Text-remote Thick Translation of Lin Yutang’s English Version of Laozi

Authors: Huang Weixing (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Ang Lay Hoon, Ser Wue Hiong, Hardev Kaur (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Speaker: Huang Weixing
Topic: Text, Context and Entextualization
CALA 2020 General Session


Laozi, one of the fundamental books of Chinese philosophy, is the second most translated text in the world after the Bible. However, due to its pithy style, esoteric language, profound philosophical thoughts, and besides linguistic, historical, and cultural differences between the original and target, understanding its ideas has been a challenge for target readers. Thick translation, which aims to produce a thick contextualized text in order to facilitate the understandings of target readers, has been adopted by Lin Yutang in his English translation of Laozi, entitled “The Wisdom of Laotse”.

This colloquium explores the eight different means of text-remote thick translation utilized to build thick contexts in Lin’s version of Laozi. Appiah’s thick translation theory, which developed from Clifford Geertz’s thick description theory of Cultural Anthropology, is employed to construct the theoretical framework for this study. The discussion is directed at how Lin places target readers into broader contexts regarding the source text and explains rationale behind Lin’s strategy.

This colloquium offers new dimensions in the interpretation of Laozi and paves the way for future comprehensive studies on thick translation of Laozi, and beyond.

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Keywords: Text- remote thick translation, Laozi, thick contextualization, context