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A Brief History of Translation in China – Part 1

A Brief History of Translation in China – Part 1

China has as many as 55 minority languages, each with any number of dialects which makes translations incredibly difficult which is why you need a China Translation Company who can task the most appropriate Chinese translator for the project. Here I look at the history of translations in China.
China’s translation theory and practice has had a tremendous contribution to the civilised world. According to historical resources in China, translation activities were recorded at as early as 1st Century BC. During China’s early history, the neighbouring cultures did not have their own language for a very long period of time—therefore translation was not a major requirement until Buddhism was introduced to China.

Religious translations were extremely important in China’s history of literature

The ambitious monk XuanZang (600AD -664AD) of the Tang Dynasty would be the most outstanding representatives of the linguists who worked on religious translation. He set his journey to India at the age of 28, hoping to learn the true spirit of Buddhism, and bring it back to China. After 17 years of hardship, when he finally returned home with great success and glory,
he was already a 45-year-old man. In the last 20 years of his life, he spent most of his time translating the Buddhist scripture, and had completed 1,335 volumes with a total word count of over 10 million words. His achievement had been unreachable for the other linguists in history viewing from either quantity or quality.
In China, the translation of the Buddhist Scripture lasted from the later Han Dynasty to Song Dynasty, took over one thousand and three hundred years. Translation activities of such large scale had been very rare throughout human history. Many theories and methods had been extracted from the experiences. ZanNing from the Northern Song Dynasty concluded that ‘translation is a kind of art. It converts the form of the language but the meaning of the content remains. ‘

"Translation is a kind of art. It converts the form of the language but the meaning of the content remains"

ZanNing from the Northern Song Dynasty

To be continued in part 2 where we carry on after the Northern Song Dynasty and come up to date with modern simplified Chinese.

China Translation Company

With so many minority languages and an unknown number of dialects in China it is very important that you use a ‘China translation company’ who understands the importance of finding the most suitable translator who can localise the translation to the target audience.  Of course it is also important that the linguist has knowledge of the document topic, for example, if the translation is a legal document, we will ensure that the translator comes from a legal background so that the translated legal jargon is accurate.


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