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THE NOTION OF ORIGINALITY AND DEGREES OF FAITHFULNESS IN TRANSLATING CLASSICAL CHINESE: COMPARING TRANSLATIONS OF THE LIEZI

  • Xiaofan Amy Li (a1)
Abstract

This article compares several post-1950s translations of the Liezi, and examines the concept of originality, the degrees of closeness to the original text a modern translation can achieve, and how this “faithfulness” can be understood. I first discuss how the problem of the Liezi's originality has negatively influenced critics' and translators' perception of the text's significance, then compare its different translations to show their specific translational and interpretational problems. Finally, I reflect on the overarching methodological question that frames my comparisons of translations, namely, why compare? I argue that comparing translations cannot be a means to ascertain the best translation, because both concepts of originality and faithfulness are multiple in meaning rather than singularly defined. Instead of measuring translations in terms of “fidelity,” a more insightful practice would be discovering the insights different translations offer into the relationships between the original and translated texts, source and target languages, as well as questioning the construction of texts as “original source texts” through translation by recognizing the potential fluidity and multiplicity of the source text itself.

本文對幾個《列子》的譯本進行了比較, 並探討了關於文本的原創性這個概念,一個文本作爲翻譯原文的產生,現代譯本相對于原文的翻譯保真度,及我們如何理解譯文對原文的忠實性的問題。我以《列子》為個案,先討論了關於《列子》的真僞(即原創性)的質疑如何負面地影響了評論家及翻譯家對《列子》的重要性的看法。其次,我通過對《列子》的幾個譯本的比較,説明了這些譯文特有的一些翻譯和闡釋方面的問題。最後,我對比較譯本這一討論和思辨方式進行了思考,即:爲什麽需要比較譯文?我提出的論點是,譯文的比較並不是以評出理想的譯本為目的的閲讀和思辨方式,因爲原文及其原創性和譯文的保真度這些概念都有多重含義,而並非單一和固定的概念。與其以‘忠實性’為標準去衡量翻譯,不如通過譯文的比較閲讀去探討不同的譯文如何能揭示原文和譯文之間的某些關係,原文語言和譯文語言之間的關係,去反思因爲翻譯的需要而構造了所謂的‘原文’的問題,並重新認識原文自身的流動性和多重性。

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1. As identified by Graham, Angus C. in his Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 12, there are sixteen episodes that the Liezi and Zhuangzi share in common: Liezi and the skull, Shun's question, Liezi and Guanyin, Liezi's archery, Confucius and the catcher of cicadas, the seagulls, Liezi and the shaman, Liezi and Bohun Wuren, Yang Zhu and Laozi, the innkeeper's concubines, the fighting cocks, Guanyin's saying, Guan Zhong's dying advice, Liezi in poverty.

2. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy, 216.

3. Xianlin, Ji 季羡林, “Liezi yu fodian 列子與佛典” (1986) in Fojiao shiwu ti 佛教十五題 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2007), 219–28.

4. About whether Zhang Zhan was indeed the main author, however, I agree with Yan Beiming's view that this is unlikely [see Liezi yizhu 列子譯註, ed. Beiming, Yan and Jie, Yan, 嚴北溟,嚴捷 (Shanghai: Shanghai Gu Ji, 1986), 3], because Zhang's commentary clearly shows places in which he does not understand the text well.

5. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy, 231.

6. Le Liezi ... n'a assurément pas les qualités littéraires de celui-ci [Zhuangzi] et n'apporte rien de nouveau par rapport à lui,” Détrie, Muriel, ed., Littérature et extrême-orient: le paysage extrême-oriental, Le taoïsme dans la littérature européenne (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1999), 149.

7. See Littlejohn, Ronnie and Dippmann, Jeffrey, eds., Riding the Wind with Liezi: New Perspectives on the Daoist Classic (Albany: SUNY Press, 2011), and Coutinho, Steven, An Introduction to Daoist Philosophies (Columbia University Press, 2013).

8. Giles, Lionel, Taoist Teachings from the Book of Lieh-tzu (London: John Murray, 1912), 14.

9. Krauss, Rosalind, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986), 151.

10. It is also worth mentioning that the Liezi's translators were mostly scholars in Chinese studies whose main occupation was studying Chinese culture rather than translation.

11. Wong, Eva, Lie-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living (Boston and London: Shambala, 1995), 14.

12. Liezi jishi 列子集釋, ed. Bojun, Yang 楊伯峻 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2008), 147–48.

13. Liezi jishi, 148.

14. Zhuangzi jinzhu jinyi 莊子今注今譯, ed. Guying, Chen 陳鼓應 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2009), 15.

15. Liezi yizhu, 135.

16. Liezi yizhu, 20.

17. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy, xiv.

18. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy, 94–95.

19. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy, 95.

20. Grynpas, Benedykt, Le vrai classique du vide parfait (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), 145–46.

21. Chinese text quoted from Zhuangzi jinzhu jinyi, 75, 614.

22. Wong, Lie-tzu: A Taoist Guide, 14–15.

23. Wong, Lie-tzu: A Taoist Guide, 16.

24. See Billeter, Jean-François, Leçons sur Tchouang-Tseu (Paris: Allia, 2002).

25. As Ames states in his translation of the Daode jing (New York: Ballantine, 2003), 8: “Instead of ‘the text’ providing the reader with a specific historical context or philosophical system, its listeners are required to supply always unique, concrete, and often dramatic scenarios drawn from their own experience to generate the meaning for themselves.”

26. Wong, Lie-tzu: A Taoist Guide, 47.

27. It has been pointed out that even Menard's identical reproduction of Don Quixote is still not identical to Cervantes's Don Quixote, because it is written in a different context. This does not make an identical reproduction any clearer in explaining the source text though.

28. Liezi yi zhu, 20.

29. Il est impossible de produire une traduction transparente dans la mesure où il y aura toujours une autre création […] qui viendra se superposer à elle.” Inês Oseki-Dépré, Théories et pratiques de la traduction littéraire (Paris: Armand Colin, 1999), 83.

30. Benjamin, Walter, “The Translator‘s Task,” trans. Rendall, Steven, TTR: traduction, terminologie, rédaction 10.2 (1997), 154.

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Early China
  • ISSN: 0362-5028
  • EISSN: 2325-2324
  • URL: /core/journals/early-china
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