Hidden translation as academic practice : translating Xiaoshuo (Small talk) and American sinology

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Much effort has been devoted over the past few centuries to presenting China to the West in the English language, beginning with the classical sinology of nineteenth-century Britain and reaching a climax through late-twentieth century Chinese Studies in the States, carried out mostly in departments of East Asian languages and literature/cultures. Invariably there is one shared element in these approaches: translation. In our age, the pervasive use of English as the language of academic discourse, combined with the increased hegemony of English in fields beyond those of business, recreation and diplomacy, means that the “Westernization” of forms of knowledge related to Chinese culture and tradition has become inescapable. In the new linguistic imperialism, what is prominent are the misrepresentation, distortion and manipulation carried out in connection with the translation of ideas from Chinese into English. The present article focuses on ideas rather than texts in order to understand the cannibalization of one language by another that has occurred in translation. The example chosen is the translation of a key literary term-xiaoshuo (literally “small talk” but often translated as “fiction”)-which appears in academic writings published by American Sinologists in the past few decades, in which the epistemological gap between the Chinese and English terms is artificially bridged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-330
Number of pages28
JournalKorea Journal of Chinese Language and Literature
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • fiction
  • sinology
  • transliteration
  • translation
  • orientalism
  • equivalence
  • globalization
  • terminology


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