspired us to reach to be better humans.” Attorney Fei Yu, whom Yuanxi Ma helped along the way, said, “I don’t know if I will ever encounter in this life another teacher/mentor who treats people as kindly and genuinely as Ma Laoshi.” Xiaofeng Wang, a former student who later became a colleague, summed up feelings echoed through many of these tributes and shared by so many of us: “You were our dearly respected teacher, role model, and kind elder sister… Rest in peace, Ma Laoshi.”

Michelle LeSourd
Chinese > English Translator


Yuanxi Ma was one of the founders of the ATA’s Chinese Language Division. It was back in 1998 at the 39th ATA Annual Conference on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina that some of us Chinese translators decided to establish a Chinese Language Division. A preparatory committee was later formed, and I was fortunate to work with Yuanxi and others on that committee to achieve our goal. We worked hard to seek signatures from ATA members endorsing our plan, attended other divisions’ meetings to learn their best practices, and drafted the CLD by-laws. These by-laws were later adopted at the first CLD annual meeting in 2000. As the only active ATA member sitting on the committee, I was asked to serve as the first-term CLD Administrator. I appointed Yuanxi Ma as my deputy administrator. We cooperated so well that in just a few years we were able to create an online venue (Yahoo! listserv) for members to share translation tips and exchange ideas, begin publishing a quarterly CLD newsletter, organize a team of exam graders, and set up the English > Chinese accreditation exam. These preliminary activities laid a solid foundation for the growth of the CLD.

Yuanxi Ma worked tirelessly to reach out to Chinese translators and interpreters – organizing CLD panels, collecting presentation papers for each annual conference, presenting at conferences herself and contributing articles to our newsletter. The events and activities she helped to organize attracted many participants, including both Chinese language professionals and those working in other languages. Within five years of founding the CLD our division membership exploded tenfold to a membership 183 persons strong. During that time, Yuanxi Ma and I continued to work together - I served as Administrator for the first and second terms, and Yuanxi served the third term while I was her Assistant Administrator.

Most of these achievements can be credited to Yuanxi Ma’s inspiring volunteer work. But, true to her greatly admired modesty and humility, Yuanxi did her down-to-earth work not for personal gain or fame, but for the benefit of the profession. I recall vividly when she she approached me in 2008 to give a joint presentation at the 18th World Congress of the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in Shanghai. Her goal was to better promote the cause of the CLD and ATA among professionals in China, and I happily accepted her offer. Our presentation was a great hit and we had a huge turnout. However, when a senior Chinese official from the State Council came up to praise Yuanxi, she pointed at me, and said, “You should thank him.” She was such a great person to work with, and she will be remembered by all who have worked with her. I will cherish forever the memory of the time I spent working with her through all those years.

Frank Mou
Former CLD Administrator


I was very sad to hear of the passing away of our beloved Professor Yuanxi Ma. I first learned of her illness in late April, 2012.  She had gone through chemotherapy and was recuperating at home in Chicago. In August, 2012, to pay tribute to the memory of an American professor, I took my family back to Chicago and paid a special visit to Professor Ma. She had just come back from another hospital stay and seemed strong enough to receive us in her home. 

She briefly spoke of her health condition and treatments, but quickly moved on to talk about our Chinese Language Division and all her ATA friends.  She gave me boxes of chocolates and thank-you cards to bring to ATA’s Annual Conference in San Diego. She wanted to thank all of the friends and colleagues who had sent her wish Get-Well-Soon wishes.  She was also keenly interested to know what presentations and events we were going to have at the San Diego conference, since she would have to miss it this time.

I think my memories of that visit pretty much sum up Professor Ma’s life and personality.  She seldom spoke about herself, and she was always thinking of others. She truly cared for the members of the CLD and her ATA colleagues. She spent so much of her life in America giving her time to the ATA. She went to almost every Annual Conference since I began attending in 2004, and she also attended the Federation of International Translator Congresses in Shanghai and San Francisco. 

As grief was pouring in from CLD members whose lives had been touched by Professor Ma, I could not help but recall the same caring and gentle soul Professor Ma was when she was in China. I was one of the students of the Class of 1978 enrolled at Beijing Foreign Languages Institute (now known as Beijing Foreign Studies University). Professor Ma was the Instructor-in-Charge of one of the small classes.  Even though she did not teach the small class I was in, I attended her larger lectures in big classrooms, and considered myself one of her admiring students. By all accounts, she was a very devoted and well-respected teacher who seemed to spend all the time and energy she could muster on her students. Needless to say, her former students, old and young, were shocked and saddened when they learned about her decease. We grieve her loss because she gave us so much and made selfless and sometimes noble sacrifices on our account.

At the memorial service in Chicago, the CLD’s Assistant Administrator, Mrs. Liping Zhao, recounted her personal experiences with Professor Ma and those of others from our listserv exchanges. Each tale was touching, endearing and true to Professor Ma. Also attending the memorial service were two of Professor Ma’s alumni - UN interpreter Mr. Erik Guo and CLD member Mrs. Sophie (Suhui) Qu. Having worked and lived in Chicago, Mr. Guo remembered finding and connecting with Professor Ma in his earlier days in America. Mrs. Qu and her husband remembered with loving detail in their frequent interactions with Professor Ma. Mrs. Qu exemplified what a student should do when their beloved teacher is ill: on weekends, she and her husband would drive to downtown Chicago from the suburbs and pick up Professor Ma for traditional Chinese rehabilitation therapies and treatments, and then drive her and her husband back. They continued this pilgrimage in between Professor Ma’s chemotherapy sessions for about a year. I think there is nothing better to pay tribute to Professor Ma’s memory than to say your students loved you and cared for you in words as well as in actions.

Bin Liu
ATA Certified English > Chinese translator
Immediate Past Administrator of ATA Chinese Language Division


As former students of Professor Ma Yuanxi, we still find it very hard to accept the painful reality that Professor Ma Yuanxi has left us. We have always addressed her as Ma Laoshi in Chinese - no matter what - even if we wrote to her in English. Neither “Teacher Ma” nor “Professor Ma” fully convey our respect and feeling for her. Ma Laoshi always remains Ma Laoshi, for each and every one of us in Class 1, Grade 78 of the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute (now known as Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beiwai for short).

At Beiwai, Ma Laoshi was our first English teacher and a well-recognized teaching expert. With her outstanding language teaching technique, communicative skills and, especially, patience and dedication, she helped hundreds of young students like us in the early stages of pursuing a professional career. Her teaching technique was superb. By means of meticulously prepared plans and skillfully designed communicative activities, she provided each of her students with the maximum number of opportunities to practice in each class hour and laid a solid foundation for our future learning. 

Ma Laoshi was not just a language instructor but also a great educator, with a caring and loving heart. When we were enrolled in the English department at Beiwai in 1978, we were assigned to Class 1, the lowest level in Grade 78.  Despite our lower proficiency level, Ma Laoshi encouraged us to lay a solid foundation of English skill and tried to help us catch up, or even surpass those students at higher levels by providing extra one-on-one tutoring hours every week. Her encouraging words kept us going during our college years, and those words were ringing in our ears when we graduated, when we passed the entrance exams for graduate studies, and when we got our master's or doctoral degrees. What she taught us was not just English, but more importantly the way to face life’s ups and downs.

Ma Laoshi was actually a very quiet person, more a listener than a speaker. She showed respect for her students and never imposed her ideas on others. If she wanted to make comments, she would pose them more like questions for consideration. Throughout her life she fought for the emancipation and equality of women, and she showed the girls in her class step-by-step how to live as tough and independent women in the world. We can never forget her question: “... what would you do if, as a woman, you had to choose between career and family?” We could not answer that question at the time, and unfortunately it took us many years to understand her loaded question.  Only after going through sweet and bitter experiences ourselves, did we finally get her message: it is never easy to have both, and a fair and equal world for women as well as for men demands joint efforts from both genders!

Ma Laoshi remained a life-long friend with her students. In the past 30 years, though we didn't see her very often, we kept constant contact with her through email and phone, wherever we happened to be. Each time we met, whether it was in America, in China, or in Europe, we always had so much to talk about - as if time had come to a standstill. We always wanted to ask her for advice and talk about things that concerned us. In her correspondence to us, she always wrote: don't work too much and do take good care of yourselves. Days before she passed away, we called her and realized that it might be the last time we would speak with her. On the phone she was, as usual, reticent about her own condition but still asked about our lives and families. We couldn't hold back our tears after hanging up.

Now she has left us. We have lost a close and dear friend as well as a teacher who mentored, inspired and guided us through the past 35 years. We thought of her from time to time and now miss her very much! She was small but great; she looked ordinary but was extraordinary; and she will always have a soft space in our hearts!

ZHANG Hong Bin
HU Wenze
Former Students

See You in San Antonio! -- 2013 Summer Issue

San Antonio is known as the cradle of Texan liberty. The city’s most famous landmark is the Alamo, originally a Spanish mission. The Battle of the Alamo was the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution. Also known as the Texas War of Independence, this military conflict between the government of Mexico and Texas colonists began October 2, 1835 and resulted, after the final battle, in the establishment of the Republic of Texas on April 21, 1836.

No other city in Texas reflects the state's Spanish and Mexican heritage better than San Antonio. The Hispanic atmosphere of San Antonio makes it a truly unique American city. Despite having a metro population of nearly 2.3 million people, those in San Antonio still enjoy a small-town feel despite the hustle and bustle.

What to See – After the Alamo
The River Walk - The San Antonio River Walk meanders through the center of the city, providing visitors with scenic pathways and waterways leading to the city’s cultural and historic sites. The River Walk serves as a charming link between restaurants, hotels and shops. Classic Tex-Mex, barbecue, Italian and contemporary Southwestern cuisine are just a few of the many choices you’ll find in the River Walk’s many cafes and restaurants.

The Texas Hill Country - San Antonio is perched on the southern edge of the Texas Hill Country. Settled by Germans and Eastern Europeans, this part of Texas has a culture all its own. A 90-minute drive takes you to charming small towns where you may still hear older folks speaking German. Float down cool rivers, bargain hunt along quaint main streets, or hike and bike your way through the rolling, picturesque landscape. Start your visit by taking Highway 16 northwest to Bandera, which calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World”. A fun, relaxing day trip out of the city.

Where to Eat
Biga on the Banks (203 St Mary's at Market St.)
This gourmet restaurant has earned its spurs with the highest Zagat rating. Reservations are required, but if you book online your reservation comes with a free glass of champagne!

Lone Start Café (237 Losoya St.)
A classic Texas steak house, the LSC offers discount coupons on the website and - on some days - “all-you-can-eat” specials.

For Mexican food, head to Café Olé (521 Riverwalk) where you can enjoy great food and a 60 oz margarita on a patio overlooking the river. They also have dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.

Iron Cactus (200 Riverwalk ) is a Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar. The bar is one of the top 10 tequila bars in the country with over 80 different selection of tequila.

Have a hankering for something European? For Italian, try Ristorante Paesanos (111 W. Crockett St.), for French fusion, Frederícks (7701 Broadway).

Esquire Tavern (155 East Commerce St.) is the oldest bar on the River Walk and well worth a visit, for old-times’ sake.

Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub (234 Riverwalk) was built at the Truwood Joinery Shop in County Monaghan, Ireland. The painstaking care of Irish craftsmen went into every detail when designing and building the pub. Upon its completion, it was very carefully crated and shipped to the port of Galveston.

Tex’s Riverwalk Sports Bar (200 S. Alamo) is just what it sounds like - sports and a Tex-Mex menu!

Howl at the Moon Saloon (111 W. Crockett #201). In the mood for a singing, clapping, stomping, dance-on-the-piano kind of place to really let loose? Howl at the Moon Saloon is the place for you!

MadDog’s British Pub (123 Losoya Street, Suite 19. 210-222-0220). A unique and authentic British Fun Pub.

Acapulco Sam’s/Kremlin (212 College St.). There are many things to see and do at this River Walk hotspot including the Havana Ultra Lounge (Latino flavor and South Beach nightlife); Sam's Beach Club (brings Acapulco's famous Condessa Beach to the River Walk); and Kremlin (a dance club with all the Las Vegas glitz).

Aileen Lu
Chinese <> English Interpreter

 CLD Offerings in SAN ANTONIO!*

C-1 Managing Chinese-Language Projects: Tips for Project Managers
Evelyn Yang Garland
(Friday, 10:00am-11:00am; Intermediate; Presented in: English)

What pitfalls await when a client requests a translation in Traditional Chinese? To serve clients, it is NOT enough to know the differences between Traditional and Simplified characters, or between Mandarin and Cantonese. It is important to understand the fine nuances among writing styles. The speaker will discuss how project managers can determine the right style for a client who requests a Chinese translation, even when the client has minimal knowledge of the Chinese language. The speaker will share tips for evaluating whether a translation is ready for publication, as well as discuss China's translation-related standards.

C-2 The Nuts and Bolts of Chinese<>English Translation IV: Adding and Deleting from the Source Text
Di Wu
(Friday, 11:30am-12:30pm; All Levels; Presented in: English)

The speaker will analyze some of the finer points of Chinese<>English translation, including adding/deleting words, rearranging word order, and changing the meaning of the source text slightly to make the translation sound grammatically correct in the target language. Many examples will be used to illustrate these points. Attendees will be encouraged to share their translation tips.

C-3 Handle with Care: Practical Considerations for Using the New Machine Translations of Chinese Patents
Irina Knizhnik
(Saturday, 4:00pm-5:00pm; Intermediate; Presented in: English)

The European Patent Office, in collaboration with Google, has introduced a system of machine translation for patents from the People's Republic of China. This system offers some unique benefits, as well as some unique challenges, to translators. The speaker will discuss this system, with examples from practical experience.

*Please note that all offerings are subject to change


Looking for a roommate for the conference? Use the ATA Roommate Blog to locate a potential roommate during your stay in San Antonio! Staying in the conference hotel is a great way to network with other conference attendees but doesn’t have to be a major expense. Simply click here to access the ATA Roommate Blog and begin your search by reviewing the requests posted or posting one of your own!

Professional Perspectives--2013 Summer Issue

Engaged Translation: Submerged Gender Ideology in the Chinese Version of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

[Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Translation Journal.  It is reprinted here with permission]
In this paper, I will examine how the notions of genderlessness and formlessness of Guan Yin (觀音), the popular Buddhist prophet, are implicitly fused into the Chinese version of Pullman’s work.

1.         Introduction: Background of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” and its Chinese Translation

As a text begins to be interpreted and translated, its original ideology, values and norms will be shifted, diminished or lost, and new ideas might be added.

Among notable children’s books in recent years, Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials (1995—2000) is considered one of the most prominent. The last volume, The Amber Spyglass, published in 2000, won numerous prestigious prizes, including the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year (the first children’s book to receive the award). In 2003, the series took third place in the BBC’s Big Read Poll. In 2005, Pullman was announced as joint winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature. The novel was then made into a motion picture, with the first episode shown in cinemas worldwide in December 2007.

One of the most fascinating elements of Pullman’s trilogy is his invention of daemons. Daemons, as described in the trilogy, are the visible and tangible animal counterparts of human souls. As Squires notes, daemons “reflect the character of their human, but also … can act as a restraint, setting up an externalized internal dialogue.” (2003: 25) From a feminist perspective, one notable feature of Pullman’s daemons is that the appearances of children’s daemons change, while adults’ daemons remain a single animal form. The changing manifestations of children’s daemons can be read as multiple, fluid expressions of the ‘Self’. When a daemon gradually stops changing and remains in one form, it indicates that the person may have fixated on one identity expression.

The fluid form of children’s daemons becomes even more interesting through Wong Jing, the award-winning children’s books translator, Chinese translation of Pullman’s books. Wong implicitly adds the idea of form transformation and genderlessness of Guan Yin, the Buddha of Compassion (Li: 2006) and well-known for the supernatural power of assuming any gender or form to expound Buddhist faith (Xing: 1999).

With the objective of investigating how engaged translation may alter the meaning conveyed in the original text, this paper examines the notions of genderlessness and formlessness of Guan Yin fused into the Chinese translated text of Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

2.         Buddhist Notions of Gender

Buddhism today is well-known for its humanistic elements such as tolerance and equality (Barua, 2008). However, the notion of equality between men and women developed only when religion entered the Chinese culture (Xu and Huang 2006). According to Shi (2005), early Buddhist scriptures are full of negative representations of women and misogynist sentiments. Women’s status was so low, they were often compared to inferior life forms such as beasts and demons. In “the Tale of King Udayana of Vatsa” in Maharatnakuta Sutra, it is claimed that:

Women can ruin the precepts of purity. They can also ignore honor and virtue…As the filth and decay of a dead dog or dead snake are burned away, so all men should burn filth and detest evil. The dead snake and dog are detestable, but women are even more detestable than they are (Paul (trans.) 1979: 27—50; Sponberg 1992: 21).

Moreover, Buddhists believed women to be unqualified to become Buddhas because of their sins and impurity; men who aspire to become Buddhas were counseled to avoid contact with women. In The Cullavagga, women are described as “cunning, tricky thieves, stay with them and you can’t see the truth.” (取巧多智的賊,和她們同在一塊兒,真理就很難找得着) (Li, 2001: 311). Similarly, in The Law Code of Manu (1871 - 1941), the most authoritative and best-known legal text of ancient India, men are warned of the evil nature of women:

Seducing men and leading them to the fall are the nature of women… on earth, women can tempt not only the foolish, but also gentlemen to stray away from the right path, making them become the slaves of love and flesh.
誘使男子墮落是婦女的天性,……因為在人世間,婦女不但可以使愚者,而且也可以使賢者悖離正道,使之成為愛情和肉欲的俘虜 (1980: 50)

Trapped by their evil nature, women were believed to be incapable of reaching Nirvana. To reach Nirvana and become a Buddhist, a woman must work hard and do good deeds. Only then, in her next life, will she have a chance to become a man, who can then follow the right path and start his journey to Nirvana (Shi, 2005: 156).

3.         Guan Yin, the Genderless Buddha of Compassion

The biased view in Buddhist belief changed as representations of Guan Yin shifted. Xing (1999) points out that in the Avatamsaka Sutra of the Huayan School, Guan Yin was portrayed as “a brave, courageous man” (勇猛丈夫) in the second century B.C. However, as Buddhism became popular with Chinese believers in the eighth to tenth centuries B.C., Guan Yin almost always appeared in the form of a charming lady. What is interesting is that Guan Yin today may look like a female, but is in fact both “非男非女” (neither male nor female) and “亦男亦女” (both male and female) (Jiang, 2006: 247). Guan Yin is believed to have the wisdom of seeing through superficialities of gender and form. Freed restrictions of gender, Guan Yin may take any gender or physical form to save beings from suffering and ignorance. The following is a description of the formlessness of Guan Yin by Li Ao (2001), a renowned Chinese writer and scholar based in Taiwan:

Guan Yin has no form of his / her own. The manifestation of Guan Yin occurs in the corporeal forms of everything and everybody. Hence, Guan Yin is not male or female. Guan Yin is also both male and female. Guan Yin can be male or female. When he wants to become a man, he’s a man. When she wants to become a woman, she’s a woman. Besides having the ability to transform interchangeably as a male or a female anytime, anyplace, Guan Yin can also take the form of birds, animals, and beings of any kind, including the form of a green dragon, a white tiger, even you and me.
觀音是無形的,他要靠「現眾身」在大眾身上顯現來表示自己。所以不男不女、亦男亦女、可男可女、要男就男、要女就女。不但如此男女自如、雌雄隨意,他還可以化為飛禽走獸、化為青龍白虎、化為你和我。(2001: 97)

Guan Yin’s fluid form is clearly demonstrated in the Tang Dynasty legend of “Guan Yin and the fish basket”, where it is said that Guan Yin transformed into a beautiful countryside fishmonger. Interestingly, Guan Yin is there portrayed as an object of sexual desire. Special attention is paid to her early death, her dead body, and its subsequent miraculous transformation... Below is a retelling written by Bagyalakshimi, an Indian scholar (1998):

Just as the marriage ceremony was to commence the girl took ill and died. Soon after the burial an old priest visited Ma Lang and requested him to dig up the grave. The coffin contained only pieces of golden bones. The old priest said that the girl was a manifestation of Guanyin who had come to lead people to salvation. After saying this the old man too vanished. From then on the people of the district became Guanyin devotees.

It is impressive to see how Guan Yin’s flesh and bone rise above the corporeal which come to be understood as ‘empty forms’. Buddhist believers are expected to try the best they can to learn to see beyond the corporeal, to perceive it as ever-changing, thereby freeing themselves and overcome all suffering.

4.         The Chinese Version of Pullman’s Daemons: Guan Yin Incarnate?

On reading the one and only Chinese version of His Dark Materials, I find that on the level of plot, the translator made an effort to be loyal to the source text. Yet, ideological alterations occur subtly on the level of discourse. In describing daemons, the translator implicitly imports Guan Yin’s notions of genderlessness into the translated text.

4.1.      Inherent ‘Guan Yin’ Nature Magnified in Pullman’s Daemons

Several parallel universes co-exist in His Dark Materials. In the world of Lyra Belacqua, the female protagonist, all humans possess a body, a daemon/soul, a ghost and a death. Each component interacts with the outside world different. While the physical body is capable of sensing the world, the daemon/soul is capable of loving the world around it. The ghost, on the other hand, is charged with learning about the world. When a person dies, his/her daemon fades away, whereas his/her ghost lives on, lead to the underworld by death. While the idea of personal daemons is derived from Greek and Roman philosophy (Levison 1995), similar beliefs can be found in Chinese culture. As Xu (2005), a scholar of Chinese mythology and philosophy recounts:

Humans consist of three kinds of yun [ghosts] and seven types of pa [spirits], together with the body, a being with wisdom and life is formed…the seven types of pa are happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, hatred and desires. Yun [ghost] is metaphysical in nature but pa [spirit] belongs to the physical world. Hence, when a person dies, his / her three ghosts continue their way [to heaven, underworld and the grave], but his / her seven spirits follow the flesh and dissipate.
人類本來就有三魂七魄形成一個有智慧活動的肉體七魄有:喜、怒、哀、懼、愛、惡、慾。三魂在於精神中;七魄在於物質。所以人身去世,三魂歸三線路,七魄歸肉體消失。 (79)

Comparing Pullman’s universe with traditional Chinese myth, the similarities between ‘ghost’ and yun, as well as ‘daemon’ and pa become apparent. The Chinese translator may well borrow the equivalent terms yun () and pa () when translating ‘ghost’ and ‘daemon’. However, in the translated text, only yun () is used for ‘ghost’. Pa () is discarded and a new term “守護精靈” (guardian creature) is invented for ‘daemon’ instead. The question at issue is: why does the translator use “守護精靈” (guardian creature), a term that does not originate in the source text? Before the discussion, we may first consider the translation theorist, Gouanvic’s notion of habitus, or the set of socially constructed, acquired patterns of thought, behavior and taste:

If a translator imposes a rhythm upon the text, a lexicon or a syntax that does not originate in the source text and thus substitutes his or her voice for that of the author, this is essentially not a conscious strategic choice but an effect of his or her specific habitus, as acquired in the target literary field (2005: 158).

Judging from a single example, it is hard to say whether the variation in the translated text is due to the effect of the translator’s specific habitus. Nonetheless, the translation of daemons as “守護精靈” (guardian creature) instead of pa () has, in Gouanvic’s words, ‘imposed a rhythm upon the lexicon”. Semantically, there are two differences between “守護精靈” (guardian creature) and pa (): firstly, the notion of ‘guardianship’ is added in “守護精靈” (guardian creature). Secondly, compared to pa (), which refers to the seven spirits, “精靈” (creature) has less to do with the spiritual but more with a solid, corporeal body of flesh and bones.

In the source text, daemons play many different roles – parent, friend, pet, and protector. The protector role is only one among many. However, in the target text, the ‘guardian’ role is privileged and made explicit – the text tells us that daemons, like Guan Yin, are to protect humans from harm and danger. In choosing to use of the more corporeal term “精靈” (creature) rather than pa (), the translator prevents readers from associating daemons with the intangible spirits or emotions that the use of pa () would suggest. Using “守護精靈” (guardian creature) encourages readers to perceive daemons as living, physical beings with thoughts, minds, and physical bodies. The daemons ability to undergo dramatic changes in form and shape is understood as an echo of Guan Yin.

4.2.      Genderlessness of Guan Yin Enhanced in the Translated Text

In addition to magnifying the inherent ‘Guan Yin’ nature of Pullman’s daemons, the Chinese translator has also added elements that do not belong to the daemons in the source text. Clearly, daemons are not equivalent to Guan Yin. First, daemons’ formlessness is subject to more constraints than that of Guan Yin. While Guan Yin can take human or animal form, daemons are restricted to animal forms. Additionally, the animal form of the daemon is fixed forever at adulthood. While Guan Yin does not have a fixed sex or gender identity, the biological sex of daemons in Pullman’s work is fixed. They are either male or female, and they are almost always of the opposite sex of their human counterparts. For instance, Pantalaimon (Pan), Lyra’s daemon, is always male, regardless of the form it takes. In the trilogy’s source text, Pullman uses the gendered pronouns “he, him and his” to refer to Pan. Similarly, the male protagonist’s female daemon, Kirjava, is referred to using the gendered pronouns “she, her and hers”.

4.2.1.   Genderlessness Imported through Inconsistent Translation of the Pronoun ‘it’

Although on the whole the Chinese text makes it clear to readers that daemons do have a fixed sex, the pronouns used to refer to daemons are inconsistent. There are five different third person singular pronouns that commonly occur in Chinese language:

: Similar to it, gender-neutral, refers to a celestial/divine being only
: Equivalent to he, refers to male only
: Equivalent to she, refers to female only
: Similar to it, gender-neutral, refers to an animal or a beast only
: Similar to it, gender-neutral, refers to non-living object only

The target text, sprinkled with the use of (he), (lifeless objects of unspecified gender) and (animals of unspecified gender), suggests that a single daemon has different gender identities and life forms. Thus, the target text skillfully and subtly endows daemons with further freedom of form and gender similar to that of Guan Yin. This is a marked departure from the source text. The following passage describing Pan - taken from chapter one of The Subtle Knife - illustrates my point:

It leapt into her arms, and when it got there, it had changed shape. Now it was a red-brown stoat with a cream throat and belly, and it glared at [Will] as ferociously as the girl herself. (21; emphasis mine)

It is understandable why Pullman chooses to use “it” instead of “he” to refer to Pan here. The character Will is seeing Pan, a daemon for the first time. In Will’s eyes, Pan is an animal and Will cannot tell whether Pan is male or female. In the Chinese version, the translator faithfully translates ‘it’ as , a gender-neutral pronoun that refers to animals only:

跳入她懷裡,迅速換形狀。現在 是隻紅棕色的鼬,有著奶油色的喉嚨和肚皮, 兇狠注視他的模樣,和女孩如出一轍。(Wang Jing (trans.) 2002: 37. Emphasis mine)

The pronoun “” can no doubt be viewed as an equivalent term for “it”, the gender-neutral pronoun for living animals. However, a few pages later, the source text’s “it” is translated using another Chinese pronoun.

In the source text, Lyra says, “Your daemon isn’t separate from you. It’s you. A part of you.” (1997: 26. Emphasis mine.). In the translated text, this is rendered as “你的精靈並非和你分開。 就是你,是你的一部分。” (Wang Jing (trans.) 2002: 43. Emphasis mine.) Here, the Chinese pronoun becomes , which can only be used to describe non-living objects. Thus, daemons become not only genderless, but also lifeless. At this point, the Chinese reader might wonder: why is the daemon sometimes an animal and sometimes an object? What is the daemon’s gender? The inconsistent pronoun use causes confusion. More confusion arises when the translator uses the pronoun ‘he’ () to refer to the daemon later on in the passage, “He has already noticed…” (‘已經注意到…’) (Wang Jing (trans.), 2002: 83. Emphasis mine.).

The inconsistent pronoun translation provides the daemon with additional room for form transformation. Instead of being a male animal, Pan is represented sometimes as a non-living object, sometimes an animal with no specific gender, and sometimes a male.

4.2.2.   Gender ‘Hidden’ through Ellipsis of Pronouns

Interestingly, in chapter one of The Subtle Knife (1997) Wang Jing, the Chinese translator, seems to avoid and delay revealing the true gender of Pan to his readers. In the source text, as Will comes to realize that Pan is a daemon with the opposite sex of Lyra, the narrative gradually employs pronouns such as he, his and him to replace the gender-neutral “it”. For example, on page 23: “Her daemon had changed again, and become a huge brightly-coloured butterfly…The butterfly raised and lowered his wings slowly” (Emphasis mine). Similarly, on page 24: “Her daemon, a cat again, was dipping his paw in it too, but he backed away when Will came near” (Emphasis mine). In the translated text, Pan remains genderless for a much longer period of time. Wang Jing avoids using masculine pronouns to refer to Pan, either by using ellipsis or by using “” the gender-neutral pronoun that refers only to animals. On page 39 of the translated text, the translator uses ellipsis to keep the daemon’s gender hidden:

Source text:          “The butterfly raised and lowered his wings” (1997: 23)
Target text:           “蝴蝶緩緩舉翅又落下”(Wang Jing (trans.), 2002: 39)
Back translation: “The butterfly slowly raised [ellipsis] wings and then lowered them”

Also, on page 40:

Source text:          “Her daemon, a cat again, was dipping his paw in it too, but he backed away when Will came near” (1997:24)
Target text:           “她的精靈此時又變回了猫,也將掌子伸入碗,但威爾一靠近, 牠就立刻退後。” (Wang Jing (trans.), 2002: 40. Emphasis mine.)
Back translation: “Her daemon changed back to a cat, dipped [ellipsis] paw into the bowl, but when Will came near, it (the gender-neutral pronoun for animals) backed away”.

Time and again, the translator refuses to reveal Pan’s gender. At the risk of being unfaithful to the source text, he stretches the language to maintain the gender-free notion as far as possible

4.3.      Daemon Form-fixing Interpreted and Translated as a Lamentable Loss

Beyond magnifying the genderlessness and formlessness of the daemons, the translator also seems to have paid special attention to the loss of form changing powers and the transition of Lyra’s and Will’s daemons into fixed forms. In the final book of Pullman’s trilogy, Lyra and Will, the two main characters touch each other’s daemons lovingly and intimately with their bare hands. Their ecstatic feelings are described in great detail. At about the same time, the readers are told that Lyra and Will’s daemons will no longer change form:

And she knew too that neither daemon would change now, having felt a lover’s hand on them. These were their shapes for life: they would want no other (2000: 528).

The combination of intimate physical liaison with the form fixation of the children’s daemons, can be seen as symbolic of maturity and self-identity formation. It is also a farewell to childhood and the fluidity of form, a rare quality exclusive to children’s daemons. Lyra realizes this loss, but also accepts Pan’s fixed form as a pine-marten:

“It’s funny,” she said, “you remember when we were younger and I didn’t want you to stop changing at all…Well, I wouldn’t mind so much now. Not if you stay like this.” (2000: 527).

Pullman also asserts that neither Lyra, Will, nor their daemons would need or want the freedom and ability to change forms anymore, “they would want no other” (2000: 528). In a sense, childhood, innocence, and the changing forms of daemons are represented as a phase to be relinquished and accepted in life. In the Chinese text, however, the sadness in losing fluidity of form is exaggerated. The expression “neither daemon would change now” is translated as “他們的精靈再也無法改變了” (Wang Jing (trans.) 2002: 577), which, when backtranslated into English means “their daemons can no longer change by any means”. This translation implies that the inability to change forms is not just a turn in life’s path, but an undesirable, yet unavoidable consequence – if not punishment – of coming of age. Also, while the words, “they would want no other” (2000: 528) reflect a serene, peaceful state of mind, the Chinese version belies a certain rigid stubbornness - “他們也不要別的模樣” (Wang Jing (trans.) 2002: 577), which may be translated as “they refuse to take on other forms”. In the source text, the word “want” can be read as a lack, desire or need. To “want no other”, in this light, is bliss - nothing is lacking. To, “refuse to take on other forms”, in contrast, hints at stubbornness, antagonism and resistance.

Such interesting alterations are easily explained by looking at how the ability to change one’s form is normally perceived among Chinese and Buddhists. Buddhists believe the universe has numerous realms. Humans and all earthly living beings belong to the Realm of Desire. Beyond the physical realm, there exists the Realm of Form, where beings have outward appearances but no desires. Above the Realm of Form, there is also the Realm of Formlessness, the highest of all realms (Sadakata, 1997). Celestial beings, such as Guan Yin, belong to this realm and are said to be free from the limitations of the senses and the physical realm. They have no forms or desires. The state of formlessness, therefore, is superior to a fixed-form state. It is a perfect reflection of the Buddhist belief, described in one of Buddhism’s most important texts - The Great Heart Sutra: “舍利子,色不異空,空不異色,色即是空,空即是色,受想行識亦復如是。” In English, this can be rendered as:

Sariputra, form is no different from emptiness; emptiness is no different from form. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Feeling, thought, activity, consciousness are also thus (Wong (trans.) 2002: 323—324).

Simply put, The Great Heart Sutra teaches us that forms such as gender are not ordained by nature. Form can be changed according to will, if only one has the wisdom to allow change to occur. Freedom to escape the constraints of senses, form and shape is recognized as a divine gift bringing us one step closer to Nirvana. Clearly, losing such freedom would be a step down.

The notion of free self-expression and performativity has long been received in a positive light, and happily embraced by Chinese readers. Thus, it is understandable why the Chinese translator uses a lamenting tone when the children’s daemons are ‘stuck’ in one form.

5.         Conclusion

Translation, according to André Lefevere (1992) and Jiri Levy (2000), is not done in a vacuum. It is an important form of rewriting and constitutes a decision-making process influenced by certain linguistic, ideological and poetic factors. As a text is interpreted and translated, its original ideology, values and norms will shift, be diminished or lost. New ideas may be added. I have attempted to argue that these transformations can be observed in the Chinese text of His Dark Materials.

Here, the notion of gender performativity is not only well-preserved, but made more explicit through a blending of Buddhist understandings of gender. The ‘genderlessness’ and formlessness of the Buddhist prophet, ‘Guan Yin’, are borrowed to enhance the notion of gender performativity in the source text. Through creative translation strategies, Buddhist views of gender are added and introduced to create a fusion effect in the target text.

Anna W.B. Tso
Lecturer in English and Applied Linguistics at the Open University of Hong Kong


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Two New Chinese Translations of Hamlet Introduced and Compared
[Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of the Translation Journal.  It is reprinted here with permission]

The eternal humanistic value of Shakespeare’s plays, as literary and cultural canonical works, lies in their ultimate concern for the existing state and fate of mankind, which is displayed when they try to answer the eternal questions of human life. We need Shakespeare today because his thoughts link up with and nourish the spiritual life of modern people. Shakespeare's works have been abundantly researched and translated in China. As for Hamlet, perhaps Shakespeare’s most iconic play, more than 40 Chinese translations have been published in the twentieth century. The new century has seen continued interest in Shakespeare in China, and two new Chinese translations of Hamlet were published in 2012 and 2013. Here I introduce these translations commenting on their conceptual, linguistic, stylistic, and textual aspects.

1.         The Translators and the Translated Texts

Both Wang and Huang pursue definite objectives in translating Hamlet into Chinese, breaking new ground in translating strategies, use of language, and textual construction.

Hongyin Wang’s translation was published by Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press in August of 2012 and Guobin Huang’s, by Tsinghua University Press in January of 2013. Translation of plays requires superior languistic artistry and profound cultural understanding on the part of the translator, who must be highly skilled in cross-cultural communication, sympathetic comprehension and empathetic expression. In translating a play, it is important for the translator to grasp the identity and individuality of the characters, whose psychology, language, and actions should be coordinated in the translation.

Mr. Wang is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Nankai University. His main academic interests are literary translation theory and criticism. He is an accomplished Shakespeare scholar. He is also an anthropologic poet and a prolific translator, having translated international classics into Chinese and many Chinese classics and regional folk works into English.

Mr. Huang, professor of Chinese University of Hong Kong, is a scholar of literary translation theory, European literature, and comparative literature, as well as a poet and essayist. He is well versed in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. He has been a student of Shakespeare for roughly half a century. Both of these men are competent translators of Shakespeare.

Both translations are innovative with respect to structure. A bilingual English-Chinese text with abundant annotations, Wang’s translation adopts a new pattern of translating Hamlet into Chinese. It draws on China’s ancient traditions of literary criticism, including the English text, the Chinese translated text, and the para-textual system, with a translator’s preface (comments on the humanistic value of re-reading Shakespeare, previous Chinese translations of Hamlet, the principles used in translating the new version, etc.), a synopsis, marginal notes, end notes, references, and a translator’s postscript.

Huang’s translation is presented in two volumes with an editor’s note, translator’s foreword and preface, the Chinese translated text, and references. In addition to the translated text, footnotes account for three quarters of the final work. These footnotes concern language, images, characters, structure, theatre art, performances, staging details, and translation. Though not bilingual, Huang’s translation offers original English source text when necessary in the footnotes.

2.         Translating Principles and Strategies

Wang’s main purpose is to provide readable literature. He pays greater attention to readability and ease of access to the text, writing a long preface and supplying ample annotation and critical notes. Stylistically, he renders Shakespeare’s blank verse in a flexible way - he does not adhere rigidly to the original metric scheme. He strives to reproduce rhythmic and syllabic sensations while controlling line length and the unfolding of a sentence. The result is a text that is both natural and symmetrical. Taking semantic translation as his foundation, Wang strives to give full play to the literary and expressive force of the Chinese language. With respect to the use of colloquial language in translation, Wang advocates for the use of natural language, drawing on a vernacular that is fresh, alive, and strongly expressive. While making room for topolects, he avoids an overly localized text in favor of language that is comprehensible to average readers throughout the country. Even some English expressions and ancient Chinese phrases are incorporated. Nevertheless, his translation retains a theatrical tone – it is literary stage language and well-suited to distinguishing the voices of different characters.

Huang’s translation, also rendered for the stage, is intended as a reader for directors, performers, and audiences in the Chinese-speaking world. Huang feels that previous Chinese translations of Hamlet were all oriented toward reading rather than performance. Thus, he tries to stress the performative aspect of the text, satisfying first the ears of directors, performers, and audiences, and only then the eyes of readers. Emphasizing that literariness and academic rigor meet the needs of a diverse readership, Huang includes a preface, rich annotation and commentary to guide the reader through differences in language, culture, ideology, and theatric traditions. His translation is poetic, an effort to render Hamlet into a Chinese poetic drama. As such, Huang maintains the a rigid allegiance to “dun” (groups of Chinese syllables, basically equivalent to the English ‘foot’)”. Nevertheless, he also privileges natural language using novel and expressive wording suitable for stage performance.

3.         Textual Comparisons

Proper names
There is some common ground in this regard. For example, both translators continue rendering Hamlet a “哈姆雷特”, and employ the practice of pronunciation-based transliteration. Their differences, however, are striking. In his re-translation, Wang plays with proper names to underline laudatory or derogatory characteristics, sex, and literary expression. For example, “Claudius” is transliterated as “克牢荻斯”, where the character “” means “prison”, implying that “Denmark is a prison.” “Gertrude” is translated as “特露德”, highlighting femininity by using “”. “Elsinore” is rendered as “” which is both close to the English pronunciation and carries the connotation of a place where sorrowful events have occurred, yet new promise remains. Wang uses only the first character of a Chinese name to refer to the speaker; thus when the first syllable of the proper names in English is pronounced the same, he adopts different Chinese graphs for distinction. Huang, in contrast, uses full names and limits his translation of most proper names to four syllables in order to facilitate stage performance.

Stylistic features
After reading the two translations, the author finds that the two translators implement their translating principles and strategies well, each staying true to his own characteristic features. Several examples to illustrate our analysis.

Stylistically, Wang’s translation corresponds to a traditional translation style which draws on Chinese rhymed verse to echo English poetics. In rendering the blank verse, Wang adopts a broad corresponding pattern so that the lines are basically correspondent, with similar length of and natural sentence structure. Wang is particularly attentive to stylistic imitation, natural syllabic harmony, and the visual effect of line arrangement. For example, here is a section of the blank verse in Act IV, Scene III:


            (Wang, 2012: 173)

Prominent in Wang’s translation is a technique blending expression and the language of drama. “Technique of expression” is a concept put forward by Wang (2003:258) pertaining to literary translation, which involves rendering images, thematic expressions, rhythms, stylistic elements, etc. Using these techniques, the translator can incorporate into his translation elements of topolect, dialect, folk songs and ballads, popular songs, and even foreign languages in order to achieve a personalized translation with salient and contemporary expressive power. With suitable use of fresh and interesting expressions from topolect and oral Chinese, the translation reads and sounds more vivid, idiomatic, characteristic, and vernacular using, for example, “公子哥儿”, “天下无”, “想咋, 就咋”, and “大男人能没有点那个”. Shakespeare’s use of folk songs to express identity did not receive adequate attention in the previous Chinese translations. Wang’s translation remedies this. For example, in Act V, Scene I, the gravedigger sings two folk songs while digging. Wang repeats the last three Chinese graphs in every line, and thus when the gravedigger sings and repeats the last three Chinese graphs (three syllables), he throws a spade of earth, which matches his singing. Without such repetition, the translation would not sound like a folk song. In this example, the “好像我不是土里来,土里来 (And hath shipp’d me into the land, / As if I had never been such.)” alludes to a biblical metaphor and turns the gravedigger into a philosopher.


(Wang, 2012: 217)

In Huang’s translation, the original blank verse is also rendered in similar, with similar rhythm and rhyming, and the original iambic scheme maintained with five “dun” and prose rendered as prose. Huang’s translation is on the whole accurate and smooth, blending literary and colloquial Chinese language, as well as elegant and vulgar elements. The following soliloquy take from Act II, Scene II highlight’s Huang’s style:


(Huang, 2013: 354-355)

Literary devices and cultural interpretation
Huang concludes that the two greatest challenges in rendering Hamlet into Chinese are the puns and images. The play contains many biblical quotations and allusions to ancient Greek mythology. Without adequate annotation, the average reader might grasp the superficial elements of the play without having an appreciation for its deeper structure, undertones and commentary.

In Act IV, Scene II, when Hamlet was asked for the location of Polonius’s body, the following dialogue ensues:

Rosencrantz:        My lord, you must tell us where the body is and go with us to
                                the King.

Hamlet: The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body.

                                The King is a thing —

Guildenstern:        A thing, my lord?

Hamlet:                 Of nothing. Bring me to him….

Wang’s translation reads:





(Wang, 2012: 171-173)

Huang’s translation reads:





(Huang, 2013: 494-496)

Here “body” is a pun. Wang’s translation tends to interpret Hamlet philosophically, clarifying the relationship between “本体” (the “body”, that is, the beggar, who does not seek splendor and harbors no ambition) and “异体” (the “shadow”, that is, the kings and heroes, who enjoy splendor and are ambitious), while also making clear the new king’s inevitable death implied by “” (both the old king’s body and Polonius’ body are related to the king). In the translation, “本体” and “异体” are related as the same kind, and “异体” and “一体” (here referring to the relationship between the new king and the queen) are related as opposites. The three Chinese phrases “”, “异体”, and “一体” are all pronounced in a very similar way. Thus several of the most important roles and their relationships to one another are all related with important philosophical concepts forming a broad and deep web of symbolism. Huang’s translation, by using “西” not only imitates the original image, but also expresses the original sarcasm of the king.

4.         Conclusion

Wang and Huang pursue concrete objectives in translating Hamlet into Chinese, and through creative efforts, break new ground. Wang, who translates for the page, is more concerned with the overall artistic effect of the translation and gives full play to the literary and expressive force of the Chinese language. He makes conscious efforts to tease out philosophical connotations and literary styles and to use colloquial Chinese, fresh, vivid, and alive, to retain the personal features of the characters in the play. In contrast, Huang’s translation has been rendered for the stage and pays more attention to poetic correspondence in rhythm, rhyming scheme and retention of the original images. His translation is more heavily laden with a rich annotation that provides valuable information for academic research and is a model of research-based translation. Both new translations represent China’s important achievements in studying and translating Hamlet and should be welcomed as new contributions to international Shakespeare studies.

Xiaonong Wang
Associate Professor at the School of Foreign Languages at Ludong University


1.      Huang, Guobin. Interpreting Hamlet – Chinese Translation with Detailed Annotation. Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2013.

2.      Wang, Hongyin. trans Hamlet. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2012.

3.      Critique of Translation Theories in Chinese Tradition. Wuhan: Hubei Education Press, 2003.

4.      On the Criticism of Literary Translation. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2010.