Reclaiming China’s past : Sino-Babylonian theory and the translator’s (in)visibility in Clement Allen’s The Book of Chinese Poetry

Qingyang LIN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


This article aims to supplement our understanding of the relation between Orientalism and translation by examining an Orientalism of another kind, which, unlike the more commonly described Orientalist paradigms, is not based upon binary distinctions between the East and the West, but rather works within a framework of sameness and common origin. The case in point here is Clement F. R. Allen’s 1891 translation of the ancient Chinese book of poetry, the Shijing. Informed by the sino-Babylonian theory then current in the discourse of sinological Orientalism, Allen’s approach to ancient China evolves a politics of sameness, through which the authority of the Western sinologist-translator is established via the negation of Chinese cultural particularity and a highly ‘fluent’ translation of the Chinese original is validated. Interestingly, this fluency in the text of translation does not work in tandem with ‘the translator’s invisibility’; there is a seeming discrepancy between the transparent surface of translation and the density of the paratextual materials, which complicates simple dichotomies in categorizing translation and requires a more nuanced account of the manifold ways in which translational representations participate in the Orientalist discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-232
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018



  • (in)visibility
  • British sinology
  • sino-Babylonian theory
  • Sinological Orientalism
  • translations of the Shijing

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