Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Dong Leshan: A Thinker-Translator

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Dong Leshan: A Thinker-Translator

Article excerpt


The late Mr. Dong Leshan is a well-renowned translator in China. Most of his translated works, like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Red Star over China, The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-1972, and 1984 enjoys a great reputation. This paper reviews and analyzes Dong Leshan's translation achievements, characteristics and ideas, maintaining that the above mentioned aspects of him make him a thinkertranslator.

Key words: Dong Leshan; Translator; Characteristics


Translator studies are one important aspect of translation studies. Mr. Wang Zuoliang (1989, p.5) once pointed out, "in translation history studies we should highlight and feature certain important translators". Also Douglas Robinson (1991) proposed "translator's turn" and the Spanish scholar Anthony Pym (1998, xi) maintained a focus on translator, the person in translation history study. The late Mr. Dong Leshan is a famous Chinese translator. He translated and co-translated The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Red Star over China, The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-1972, and 1984. His translations, "threaded with human enlightenment responsibilities" (Lin, 2000), are believed to have deafening impact upon the circle of Chinese scholars, thus enjoying great popularity and reputation in China and "distinguishing him as a thinker-translator" (Pang, 2002). Moreover, Dong Leshan is also established in translation theory. His translation practices and thoughts establish him as a thinker-translator.


1.1 Achievements in the First Phase

Dong Leshan was bom in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, on Dec. 14, 1924 and died in Beijing on January 16, 1999, a representative figure in the new generation of translators. The famous translator Feng Yidai once remarked (1987): "Leshan was much praised among peers, for he was insightful in understanding the origin and excellent in translations, the result of which cannot be accomplished in one day."

Mr. Dong's translation career can be conveniently classified into two phases. The first phase starts from the 1940s to 1970s, his middle age, and the second from the year 1979, when he re-translated Edgar Snow's Red Star over China, to the year 1999, these 20 years being his prime time in translation career. Dong Leshan started translating in college. For instance in 1945 he translated John Steinbeck's Pearl, and got published in a magazine in Shanghai. After graduation, he was engaged in news translation, working in Xinhua News Agency. He was knowledgeable and efficient, being able to translate seven to eight hundred words every hour in contrast to the speed of three to four hundred words of an average translator. Also Dong compiled a pamphlet of news translating, which laid a foundation for foreign word translation standardization. He was generally acknowledged as a pioneer in news translation in China. During his years working as a news translator, he volunteered to do literary translation and his first translated book- a novel by the then Czech president got published by the People's Publishing House.

In 1957, he was labeled as a "Rightist". Despite that, he was relentless in his pursuits. The Chinese version of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, a famed foreign correspondent and historian was attributed mainly to him. This worldwide best-seller, acclaimed as the definitive book on Nazi Germany, was discovered by Dong and he immediately took up translating it. According to his co-worker, Li Shenzi,

we both spent a month translating 20 thousand words, and then proofread each other's work. As we were not allowed to finish the remaining part of the book, the final translation was full of discrepancies. It was Dong who took the trouble to revise it. (2001, p.386)

The book was restricted to partial circulation, but was being republished during the "Cultural Revolution" and was widely popular. …

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