Missionary Interpreters and Political Modernity in late Qing Imperial China

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Research

Abstract

Missionary interpreters working in the first two British embassies to China, the
Macartney mission (1792–1794) and the Amherst mission (1816–1817), were viewed by China with much skepticism. For Chinese converts who provided linguistic mediation to the British in their diplomatic exchanges with the Chinese government, the “espionage” act of assisting foreigners with Chinese knowledge was condemned as treason by Qing China at the time. Likewise, western missionary interpreters recruited by the British embassies to mediate written and spoken exchanges with Qing China were considered a source of threat and danger to the Chinese government. Yet, missionary interpreters emerged in 18th and 19th century China as a new community that would not accept being treated meanly. This group of interpreters, typically educated in the west and not used to being unquestionably submissive, would talk back.

Based on examples taken from the two embassy accounts, this paper analyzes
how the non-conforming stance of these missionary interpreters confronted Qing China with the modern, and yet unwelcome, ideologies of equality between
independent states and fundamental respect for members of embassies to which
missionary interpreters belonged. This paper is significant in identifying these
trailblazing interpreters who were the budding representatives of a missionary
community that, in the next century, contributed as indispensible co-translators in late Qing China’s drive to learn from western science and technology publications.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2013
EventTranslation and Modernization in East Asia in the
19th and Early 20th Century Conference= 十九至二十世紀初翻譯與東亞現代化國際研討會
- Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 19 May 201323 May 2013
http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/rct/pdf/abstract.pdf

Conference

ConferenceTranslation and Modernization in East Asia in the
19th and Early 20th Century Conference= 十九至二十世紀初翻譯與東亞現代化國際研討會
CountryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Period19/05/1323/05/13
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LUNG, W. C. (2013). Missionary Interpreters and Political Modernity in late Qing Imperial China. Paper presented at Translation and Modernization in East Asia in the
19th and Early 20th Century Conference= 十九至二十世紀初翻譯與東亞現代化國際研討會, Hong Kong, Hong Kong.