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Top Chinese scholars fed young Sinologists food for thought

Mei Jia
Updated: Sep 12,2014 4:50 PM

Professor Zheng Hailing speaks to young Sinologists on the Visiting Program on the Translation of Contemporary Chinese Works, organized by the Ministry of Culture in Beijing, Sept 12.[Photo by Mei Jia/China Daily]

When Professor Zheng Hailing spoke about the standards of judging translations, many visiting Sinologists held up their cameras to capture Zheng’s views illustrated in the PowerPoint presentation in Beijing on Friday, Sep 12.

Professor Zheng Hailing of Beijing Normal University lectures about Chinese translation theories.[Photo by Mei Jia/China Daily]

Zheng, who specializes in Chinese literature at the Beijing Normal University, believes that a good literary piece is highly translatable and thus “translatability” (a word cited by Zheng) of a single work shows its literary quality.

The 30 or so Sinologists, many who were young foreigners from several different countries, are in China for the three-week program, 2014 Visiting Program for Young Sinologists, which is co-hosted by the Ministry of Culture with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the China Writers Association.

The Sinologists showed interest in Zheng’s theory as he led them through a lecture about Chinese translation theories and contemporary literary creations.

A Sinologist speaks to the Chinese lecturer during the program.[Photo by Mei Jia/China Daily]

“Loyalty to the original text is flexible and should not be stiff,” Zheng said.

Knowing the role cultural exchanges performs in promoting mutual understanding of international society, the organizers of the program believe translation plays a key role, especially the translation of contemporary Chinese works.

“We bring in an efficient mechanism in this program, offering the younger generation of Sinologists lectures, cultural tours and assignment to specific research centers, as well as a special conference in which we join the translators, the writers, the publishers and sponsors together, face to face, to help them reach agreements on new book projects,” said Tang Jing, one of the organizers from the Center of International Cultural Exchanges.

“The special project is an innovation that has already received enthusiastic feedback, though it will be officially open on Sept 18,” Tang added.

Lu Jiande, director of the Literature Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was also invited to lecture on the same day. His speech excited Yichuan Sang, a writer and publisher from Canada, because “it’s great to know how the man in charge of China’s top academic body of literature thinks and evaluates the writings”.

Lu briefly reviewed the history of modern and contemporary Chinese writing.

“Most of the pioneers who contributed to modern Chinese literature were translators themselves,” Lu said, adding that he believes this shows Chinese literature has had positive interaction with the world during the modern era.

He introduced the features of Chinese poetry and drama, as well as flourishing online literature.

Lu also emphasized recent works by Chinese literary masters like Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan and Jia Pingwa, hoping his introduction will reveal a fuller picture to the Sinologists.

Our Jingke is Mo’s drama, which was published after his Nobel win in 2012. Dai Deng is Jia’s recent novel about social equality from the perspective of a grassroots female cadre.

To the question that interests the Sinologists most — how to choose a book to work on from numerous publications of Chinese writings — Lu suggested the fame of the creator should not be a criteria.

“Just go to the book that touches you most,” Lu said.