Translation skills of China’s Contemporary Prose

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 September 2016

Translation skills of China’s Contemporary Prose


In this paper, the emphasis is translation skills of China’s contemporary prose, from 1919, China’s prose begin to present a picture of prosperity and most of them are filled with writers’ contemplation on life, many contemporary writers come out in an unending flow. This paper explains the reason to make research on the topic. In addition; it also provides abundant typical examples to illustrate general principles and skills of translation in the process of argumentation.

Key words: skills, prose, simplicity, symmetry.

China’s contemporary prose took a new look after 1919. Many outstanding writers appeared at that time like weed through the old to bring forth the new. For example: Bing Xin, Lu Xun, Lao She and so on. China’s contemporary prose has many typical characteristics and is popular with ordinary people, because the scenes and the descriptions in it are not only connected with the ordinary people of a country.

China’s contemporary prose are very simple, containing the history and culture and at the same time, providing foreign scholars with a shortcut to understand the Chinese ideological development since the May 4th Movement of 1919.There are many translators are devoted to the translation of china’s contemporary prose, like: Fu Lei, Zhang PeiJi, their translation version are accompanied with their individual styles and differences, reflecting writers’ personal understanding of the works and literary attainment.

I.Current value of this research
Nowadays, more and more Chinese students go to aboard, which, at the same time, bring Chinese culture to foreigners. As the development of China’s economy, lots of foreigners are thirst for having a better understanding of the Chinese culture, but how to choose an appropriate method of learning?

To learn the Chinese language is one of a way but it takes long time, and also with many difficulties. To read classical articles and Poems like 《A dream of red mansions》,《Pilgrimage to the west》 are hard to understand, so how about the China’s Contemporary Prose? Compared with Chinese classical works, it is readily comprehensible, that’s why for our translators, referring to the skills of translation, we always follow the rule “faithfulness, expressiveness, smoothness’’. Does it suit the translation of prose?

How to translate China’s Contemporary Prose to make them both keep the local flavor and with elegance is so important. The value of this paper is also depending upon here, although many scholars had already compared those translation versions, it is necessary to choose some relatively excellent works from them.

II.Characteristics in China’s contemporary prose and difficulties in translation: 1) Quite a few words in Chinese like“的,吧,呢,啊,呀, 嘛,啦,罢了,而已”are hard to translate, but they are all important to show the feelings and emotions. 2) Idioms and allusions(四字成语)like“满城风雨,人尽皆知,横行霸道,无恶不作,轻重缓急,孰轻孰重”. 3) Four words with Reduplication(四字重叠词组)like “坦坦荡荡,破破烂烂,零零落落,冷冷淡淡,磨磨蹭蹭” 4) Some special colors like”紫黄,嫩绿,碧绿”

III. Translation problems in China’s Contemporary Prose: From some articles translated by famous translators, we can figure out some translation skills in China’s contemporary prose: 1) How to translate special Colors.

For example: “从严冷枯黄的北方归来,看到展现在我眼前的青山碧水[?]”(returned from the bitter cold north with its drab and dried up vegetation, I was amazed and delighted when greeted by the charming scenery of sapphire mountains and emerald rivers as well as red flowers and green leaves)

.青山碧水,some writers use literal translation, green mountains and clean water, indeed it is clear and no ground for blame ,but it lost lingering charm, while in this case ,the author translated as sapphire and emerald, which are exceedingly vivid, if you know the two objects, you can easily to image the color. “蔷薇的花色还是鲜艳的, 一朵紫红, 一朵嫩红, 一朵是病黄的象牙色中带点血晕[?]”。(roses were still fresh in color. One was
purplish red, another pink , still another a sickly ivory yellow slightly tinged with blood red)we can find that the translator use “one…another… still another…”to show the quantities, instead one, two, three. Especially, when he translates the colors: a sickly ivory yellow slightly tinged with blood red instead of yellow with a bit of red, the translation is very accurate and vivid, both ivory yellow and blood red are matched with some material object, it is easy to image for foreigners。 2) Free translation and simplicity.

For example: “只是为了写作而写作,如上至为应付编辑朋友,夏至未多拿稿费,这类文章大都是尽量的往长里写,结果是即便有一点点的感情,也被冲洗到水分太多,淡而无味的地步[?][?]’’。(To humor ones editor friends ,or worse still, to earn more remuneration, one will most probably make his writings unnecessarily long until they become ,despite what little feelings they may contain, inflated and washy)

This example shows that sometimes we need to simplify the sentence, when literal translation or word-for-word translation doesn’t work, we transfer to free translation, which means we translate them according to their meaning, to express the original text clearly but not completely the same with the origin. “不高不矮的围墙挡在两边,斑斑驳驳的苔藓,墙上挂着一串串苍翠欲滴的藤萝,简直像古朴的屏风。墙里常是人家的竹园,修竹森森,天籁细细;春来时常有几枝娇艳的桃花杏花,娉娉婷婷,从墙头殷勤地摇曳红袖,向行人招手[?]”

(O neither side of the lane stand enclosing walls of medium height, which, moss covered and hung with clusters of fresh green wisteria, look almost like screens of primitive simplicity. Inside the walls are resident’s gardens with dense groves of tall bamboos as well as soft sounds of nature. In spring, beautiful peach and apricot blossoms atop the walls, like graceful girls waving their red sleeves, will sway hospitably to beckon pedestrians. )

In this case, we meet an ocean of idioms with reduplication, in English, we didn’t have several idioms like that, so the best way is to simplify the sentence, use adequate words to deliver the same meaning, or we can use English idiom to replace the Chinese idiom.“生活的经验固然会叫人忘记许多事情。但是有些记忆经过了多少时间的磨洗也不会消灭[?]’’(Lots of things are apt to fade from memory as one’s life experiences accumulate. But some memories will withstand the wear and tear of time). Lots of translators translate“磨洗” using wash or erode, but if we translate “磨洗” as “wear and tear”, this is a English idiom, which means loss and damage resulting from use.

In this way, it will capture much attention if we use English idioms, which transfer an abstract word to a concrete image. 3) Symmetry and symbol For example: “昨晚上甜蜜的私语,今朝的冷清的露珠[?]’’(Last night’s whispers of love, this morning’s drops of cold dew).The translator use the symmetrical sentence, and also use love as the symbol of “甜蜜的私语”. However, we should bear in mind that it is hardly necessary to make symmetry with the original text,sometimes,we pay much attention to the format but we ignore the meaning.

4) Parallelism For example: “有喜有忧,又笑有泪,有花有实,有香有色,既需劳动,又长见识,这就是养花的乐趣[?]’’(Joy and sorrow, laughter and tears ,flowers and fruit, fragrance and color ,manual labor and increased knowledge—-all these make you the charm of flower cultivation).In this case, we use the nom to express the feelings instead of verb and just one word to make sure them paralleling.

5)Ellipsis For example: “南国之秋,当然是也有它的特异的地方的,比如廿四桥的明月,钱塘江的秋潮,普陀山的凉雾,荔枝湾的残荷等等,可是色彩不浓,回味不永。比起北国的秋来,正像是黄酒之于白干,稀饭之于馍馍,鲈鱼之于大蟹,黄犬之于骆驼[?]’’(Autumn in the south also has its unique features, such as the moon lit ershisi bridge in Yangzhou, the flowing sea tide at the qiantangjiang river, the mist shrouded putuo mountain and lotuses at the lizhiwan bay.

But they all lack strong color and lingering flavor. Southern autumn is to northern autumn what yellow rice wine is to kaoliang wine, congee to steamed buns, perches to crabs, yellow dogs to camels). In this sentence, when the translator translate, he omit some words like “秋潮的秋,凉雾的凉,残荷的残”,it means when some words just for decorating the sentence and no real meaning, we can leave it out.

To give a summary of the paper, translation skills of China’s contemporary prose are multiplied, it is worth continually making research on this topic; although different translation versions bring us to various world of literature, it is essential to make the translation as vivid as possible and make them both keep the local flavor and to compare different versions and analyze the word and phases which are used by those famous translators, to.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 16 September 2016

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