A Study on the Literary Translations in Hong Kong Periodicals in the Early Twentieth Century


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
  • Bo LI (Supervisor)
Award date1 Sep 2021


In the early twentieth century, literary translations started to be first published in a number of Hong Kong Chinese-language periodicals. Given the amount of these publications of literary translation, they have hitherto not received due academic attention, which leaves a gap for studies of the history of Chinese literary translation. This study takes three Hong Kong periodicals as objects of inquiry, namely, the two newspapers The Chinese Mail 香港華字日報 and Everything Matters 唯一趣報有所謂 and the magazine Chinese and Foreign Stories 中外小說林, to investigate and describe the patterns of the literary translations published in periodicals, focusing on such topics as the translation of the image of women and the translation of medical terminologies, using the methods of translation history and case studies.

The discussion on the conceptual topic of the translation of the image of women covers one text in The Chinese Mail and three texts in Chinese and Foreign Stories. The discussion on the conceptual topic of the translation of medical terminologies covers one text in Everything Matters and one text in Chinese and Foreign Stories. The topic of pseudo-translation covers four texts in Chinese and Foreign Stories. That is to say, the case studies include texts ranging across the three periodicals. Current studies have underlined that women and medical science were two notable issues of the periodical’s concerns. With the textual underpinnings, this study aims to deal with such questions as: how were the Western image of women represented in the translations? how were the Western medical terminologies dealt with in the translations? and what other ways did the periodicals use in importing nuancing voices?

The literary translations in The Chinese Mail and Chinese and Foreign Stories manifested different scenes for the presentation of Western fictional image of women. Some texts showcased that the image of women was truncated and reframed, conditioned by the Chinese patriarchal and Confucian cultural values, and some showcased that it was faithfully transferred to the Chinese context, which reflected the journal’s earnest effort in importing Western social mindsets through translations.

The translation of medical terminologies in the texts in Everything Matters manifested different approaches as to the translation of the terms of medical instruments, drugs, and diseases. Some were translated literally with the Western medical concepts and theories faithfully represented. Some were translated into Chinese terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which reflected an inclination of domestication. Some others were translated into a term of a more general meaning. The different translation strategies used for different terms reflected the inconsistent recognition of the related Western medical concepts or technologies in the Chinese cultural context.

Inside Chinese and Foreign Stories, a group of pseudo-translations took up a special function in inputting new values and voices in relation to women and nuancing the predominant stereotypes. Such a kind of publications generated by the ecological environment of the literary market provided a free compositional space to the literati and a guarantee for good reception. These works presented more unanimous anti-patriarchal voices than the translations, with less traces of subjection to the traditional Chinese ideological and cultural orthodoxies. Investigation of such pseudo-translations provided a new literary terrain to the understanding of early twentieth-century Chinese literary translation practice.

    Research areas

  • literary translations in periodicals, early twentieth-century Hong Kong, the image of women, medical terminologies, pseudo-translations