The Jade King

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Well hello there!

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with what felt like an unforgiving amount of academic work and a lot of ‘extra-curricular’ projects and ideas I’ve been working on. Did you know, my blog has pretty much always been on my to do list or at the back of my mind since it was created back in sixth form? Learn something new every day~ I have a lot that I want to write about but I can never find the time, or when I do I get suffocated by the thought of having to fit in all my ideas. The exercise of announcing this is an experiment to allow me to write more freely, kind of like how I used to. If you’re new here, my posts often begin with a little self update. In the future I will hopefully tell you more about some of the projects I’ve been working on which will reveal a bit more of who I actually am. But, back to the title, right?

I’m noticing the start of a series here. Some of my previous posts are linked to Huo Da’s novel “The Funeral of a Muslim“, as is this post. “The Jade King” is the title of one of the english published translations of the “The Funeral of a Muslim” which is originally a Chinese text. When I first spoke about this story I mentioned that I was gifted a copy of the Chinese novel and that I wanted to read it for myself. Since then I have tried finding English translations of the novel as well. The original text is quite famous within China, but strangely there have been few English translations. To my knowledge, the novel has been translated in a few foreign languages. I spoke to a writer who was approached and asked to translate the novel into English, and they said that they declined the task as they did not think they were suitable for the workload. Therefore there may be several English translations of the story, but the only physical copy I could acquire is “The Jade King” translated by “Guan Yuehua”.

Terms at the University of Oxford are shorter and more intensive than other Universities which is why I am currently on my Christmas break. It turns out that at the end of the Summer holiday I tried translating an excerpt of the novel into English myself. We will return to that in a few moments. This Michaelmas term (the first of three terms in the Oxford academic calendar) I requested for my college (University College) to order a copy of “The Funeral of a Muslim” translated in English as the only copy I could find within Oxford was unavailable for borrowing. They told me that they found a copy at the China Centre (where my lessons for Chinese Studies take place) library that could be borrowed, and that I should use that copy as the book is quite expensive for them to order -.- Anyway, that’s what I did. My aim is to finally finish a good amount of the novel during this vacation. Whilst 595 pages might seem like an easy read to some, sadly I’ve found it difficult to keep up with books since commencing university.

So now I have the Chinese original text as well as an English translation! The photo I included at the start of this post is a side by side comparison of the covers of both books. The English translation is slightly smaller in length than the Chinese text.

In our final Classical Chinese lesson of term, our teacher conducted a short seminar on translations. We considered how the translation of a text would vary according to its purpose i.e to be used in a dissertation or to be published elsewhere etc. We looked at a line of classical Chinese text that had been translated by several different authors and compared the nuances in their choice of vocabulary when translating the same text.

I brought this up because I recalled that experience the other night when I came across my translation of the first page of Huo Da’s novel. It occurred to me that I could compare this to a published translation as I now have a copy of one, and it would be a useful exercise. I will type out the text from the Chinese novel, as well as from ‘The Jade King’, followed by my own translation so that you may also observe the differences. I will note that my translation is only a rough first draft and therefore may not reflect the same standard you will see from Yuehua. This in itself is an interesting comparison between a student translating for ‘fun’, and a translator producing a piece for publishing.

The following excerpts are taken from the prologue.

1) 月梦:清晨,她走来了。

一辆出租车停在路口,她下了车,略略站了站,环顾着周围。然后,熟悉地穿过大街,小巷,向前走去。她穿着白色的短袖衬衫,白色的西服裙和白色的皮鞋,几乎通体洁白,身材纤秀因而显得颀长,肤色白皙,细腻,橄榄形的脸型,双清澈的眼睛,鼻梁略高而直,未施任何唇膏的淡红的嘴唇紧闭着,颏旁便现出两道细细的,弯弯的,新月形的纹路。微微鬈曲的长发,任其自然地舒服卷在耳后和颈根。耳垂,颈项都没有任何饰物。尽管鬓边的黑发已夹杂着银丝。。。[Original text by Huo Da].

2) Dreaming of the Moon: It was early morning when she came.

Stepping out of a white taxi at an intersection, she stopped a moment to take a look around and then went on down the street and entered a lane, with the familiarity of a long time resident.

Dressed in a pearl-grey suit and a cream-coloured blouse and wearing white wedge-heeled shoes, she appears tall and slim. Her complexion is fair and delicate, her face almond-shaped, her eyes limpid, her nose shapely, her lips, though without makeup, a pale red which, when tightly drawn, produce two fine curving creases at the corners of her mouth; her hair long and slightly wavy, hanging about the ears. No earrings, nor necklace, nor any jewelry. Although her black hair is touched with silver at the temples… [Translation by Guan Yuehua].

3) A Dream of the Moon: She came over early in the morning. A taxi stopped at the intersection, she came out the car, and gently stood, looking around the surroundings. Afterwards she crossed the big street with familiarity, she faced the alley ahead and walked through. She wore a white short sleeve blouse, a white western skirt and white leather shoes, almost all her body was pure white. Her figure was graceful and as a result she seemed tall. Her skin was fair and fine, her face was the shape of a Chinese olive, with a pair of clear eyes, the outline of the bridge of her nose was tall and straight, without using any lipstick her light red lips were tightly closed, the side of her chin revealed two thin and winding new moon shaped wrinkles. Faintly curled hair, naturally curled behind the ear and root of the neck. Her earlobe, and neck both had no jewelry whatsoever. Despite the black hairs on the side of her temples being mixed up with silver hair… [My translation].

This is where I would like to end this post for now, I think it was quite interesting for me to finally be able to compare my translation to one that has been ‘approved’.

If you want to tell a story, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

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2 thoughts on “The Jade King

  1. Hi!

    I’m going to be applying to Oxford for Oriental Studies but I’m torn between Chinese and Japanese. I’d be very grateful to have your opinion on a few considerations.

    I hope that you might be able to use your extensive experience with Chinese to provide me with some perspective and potentially some advice.

    I’d be very grateful if I could get your opinion on a few considerations:

    1) What are you planning on doing after you graduate? I don’t suppose you know what the job market is like for graduates in Chinese and bilingual Chinese-English speakers? I’ve heard that Japanese is better for the private sector since there are so many native Chinese speakers who also speak English. To what extent are jobs available in the public sector?

    2) After I graduate, I want to either:
    a) aim for a high income in the private sector and donate substantial amounts of what I earn to charity
    or
    b) go into the charity sector/work for an NGO.
    I was leaning towards Japanese simply because I find the language and culture more fascinating
    I’ve heard that there’s a demand for Chinese language skills in the farm animal welfare sector, for example. I don’t suppose you have any perspectives on going into NGO work etc.?

    Thanks in advance and best of luck with your studies and the blog 🙂

    Like

    • Hi! Thanks a lot for engaging with my blog~ Just to let you know that I have some very exciting content coming up regarding the differences between Japanese and Chinese Studies at Oxford, which I think you may enjoy! Also I’ve asked some friends what their views are on the questions you asked and will get back to you with a more in depth answer soon! 欣妍 x

      Like

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