Vol. 69:1 (2023) ► pp.1–19
English translation of Chinese calligraphic aesthetics
Chinese calligraphy, which distinctively represents traditional Chinese culture, contains many culture-specific aesthetic terms that pose a translation challenge requiring creative cross-cultural strategies. This study presents several English translations for four key Chinese aesthetic terms on calligraphy, namely shi 勢 (roughly translated as “vital force” or “energy”), yun 韻 (once translated as “rhythmic life” or “life movement”), fei bai 飛白 (“flying white” or “hollow strokes”) and jibai-danghei 計白當黑 (literally: treating white areas like black ink). It examines their effectiveness in facilitating cross-cultural understanding and maximizing cultural authenticity. This article points out that most of these terms have been adequately contextualized in English over the past century, even though some are rendered in English using terms borrowed from Western art history. This shows how cultural translation, the theoretical basis of this study, comes into play when dealing with Chinese aesthetic terms in calligraphy.
- Literature Review
- Theoretical Framework: Cultural Translation
- Re-contextualizing Aesthetic Terms: Challenges and Solutions
- Shu fa or “calligraphy”?
- Yi or “expressionism”? Bi mo or “brushstroke”?
- What are qi and fei bai?