Does 'translation' reflect a narrower concept than 'fanyi'? : On the impact of Western theories on China and the concern about Eurocentrism

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-242
Journal / PublicationTranslation and Interpreting Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


Taking China as a case in point, this paper addresses the concern among some Western scholars that the concept of translation in the European tradition is narrower than in some other cultures so that the spread of Western concepts and theories to the rest of the world is threatening "biodiversity". A re-examination of the evidence presented shows that this claim is based on a series of misinterpretation of 'fanyi,' the Chinese word for 'translation'. In fact, the traditional concept of translation in China used to be very narrow and rigid. It gradually loosened up only after the transfer of Western translation theories into China, which challenged traditional thinking. Ironically, the concern of the few Chinese scholars who resist Westernization is that the process has put an end to uniformity. As a result of the transfer of Western academic norms and 'pure' translation theories, translation research in China has become more sophisticated. The influence of Western ideas in China has caused some concern about Eurocentrism mainly among Western scholars. This concern, however, might itself be Eurocentric since Sinocentrism is the major cause for concern among most Chinese scholars.

Research Area(s)

  • Eurocentrism, Fanyi, Translation, Translation studies, Western