Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Translation of Lantern-Riddles in A Dream in Red Mansions from the Perspective of Interpretive Theory

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Translation of Lantern-Riddles in A Dream in Red Mansions from the Perspective of Interpretive Theory

Article excerpt

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Introduction

The Chinese nation has a long history and glorious culture, which generates the aspiration of several generations of Chinese scholars to translate, edit, and publish the whole corpus of Chinese literary classics so that the nation's greatest cultural achievements can be introduced to people all over the world (Yang, 1999). A Dream of Red Mansions is rich in ideas and concepts. It is a multifaceted world of art into which the more one delves, the more one finds. The charm of this novel lies in its revealing youth fully and truthfully, in its uncovering the zeal, grace and tenderness of the younger generation. Although the era has long since vanished, protagonists and their dreams and longings, sorrow and happiness, unlucky destiny and outstanding talents, still strike a sympathetic chord in the heart of people today. This novel is still a hot topic of conversation among the Chinese people, and criticism and research concerning the fate of the twelve girls that were implied in the lantern riddles or poems has crystallized as a branch of study, whimsically referred as "Redology" (Shi, 1999). So vast and broad are the ancient Chinese characteristics that the translation of A Dream in Red Mansions has met a lot of obstacles, especially culturally-loaded messages. Questions have been lingering about the translators who have applied such strategies as Functional Equivalence (Eugene, 1964) and Receptional Aesthetic (Has, 1967). However, few ofthem have ever applied the Interpretive Theory, which is a branch of interpretation.

Interpretive Theory, an important theory with which to study interpretation, is also called the Theory of Sense. What interpretive theory emphasizes is not the simple transformation of linguistic symbols, like words and sentences, but the transmission of sense, especially the meaning of authors (Seleskovitch, 2011). Interpretive theory considers the translation and interpretation as an interpersonal activity that focuses on the transferring of meaning. Another word is that the target text should be identical with the source text in context and meaning. The main purpose is to exactly express the author's thoughts in another language without leaving out any details. There are three procedures in interpretive theory: comprehension, which needs the translator to assign a meaning to the translation unit relying on the knowledge of source language and his/her world knowledge; devocalization, which means the translator should be free from the physical context of the source text but grasps the mental one without omitting any messages; and reformulation, which requires the translator to verbalize the meanings he or she catches in the source of the target text using the knowledge of the target language in the process, as well as extra-linguistic knowledge (Daniel, 2009). All in all, the interpretive theory thinks that the deeper understanding of the source text, the more essence the translator can grasp and the better translation it is. This principle coincides with the intrinsic quality of Chinese lantern riddles.

The combination of Interpretive Theory and the translation of lantern riddles has been little studied. The devocalization, which is the principle of Interpretive Theory, helps the translator to be free from the physical shackles of language and enables him/her to grasp the main substance of meaning. Given the shining difference between ancient Chinese culture and the English culture, we cannot transplant automatically between them. Their features, either in language or in culture, must be considered carefully, and the beauty and substance of source language must be transformed successfully without any damages. Such fusion between the Interpretive Theory and translation of lantern riddles can provide a new path for literary translations. This paper is based on A Dream in RedMansions(Cao, X. Q.& Gao, E., 1764/1999) translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys B. …

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