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Title: Translation as metaphor : Yan Fu and his translation principles
Author: Chan, Elsie Kit-ying
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis was motivated by turn-of-the-century concerns in Chinese translation studies about the validity of the long-held translation principles proposed by Chinese translator Yan Fu and about the relevance of Yan's paradigmatic translation project to future research. It rereads the translation practice and intellectual thought of Yan Fu by adopting an interdisciplinary approach restructuring past studies that have been isolated in the areas of intellectual history and translation theory. The examination of his translation practice through a series of metaphor suggests, contrary to existing consensus, that faithfulness to the source text is irrelevant to his translation project. His translation principles are not pure literary notions; rather they are tied to the Confucian literary and exegetical tradition. These findings unfold new potentialities for a major research topic that has been challenged as having reached a cul-de-sac and point to a new direction for development in Chinese translation studies. New findings from the field of intellectual history help to clarify existing inconsistencies and political biases concerning Yan Fu's persona and historicize him as a persistent seeker of the Confucian dao. This testifies to the need to reassess his translation project in relation to the Confucian-based Chinese tradition. Close examination of his remarks on translation, correspondence and other writings suggests that his words and deeds are steeped in Confucian poetics, which represents a totally different concept from modern pure literary poetics. His commitment to Confucian ontological faith and ultimate concern for spiritual or cosmological transcendence are similar to the ends of some of the most influential translators in Chinese history and marks a higher level operation of translation as a tool for higher learning than as an occupation. Through translation as-intellectual critique, Yan mended indigenous coordinates for gauging alien propositions and constructed a hybridized discourse for reforming indigenous epistemology and methodology. His manipulative translations, as he claimed in his last extended translation, were intended for metaphorical explication of a certain subject with the source text as a point of departure, rather than an end to return to. Ironically the repercussions of the manipulative evolutionary discourse he engendered became further manipulated by the newer generations and fuelled more violent changes in a system on the verge of a crisis. While this subsequently led to the disruption of the conservative Confucian poetics and the gradual reform agenda he had desired, the reexamination of his translations and translation practice sheds light on system regeneration and the inheritance of Chinese culture in a modern world. The presentation of Yan Fu's translations suggests that he followed the Confucian literary tradition, which allowed exegetical and eisegetical interpretation of classics and commentaries for narrating the dao, and attempted mediation of a changing dao through translation as intellectual critique. Hermeneutical rereading of his xin-da-ya translation principles in relation to the Confucian exegetical tradition frees the study of his principles from recurrent perspectives and offers a systematic approach to the study of xin, da and ya as core values in Confucian poetics meaning faith, decorum and virtue respectively. His exercise of Confucian cosmological faith through translation releases the source text for a dialogue with a broader cosmic text, whereby the interaction of time and tradition-bound discourses obliges the translator to repeatedly highlight and transcend his own interpretive horizons and move the physical text beyond its original psychological and historical contexts, evincing dynamic interaction with the reader. This perspective offers a philosophical dimension to translation and valourizes translation as a virtuous act of conduct in the Chinese tradition and as cosmological transference of concepts and images in human's pursuit of truth and being. The promotion of the complex notion of translation beyond the word itself to the realm of metaphor facilitates exchange between languages and systems at the level of tertium comparationis and enables reasoning at the level of the universal logos. In the present study of Yan Fu, this helps to avoid recurrent arguments and leads to more balanced and constructive perspectives for the future development of a major research topic in Chinese translation studies. It also opens the possibility of exchange between a traditional theory and modern theories and between the Chinese translation tradition and other traditions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: City University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PI Oriental languages and literatures ; P Philology. Linguistics