Problems in translating culture : the translated titles of Fusheng liuji

Yim Tze, Charles KWONG

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

5 Citations (Scopus)


Translating culture poses fundamental problems of perception and conception far deeper than matters of linguistic expression. This essay explores some of these problems by examining Fusheng liuji (Six Records of a Floating Life), a Chinese autobiographical text that has been translated into fourteen Asian and European languages. Even without going into the details of the rendered versions, one can notice various forms of intercultural mediation and reshaping in the translated titles and added subtitles. At one end is direct, partly helpless substitution: lexically flawless “float” cannot encompass the rich matrix of philosophical connotations and artistic resonances of fu in the source culture. At the other end is active reshaping: recasting, addition and omission based on interpretive (mis)reading, including a reduction of imagistic language into abstract concept (e.g., fu becomes “fleeting”). Through examining 17 renditions of the title of Fusheng liuji, this essay offers a case study that helps to cast light on the unavoidable factor of intercultural mediation in the translation process, with special focus on the translation of philosophical and aesthetic concepts. Some forms of mediation carry more significant effects than others, and there may be differences in verbal resources and orientations in various languages worthy of notice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-206
Number of pages30
JournalTTR: Traduction, Terminologie, Redaction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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