Representations of the dead and the afterlife in translations of Mudan Ting, a masterpiece in Chinese Kunqu theatre

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to identify and analyze the strategies used to translate into English death related cultural taboos viz. death, ghost and resurrection represented in the prominent classical Chinese drama Mudan Ting. Particular reference is made to the articulation of these taboos in three seminal English versions of Mudan Ting (as Peony Pavilion) by Cyril Birch, Wang Rongpei and Zhang Guanqian, respectively. Although these translators all follow the source text closely, certain differences in their translation strategies warrant attention. Cyril Birch takes an acculturation approach to the translation of death-related material, whereas Wang Rongpei adheres to the original text and tends to use semantic translation. In contrast, Zhang Guanqian usually translates literally, infusing the English text with a "foreign" flavor. These differences are examined in light of the general propensity among translators to take an avoidance approach to death-related material. The strategies used to translate taboo subjects are found to depend on the translator's intentions, the target readership, the specific nature of the culturally loaded elements and the availability of equivalent expressions in the target language and culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-210
Number of pages20
JournalBabel
Volume62
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Cultural taboo
  • Death
  • Ghost
  • Mudan Ting
  • Translation strategy
  • Underworld

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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