The Interaction Between Imagery And Allusions In Translating Chinese Poetry Based On Tu Fu’s Poems

3314 words - 14 pages

The Interaction between Imagery and Allusions in translating Chinese PoetryBased on Tu Fu’s Poems

Shih-ying Liaw
Prof. Wang
Linguistics and Translation
June 18 2012

Shih ying Liaw1

Shih-ying Liaw
Prof. Wang
Linguistics and Translation
June 18 2012
The Interaction between Imagery and Allusions in translating Chinese PoetryBased on Tu Fu’s Poems
Though Chinese poetry has been translating for almost a hundred years, there are
still many questions about the translation strategies and situations worth discussing. In
this paper, the interaction between imagery and allusions when translating are
discussed and the practical situation used when translating are presented.
To ...view middle of the document...

Compared to imagery, allusions seem not so critical in Western poetry. However, it is
an essential part of Chinese poetry because China is a country with long record
history. What’s more, Chinese is an ethic group that worship historical people and
events strongly. Due to the importance of allusions in Chinese poetry, it’s critical to
translate it properly to present the connotation of a poem.
According to “The Art of Chinese Poetry”, Professor Liu classifies allusions as
“general-image related” and “specific”. A “general-image related allusion” is the
common knowledge to an ethic group. For example, the Ying-Yang concept, which
may be translated to the “Dark and Bright”, means more to Chinese. However, it’s
almost impossible to explain it in simple words for foreigners. On the other hand, a
“specific allusion” comes from a mythology, a book or an article. For example, Chang


Liu, James J.Y. The Art of Chinese Poetry .USA: The University of Chicago Press,


Shih ying Liaw3

O’’s fairy tale is well known to all Chinese but it’s totally strange to people from
other countries. Next question is in what circumstances a poet will use an allusion.
Often they use it in to give out an analogy or a contrast to current situation. For
instance, the poet often compared himself as an historical scholar to express his
thought. Through the metaphor, he can express himself implicitly and understandable
by the readers. The contrast situation is very common as well. Usually poets use the
contrast to emphasize how time change everything and express how small human is
compared to nature.2
In this paper, Tu Fu‘s poems are presented and analyzed as examples of how
translators deal with the interaction between imagery and allusions when translating.
Tu Fu is one of the most famous poets in China. He is not also a poet but an excellent
official as well (just like most Chinese poets and writers). He has described himself as
a man “reading books, (I) polished off ten thousand volumes, wielded my writing
brush like a god,”3 Thus, he used tremendous allusions in his poetry and that is also
the main reason I choose his poems as my analysis samples.
After deciding the target poems, the translation version of a poem is essential to
the analysis as well. Kenneth Rexroth and Burton Watson are my target translators
after consideration. The former is the representative of poets as translators, and the
latter is the representative of scholar dedicated to translating Chinese poetry. What’s


Liu, James J.Y. The Art of Chinese Poetry .USA: The University of Chicago Press,
1962 p131~145


Tu Fu’ poem: Twenty-two Rhymes Presented to Assistant Secretary of the Left Wei
(Watson, Burton, The Selected Poems of Du Fu, Columbia University Press, p5)
Shih ying Liaw4

more, Kenneth Rexroth adores Tu Fu a lot and even names him the greatest non-epic
poet. Burton Watson has said that Tu Fu is the hardest translatable...

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