Relay interpreting (chongyi) as auspicious rhetoric in discourse on China-bound diplomatic visits

Rachel LUNG*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Interpreting is considered no more than a technical necessity in modern times. Yet millennia ago, China-bound relay interpreting, chongyi 重譯, could symbolize auspiciousness, often foreshadowed via anomalies in plants or astrology. Its subtle ideological associations can be inferred by analyzing related tokens of usage. Drawing on texts and treatises circulated and written before seventh-century China, this article reports, from a close analysis of four texts, a rhetorical pattern on the formulaic references to chongyi. Interestingly, these texts all depict “diplomatic visits to China through chongyi” as an event validating an auspicious sign in nature spotted earlier. My analysis suggests that the documentation of chongyi bears more of a figuratively auspicious, rather than a sheer mediating, connotation. The elevation of a relay interpreting act to a cultural icon or ideological dimension is ubiquitous in the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE) writings, which served to leverage the state-sanctioned Confucian and divination overtones to reinforce the emperor’s mandate. This article aims at examining the epistemology and ideology of classical references to chongyi and identifying a rhetorical pattern denoting the conceptual link between chongyi and auspiciousness in the broader Confucian framework.

© Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) Revue Babel
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) Revue Babel.


  • history of interpreting
  • conceptualization of translation
  • relay interpreting or chongyi
  • auspiciousness
  • Confucian and divination thoughts


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