Diverse Voices in Chinese Translation and Interpreting

Moratto, Riccardo and Woesler, Martin (eds.) (2021). Diverse Voices in Chinese Translation and Interpreting. Theory and Practice. Singapore: Springer.

This book presents a thoughtful and thorough account of 18 diverse studies on Chinese translation and interpreting (TI). It introduces readers to a plurality of scholarly voices focusing on different aspects of Chinese TI from an interdisciplinary and international perspective. Readers will approach Chinese TI studies from different standpoints, namely socio-historical, literary, policy-related, interpreting, and contemporary translation practice.

The research spans from the Qing dynasty to the present day, and even gives an outlook on neural machine translation with the help of artificial intelligence. Several chapters focus on the translation of literature, there are chapters on the role of the interpreter, on sociology, on collaborative translation of government texts as well as on translation theory. The preface proposes the integration of most of the existing translation theories into a “final theory of all translation theories”, the so-called “Appropriateness Theory”. Continue reading

The Membranes

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes by Chi Ta-wei, forthcoming in an English translation by Ari Larissa Heinrich on June 1, is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. In this mindbending novella, Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes—heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies—into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes.

It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.

The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go. Continue reading

A selection of poems by Qiu Jin

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/12/21)
Feminist, Revolutionary, Poet
A selection of poems by Qiu Jin, in new translation by Yilin Wang

Translator’s note: Qiu Jin (秋瑾) was a Chinese revolutionary, feminist, poet, and essayist who lived from 1875 to 1907. Defying the gender expectations of her time, she acquired a traditional scholarly education as well as learning martial arts, sword-fighting, and horseback riding. As she struggled within an unhappy marriage, she connected with other Chinese feminist activists, pawned her jewels to study abroad in Japan, then returned home to join a revolution against the corrupt Qing Dynasty government and fight for women’s rights. When the uprising failed, she chose to die as a martyr rather than escape. Although Qiu Jin has been widely celebrated as a pioneer in China’s early feminist movement and as a revolutionary, there are still limited translations of her vast body of work in English and some of these date back to the early 20th century. Below are three poems and fragments in new translation (read the original Chinese here).

The first two short poems, written during Qiu’s youth, references The Tale of Zhi Kan, a Chinese opera about the lives of two heroic women warriors, Qin Liangyu and Shen Yunying, who lived in the late Ming dynasty. The next poem, ‘A River of Crimson’, is written according to a popular cipai poetic form. The final poem, ‘Spontaneous Thoughts’, is a response to the Tang dynasty female poet Yu Xuanji’s response to another poem, demonstrating that Qiu’s work can be read as the modern continuation of a long lineage of Chinese women poets tracing back thousands of years. Together, they display themes that Qiu Jin continued to explore throughout her body of work, such as the importance of strong female role models, the subversion of gender expectations, and the difficulty of finding a soulmate. – Yilin Wang

Selections from Eight Poems inspired by The Tale of Zhi Kan
for the legend written by Dong Yibo’s grandfather

The Chieftess knew how to guide the nation’s affairs,
with a general’s talents and elegance beyond this world.
Saber in hand, hair wrapped in cloth, she rode a peach-blossom steed,
truly worthy of being called a luminary of women. Continue reading

Adventures in Translating between Cultures and Eras

Adventures in Translating Between Cultures and Eras:
A Double Launch for The Best China & The Monkey King
Featuring John Minford and Julia Lovell
With commentary by Hu Ying
Jeffrey Wasserstrom moderating

Hosted, remotely, by UC Irvine’s International Center for Writing and Translation, in partnership with the Los Angeles Review of Books and Birkbeck College, University of London, Department of History, Classics, and Archaeology, February 17, 11am PST;

February 17, 7pm in the UK; and February 18, 8am in New Zealand)— To register click here:


This event, in which members of UCI’s History Department (Wasserstrom) and East Asian Studies Department (Hu Ying) will play the roles of moderator and discussant, respectively, will highlight the work of two extraordinary translators and scholars of Chinese culture. One is John Minford. He is an emeritus professor at ANU and holds a distinguished position at Hang Seng University in Hong Kong, and he has translated (or co-translated) both classic works of philosophy, including the I Ching (Yi Jing) and Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing), and classic works of literature, such as The Dream of the Red Chamber (aka The Story of the Stone). The other is Julia Lovell. She is a Professor at Birkbeck College, London, and she has translated works by Lu Xun, Yan Lianke, and other major modern writers. Minford’s most recent book is The Best China: Essays from Hong Kong (January 2021), the final volume in a six-part series devoted to Hong Kong literature, while Lovell’s is an abridged translation of Monkey King/Journey to the West (February 2021). Continue reading

The April 3rd Incident review

Source: LARB China Channel (1/21/21)
The Surrealism of the Real
Eleanor Goodman reviews The April 3rd Incident by Yu Hua
By Elenaor Goodman

Yu Hua, The April 3rd Incident, trans. Allan H. Barr (Pantheon Books, Nov 2018).

As readers will find in his massive novel Brothers and clever essay collection China in Ten Words, acclaimed Chinese writer Yu Hua has a highly developed sense of the absurd. This is perhaps both a defense mechanism and a literary advantage when living in a country in which the inconceivable has been made real. Yu Hua’s latest collection to come out in English, The April 3rd Incident, presents stories written between 1987 and 1991, yet the sense of foreboding, fear and repression is just as topical today as it was then.

The seven stories in this collection are not linked by plot or character, but they hang together tightly in terms of tone and theme. Throughout, there is death, paranoia, disorientation, ominous knocking, and a confusion between ‘dream’ and ‘reality’ embedded in a world that never seems entirely real. An alienation from one’s own sensations and perceptions, while still being utterly subsumed in them, is a thread that stretches between the stories. Characters recall dreams that seem to become manifest in the world; a truck driver sees the shadow of a boy he accidentally killed in his own son; a man is uncertain that the woman he has fallen in love with really exists. Nothing is ever what it appears to be. Continue reading

“Communist Rhapsody”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Adrian Thieret’s translation of “Communist Rhapsody,” a story by Zheng Wenguang. “Communist Rhapsody” is a “scientific fantasy” written during the Great Leap Forward. I give a teaser below. For the entire story, go to: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/communist-rhapsody/. My thanks to Adrian Thieret for sharing his work with the MCLC community.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Communist Rhapsody

By Zheng Wenguang 郑文光[1]

Translated by Adrian Thieret[2]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January 2021)

Editor’s foreword (1958): In this era in which one day equals twenty years, people want to know what our country, society, and people’s lives will look like twenty years from now. The writer of this piece has adopted a daringly imaginative style in writing this relatively scientific fantasy. We call it relatively scientific because what he says isn’t entirely baseless. We call it fantasy because to achieve these things still requires the hard work of the people. However, we anticipate that with the efforts of all China’s people, this fantasy can certainly be realized. Today there are only unimaginable miracles; there are no unrealizable fantasies. Because this work is fairly long, we will publish it in two parts.

Part 1: Our Country’s Thirtieth Anniversay

Everything happened so suddenly…

In the morning on the eve of the holiday, Director Zhang said to me: “Get your things together, Keling, we’re leaving on the Red Arrow to Beijing to watch the celebrations!”

I nearly jumped with joy. But Director Zhang told me sternly that before leaving I first had to go to the department to ascertain whether the second phase of the engineering plan had been approved.

We were advancing into the Xinjiang desert, and I was the engineer on the special “War on Deserts Committee.” Our work was, in the amusing words of Director Zhang, “to erase yellow from the map.” The work had actually begun nearly twenty years ago. Back then, people had flown in planes over the great Gobi Desert to seed it with hardy plants such as black saxaul bushes, oriental raisin trees, cacti, and camelthorns that might check the flow of sand, absorb moisture from far below the surface, and slowly form a new green oasis. [Read the entire story]

Women Writing China

Li Juan, a prominent Chinese essayist, will be discussing her experiences as female writer living and writing in a rural Chinese community.

About this Event

In partnership with the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, Sinoist Books brings you Women Writing China: Female Authors and Chinese Literature, featuring Li Juan, an acclaimed Chinese essayist writing from the extreme rurality of the Altay region of Xinjiang, and Christopher Payne, translator of Li Juan’s latest book.

We will be discussing Li Juan’s writing, specifically Distant Sunflower Fields (遥远的向日葵地), which charts the lives of three generations of women in Li Juan’s family; what is it to be a woman living in such a community, and how have her experiences as a female writer influenced and taken shape in text?

Christopher Payne will also be speaking about the intricacies of translation and his work with Li Juan. Continue reading

Paper Republic News #2

Source: Paper Republic (1/21/21)
Read all about it! – News #2
By Jack Hargreaves

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for, the definitive round-up of all things Chinese / literature / translation / everything in-between. It was brilliant after the first instalment to receive requests for newsletter subscription, which is definitely our aim — to have this drop in your inbox every two weeks — but for now it remains in its nascent form. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, less of, just the right amount of, please comment below. If you’ve stumbled upon news we’ve missed, or on any stories or extracts (I’ve found zero (EDIT: two)), pop them in the comments too.

See you again in two weeks!

1. Acclaimed Chinese-language writer Yeng Pway Ngon 英培安 dies aged 73 — Author of Unrest (tr. Jeremy Tiang), Lonely Face (tr. Natascha Bruce) and much, much more. RIP.
2. Northwest Review open for submissions — they “really, really want to see as much translation as possible for Winter 2021!!” Continue reading

African writing in Chinese translation

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (1/4/21)
African Writing in Chinese Translation: 2020 Round-up and a Peek at 2021
By Bruce Humes

As Xi Jinping’s land and maritime Silk Road initiative reaches its tentacles further West into Africa, it’s not just accumulating alarming rates of China-driven debt and sucking up the continent’s mineral exports. Publishers in the People’s Paradise are now showing modest interest in importing what the authorities label  “cultural products.” In this case, contemporary African writing.

According to the latest statistics from the sole online mini-database in this niche, the bilingual African Writing in Chinese Translation (非洲文学:中文译本), lists 238 translated works by 100 African authors. That shows a healthy 63 percent increase over the 146 titles in early 2018.

African “diaspora” writer Chimamanda Adichie arguably generates the most buzz in China, and six of her books have been rendered into Chinese since 2013. But the second of Francophone author Alain Mabanckou’s novels also launched in a mainland edition during 2020. Both spend much of their time in the US.

The publication of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and Mabanckou’s Memoirs of a Porcupine suggest that China publishers are a tad more willing to experiment with new sources for disturbing psychological thrillers that involve homicide, a genre dominated by American and more recently, Japanese authors.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the 2020 newbies (December 2019, to be exact) was penned by a Zulu self-styled sangoma or diviner, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa. His Indaba my Children, African Folk Tales is billed as a “graphic novel.” Continue reading

Wuhan Lockdown Diary

Source: Words without Borders (May 2020)
Wuhan Lockdown Diary
Nonfiction by Guo Jing
Translated from Chinese by Hongwei Bao

Guo Jing, the first woman in China to win a gender discrimination case against a state-owned enterprise, chronicles daily life under the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China, in this excerpt from her Diary of the Wuhan Lockdown.

April 3, 2020

Yesterday, the Wuhan COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters issued a notice advising that the city lockdown needs to be continued. Many citizens left messages on the Chinanews social media account requesting government subsidies and calling for an end to the lockdown.

One person posted: “Give out some cash subsidies. I have not had any income for two months, and I still have to repay my mortgage.”

Another person posted: “For two months, I have not seen any government-subsidized vegetables. I can only buy them at a high price. Eggs are expensive, so are vegetables, and I have yet to find meat. The government provided a limited supply of subsidized meat, but it is mostly reserved for older people. I have lost more than ten thousand yuan (roughly 1,413 USD) in income. We cannot continue the lockdown like this. I will need to apply to leave Wuhan on April 8 so I can find a job elsewhere. Otherwise I will not be able to make ends meet this year.” Continue reading

Peach Blossom Paradise review

Source: Ploughshares Blog (11/27/20)
Peach Blossom Paradise, by Ge Fei
NYRB Classics | December 8, 2020
Reviewed by Mandana Chaffa

Peach Blossom Paradise, the first book in a trilogy by Ge Fei, is a coming-of-age story, a captivating blend of history and mythology, and a lyrical study of society and politics during the turn of 20th century China. In the original myth of the Peach Blossom Spring, written during the Jin dynasty, a fisherman accidentally wanders into a pristine and peaceful utopia, unaware of the political unrest outside, and never finds his way out again. It’s an apt allegory for Fei’s book: those in the village of Puji are mostly oblivious to the tumult in the Empire. The novel builds on the Peach Blossom myth, suggesting that the quest for utopias can lead to horrific subjugation, insanity, and more often than not, premature death.

The book begins when fifteen-year-old Xiumi meets Zhang Jiyuan, an intellectual and revolutionary sympathizer, whose alliances and activities plant seeds that will ultimately shift Xiumi’s worldview, even after his abrupt death at the end of the first section. Indeed, much of Xiumi’s journey to womanhood is shaped by external forces: her father goes missing. Her mother is more concerned with her wealth and status than her child. She survives a kidnapping and horrific rapes. All the while, she reads Zhang Jiyuan’s diary, the man wooing her from beyond the grave. Despite her hardships, Xiumi becomes a young woman of strength, courage, and a certain cool ruthlessness, but she still has a kind of naïveté in her idealism and single-mindedness. She continually underestimates the forces around her—including disloyalties in her own household and from purported allies. In Xiumi’s world, true intimacy and trust are less experienced than mourned. Expressed, tangible love between people is as delicate and fleeting as the lotus, chrysanthemums, and impatiens that Xiumi gardens. Continue reading

The Organization of Distance review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Benjamin Ridgway’s review of The Organization of Distance: Poetry, Translation, Chineseness (Brill 2018), by Lucas Klein. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/ridgway/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Organization of Distance:
Poetry, Translation, Chineseness

By Lucas Klein

Reviewed by Benjamin Ridgway

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2020)

Lucas Klein, The Organization of Distance. Leiden: Brill Press, 2018. xi + 298 pgs. ISBN-978-90-04-36868-2 (cloth).

To disuss the contributions of Lucas Klein’s The Organization of Distance, Poetry, Translation, Chineseness, as well as its flaws, one needs to start at the ending. Klein draws on the insight made by Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1813 that translators tend to either leave the writer of a work alone and endeavor to move the reader toward the unfamiliar culture of that work, in an act that Klein terms “foreignization,” or move the work closer to the reader’s horizon of expectations, making it more familiar and palatable, in an act he calls “nativization.” These two terms, informed by his understanding of debates on translation and translingual practice in the study of both modern and premodern Chinese literature, form the critical fulcrum for his interrogation of the “Chinesenss” of poetry written in both modern and classical Chinese. To grasp what Klein means by “Chineseness,” one needs to link points raised in the conclusion of his book back to the introduction. On the one hand, Klein intends to upset the binary between modern and premodern Chinese poetry through a reinterpretation of poetry of the Tang (618-907). His resistance to a static notion of Chineseness is deeply informed by the 1990s debates spurred by Stephen Owen’s article “What Is World Poetry.” In his introduction, Klein discusses the range of reactions to one of Owen’s most controversial claims—that modern Chinese poets wrote under the assumption/anticipation their poetry would be translated into Western languages. Klein notes that in this debate both those critics who, like Owen, disparage modern poets for cutting themselves off from a rich “native” classical poetic tradition and those who praise the radical clashing of the modern with the staid “Chineseness” of this tradition share a common blindness. He keenly observes that “For both of them, upholding premodernity as the seat of Chineseness lost, mournfully or gleefully, to a changing world is afforded by the fact that neither side looks very closely at the cross-cultural and translational elements of premodern Chinese poetry” (pp. 12-13). Continue reading

Green Mountain: Poems by Yang Jian

Green Mountain
Poems by Yang Jian
Translated and with an Introduction by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Foreword by Christopher Merrill
Published by MerwinAsia, 2020; Distributed by the University of Hawai‘i Press
154 pages; hardcover and paperback

Click here to order.

Green Mountain compiles a representative selection of lyrical poems by contemporary Chinese poet and painter Yang Jian, also a Buddhist, in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s elegant translation. Exploring history, faith, memory, nature, and the various transient complexities of human existence, these poems seek a pure form of simplicity in thought and style, reminiscent of meditative beauty and Asian ink-wash painting aesthetics.

Yang Jian is the rarest of contemporary Chinese poets who takes on the excesses of modernization and materialism. In his signature style of economy and imagery, which Fiona Sze-Lorrain has rendered in English with precision, Yang creates a poetic landscape of hermit living which is as enthralling as it is illusory. —Dian Li, Professor of modern Chinese literature at the University of Arizona Continue reading