Publication details [#11905]

St. André, James. 2006. Travelling toward true translation: the first generation of Sino-English translators. In Polezzi, Loredana. Translation, travel, migration. The Translator. Studies in Intercultural Communication 12 (2) : 169–188. : 189–210.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
Publication language
Source language
Target language


This paper argues that the growing emphasis on first-hand observation in the emerging scientific discourse of eighteenth-century Europe led to a privileging of travel and travel narratives as important markers of authentic knowledge of non-European lands, including China. The first generation of translators of Chinese texts and their reviewers therefore emphasized this personal knowledge of China, while at the same time denigrating foreign 'book knowledge' of the region. Ultimately, however, this had the effect of undercutting the translator's own claims to direct representation of the Chinese, as travel accounts by British subjects continued to enjoy more cultural capital than translations of Chinese texts, even though translators also made competing claims of the effectiveness of translation to open up a window onto the lives of the Chinese, and even when texts were translated by such confirmed Chinese experts as Sir George Thomas Staunton. Although Chinese-English translations became 'truer', they were consigned to play a subservient role vis-a-vis travel narratives in the development of British Sinology and the British public's perception of China.
Source : Abstract in journal