Seeking Reconciliation Through Translation: W. H. Medhurst’s Translation of Li 理 in Cheng-Zhu Confucianism
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AbstractAs the core concept in Lixue 理學 (or Cheng-Zhu Confucianism), Li 理 has all along been endowed with complicated meanings, signifying moral principles as well as the transcendent origin and governing power of the universe. It first attracted scholarly attention of the Westerners, most of them the Jesuits, in the 17th century, when Lixue was established as the Chinese orthodoxy. Protestant missionaries in the early 19th century carried on the Jesuits’ work, but almost uniformly interpreted Li as a material force, hence criticizing Lixue as atheism and enemy of Christianity. This argument stood unchallenged until 1844, when Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857), a British missionary in China, published a partial translation of Yuzuan Zhuzi Quanshu (The Imperial Edition of the Complete Works of Zhu Xi). In his translation, Medhurst tried to reconcile Lixue and Christianity by reinterpret the meaning of Li, making the translation a landmark in the history of English scholarship on Lixue. The translation’s importance also lies in the fact that it was the very first English translation of Zhu Xi’s (朱熹, 1130-1200) philosophical works and it imposed a great influence on the renowned sinologist, James Legge (1815-1897). The present paper, therefore, focuses on Medhurst’s rewriting of Li in his translation. It combines textual and contextual analysis to reveal how and why the missionary-translator rewrites the concept. By investigating the case in connection with Medhurst’s missionary strategies and involvement in the Term Controversy, the research shows a close link between his studies on Li and efforts in solving the Term Question in Bible translation. In fact, his translating Li was his response to his opponents in the Controversy. In order to prove Lixue and Christianity share a common ground, he reshaped the meaning of Li by various means, such as pre-selecting original texts, adding Christian terms as well as altering the logical and grammatical structures of the original. By studying Medhurst’s case, the paper attempts to present the interactions between religions, thoughts and historical factors behind the 19-century missionary’s translation of Chinese Classics. It is also hoped that this study may shed some lights on the shifts in English scholarship on Lixue in this period.
All Author(s) ListSHUAI Siyang
Name of ConferenceThe Third East Asian Translation Studies Conference: “From the Local to the Global and Back. Translation as a Construction of Plural and Dialogic Identities of East Asia”
Start Date of Conference28/06/2019
End Date of Conference30/06/2019
Place of ConferenceCa’ Foscari University of Venice
Country/Region of ConferenceItaly
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2019-26-09 at 10:31