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Translating traditional Chinese poetry: a case study on translation of imageries of birds in Hua Jian Ji

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posted on 2023-11-17, 02:39 authored by Baiqiang An

Translating traditional Chinese poetry has always been the centre of translation studies. However, most of the existing literature only focuses on the methods for translating individual texts but not an in-depth explanation of the representative aesthetic features of traditional Chinese poetry and how to present them in translation. To have a close look at these aesthetic features, this thesis analyzes the aesthetic features generated by yixiang 意象(imagery), and thus, a translation strategy to present the aesthetic features of traditional Chinese poetry can be further developed. 

As one of the commonly employed literary devices in Chinese literature, imagery makes great contributions to the unique aesthetic features of traditional Chinese poetry. Unfortunately, by now, the concept of imagery is still vaguely explored, which is an impediment to the understanding of imagery, the aesthetic features it generates and how to present such features in translation. 

To pave this ground, this thesis provides a systematic exposition of imagery and related concepts in traditional Chinese literature, and develops a translation strategy to present the aesthetic features generated by imagery, and thus to indicate how to analyze and translate other literary devices that can also generate aesthetic features in texts and how to present such features in translation. 

As a significant poetry anthology in traditional Chinese literature, Hua Jian Ji is a collection of 500 ci poems where the aesthetic features of traditional Chinese poetry are well presented. Contributing to these aesthetic features, the imageries of various birds in these ci poems catch the readers’ eyes the most. To render such features in translation, the functions of the imageries of birds must be examined, and a practical translation strategy for this type of literary texts and contributing to key translation principles can be thus developed. 

In translation studies, Christiane Nord’s functionalist approach is the one that specifically emphasizes source language text (SLT) analysis that serves her translation principle of “function plus loyalty”. Thus, detailed guidance for SLT analysis provided by Nord can assist our examination of the ci poems in Hua Jian Ji, while Lois Fusek’s translation of these ci poems can also be good samples to further explore Nord’s advocacy of “loyalty”, which highlights translators’ role in setting and achieving translation functions when juggling between SLT and target language text (TLT). 

As the translator of the only published English translation of Hua Jian Ji, Lois Fusek clearly states the translation functions she wants to achieve, which, together with her translation and other related statements, echoes the factors of translation function listed in Nord’s theory. Thus, analysis of Fusek’s translation under Nord’s approach can help us see how Fusek’s translation functions are achieved and understand the key factors in translating traditional Chinese poetry to better have its aesthetic features presented. 

In traditional Chinese poetry, some of the representative aesthetic features are greatly contributed by imagery, which also works in ci poetry. Thus, analyzing how the distinguished imageries function in the ci poems in Hua Jian Ji is a key step of SLT analysis in translation. 

Through a thorough analysis of the imageries of birds in Hua Jian Ji for its translation, this thesis provides practical strategies for SLT analysis and a refined model of Nord’s functionalist approach to translation. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Theoretical framework and methodology -- Chapter 4. Case analysis -- Chapter 5. Discussion -- Chapter 6. Conclusion -- Notes -- References

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Languages & Literature

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lan Zhang

Additional Supervisor 1

Ilija Casule


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




347 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 253220

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