Moving Words to Move the Mountain: How Yan Fu Translated for the Purpose of Changing China

  • Yong ZhongEmail author
Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)


This article presents an investigation into how Yan Fu, reputed as the father of the Chinese translation profession, translated for the purpose of moving a seemingly indomitable mountain, which is a metaphor for the Chinese Qing Empire. The empire was metaphorically referred to as the Mountain in this article as it was known for enduring resistance to change and to the outside world as well as for ruthless repression of its subjects. By adopting a set of research methods mainly comprising textual analysis, this article examines an extract from Yan Fu’s Chinese rendition of Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays, to be followed by a reverse reconstruction of Yan Fu’s translation procedure. The textual analysis identified major systematic discrepancies in terms of message, function and vision between Yan Fu’s translation and Huxley’s text. This indicates that Yan Fu’s practice cannot be explained with “fidelity”, one of the three translation criteria invented by him, in its existing interpretation and is only justifiable in a post-functional plan-based paradigm. This case study will shed light on the tradition of Chinese translation, on how translation is conducted in real-life situations, on how translation can be geared in an activist manner to drive social changes and on how theory and practice can be reconciled.


Textual Analysis Qing Dynasty Source Text Chinese Translation Factual Distortion 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Xi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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