Publication details [#6048]

Wong, Lawrence Wang-chi (王宏志教授). 1999. 文言與白話──晚清以來翻譯語言的考察 [Wenyan or Baihua? On the issue of translation language since the Late Qing]. Journal of Translation Studies 3 : 49–80.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
Publication language
Target language


The present paper deals with the changing position of wenyan (classical Chinese) and baihua (vernacular Chinese) in translation since the late Qing, when China began to translate Western works on an unprecedented scale. At the first stage of this translation boom, wenyan was considered the best language for translation. Occasionally, they would translate in the vernacular, when the words were targeted for the uneducated masses. However during the May Fourth period, wenyan was mercilessly attacked, and Baihua was regarded as the only language to be used for translation. But criticisms soon appeared as people felt that it was highly inadequate to introduce modern Western ideas. One that most people found feasible was to adopt the Western ways of expression and sentence structures, which resulted in rather awkward-sounding texts. The paper looks in detail at the social and cultural environments in which such a change of attitude towards the translation language took place.
Source : Abstract in journal