Happy Chinese New Year! February 3rd marks the official start of the year of the rabbit. People say that the year of the rabbit will be an easy one where we can kick back and relax. The year of the tiger (2010) is known as a very challenging year with lots of ups and downs. Chinese-American relations certainly had a rocky year so maybe with the year of the rabbit relations will be peaceful. Lu Xun was no fan of the new year superstitions. He thought many of these ideas were holding back China to modernization. This week's short story is his 祝福 (The New Year's Sacrifice). Lu Xun recounts the tradition of 祝福 as he remembers it in his hometown while showing some of the ugly sides of superstitions. Enjoy. We wish you a happy Chinese New Year and please continue to join us in 2011 for our weekly Learn Chinese through Stories postings. 鲁迅－祝福 Lu Xun's The New Year's Sacrifice
Lu Xun in Translation - Three EditionsThree translations, one author. Which one should you buy and which one is best? This blog post is to help would-be buyers decide which translation of Lu Xun’s works is for them.
Highlights of Lu Xun in TranslationThe Yangs’ work is best for those reading along with the Chinese. Their translation is the most basic and some sentences can be followed along in English and Chinese. However, they do neglect some of the historical references from Lu Xun’s works and their style cannot compare to the next two translations. Lyell’s work is a masterpiece in academic research as well as in translation. His text is filled with footnotes highlighting the history, references to historical classics, and providing a whole new dimension to the text. Classical Chinese can be especially difficult to translate, but he does so in beautiful prose. For the academic buffs, Lyell’s translation is definitely the best. His introduction is especially thorough. Lovell’s work is a masterpiece of fiction. She has beautiful style and I just want to curl up in a chair and enjoy the stories when reading her translation. She has no footnotes (only limited end notes) and wraps the historical references into the story so that the reader is not interrupted. For those just looking to enjoy Lu Xun in translation, get Lovell’s book. Her work is the best.
A Look Inside the Translation of Ah QNow let’s take an in depth look at how each translator tackles some passages in Ah Q (阿Q正传) in order to get a feel for their style. Here is a quote from Chapter 5 when Ah Q is fuming with anger and starts singing local opera. The Original Chinese
So this time Ah Q's indignation was greater than usual, and going on his way, fuming, he suddenly raised his arm and sang: "I'll thrash you with a steel mace. . . . "* * A line from The Battle of Dragon and Tiger, an opera popular in Shaoshing. It told how Chao Kuang-yin, the first emperor of the Sung Dynasty, fought with another general.Lyell’s Translation
Ah Q suddenly raised a fist and belted out a line of local opera: “My mace of steel I grasp full tight / And with it I shall now thee smite!”38 38: A line from a local Shaoxing opera, Battle of the Dragon and Tiger Generals, which recreates an epic battle by Zhao Guangyin, founder of the Song Dynasty (960-1269).Lovell’s Translation
Ah Q stormed of, waving his fist in the air and bursting spontaneously into song, reprising a line from one of his favorite operas, The Battle of the Dragon and Tiger: ‘I-I-I-I-I will thrash you with mace, yes, I will!’The first two translations both have detailed footnotes about what is The Battle of Dragon and Tiger. Lovell, however, chooses to work the reference into the story. Let’s take another example from Chapter 8. One of the characters in the story asks “the Fake Foreign Devil” to deliver a yellow-umbrella letter (黄伞格 的信) for him. The Original Chinese
他写了一封“黄伞格” 的信，托假洋鬼子带上城…Yangs’ Translation
“He had written an extremely formal letter, and asked the Imitation Foreign Devil to take it to town…”Lyell’s Translation
“Instead, he wrote a yellow-umbrella letter and prevailed upon the Fake Foreign Devil to take it into town…”56 56: (a very detailed explanation of the history, look, and meaning of a yellow-umbrella letter and too much to include here)Lovell’s Translation
“Instead he penned an obsequiously ornate formal letter, and charged the Fake Foreign Devil first with delivering it…”If you want to read about all the details of Lu Xun’s references, Lyell’s translations is the definitely the one. However, Lovell’s work gives you the gist of the obscure references without halting the flow of the story.
IllustrationsLu Xun was a fan of woodblock prints and was an big advocate of their adoption in China. Feng Zikai (丰子恺) produced a famous collection of woodblock prints that accompanied Lu Xun’s work is quite famous. Lyell’s version includes many illustrations in this style for Ah Q. The other two translations do not include illustrations.
Unfamiliar Chinese GamesLyell also does a good job of describing kid’s games and gambling games which are quite unfamiliar to Western readers. For instance he has a graphic illustrating the game Pickaside (押牌宝) with a detailed footnote explaining how the game was played and how the game was rigged by the house. The Yang and Lovell translations leave these details aside.
SummaryBeing a history buff myself and quite interested in all the ins and outs of Chinese culture, I prefer William Lyell’s translation and frequently check how he translates certain Chinese characters and phrases. His footnotes have led more insight into the obscure references and definitely help when I am doing my research for the Capturing Chinese series. For those looking for a good read, pick up a copy of Lovell’s work. Her translation is in superb style. The Yang translation was much needed when their work was first published in 1960. However, now that Western readers have two other great translations, their work is not as valuable as it used to be. Plus their translation only includes eighteen of Lu Xun’s stories while the other translations include all his fiction. Please, leave your own comments on what you think of these translation.
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Good morning everyone! For the past few months I have been putting together the materials for the next book in the Capturing Chinese series. Again the author is Lu Xun, but this book will contain only one story. Ah Q The Real Story is Lu Xun's longest and the story is quickly becoming one of my favorites. During the process of writing, I read the story over and over so having a good story is very important. Lu Xun's Ah Q is witty and sometimes downright hysterical. His satire is right in your face. I am currently on track to publishing the book in early 2011 as planned and am very excited to share this next book with the Capturing Chinese audience. Currently our Chinese audio files are available if you are interested in starting to read the story early. You can find the audio files here. Please be patient as these books require tons of work. We are also compiling ideas for future publications. Do you have an author or story that you really love and would like to see made available in the Capturing Chinese series? Leave us a comment below! Kevin
Slow-Chinese is a great site to hear interesting dialogs slowly read aloud. 昕煜 (Xinyu) writes each of the dialogues himself and then reads them slowly aloud. He's really done a good job of putting the site together and on April 23rd he posted an interesting article on Lu Xun. He gives a very nice introduction to who Lu Xun is, what his more famous stories are, and the issue of whether school children should still read him in school. Check out his website and his post on Lu Xun below: Slow-Chinese 鲁迅和他笔下的人
I wrote a while back about China's involvement in World War I and got a response from one reader that he was utterly surprised that 140,000 Chinese went to Europe to fight with the Allied powers. (They fought as laborers building trenches and such). His comment made me think, "did China really send so many people or did I just find a bad source of information?" Well, the numbers are right. This week's addition of The Economist discusses China's involvement in WWI and how no one really knew. They sent so many people, did some of the dirty jobs, and in return they had part of their territory transferred from the losing power, Germany, to their more dominant neighbor, Japan. Lu Xun wrote his stories during this time in China and if his stories come across as a bit pessimistic then understand the times he was living in. He wanted to see a stronger China, but after WWI China seemed quite enfeebled. To read the article, visit this link. The Economist keeps their articles up for non-subscribers for about three weeks so read it while you can. China and The First World War (The Economist)