Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (9.54 MB)

The influence of political ideology in the Chinese translations of English works by Chinese migrant writers

Download (9.54 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 18:13 authored by Long Li
Since China's Reform and Opening-up (改革開放Gǎigé Kāifàng) in the late 1970s, there has been a growing number of Chinese migrants living in the "West". Some of them have become writers in the English language and produced astonishingly successful works, such as Jung Chang's Wild Swans(1991) and Li Cunxin's Mao's Last Dancer(2003). Such works have placed these migrant writers amongst the most well-known contemporary Chinese people in the "West". However, as they generally express highly critical views on the Communist Party of China and frequently deal with controversial topics such as the Cultural Revolution (文化大革命Wénhuà Dà Gémìng)and the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident(六四事件Liùsì Shìjiàn), all books have been banned in Mainland China, and the names of these writers are virtually unknown to Mainland Chinese. Nevertheless, their works have been translated into Chinese and published outside the Chinese Mainland: an unusual phenomenon where a book is translated into the source author's native language, and in a few cases, with direct contribution from the source authors in the translation decision-making. A previous study of the present author(Li 2012) found a small number of instances that show less favourable evaluation of the Communist Party of China in the Chinese translation of Wild Swans. It was then hypothesized that the Chinese translations of these politically volatile English works express stronger anti-Mao and anti-communist ideologies than do the English source texts. The present dissertation tests this hypothesis by investigating the influence of political ideology in the Chinese translations of these highly successful but politically volatile English works by Chinese migrant writers, with a focus on Wild Swans and Mao's Last Dancer. To date, the ideological shifts in this source-text-author-assisted translation type have received little scholarly examination. To enhance systematicity and objectivity in descriptive translation studies, and to trace language choices within their situational and cultural contexts, the present dissertation adopts Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) as the overarching theoretical framework, which is a theory much informed by both English and Chinese in its development (Halliday 1956; 1961). In addition, the present thesis adopts methods and perspectives from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), Corpus Linguistics (CL), and Multimodal Social Semiotics. This thesis by publication approaches ideological shifts in the same books from four perspectives based on metafunction and mode: 1) within the ideational metafunction: PARTICIPANT, AGENCY, DYNAMISM and INSTANTIAL WEIGHT; 2) within the interpersonal metafunction: MOOD and MODALITY; 3) also within the interpersonal xii metafunction: DEGREE OF INTENSITY; and 4) through multimodal analysis applied to the book production. Results show strong evidence that leads to the rejection of the hypothesis. The four analytical chapters, each prepared as a journal article, show dramatically modified evaluation of historical figures, such as the diminishing and 'backgrounding' role of Mao in the Chinese translation of Wild Swans. The ideological shifts are achieved through motivated selections of lexicogrammatical and semantic patterns.However, such striking ideological shifts do not apply to all translations. The significance of the present thesis firstly lies in bridging the current gap in a detailed study of the ideological shifts in the Chinese translations of some of the most successful English works by Chinese migrant writers. The present thesis hence contributes not only to a better understanding of ideology in translation but also of ideological differences between the Anglophone and Sinophone spheres. Secondly, it consolidates corpus-and linguistics-based translation studies, and calls for them as empowering tools in translation studies. Some of the proposed analytical approaches are expected to be highly applicable to future translation and typological studies.Thirdly, it elaborate the works of contrastive grammarians by contributing richer typological descriptions of two major world languages,English and Chinese, mainly from but not limited to the SFL perspective. The present thesis will be of interest tofuture academic studies in SFL-and corpus-based translation studies, ideology in translation,multimodal translation studies,contrastive linguistics, and to the general public who are interested in linguistic and ideological differences between the "West" and China.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: A Systemic Functional Linguistics approach to the study of ideology in translation -- Chapter 3: Impressionistic overview of Wild Swans in Mao's Last Dancer -- Chapter 4: Who 'Let all this happen'? shifts of responsibilities in representing the cultural revolution -- Chapter 5: An examination of ideology in translation via modality: Wild Swans in Mao's Last Dancer -- Chapter 6: Are Chinese texts more strident than English texts? A corpus based approach to the degrees of intensity in translation -- Chapter 7: A translated volume and its many covers - A multimodal analysis of the influence of ideology -- Chapter 8: Conclusion.


Bibliography: 250-263 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David G. Butt


Copyright Long Li 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xv, 263, 203 pages)

Former Identifiers


Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager