Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

When Freud Headed for the East: Aspects of a Chinese Translation of His Works

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

When Freud Headed for the East: Aspects of a Chinese Translation of His Works

Article excerpt

Working on the basis of a resumé of the Chinese translations to date of individual works by Sigmund Freud and critiques of these as secondary translations from the English, the particular difficulties of translating into a non-Indo-European language with an isolating and analytical writing system are presented. By way of introduction, reference is made to English and French-language contributions to the issues of translation.

Keywords: Freud, translation, China, German-Chinese, language

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)


If terms are not correctly defined, words will not harmonize with things, if words do not harmonize with things, public business will remain undone; if public business remains undone, order and harmony will not flourish; if order and harmony do not flourish, law and justice will not attain their ends; if law and justice do not attain their ends, the people will be unable to move hand or foot. The wise man, therefore, frames his definitions to regulate his speech, and his speech to regulate his actions. He is never reckless in his choice of words. Upon this, all things depend.

Confucius (551-479 BC, p. 204)

The Chinese language is full of instances of indefiniteness which might fill us with alarm.

Sigmund Freud (1916, p. 230)

The coherency of Freud's oeuvre is that of the German language.

Arthur Goldschmidt (1988, p. 141)

Having now been in progress for 90 years, the attempt to translate and transmit the writings and hence the thoughts of Sigmund Freud to China and hence into the Chinese language is entrenched in an increasingly accel- erating process of globalization, which has also captured the international psychoanalytical community with its polyglot history. A translation into Chinese should serve to disseminate psychoanalysis in China, of course, but by contrast with the UK and the USA of 100 years ago (cf. Steiner, 1987, 1988) the translation of Freud's works is only a building block here - albeit a very important one - for constructing the psychoanalytical house in China. Thus translations of psychoanalytical works in China have existed ever since 1912, and as early as 1929 the (to my knowledge) first translation of Freud appeared with his work Psycho-Analysis by Gao Juefu (cf. Blow- ers, 1995). In 1930 Gao then translated Joan Riviere's English translation of Freud's Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Since the 1980s courses in analytical psychotherapy conducted by Norwegian and German col- leagues (Varvin and Gerlach, 2013) have been spreading the ideas of Freud and his successors from the various schools of psychoanalytical thought and, under the supervision of the China Committee (P. Loewenberg), the IPA has set about training the first Chinese psychoanalysts in Beijing and Shanghai. Thus translation of the core corpus of psychoanalysis can be only a building block in a West - East dialogue that aims to bridge an expanse of the great unfamiliarity between the Chinese understanding of the person and that of the European Enlightenment. This is considered impossible by not a few people in the Western world - psychoanalysis in China?2 In an Asiatic culture? Freud did not seem to share this view. More than 80 years ago, on 27 May 1929, he wrote a letter to Zhang Shizhao (1882-1973), a former Chinese Minister of Education, in reply to the latter's letter (no longer available to us)3:

Highly esteemed Professor,

I am extremely delighted by your intention, in whatever manner you wish to exe- cute it, whether you are paving the way for knowledge of psychoanalysis in your home country of China or whether you are giving us contributions for our journal Imago, in which you measure our presumptions about archaic forms of expression against the material provided by your language. What I quoted from Chinese in the lectures was taken from an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.).

Most sincerely,

Your Freud

Zhang Shizhao became one of the first translators of Freud in China, translating Freud's Selbstdarstellung [An Autobiographical Study] from Ger- man into Chinese in 1930. …

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