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A Poetics of Translation
Between Chinese and English Literature

Edited by David Jasper, Geng Youzhuang and Wang Hai

A Poetics of Translation
Hardback, 302 pages $69.95
Published: 15th February 2016
ISBN: 9781481304184
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: Religion & Literature, World Religions

Western literature, from the mysterious figure of Marco Polo to the deliberate fictions of Daniel Defoe and Mark Twain, has constructed portraits of China born of dreamy parody or sheer prejudice. The West’s attempt to understand China has proven as difficult as China’s attempt to understand the West.

A Poetics of Translation is the result of academic conversations between scholars in China and the West relating to issues in translation. “Translation” here is meant not only as the linguistic challenges of translating from Chinese into English or English into Chinese, but also as the wider questions of cultural translation at a time when China is in a period of rapid change. The volume illustrates the need for scholars, both eastern and western, to learn very quickly to live within the exchange of ideas, often with few precedents to guide or advise.

This book also reflects the final impossibility of the task of translation, which is always, at best, approximate. By examining texts from the Bible to poetry and from historical treatises to Shakespeare, this volume carefully interrogates—and ultimately broadens—translation by exposing the multiple ways in which linguistic, cultural, religious, historical, and philosophical meaning are formed through cross-cultural interaction.

Readers invested in the complexities of translation betwixt China and the West will find this volume full of intriguing studies and attentive readings that encompass the myriad issues surrounding East-West translation with rigor and imagination.



1. Poetic Desire and the Laws of Heaven: James Legge’s Shi-jing and the Translation of Consciousness

David Lyle Jeffrey


2. The Tale within a Tale as Universal Theme: A Comparative Reading of Hamlet, Don Quixote, and The Journey to the West (Xiyuoji)

Eric Ziolkowski


3. Pilgrimage to Heaven: Timothy Richard’s Christian Interpretation of The Journey to the West

John T. P. LAI



4. Revisiting the Missionary Stance: Conversation and Conversion in James Legge’s The Religions of China (1880)

Trevor Hart


5. A Study of the “Preface” and “Introduction” to James Legge’s The Texts of Taoism



6. The Hermeneutics of Translating Christian Theology for the Evangelization of Chinese School Children in Late Imperial China

B. H. McLean


7. The “Ishmael” of Sinology: H. A. Giles’ History of Chinese Literature (1901) and

Late Victorian Perceptions of Chinese Literature and Culture

Elisabeth Jay


8. Two Nineteenth-Century English Translations of The Travels of Fa-hsien (399–414 AD): An Episode in the Translation of China in England

David Jasper



9. Poetically Translating Chinese Texts into the West: Ezra Pound’s Translation of Chinese Poetry and Confucian Classics

GENG Youzhuang


10. The Power of Powerlessness: Rediscovering the Radicality of Wu Wei in Daoism through Blanchot



11. What Is Lost in the Chinese Translations of The Merchant of Venice? A Comparative Reading of the Texts

YANG Huilin


12. Translation as Trans-Literal: Radical Formations in Contemporary Chinese Art

Andrew W. Hass






“A Poetics of Translation offers rare insight into the development of relations between Chinese and English literature from the earliest contacts to the present. Chinese and Western scholars trace a history of enthusiasm, discovery, muddle, and mistake, providing a fascinating window into the quest for that better mutual appreciation, which was the dream of the early pioneers.”

—George Newlands, Honorary Research Fellow in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

"This valuable volume on the translatability of Chinese texts into English and vice versa strives to demonstrate that in the present global environment, humanities scholars shoulder the tremendous responsibility for forging ties between the West and East, including economic and political exchange."


“This fine collection of essays on translation covers a wide range of issues in cultural exchange and communication. Particular focus is placed upon the works of James Legge and other nineteenth-century Christian missionaries who, as proto-Sinologists, encountered the texts of Confucian and Taoist canon. Anyone interested in East-West comparative studies will find the essays contained here richly informative, persuasively argued, and intellectually stimulating.”

—Zhang Longxi, 
Chair Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, 
City University of Hong Kong

“A key text in the field of comparative study between Chinese and Western literature.”

—Ou Guang-An, Literature & Theology

David Jasper is Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow and is Distinguished Overseas Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China.

Geng Youzhuang is Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China.

Wang Hai is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Renmin University of China.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 302 pages
 9in x 6in

  LAN023000, REL000000, REL017000
 Baylor University Press

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