Interpretation and re-creation : English translations of poetry in the Sanguo Zhi Yanyi

  • Pui Shan TAI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis is a textual and contextual study of English renditions of poetry in Luo Guanzhong’s Sanguo zhi yanyi, in terms of their artistic approach and their bearing on the artistic functions which poetry fulfills in the novel. There are several English renditions of the Sanguo zhi yanyi in full or in part, including two full translations by Charles H. Brewit-Taylor and Moss Roberts. While the two full translations form the focus of the study, Roberts’s abridged version is also included. Published fifteen years before the full rendition by the same translator, the abridged version serves every now and then as a reference point showing how an individual’s interpretive perception may change over time and bear on choices made in a literary translation.

Insertion of poetry in a novel is basically unique to Chinese fiction, often contributing to its overall artistic effects as an organic element. A Western reader coming from a different cultural background may employ different standards in evaluating the artistic role and appeal of poetry in a Chinese classical novel. In an attempt to be as flexible and open-minded as possible, this thesis does not adopt any particular theoretical perspective, but makes use of literary concepts to facilitate the analysis as appropriate. To assess the literary translations, concrete analysis of selected original poems in semantic, syntactic, auditory, imagistic, symbolic and stylistic terms is made before the strategies adopted by the translated versions, along with their merits and limitations, are discussed. Detailed discussions of textual features and contextual elements offer an evidence-based appraisal of the renditions. artistic approaches, which are significant in shedding light on the translators’ attempts to re-create and revitalize the artistic appeal of the source text within the multidimensional context of the target language and culture. It is also hoped that the thesis help shed light on some general as well as language- and culture-specific issues in the translation of classical Chinese poetry.
Date of Award2003
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Translation
SupervisorYim Tze Charles KWONG (Supervisor)

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