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2023 | Book

Understanding and Translating Chinese Martial Arts

Editors: Dan Jiao, Defeng Li, Lingwei Meng, Yuhong Peng

Publisher: Springer Nature Singapore

Book Series : New Frontiers in Translation Studies


About this book

The present book features some introductory discussions on martial arts for the international audience and highlights in brief the complexities of translating the genre into English, often from a comparative literature perspective. Martial arts, also known as Kungfu or Wushu, refer to different families of Chinese fighting styles over many centuries. Martial arts fiction, or Wuxia literature, is a unique genre that depicts adventures of martial artists in ancient China. Understanding martial arts and the Chinese culture and philosophy behind them creates an intriguing experience, particularly, for non-Chinese readers; translating the literature into English poses unparalleled challenges for translators not only because of the culture embedded in it but also the fascinating martial arts moves and captivating names of many characters therein.

Table of Contents

Kungfu—Musings on the Philosophical Background of Chinese Martial Arts
The paper highlights various basic ideas of Chinese martial arts and strategy schools such as Perfection through constant practice (kungfu), unassailability, evasion, deception, preference of the “weak” over the strong (as in Japanese Judo, the “soft way”) as well as winning without fighting. These elements are regarded as the quintessence of Chinese martial arts, which have also (in variants) reached Japan and Korea. A close connection to the philosophical teachings of Daoism can be shown, which can also be understood as an art of life or art of survival. Its principles have played a central role in the life of the Chinese until today, namely, as an instruction for coping with everyday life—the “life struggle.” Thus the ultimate goal of fighting is not the destruction of the opponent but the creation of harmony at the end of the fight.
Karl-Heinz Pohl
The Mythology of Chinese Martial Arts Tourism: A Case Study of the Shaolin Temple on Multiple Dimensions
Chinese Martial Arts as a powerful attraction has been transformed from a national symbol to a multi-functionally transnational floating signifier, closely linked to the mythology of tourism [According to Li et al. (J Sports Res 35(5):96–102, 2021), the three terms “Martial Arts”, “Wu Shu”, and “Kung Fu” were replaceably used with slightly different meanings in the English-speaking countries since the 1920s.]. The meaning of Martial Arts is less of an autonomous rational subject of objective knowledge than a construction matter involving myriad forms of participants such as Buddhist literature writers, film-makers, Shaolin monks, local residents, tourists, and tourist promoters, together with media representations and appropriations. This chapter attempts to reveal how the myth of Martial Arts has been created and appropriated through interpretations and reinterpretations at different stages of the development of the Chinese tourism industry by drawing upon Roland Barthes’ analysis of myth. Our argument, in brief, is that the influence of Martial Arts on the Chinese tourism industry is strongly ensured by a wide participation of various actors in continuously changing forms.
Lingwei Meng, Chuanying Teng
Translating Chinese Martial Arts for a Global Audience: A Multimodal Perspective
As an integral part of Chinese culture, Chinese martial arts embody an organic universe composed of tactics, outlooks, values, and practices. Due to this, the martial arts are foreign to Westerners at large. To share the arts with the international world, translation is obviously very useful. However, since Chinese martial arts have been most readily known by others through real performance and fighting competition, text alone cannot adequately express the embodied cultural universe. For this reason, this chapter attempts a multimodal approach to the translation of Chinese martial arts for a global audience. It holds that the audiovisual translation of kung fu films has shaped Chinese martial arts as a series of powerful fighting tactics, and the notion of “justice” attached to the arts has also been conveyed. The translation of wuxia novels, also featuring multimodality, has brought out traditional philosophies exemplified by Chinese martial arts. In addition, Chinese overseas, as cultural translators over the past century, have also facilitated the cross-cultural communication regarding Chinese martial arts. It is through the reciprocity of kung fu films and wuxia novels, as well as the mediating role-play by Chinese overseas, that Chinese martial arts have been effectively shared with the world.
Ge Song
A Survey and Critique of English Translations of Jin Yong’s Wuxia Fictions
Jin Yong is widely celebrated as the most renowned maestro of wuxia fiction whose works have become the common language of Chinese around the world. His fictions, originally serialized in newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong from 1955 to 1972, continue to be reissued and adapted for films, TV series, and comic books. This chapter offers a comprehensive survey of existing English translations of Jin Yong’s fictions and relevant research on these translations. It starts with a brief introduction to wuxia as a literary genre, Jin Yong’s life trajectory, and his fictions, followed by an evaluation of existing English translations, printed or otherwise, of these stories. Next, a survey and critique of research of these translations are presented, after which research lacunas are detected, and a proposal for future research is put forward. This chapter evaluates relevant studies published in English and Chinese respectively since they differ thematically to a noticeable extent. Finally, it is proposed that future research should pay more attention to online fan translations.
Hong Diao
Neural Machine Translation Systems and Chinese Wuxia Movies: Moving into Uncharted Territory
This chapter contributes to the discourse on the fansubbing of wuxia movies using neural machine translation (NMT) systems. The chapter is informed by the current popularity of wuxia movies among global audiences, increase in fansubs and user-generated translation agents, and ubiquity of free open-source MT systems. Wuxia movies are deeply rooted in the ancient culture and history of China, making their translation particularly challenging for MT systems. Therefore, this chapter attempts to answer the following question: How can fansubbers make the best use of NMT systems in translating culture-bound elements of wuxia movies? To answer this question, we adopt a corpus-based approach consisting of MTs of culture-bound excerpts of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002) by Ang Lee. Any MT errors identified are extracted and categorized. Thereafter, we suggest competencies, translation strategies, and approaches likely to help fansubbers improve MT output quality. In addition to furthering the discourse on the use of MT and the intrusion of non-professionals in the translation profession, the chapter provides an opportunity for the industry, especially training institutions, to create targeted short-term training programs that offer fansubbers the basic skills and competencies they may need.
Kizito Tekwa, Jessica Liu Jiexiu
When Chinese Martial Artists Meet Western Heroes: A Stylometric Comparison of Translated Wuxia Fiction and Western Heroic Literature
This study used stylometric analyses to examine the ways that English translations of Chinese Wuxia fiction and Western heroic literature published in modern English are stylistically similar and different. We wish to contribute tostylometric studies and Wuxia translation research by introducing the stylistic panorama, a concept that describes the stylistic picture of a (translated) text in a relatively comprehensive and functional way through a set of stylistic indices. We also highlight stylistic similarities and differences between heroic literature in the East and that in the West, providing a potential connection that enhances our understanding of the current reception of translated Wuxia fiction. We examined six published English translations of Wuxia novels and 12 representative chivalric stories and heroic fantasies in modern English and found that the stylistic panoramas of the Wuxia translations differed from those of the two Western subgenres. We investigated possible translatorial and extra-translatorial factors, such as translators’ motivations and the year of publication, to explain those findings. We hope that this research will broaden the understanding of the current reception of translated Chinese Wuxia stories in the English-speaking world and will encourage new applications for the concept of stylistic panorama in stylometric studies.
Kan Wu, Dechao Li
Writing in One Voice: Thoughts and Memories on Co-Translating Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes
Tales of martial heroes, or wuxia, have been a staple in Chinese storytelling and entertainment for centuries, and one of the most influential modern exponents is Jin Yong (1924–2018). His fifteen novels, written in serialised form between the 1950s and the 1970s, have sold in the hundred millions and are constantly reinvented in different media. His works were translated into Asian languages as early as the 1960s, but they were often considered to be too steeped in traditional Chinese culture and history for readers further afield. It was not until the mid-1990s and early 2000s that his stories made their debut in European languages (English and French). This essay chronicles how the translator, Gigi Chang, came to join the translation team of Jin Yong’s most frequently reimagined title, Legends of the Condor Heroes (MacLehose Press, 2018–2021), and how she worked closely with Anna Holmwood, the translator who initiated the project, to calibrate her interpretation of the source text and her writing to create a co-translation in English that is unified in tone and voice. It also describes the journey the translation team took to develop and refine their approach, drawing examples from the published translation to discuss how the translators negotiated the expectations of different types of readers—ranging from those completely new to the genre to those familiar with the original story; how they shaped the source content to recreate the exhilarating reading experience commonly reported by Chinese readers in translation; how they referenced each other’s work to ensure continuity in character development between volumes; and how they took inspiration from screen culture and cinematic techniques to bring the extensive action scenes in the novel alive for readers in a new language.
Gigi Chang
Understanding and Translating Chinese Martial Arts
Dan Jiao
Defeng Li
Lingwei Meng
Yuhong Peng
Copyright Year
Springer Nature Singapore
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN